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, sun, and biting insects are more problematic. Back in the 1990s, when I guided in Alaska and Montana, the solutions were (in order) strip down, slather on the sunblock, and cover yourself in Deet.
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.
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 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 PRO line of fishing shirts offers some great options. If you’re a fan of collared shirts, the PRO Stretch Long-Sleeved Shirts (men’s/women’s) feature UPF 30 sun protection and are a great combination of classic style and high-tech (men’s/women’s). 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, 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 PRO Sun 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 PRO Sun Hoody (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 PRO Sun Crew (men’s/women’s) for when you don’t need the hood.
To finish your complete sun protection, you’ll need a good fishing hat. If, like me, you hate wearing any sunscreen, you can also add a Buff or a bandana 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.
Don’t Get Bugged
Now that you’re completely covered up, you really don’t have to worry about the sun or biting insects. But for those times when you want something to repel bugs–or when the bugs are simply so vicious that clothing isn’t enough to stop them–there’s Outsmart Insect Shield technology, which we’ve used in everything from shirts to socks to bandanas. Instead of slathering yourself with repellent or trying some home remedy to repel bugs (spoiler: they don’t work), you can let your gear do the work for you.
It’s interesting to compare the cutoffs-and-bare-chest style of those old-time Keys guides to today’s Bedouin-inspired covered-all-over chic. We know a lot more about the damage that the sun can do, and we’ve brought technology to bear to make life on the flats better and safer.