Sheltahats fly fishing

Fly Fishing Sun Protection

Above: Former firefighter and fly fishing model Dwayne Sutphin sporting some of our favorite sun protection gear: a DeYoung Patterned Buff, a 12WT FreeWT shirt, and the new Osprey Hat from Sheltahats.

We sell a lot of sun protection gear at Headhunters. If it has a “SPF” tag on it it’s likely one of our top sellers. In the last decade, sun protection has become incredibly important subject for those who constantly recreate outdoors. Watching our parents generation deal with sun-related skin issues – some serious – has taught us all a lesson.

As we roast through the last two months of summer and sunburns, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite sun protection products

While the baseball hat/buff combo has prevailed in the fly fishing world for the last 10 years – especially with the younger crew – I’m seeing more and more wide brimmed hats on anglers of all ages. Especially guides. A straw Tula Lifeguard Hat is our preferred lifeguard/cowboy hat and provides great protection. It is hard to travel with, however, and kind of a pain in the wind. And we have that.

Recently we discovered Sheltahats (as seen on Dewey above). These are very high tech hats that offer incredible UV protection and are designed to be used in and around the water (think surfing, SUP, whitewater, swimming, etc.) Dewey and I have been testing these for the last couple weeks and that are serious sun hats that we both agree outperform anything else. They have a stiff “winged” brim that offers great protection and vision, and doesn’t flop around even in 50mph winds. They are incredibly cool, and they stay put in the wind. The chinstrap can be clipped to the back to stay out of your way, or removed in seconds and stashed in a built in pocket. They’re expensive, but so far I would say they are well worth double the cost of other bucket, straw and up/downer hats I’ve tried. And they are just about double the price of many sun hats at $65.

Dewey is also rocking a FreeWT shirt from 12WT, a low-profile company that’s very popular with guides and industry folk, but has yet to gain serious traction in the Northern Rockies. This shirt has a lot of competition, but the fabric 12WT uses is incredibly comfortable, breathable and washes well. Everyone that owns one loves it, but you have to pass by all the artist series shirts in a myriad of colors to get to the 12WT gear. And colors are somewhat limited. Comfort is not. They also make what I consider to be by far the most comfortable sun-gaiter (“buff”), and excellent sun gloves.

Lastly Dewey is rocking a DeYoung artist series BUFF. We have been selling Buff’s since day one, having discovered them in the Keys years ago. We typically have a very large selection of colors in stock. While some argue that the Buff isn’t the most comfortable sun-gaiter on the market (personal preference) it works great, has some style built-in and is still the biggest seller in the outdoor world. Buff also makes some serious sun/fishing gloves we like, as well as finger stripping guards and some cold weather Merino Wool products we love.

Good old sunscreen still has it’s place, especially around the ears, nose, bald spot and neck. We’ve tried a bunch of waterproof sunscreens. They all work, but the two we’ve settled on – and believe to be the best – are Beyond Coastal and Sunbum. It’s almost a tie here. They both disappear into your skin without leaving much white residue all over, they both feel good (not greasy) and both work great. Beyond Coastal wins on the waterproof endurance scale (great for the back of your hands and forearms) and Sunbum probably takes the “feels great on your skin” award. We do prefer the Beyond Coastal lip-balm, and we also love the Sunbum Spray (bald spot crowd!).

Sungloves are very popular on the shadeless Missouri River, and longtime sunglove maker Simms wins by a landslide here. Buff, 12WT and others all makes great gloves as well, but the Simms models have the “open palm” design which is the most popular and breathable. A few years ago Simms introduced Sunsleeves (think buff for your arms), a product long ridiculed by myself and others. I began to carry these while hiking in the backcountry – where I typically wear short sleeves – and have pulled a 180 and become a huge fan. They’re super light and go anywhere and you can wear them with any shirt. They also provide pretty good protection for the back of your hands, all but eliminating the need for gloves. I guess I’m old enough that I just don’t care anymore…

Solar attacks on your epidermal layer will continue through September, so make sure you are properly protected. And ask your guide what he or she uses and likes. Fly Fishing guides spend a massive amount of time in the sun, and most have definitive opinions on sun protection products, performance and comfort.

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