Pro Tips: Protect Yourself from the Sun

Written by: Phil Monahan

You can enjoy a day on the flats knowing that you’re not damaging your skin.

Fly fishers spend a lot time battling the elements, but some problems are easier to solve than others. For instance cold, wind, and rain have obvious solutions: Just add more clothing—whether it’s a waterproof jacket, a whole layering system, or a softshell. Heat and sun are more problematic. Back in the 1990s, when I guided in Alaska and Montana, the solution was to strip down and slather on the sunblock. And don’t forget to frequently reapply!

Fly-fishing in a tee shirt or even shirtless—like the guides in Guy de la Valden’s classic film Tarpon—may feel great, but we now know that it’s certainly not safe. I only guided for four years, but I’m a regular at the dermatologist’s office. I have several friends who have endured multiple Mohs surgeries, and they don’t recommend it. Plus, exposing all that skin to any mosquitoes, black flies, or sand fleas in the vicinity might cause more immediate issues.

The River Guide 2.0 shirts offer UPF 30 protection and look good enough to wear out to dinner.

Stop Catching Rays

Luckily, we now have technical apparel that offers comfortable solutions to these problems. Fishing shirts—for men and women—run the gamut from sport-specific to stylish. So you don’t always have to look as if you just came off the water. Lots of these designs are suitable to wear around town, to cookout, or even to the office. Match these with fishing-specific pants (men’s/women’s) or shorts (men’s/women’s) and you’re good to go. If you do choose shorts, don’t forget to use high-UPF sunscreen to protect your legs and feet.

For serious anglers and those who want maximum protection and functionality, our new River Guide 2.0 Long-Sleeved Shirts (men’s/women’s) feature UPF 30 sun protection and are a great combination of classic style and high-tech. The fact that they come in attractive plaids means they don’t scream “Look, I’m a fisherman!” to everyone who sees you. With UPF 50 protection, PRO Stretch Long-Sleeved Shirt (men’s/women’s) offers the same great look with more protection from harmful rays, while the PRO Hybrid Long Sleeve Shirt (men’s/women’s) has more of a stripped-down fishing-specific look, but no one is going to look twice at you if you wear it out to dinner.

The combination of a Sun Defense Hoodie, a neck gaiter, and a fishing hat kept me safe on the flats at Swain’s Cay Lodge in The Bahamas.

The Sun Defense collection was designed for maximum comfort, performance, and protection. This is the stuff you’ll see guides wearing because it provides UPF 50 protection, excellent moisture management and breathability, is extremely lightweight, and allows a full range of motion for double-hauling. I’ve never been a fan of hoodies, but when I first wore the Sun Defense Long-Sleeved Hoodie (men’s/women’s) for a full day on the bow of a boat, I really appreciated the ability to pull the hood over my head against the pounding rays of a blazing sun. I am now a convert. There’s also a ridiculously comfortable Sun Defense Quarter-Zip (men’s/women’s) for when you don’t need the hood.

Slightly less technical than Sun Defense and more casual than River Guide are shirts made with our new material, DriCast. Offering UPF 50 protection, DriCast is also remarkably comfortable, with a knit that feels as soft as your favorite tee and dries fast. Dricast comes in hoodies, quarter-zips, tees, crews, and short-sleeved models, for both men and women.

The Sun Defense Quarter-Zip provides maximum sun protection in a lightweight knit.

To finish your complete sun protection, you’ll need a good fishing hat (men’s/women’s). If, like me, you hate wearing any sunscreen, you can also add a Neck Gaiter to cover your face and neck. A pair of fishing gloves gives you added protection for a part of the body many anglers forget about, and it will keep you from getting sunscreen scent on your flies and leaders.

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