If there's no place you'd rather be than out on the water catching the Big One on a sunny day, you know that "sunny" isn't always ideal. Chances are you've experienced at least one smiley- faced sunburn on the back of your neck after a day's fishing because your gaiter was too short. Or you've had to explain a perpetual tan atop your thumb from that death grip on your rod.
You are not alone. Anglers who spend much time in the sun are subject to over-exposure which can lead to sunburn and skin damage. Overcast days can also pose a threat, as the sun's rays are intensified by cloud cover. Rain or shine, here are some ways to achieve fishing nirvana while playing it safe.
Sunscreen is vital to skin health. But these products can be smelly and contain chemicals that are harmful to fish and the environment. If you opt for a non-toxic sunscreen be sure to choose one that offers multi-spectrum protection. Also, make sure it's water and sweat resistant, as moisture on your skin can remove sunscreen. You can reduce the amount of sunscreen needed by choosing clothing with built-in UPF protection.
Don't forget your lips. Apply a broad spectrum, water-resistant lip protectant.
Clothing with built-in UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is most effective against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. UPF ratings range from 15 to 50+, and the higher the UPF rating the greater the protection.
Sunglasses protect your eyes and the skin around them. You'll need a good pair of polarized fishing sunglasses to help reduce the amount of glare on the water, prevent eyestrain, and allow you to spot fish more easily.
Wide-brimmed hats shield your head, face, neck, and ears. They also reduce overhead glare, protect your eyes, and prevent sunburn on exposed areas of your scalp. Many hats feature UPF and sweatbands that keep perspiration out of your eyes.
Lightweight gaiters, bandanas, and masks provide neck-to-nose protection from harmful rays and wind. Your face gets a double dose of rays while fishing—once from direct sunlight and once from rays reflected off the water. For prolonged exposure, choose a gaiter featuring a drop tail to avoid exposing skin at the back of your neck. Gaiters with breathable, cooling fabric can also help prevent your glasses from fogging up, especially when saltwater fishing.
Fishing gloves are specially designed for dexterity and thin gloves with built-in UPF help protect without sacrificing grip. Choose gloves with reinforced high-contact areas to avoid chafing. If you prefer to not wear gloves, use sunblock on your hands (and reapply regularly).
Lightweight fishing shirts feature a relaxed fit and vents on the back which allow air to circulate and moisture to escape. Look for fabrics that are quick drying and feature UPF, sweat-wicking, and cooling technologies. Long sleeves are ideal and can always be rolled up if necessary.
Be prepared for anything when you fish. Don't let the elements deprive you of a single moment of angling joy. With the right gear and the right strategy, you can stay out there for as long as it takes.