Anglers must be particularly concerned about the harmful effects of too much sun exposure. And I recently learned the hard way that even when you think you are taking the right precautions, the slightest little mistake can literally get you burned. As you venture out for spring break fishing, especially after a long winter indoors, you need to play it smart.
I am usually very diligent about covering up with long sleeves, long pants (or waders, depending on where I am and what I am fishing for), and wearing a brimmed hat. I also wear polarized glasses, because staring into sun glare on the water surface can also be dangerous without proper protection.
And, of course, I slather on the sunscreen. I prefer waterproof, sweatproof sunscreens that are rated 30-SPF or higher. The mistake I made on a recent warm water trip was using sunscreen that apparently “expired.” I ended up with a blistering burn on my face that was so severe that I had to go to the emergency room and get a prescription for antibiotics to fend off an infection.
Keep these simple tips in mind:
- Check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle, and be sure to use dermatologist-approved brands.
- Apply sunscreen on all exposed skin, and do so at least a half hour before you get out in the open. Let it soak in. If you feel your skin getting hot or irritated, and then decide to dab sunscreen on affected areas, that’s often too little, too late.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, preferably those that are rated with SPF protection. Still apply sunscreen to your shoulders, arms, and legs (don’t trust the fabric alone). Be sure your fishing clothes fit loosely and comfortably.
- Consider wearing a bandana, or a thin fabric neck gaiter or wrap that you can pull up over your ears and face when you are fishing in very bright conditions, or the glare on the water surface is intense.
- Stay hydrated. If you feel thirsty, you’re already experiencing the effects of sun exposure.
- Lastly, and most importantly, check your skin. Take a close look in the mirror regularly, and if you notice things that don’t seem right, go to your doctor to have them checked out immediately.
One of the great advantages of being an angler is the ability to get out in open spaces and soak up the sun. The trick, however, is to do that in a smart, healthy fashion.
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, and an editor-at-large for Field & Stream.