Get Ready For the Sun!
How many of you fly anglers make it a habit to extensively cover up with sun-protective clothing?
Summertime conjures up lots of images ranging from vacations and ice cream cones to hot weather and some great fishing opportunities. Of course the sun can shine on any day of the year, but when the weather warms up and the sun is at its highest angle, this can bring about extreme chances for skin-damaging sunburns. Skin cancer is a major threat to anyone who spends a lot of time outside, and we fly anglers are prime candidates.
Years back around the time those "BUFF" face masks started getting popular, I got into the habit of really covering myself up when fishing. Nowadays, there's no shortage of sun-protective clothing for anglers that all carry high UPF ratings. These garments go well beyond your basic cotton t-shirts and blue jeans—this stuff is lightweight, breathable, and often times looks pretty stylish!
I love sun-protective gear that carries a high UPF rating like UPF 50. This rating means a garment will only let about 1/50th of UV radiation pass through.
Hat- I'm kind of a hat junkie, but out of my collection I definitely have a few favorites. A couple of those are my Cabela's Guidewear Caps I bought about 12 years ago. Made especially for the sun and hot weather, these are crafted from thin, lightweight material with UPF 50 protection which keep my head both protected and cooler than a typical hat. While these appear to not be made anymore (glad I bought several!), there are other similar ones out there like the Simms Bugstopper Sunshield Hat which obviously also helps guard against biting insects. For long days in the high sun, I'll typically shy away from hats with open mesh backs as they offer less protection for the scalp for someone like me that keeps their hair quite short.
Sun Mask- The first time I wore a sun mask it felt pretty awkward, but avoiding the hassle of applying sun screen to my entire face and ears was enough to make me stick with it. Well, I got over that funky feeling very quickly and have kept a variety of these things on-hand for years now. Sun masks vary in quality and such, but my current favorites are the Simms SunGaiter and several I have from Hoo-Rag. The Simms example is particularly interesting because it has air holes over the mouth to prevent sunglasses from fogging up (an issue at times) and a nice contoured face design. Even with a face mask, I'll still put on a touch of sunscreen around my upper nose, temples, and anywhere else the sun may creep in depending on how I'm wearing the mask.
Shirt/Pants- A long-sleeve sun shirt is crucial and provides maximum protection of the arms and the especially-susceptible zones around the upper back, shoulders, and upper chest. A good-quality shirt will have a high UPF-rating and be lightweight, thin, and breathe well allowing you to stay comfy even in extreme temps. Added bonuses include a built-in hood or a higher collar which work great for both protection and keeping a sun mask tucked-in better, and thumb holes or bands at the end of the sleeves to keep the sleeves from riding up. And, pants in hot weather? You betcha. Like sun shirts, a featherweight pair of UPF-rated pants gives you the needed protection without the heft and heat of jeans and the like.
Sun Gloves- Sun gloves are available in a full-finger design, but most fishing sun gloves are made with exposed finger tips for casting, line manipulation, and knot tying. In conjunction with a long-sleeve shirt, they will help give you some really extensive protection. Personally, I like to apply sunscreen to the tops of my hands and around my wrists before putting the gloves on since the fingers are always exposed and slivers of the wrists can also be exposed between the shirt cuff and glove as I move/cast throughout the day.
Shoes- I've never worn a flip flop in my life and never intend to, so all I own is shoes. They offer the best protection—'nuff said here!
Covering up keeps me better protected against bug bites and I can avoid getting those hideous tan lines. Even when it's not totally clear and sunny, it's still wise to cover up since the sun's rays can still remain a threat!