What Type Of Sun Protection Should I Wear When Fly Fishing?

Becca Skinner wearing sunglasses and a PRO Sun hoodie.

Just about everyone’s idea of the perfect weather for fly fishing has one thing in common: Sunshine. But while sunshine can make or break a day on the water, it can also do a lot of damage to your skin.

Protection from the sun’s UV rays is something every outdoor enthusiast needs to consider—especially fisherman. Because of the way glare (light bouncing off water) intensifies the power of the sun, we’re especially susceptible to skin damage

Whether you’re pulling together a list of must-haves for a big trip, or just preparing for the season, it’s important to have gear that will protect you from harmful UV rays. Here are some ways to do it.

Head Gear

When it comes to protecting your head and neck from the sun, there are all sorts options for anglers to choose from. Just a few pieces can keep you shaded and cool while helping you withstand hot temperatures.

Hats: Basically, any headwear is better than none. Full-fabric ball caps are good, but long-billed ones are better because they throw more shade on your face. Full brimmed nylon hats are also good ideas. They’ll protect your forehead, face and neck. Trucker caps are OK and the do offer some ventilation. But if your hair is thin or you are bald, be lather some sunscreen on your head. UV rays will penetrate the mesh.

Sun masks and buffs: Full sun masks and UV BuffsÒ (turtleneck-like cones of fabric) are made from lightweight, breathable materials. They’ve revolutionized sun protection by making it easy to shield your neck, face, and head with a single piece of clothing. When you wear a sun mask or Buff around your neck and pair it with a ball cap, you’ll be doing a great job of protecting yourself against damaging UV rays from the neck up.

Shirts and Gloves

A shirt is just a shirt, right? Well, no. As far as performance fishing gear goes, not all shirts are equal. The same is also true for gloves. Clothing designed with fishermen in mind solves the problems we encounter on the water due to the elements. With the aid of some fishing-designed clothing, you can fish under a hot sun until your heart’s content (or the action stops).

Shirts: Choose lightweight, long sleeve styles. Long sleeve shirts will protect your arms, and ones made from lightweight synthetic materials will help you stay cool, dry, and comfortable—even in direct sun.

A collared shirt, or a shirt that has an integrated hood, is an even better choice because they protect more of your neck. Some lightweight fishing shirts also have integrated thumb cuffs. With them, the shirt’s sleeves extend down your hands and shield the back of your palms—a little feature that can make a big difference after a couple days on the water.

Sungloves: These are incredibly beneficial to anglers, especially if you spend a lot of time rowing a boat. A lightweight pair of fingerless sun gloves will cover the backsides of your palms and protect them from the kind of harsh, direct sun that leads to skin problems. Sungloves come in many varieties. Try on a few different pairs to see what works for you.


Through the warmer months of the summer and fall, most anglers prefer to wet wade in a pair of shorts. While shorts may seem more comfortable, a pair of lightweight, quick drying pants are a better a better way to protect yourself from the sun—especially in tropical areas.

If you do choose shorts, go with longer ones that cover your thighs and knees. This is especially important for boat anglers, as your thighs will cook in the sun if they’re exposed. Stick with lighter colored clothing instead of darker colors and always choose lightweight, breathable, quick drying material.

UPF Ratings and You

In the last decade, manufacturers have helped to make anglers’ time under the sun safer by offering special sun protective clothing. Similar to Sun Protection Factor (SPF) ratings for sunscreen, these shirts, hats, pants, and other items have Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings. These ratings measure how effective the clothing is at blocking ultraviolet light.

If you’re skeptical about the effectiveness of sun protective clothing, consider this: Most sun protective clothing has a UPF of 30-50+. The UPF of many lightweight summer fabrics is around 6. That’s why sun protective, UPF rated clothing—at least a hat and a shirt—is now mandatory in the minds of most serious fisherman.

More Fun, Less Sun

These days, sun protection is a precaution every angler needs to take seriously whenever they’re on the water. Even in the winter, bright sun and glare can damage your skin, regardless of how cold it is outside. That’s why you should always take measures to protect your skin.

In warmer weather, hitting the river in a short-sleeve T may feel nice, but the sunburn it can lead to is not good. If this happens to your season after season, year after year, it could lead to a trip to the doctor and a diagnosis you do not want to hear. So, protect yourself fully from the sun and enjoy your time on the water for decades to come.

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