by Justin Willmer •
Appropriate clothing is an important part of any angler’s kit, whether they’re fishing the surf or rocks, hiking trout streams, venturing into the northern mangroves or paddling local waters. For kayak anglers, clothing choice can be even more important as you have a limited payload, can be more exposed to the elements and travel times can be longer than in motorised craft.
Paddlers need to take into account elements such as sun, wind, rain, cold, heat and insects when considering clothing features such as weight, durability, waterproof ratings, breathability, pack size, flexibility, zip and Velcro closures, UV rating and so on. Although often not considered as attractive as the lures, rods, reels and other components of kayak fishing, once you start delving into clothing you will find that there is some cool gear available that will make your kayak fishing experience more comfortable, safer and more enjoyable, while also allowing you to spend more time on the water, especially when the weather cools.
I wish I had worn a hat more when I was younger and made a point of being more sun smart in my adventures. If you Googled images of hats you would find a million different types and it’s important to select one that suits your adventure.
Offshore anglers often wear bucket style hats that are made from soft, quick-dry, hi-vis material to make them more visible featuring a strap to secure them in place in wind and swell.
In calmer conditions, I opt for a wide brim hat, but in windy conditions it can be painful to keep it on my head, so I switch to a cap, with the addition of a Buff, Headsox, Solar Sleeve, or one of its many other forms, and use this to secure the cap in place, while also protecting my face, neck and ears from the sun. A Buff covers all of the bits that you normally miss with the sunscreen and it can also be a good addition to your kit on chilly mornings and windy days.
I have recently added a mosquito head net to my kit in preparation for some kayak crabbing deep in the mangroves and skinny creeks of my home waters.
Sunglasses not only protect your eyes from objects such as lures, rod tips and branches, quality polarised sunglasses also protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, while cutting the glare off the water so that you can better locate structure, bait and even spot cruising fish.
You only get one set of eyes, so invest in a quality pair of sunnies. It’s a good idea to have a strap on your sunnies so that they don’t end up in the water if dislodged and so you can hang them around your neck when holding a fish for a photo.
When my wife first came kayak fishing with me she sledged me for wearing gloves fishing… and she now owns a nice blue pair herself. Gloves can serve many different purposes, including sun protection, warmth, protection from fish and grip for a comfortable and confident paddle stroke.
I now own a variety of gloves for different applications, including gloves without palms and lightweight gloves that are designed for sun protection and stretch gloves with Velcro cuffs and reinforced palms for longer paddles and missions that involve a fair amount of portaging. Look in my kit and you’ll even find a pair of SealSkinz Waterproof, windproof and breathable gloves that are awesome for early winter starts and cold, wet, windy days.
In tropical conditions you may opt for a long sleeve cotton fishing shirt or one of the many colourful tournament style shirts, some of which will carry a UPF rating tag such as UPF 45. If you are looking for a quick dry, UPF 50, wet and dry lifestyle shirt, then check out the range from Sun2Sea UV Protection. These shirts have become extremely popular with those spending time outdoors and especially within the kayak fishing community, and they feature longer sleeves for additional protection, stand up collars to protect the neck and there is even a hooded model. Even better, they’re made in Australia.
When it comes to wet weather gear, you may be able to get away with a light raincoat in warmer weather, with some options available that pack into a small bag or even into their own pocket. When the weather gets more serious or during the cooler months, I will often step up to a purpose designed waterproof/breathable option from brands such as Sea to Summit Solution. These jackets are extremely weather resistant and keep you dry where many other jackets fail, including cuffs, zips, necklines and hoods.
After too many doses of red legs… including filming a kayak fishing DVD many moons ago where I applied sunscreen to the same leg twice and not to the other, I prefer to wear long pants when kayak fishing. The various lightweight and zip off models are a good starting point. Recently the team at Sun2Sea UV Protection husband and wife team, Robbie and Sue Wells, developed long pants in their Stealth Series that have been designed from the ground up for kayak and adventure anglers. Tech Pants are durable, hardwearing and comfortable, with loads of features including button and zip, belt loops, elastic waist, quick dry, loads of pockets, D-Clip and most importantly excellent sun protection. Your legs got wet getting into the yak and are dry ten minutes later… or at the end of a session you have avoided the dreaded red legs, that these pants are all about function, while still looking good.
When it comes to wet and windy, or cooler weather, I slide on some Sea to Summit Solution Access Splash Pants. These pants are lightweight, waterproof and breathable, featuring Glideskin neoprene adjustable waist and ankles, waterproof/breathable 2-layer barrel GP fabric and a mesh pocket for storing scent and other bits and pieces within easy reach. You can wear them standalone in warmer weather or over other long pants in cooler weather.
Kayakers faced with extreme cold often make the leap to wetsuits and dry suits.
Over years of kayak fishing, I have moved away from the sneaker style water shoes due to their weight, bulk, slow drying time, lack of dexterity, difficulty to keep mud free and general level of comfort, preferring neoprene style dive boots or water shoes.
There are some flash models available, including versions with a separate big toe, or all toes separate for more feel, but hands down my favourite have been the Sea to Summit Solution Bomber Booties. These water shoes are comfortable, flexible and constructed from 3mm neoprene, with an extremely secure Velcro strap, heavy rubber toe, heel and sides, and a 0.5mm polymer midsole for rock protection.
A cool discovery I have made in recent years has been SealSkinz waterproof, windproof and breathable socks. These make winter fishing more comfortable and are excellent for kayak campers who are able to set up camp, take off their wet shoes, dry off their feet, slide on the warm, dry, waterproof SealSkinz socks and then put their wet shoes back on while their feet remain warm and dry.
For those who are spending long hours on the water and especially those touring and camping from the kayak, layering is important. Rather than put all of your eggs in one basket by wearing one heavy pair of pants or jacket, wearing multiple thinner layers allows you to remove or add layers to better regulate your body temperature as the day warms up or weather changes. It also means that if you do end up wet, it is much easier and quicker to dry multiple thinner layers of clothing. I will often start my day wearing a tee shirt or dry tee, fishing shirt, light fleece jacket and finally a light raincoat, shedding layers as required.
Carrying a change of clothes in a dry bag is a good idea, and I also include a lightweight Tech Towel, for use in the kayak or when I get back to the car. When camping from the kayak it’s a good idea to carry a couple of dry bags for clothes, one for clean clothes and a second dry bag to house those clothes that need to be quarantined. Having a selection of different coloured dry bags makes it quick and easy to set up camp, locate items and sort gear as you travel.
This article simply covers some of the clothing that has proven effective for me, while also noting that clothing selection is an important aspect of kayak fishing, camping and touring. Check out the variety of hiking, sports, camping and water sports clothing that is out there and remember to consider your level of comfort, the elements that you will be dealing with while out on the water and your visibility to other vessels when selecting clothing for your adventure.
See you on the water.