Recently, when I was at the Outdoor Show and talking to a bunch of different industry professionals, and I couldn’t believe the level of sun damage that the skin on some of these folks has endured. Several of them (and I don’t want to name names) had the sunglasses “raccoon eyes” and leathery skin going on. It’s amazing to me since they have more access to sun protection resources than your average person does.
This is a small list of things you’ll need to remember before getting out on the water.
Sunscreen – A quality sunscreen can reduce the amount of sun damage to your skin. I typically use an SPF 70 or higher and I either apply it before I even leave the house, or when I get to the launch. I prefer the “spray-on” type as it’s fast drying and is usually waterproof – so waterproof that it doesn’t like to come off in the shower. My towel often smells like sunscreen after I’ve attempted scrubbing it off with soap and an Axe Detailer. This is a good thing. For the budget conscious fishers, you can often find a 2 pack of SPF 70 store brand at your local big box chain….the higher the number, the better. I’ve also found brand name SPF 80 and 90 at Big Lots for around $4.00 a can. When you see deals like that, make sure to stock up on it because you should be using it every time out – even if you’re only going out for a few hours, or if it’s overcast. I even keep a can of it in my gear bag in case I need to re-apply, which you really should do if you’re out all day. I prefer the spray type because it usually assures even coverage AND I don’t like having it on my hands. It tends to make everything slippery and I feel like the fish can smell it as well.
Wide Brimmed Hat – You should be wearing a wide brimmed hat when you’re spending a day out on the water. I know….. that fitted baseball hat has your favorite team’s logo on it, and is your “lucky lid” but you really need a bit more protection than that hat can provide….plus it offers more protection from sun glare and does a better job of helping you spot fish. I know that I’m wearing a crushed up straw cowboy hat in a lot of my photos, and that does provide pretty good shade for my dome and my face, but, on really hot days, or when I’m planning on being out for long periods of time, I’ll go with my Columbia hat. It’s very lightweight – so lightweight that I can’t even tell that I’m wearing it half the time – dries fast, and is rated at SPF 30. A good hat should shade your head, face, neck and shoulders.
Face Protection – A lot of folks have a laugh when they see photos of me with my Buff on. I always get the “you look like a terrorist” or “you look like a ninja” comments…usually from folks who don’t fish or spend any time on the water. That’s ok though. One thing that quite a few folks don’t know is that you can get a nasty sunburn on your face from the sun reflecting off the surface of the water. I found this out the hard way. One slightly overcast day in May several years ago, I was out fly fishing with Ken Morrow – we were wading – I had my wide brimmed hat on, but after being on the water all day, my face was just cooked from the sun reflecting off the water like a mirror. A Buff will cost you around $20 on average, but for the frugal angler, an old long sleeved t-shirt sleeve will do the trick. I’ve recently received a Breathe Like A Fish Gildex 50 face mask to use. It has a mesh breathing hole in it to help you against sunglasses fog and is very comfortable. The best thing to do to make sure that you have face protection with you is to put it on when you’re getting dressed. If you can’t manage to do this, do what I do – I keep it in the waterproof box that holds my camera, cell phone and keys….that way, I make sure I always have it handy. When I get it out of the wash, I immediately put it in my box.
UV Sunglasses – Make sure that your polarized sunglasses have UV protection in them. You can find sunglasses with UV protection in them that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but you’ll have to look around. I wear them every day, so I usually don’t have to worry about forgetting them, but, this is not hard to do when your day of fishing begins before the sun even comes up. If they’re not already attached to your person, make sure you put them in a place where they won’t get damaged and where you won’t forget them.
Long Sleeves – I for one have always steered clear of wearing “The Uniform”….you know….the fly fishing vest, the same old pastel colored vented sun shirts that everyone seems to gravitate towards….In fact, everyone at the Yakangler.com event in Jacksonville was wearing this stuff. They like to tell me that I dress like Larry The Cable Guy….and I tell them that they look like a bunch of Easter Eggs….but you don’t have to subscribe to wearing “The Uniform” to protect your arms from harmful UV rays. Now, I know that you’ll say “But you are always wearing sleeveless skull shirts!” True, but I’m trying to make a conscious effort to change this habit and to protect myself from the sun a bit better than I used to….I like my sleeveless skull shirts, and please know that I do slather on quite a bit of sunscreen, but you still need to cover yourself as much as possible….even in the summertime when it’s 90 degrees. There are quite a few places to obtain some really neat looking, long sleeved fishing shirts so that you don’t run the risk of looking like an Easter Egg – Skinny Water Culture and Saltwater Sports Wear make awesome looking technical fishing shirts that will protect you from the sun. Breathe Like A Fish make fishing shirts designed to keep you cool, and keep you looking cool as well – plus, a lot of their shirts have a built in face mask. If you don’t want to spend the money on a technical shirt, use an old dress shirt that you have in the closet or a long sleeved t-shirt. Anything to cover your arms.
Long Pants – Your legs are probably the most exposed part of your body when you’re sitting in a kayak. I can remember one of my first kayak fishing trips where I was wearing shorts and no sunscreen and was out on a cloudless day for about 8 hours….Third degree sunburn on your legs is NOT a fun experience and I can tell you, I learned my lesson. I’m really not crazy about the thought of wearing pants while out fishing a flat in the middle of July, but I DO keep towels handy to cover my legs from the sun. Also, sunscreen comes in handy here as well. Re-apply a few times if you’re out for long periods…just remember not to spray it on while in your kayak – it’s not good for the plastic no matter what brand boat you have. If you’re into the technical pants, you can find them on sale at a lot of outdoor retailer’s right before summer.
Dermatologist Visit – It’s not a bad idea to make an appointment with your local skin doctor at least once a year. It’s a good practice to get checked for any sun damage. Early detection is a good way to get control of a problem before it gets out of hand.
So make sure you cover up before you catch ‘em up….the sun is nothing to mess with.
About the Author: Rob DeVore is a Pro Staff Member at Yakangler.com and an outdoor writer from the Tampa Bay area. He writes for various fishing publications and is the host of The Late Show on the Kayak Fishing Radio Network. Rob also is the author of ABadBackcast.com