In recent years, technology has cast the sport of fishing into a new age of innovation. Science, combined with a little human ingenuity, has spawned a fish’s worst nightmares: line that is invisible underwater; rods that bend but don’t break; and reels capable of putting the brakes on a 3,000-lb. deep-sea leviathan.
Clothing for the sport has benefited from a similar trophy-sized advancement. Technologies developed for performance athletic wear are now being passed on to anglers in the form of a new generation of fishing apparel.
The inevitable question will be, "What could be better than my lucky fishing tee and comfortable pair of jeans?"
How about clothes with "super powers"? Clothes that can make sweat disappear with a breeze; resist the most potent body odor; block the damage of the sun with cool efficiency; repel bugs like an invisible shield; or convert the wind into a personal air conditioner. Today’s innovative fishing clothes are capable of all of these.
This guide will bring you up to date on the latest angling apparel, and give you ideas on what to look for when you’re shopping.
Regardless of the clothes you are shopping for, it is always important to research the fabric and fit of the garment before you buy to make sure both match your needs.
Here’s a simple equation: UV rays + wind = bad hair and bad skin. Wearing a hat or ball cap is a good rule to live by whenever you’re outdoors. Hats and caps are great for concealing unruly hair or a shiny dome. They also provide shade from the sun.
Note: By no means are a good hat and sunglasses a replacement for high-SPF sunscreen. Sun protection is even more important when fishing because water acts like a mirror, reflecting the sun and intensifying your exposure.
Comparing a cotton tee shirt to a full-fledged fishing shirt is like comparing a grocery bag to a suitcase. Sure they both hold things, but they are used for totally different tasks. Likewise, tee shirts are comfortable to wear for just about anything, but a good fishing shirt is made specifically for the tasks of angling.
What to look for:
•Full range of motion. Considering the actions involved with casting, you want to wear a shirt with a full range of motion. Well-designed sleeves and a yoked back are the important features that add to the overall freedom of movement.
•High collars provide extra sun protection for your neck. These collars are adjustable, allowing you to wear them up or down depending on the conditions.
•Swiss arm tabs convert long sleeves into short sleeves using a piece of fabric that buttons or hooks above the elbow to hold up the sleeves.
•Vented mesh backs catch cooling breezes and direct them toward your skin, giving you more of a shirtless feel. Compare it to having air conditioning on a hot day.
•Longer tails remain tucked in, especially when showing off your prodigious casting form.
•Pockets in all the right places make for convenience and quick accessibility. How many pockets you need is a matter of personal preference. Too many pockets make it tempting to carry too much in many different places, weighing you down. Too few and you won’t have enough convenient spots to place frequently used gear. Somewhere between two and six pockets is the standard.
•Rod holders are a common feature found on fly-fishing vests. They also are convenient on shirts, especially when fly-fishing. The butt section of the rod is held in place with a loop near the bottom of the shirt. The middle of the rod is secured to the top of the shirt using a doubled-over piece of fabric with hook-and-loop attachment. Rod holders can double as loops to hold your sunglasses as well.
As with shirts, the comfort level of a pair of pants and shorts depends greatly on the fabric and the fit. Let your personal style and fishing needs be your guide.
What to look for:
•Convertible pants/shorts are a perfect example of a do-it-all product. Their versatility can’t be matched. They essentially tackle the purpose of two articles of clothing, making them ideal for traveling or for long stays in remote areas. Wearing these, you’ll be prepared for instant weather changes. Wear the pants on chilly mornings, and with two quick unzips you have shorts for when it warms up in the afternoon. Hiking in the mountains, with their many elevation changes, is another ideal scenario for wearing convertibles.
•Pocket construction should be well-designed. Having enough, and having them in the right places, is an angling necessity. Front pockets should be deep enough to keep things from falling out while bending over. Pockets need to be in the right places to maximize comfort when loaded, with balance on both sides for weight distribution. Overstuffing them can lead to uncomfortable walking. Mesh pocket linings are ideal for easy drainage when wading through deeper water.
•Waistlines either incorporate a fixed or adjustable fit. Adjustable waists typically consist of full or half elastic, with some styles having adjustable straps for a custom fit. The elastic flexes for enhanced comfort.
•D-rings are a convenient place to attach tools or keys.
•Ankle zippers allow for easier on and off over shoes and boots.
Socks are an underappreciated and often-overlooked part of the fishing wardrobe. They are critical to keeping your feet comfortable. The key advice to remember when buying socks is to use technology to your advantage. Search for socks with a moisture-wicking fabric and anti-odor properties.
The key component of any fishing garment is the fabric. Before you buy, try to identify what the garment is made of and what the advantages and disadvantages are of that particular fabric.
•Cotton has the benefit of a soft, comfortable feel. It is also the most breathable fabric. Drawbacks include its tendency to shrink or fade and its slow-drying properties.
•Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is resistant to stretching and shrinkage and is quick to dry. It has a soft feel and is strong, though not as strong as nylon. One drawback of polyester can be static cling.
•Nylon was the first completely synthetic fiber ever developed. Known for its superior strength and excellent resilience, nylon has superior abrasion resistance and high flexibility. The feel of nylon is not as soft as other fabrics. Because it is a synthetic, nylon has a tendency to make you feel "warmer" compared with a natural fiber like cotton.
•Nylon ripstop is a lightweight, water-repellent nylon with interwoven ripstop reinforcement threads in a crosshatch pattern to resist ripping or tearing.
•Supplex® is an advanced fabric combining the soft feel of cotton and the durability of nylon. Supplex garments are highly breathable, retain their shape, dry quickly and are colorfast.
•Coolmax® is a fast-drying, breathable fabric that resists fading, shrinking and wrinkling. Coolmax® fabrics are designed to move moisture away from the body and enhance the fabric-drying rate.
•Dri-Release® combines the best qualities of natural and synthetic fibers. It transports moisture away from the skin to the surface where it will dry quickly. Dri-Release keeps its shape and color wash after wash; it’s soft to the touch and resists odor, pilling and static cling.
•Ultra Dry™ is made of a revolutionary polyester antimicrobial wicking fabric ideal for warm weather and high activity levels. The surface pulls moisture through the fabric and spreads it over a wide surface area for maximum evaporation. Exceptional next-to-the-skin comfort comes from the ultrasoft inner surface. Ultra Dry also prevents the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
In addition to the fabric, pay close attention to what enhancements may have been included to make the garment better suited to fishing. Some common enhancements include insect repellent, stain resistance, UV protection and odor control.
If you don’t like the idea of a spray-down to ward off insects, it’s time you tried a different approach. Clothing is now available pre-treated with an insect repellent called permethrin. It is effective at repelling mosquitoes, ticks and flies, and it lasts for up to 25 washings.
•Teflon® is used on clothing to repel water and water-based stains and helps fabric release oil-based stains when rubbed with a damp cloth.
Although many fabrics block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, not all fabrics block enough rays to be classified as sun-protective. To be classified as sun-protective, fabrics must have a tighter weave or knit and should be labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The garment’s color shade is another factor in determining UV protection. Dark colors are more effective at preventing UV rays from passing through the garment than lighter colors. The UPF rating indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric. A fabric with a UPF rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th, or only 2%, of the harmful UV rays through the fabric.
U.S. government guidelines for sun-protective fabrics:
•Good UV protection (UPF 15 to 24)
•Very good UV protection (UPF 25 to 39)
•Excellent UV protection (UPF 40 to 50+)
Only clothes with a UPF of 15-50+ can be labeled as sun-protective. A sun-protective fabric can lose effectiveness if it is stretched out, becomes damp or wet, or has been washed or worn repeatedly. Apparel enhanced with UV protection doesn’t look any different from other fabrics, so it’s important to look for the UPF rating label.
One sweaty day of fishing used to be all it took to send an article of clothing to the dirty laundry bin. Not anymore. Now you can buy odor-resistant clothing and sweat all you want, and the garment won’t smell like a locker room.
Fishing apparel makes use of both antimicrobial and bacteriostat agents in the war on odor. An antimicrobial kills or inhibits odor-causing bacteria. A bacteriostat limits the growth and production of odor by bacteria. These odor inhibitors are effective in controlling odors only on the actual garment. This means you can’t skip the deodorant, or the shower, thinking that clothing will contain your body odor.
•FreshGuard® is an odor-neutralizing bacteriostat found exclusively on Dri-Release garments. It is embedded in the yarn, preventing odor-producing organisms from attaching to the Dri-Release fabric.
•Silver (X-Static®). Modern medicine recognizes silver as the most effective antimicrobial agent. Silver fiber is currently being used in clothing under the brand name X-Static. In clothing, silver ions attack any odor-causing bacteria on the garment’s surface. There is a zone of protection surrounding each silver particulate, so a product needs only a small percentage of silver to be effective. A recent development in this field is the use of nanotechnology to infuse metals such as silver directly into a fiber to create a "super fabric" with a laundry list of benefits.
•Bamboo/carbon is the latest innovation in odor control. Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, and carbon is commonly used in hunting apparel to neutralize and adsorb odor. By combining the two at a microscopic level into a single fiber, you get a double dose of odor-fighting protection.
Technology has made fishing apparel more functional and comfortable than ever before. The next time you think about upgrading your fishing equipment, consider upgrading what you wear as well. You’ll quickly appreciate the advantages you can gain by making the change.