Fly fishing has very few dangers. The occasional poke by a hook, slipping and falling into the river or a mosquito bite here or there seem to be the most common pitfalls the average angler experiences on the water. However; the most dangerous thing that is faced by fishermen on a daily basis is overhead everyday.
There is no need for a science lesson about the dangers of exposure to the sun. Fly fisher’s were probably one of the first group of outdoor enthusiasts to take UV (ultraviolet) radiation exposure seriously. Science and industry finally came to the angler’s rescue. For years, greasy sunscreen lotions and big, floppy hats with a mix of loose cotton clothing were the normal summer uniform of the fly fisherman. Thankfully for everyone who wants to spend the day on the water with a fly rod UV blocking fabrics and dyes were developed.
We field questions everyday about sun protective clothing. “What is UPF?” is by far the most common inquiry we get. The “Ultraviolet Protection Factor” is a scale that came about in the late 90’s. It goes from 1 to 50, 50 being the highest protection. I could go into the history and scientific yada-yada stuff like dyes, weaves and materials, but I want you to read further so I won’t. Just remember the higher the UPF the more sun protection.
I Can’t Breathe!
Here is the caveat of highly rated UPF clothing or at least used to be. If you were wearing a shirt with a 50 UPF you were swearing. It used to
be that ultraviolet resistance was primarily a factor of the tightness of the weave of the fabric. This still plays a factor but new dyes and treatments have allowed for much more breathable, hence cooler fabrics.
“POLYESTER!” yup that much maligned, wrinkle proof fabric of the 70’s is by far the best at disrupting those pesky cancer causing rays. Cotton, which is light and airy like a cool evening sea breeze is the silent ally of the devil sun. This is why Simms, Patagonia and others manufacturers like Huk use poly based fabrics for their garments.
Competition for the fly fisherman’s dollar has fortunately driven clothing providers to search out technology and designs that are cool and sun resistant. Personally, I tend to like looser fitting clothing that allows for a little more air flow like the Simms Ultralight Shirts with a UPF of 30, but then again I am a tad old school. The younger anglers seem to lean toward tighter shirts with stretch and flashier designs like the Huk Performance Raglan with a UPF of 30 also. The style that is a happy medium and has always been popular with the saltwater anglers is like Kast Kayman Tech Top. Relaxed and stretchy with a 40+ UPF this quick drying and breathable shirt is slowly replacing my Simms Long Sleeve Guide(50 UPF) shirt as my favorite. Find the style with the features that fit your life, just make sure it has a minimum UPF of 30.
I talked a lot about shirts for obvious reasons. Thinking about UPF in quick drying pants and shorts shouldn’t be an afterthought. But it is time to briefly talk about the most forgotten and important part of the body for anglers – hands.
Don’t Get The Hot Hand Or Hands
Skin cancer loves unprotected hands. There is no reason to not protect your hands today with a pair of that are specially designed for the fly fisherman. Don’t get me wrong,
I resisted wearing gloves for the longest time. After all, fishing with gloves in the winter is tough, even with really good gloves. But when my brother/regular boat buddy had to have cells biopsied on his casting hand I decided it might be time to try using some sun protection for my hands other than sunscreen.
Trial and error is the only way to find the ones that work for you. But if I can find some I like, so can you, because I am the Mikey of fishing gloves. When you find a pair you like, they will become an after thought and a second skin.
Fly fishermen are stubborn creatures. It took Buff to make face and ear covering chic. Now, young and old anglers alike will wear sun protection over their faces, making them look like they are going to hold up a bank. Face protection has become as much a fashion statement as it is protective. This is just how far fishing tech has come to protect us from the harmful rays of the sun and there is no reason for us to use this technology.