It hit me shortly after convincing my wife that the latest issue of Fly Fisherman magazine did not include a centerfold of cover fly gal April Vokey. While I
sheepishly adamantly pointed out that I subscribe for the articles…my proof being an article by Greg Vinci about Hot Creek, where I wet line nearly every summer…I couldn’t help but wonder if I should try to look half as good one tenth as good on the water as Ms. Vokey.
Back when I used to chuck spinners it used to be okay to throw on an old t-shirt (maybe spring for a spiffier look with a collared polo), slip on old shorts that couldn’t look any worse with another hole, and jump into sneakers so worn that water easily drains away. It certainly was fishing apparel on a budget. Not long ago I spent a few hundred dollars on my first big-name rod and reel, but couldn’t crack the wallet to pull out eighty more dollars for a super-light, all-recycled polyester/organic cotton blend long-sleeve shirt with UPF 30 sun protection. Granted, this shirt also offers rod holder loops, vents for air circulation and pockets for fly boxes, but long-held priorities are hard to shake. After all, I built my wading staff with a dowel, a bicycle grip and cane foot for a grand total of six dollars. (Tom Chandler over at The Trout Underground recommends other just as cheap military-style accessories.)
For me, apparel has always been about comfort because I started fishing during camping trips in the Sierra Nevada high country, and much of the fishing back then took place during long hikes. Cool mornings would give way to searing sunshine until afternoon thunderstorms clouded the skies. Layering was a necessity.
weren’t such a cheap son of a gun believed everything fly fishing apparel retailers have to say, a simple cool weather “layering system” — composed of a long-sleeve crewneck undershirt, the aforementioned long-sleeve shirt, base layer bottoms, fleece-lined underwader pants and quarter-zip fleece jacket — would set me back over four hundred dollars.
But, for the most part, my fly fishing apparel has been all about alternatives and the belief that trout really don’t care that much. Once I learned that I was supposed to wear something underneath my waders, I found that inexpensive fleece lounge pants from my local Costco fit the bill. Being made of synthetic fibers they wick away perspiration and remain breathable and comfortable all day. Hiking socks work just as well. A shabby Old Navy fleece pullover offers warmth on cooler days and, again because it’s synthetic, the sleeves dry quickly after a dip into the water to release fish.
I have grudgingly made some concessions. I did pick up a wading jacket for rain protection, but it also serves well to block those late afternoon downslope winds in the Eastern Sierra, or during those early morning boat runs when fishing lakes. I will admit that the few fly fishing-specific shirts in my collection were worth the investment (though all were on sale or gifts), offering a bit more room for my often inelegant casting.
In the end, I made a few decisions related my fly fishing garb.
“Grip and grin” photos will only be taken when the fish is large enough or colorful enough to draw attention away from me and my attire. Otherwise, it’ll be only close ups of hand-held fish or their unapproving eye.
Or, perhaps, I’ll just have to hire better-looking guides to hold my fish.
Don’t tell the wife.
Update: Get another, more realistic take on on-stream style over at the Unaccomplished Angler…