The more I fish, the more I pay attention to the sun. There are two reasons for that.
The first has to do with common sense, health, and safety. There are obviously a number of risk factors every time one goes fishing; sharp hooks can stick you, knife blades can cut you, it’s easy to slip and fall on wet docks or river rocks, and we all (hopefully) know the importance of basic boating safety. But in my experience, the most common culprit for causing illness and discomfort is sun exposure.
Getting burned, or dehydrated, or suffering from heat exhaustion can ruin a fishing trip in a matter of hours. And the long-term effects of harmful sun exposure are well-documented.
It’s just not worth messing around. I always wear a brimmed hat, and loose clothing with long sleeves, and long pants (or waders) when I fish. I’ve also started wearing sun-blocking gloves and bandanas and the like. And it’s smart to slather SPF-30 sun block on any exposed skin, one half hour before you step into the sun.
As a rule of thumb, if you start feeling burned, you’re already too late. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so carry water when you fish. If you start feeling really thirsty, it’s already too late, and you are likely dehydrated.
The other important reason to pay attention to the sun is that it really affects fishing. I’ve done a lot of scuba diving with bass, pike, and trout, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned by interacting with the fish is that the number one fear trigger for most species is shadows overhead. Noise/vibrations in the water would rank a close second, in my opinion.
Understanding where the sun is relative to your position on the water helps you avoid projecting fish-spooking shadows over your targets, with your boat, your body, your rod, and line. That’s especially important when you are fly fishing and making false casts.
So do yourself a huge favor, and make part of your angling preparation being “sun aware.” You’ll be healthier, happier, and more comfortable out there on the water. And you’ll catch more fish as well.
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, and an editor-at-large for Field & Stream.