3 Reasons Fly Fisherman Should Consider Wearing A Long-Bill Hat

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I look goofy, but the long-bill hat helped me catch this redfish. Photo Louis Cahill

When I look at a long-bill hat, images of Ernest Hemingway, swinging wet flies on one of his favorite trout waters pops into my head.

Next, I see the silhouette of the legendary fly fisherman and guide, Flip Pallot, with his masculine beard protruding beneath his long bill cap, as he stands on the platform of his skiff, pointing out a pod of tarpon to his client, at 11’oclock. There’s something really macho about dudes that can pull off wearing this type of hat. For the record, I’ve never seen myself capable of pulling off this machismo look, and in turn, I’ve spent the majority of my fly fishing career, opting instead for wearing the conservative short-bill cap. Plus, there’s no doubt that I look like a complete tool in a long-bill hat. That said, looking good on the water doesn’t help any of us catch more fish, it only helps the photographer looking through his/her lens shooting us. I’ve learned that performance is really what fly fishers, that get it at least, are really after when it comes to searching out what gear they use. For this reason, I made the decision recently to set aside my biased stance on long-bill hats, and actually wear one during a recent fly fishing trip of mine to the salt. Thank you Louis for being the friend that loaned it to me for the day, because it opened my eyes to how special and functional long-bill hats can be for not only me but to all fly anglers. Below are three reasons fly fisherman should consider purchasing and wearing a long-bill hat on their next fishing trip.

Reason #1: Less Glare and Sun in the eyes, equals better vision on the water. 

Polarized sunglasses work great for allowing anglers to see into the water they’re wetting their flies in, but they will perform twice as good if they stay in the shade. The extra roofing area atop your head that a long-bill hat provides, is substantially larger than what traditional or short-bill hats provide. No longer will you need the sun high in the horizon before the bill of your hat begins to block out the suns rays. Wearing a long-bill hat will give you an edge, helping you to keep your vision acute and your presentations accurate.

Reason #2: The extended roof will keep your nose from burning to a crisp

For decades, I’ve told my Mom she cursed me with her fare skin genes. Take one look at my Dad’s bronze skintone, and you’d swear he spent his days lounging poolside or walking the beach. Fact is, he spends less time outside than the average person. I’ve always thought it was poor luck, with how much time I spend outside in the sun guiding, that I was gifted with my Moms fair skin instead of my Dad’s. There’s been many of days, that I came home with a cherry red nose. If only, I would have adopted the long-bill hat earlier, I probably would have been able to avoid the dermatologist from taking his razor sharp scalpel to my nose. Make no mistake, a long bill hat will do a fine job of keeping a much larger area of your face out of the sun during your fly fishing adventures. Compliment it with a buff, and you won’t find a need to have to put down your fly rod every two hours, to lather your face up with SPF sunscreen. After all, sun tan lotion, mixed with salty sweat, spells bad ju-ju for the eyes.

Reason #3: Extra Shade on the face will keep you fresh on the water

On many occasions, I’ve found myself on a drift boat or skiff, two clicks away from heat exhaustion. For a fly fisherman, that’s bad news, because if you’re not physically and mentally stable on the water, you’re going to have zero chance at performing at your highest levels. And that my friend, will end up costing you fish. This past trip, during the heat of the day, I found that a long-bill hat did a great job of keeping me much cooler and comfortable, and that provided me increased stamina, which allowed me to stay focused fly fishing, from dawn to dusk. For $25, this is a piece of gear I’d recommend to all of my fellow fly anglers. I’m no longer a hater, instead a believer.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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28 thoughts on “3 Reasons Fly Fisherman Should Consider Wearing A Long-Bill Hat

  1. Screw the hat! That’s a nice Redfish ya got there! Seriously though, I’ve worn a long billed hat a few times, and yes it does save your face from getting fried. Unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until after the first time I really burnt my face to a crisp. It’s not the first hat I reach for in the morning, but I keep one in my boat bag most days just in case.

    • Justin,

      I might look like a tool from here on out man LOL. Those three reasons that I brought up add a lot of value to the fly angler. It doesn’t surprise me that you always have one in the boat. You’re a smart angler that always thinks stuff through and that’s why I really enjoy fishing with you. I know you’ll have me covered if I forgot any gear. Let’s plan on fishing soon man. Hit me up on the phone.


    • Jasper,

      They do catch more wind during the boat ride. This can be overcome by pulling your buff up over the back and on top of the hat. Or if you really care about your hat, you can take it off during location changes. That way you’ll be sure you have a hat when you get to the next fishing spot.


  2. Hey Kent, if we are worried about ‘how good we look’, we should just wear a sack over our heads…oh, yeah, that’s why they make buffs! When you reach the age when the docs start cutting you up in one little bit at a time, you wear better protection…screw fashion!

    • Jeff,

      Most will say they don’t care about how they look on the water fly fishing, but the truth is, deep down many do, at least to some extent that is. Thanks for the comment.


      • I have a standing 6 month rotation with the dermatologist. Between my time on the water and my time on the soccer pitch (not to mention all my puttering around the yard/garden/woods here) I get a LOT of sun. Wouldn’t trade it for the world, though. Definitely see the doc, Kent.

  3. Machismo lol ! Word of the year right there folks lol ! Good wording my friend ! I agree with Jeff’s statement. Who gives a crap about how stylish you look cause the fish sure don’t! In the warmer part of the year I ware a straw sombrero looking hat I bought for 3$. I might look goofy, but I ain’t there to strike a pose(er). Functional, reliable, durable is what my gear needs to be, be that I’m guiding or just free fishing. Ware that long bill with machismoleeness brother Kent! And if they point and laugh, pull that bill down a little lower and there gone!

  4. Great points Kent, I’d like to add one. Look for a hat with a dark underside. I didn’t think it would help cut down on the glare, but it does. Keep the great content coming!

  5. Wait until you see the contraption I’ll be sporting @ Andros! Yikes!

    You’ll feel much better then 😛

    It’s fishing. Not a fashion show.

  6. I’m in the same boat as Jeff and the other Mike except with Melanoma cut out twice. If I had only known to cover up more and use sunscreen, but not to close to eyes. I did that once it was a painful day fishing.

    • Mike, having just had my third malignant melanoma carved out of me, I learned from my dermatologist that there is a strong genetic component to your risk of developing a melanoma. This does not excuse us from covering up as much as possible, because he also told me that basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are definitely related to our sun exposure. Anymore, there’s hardly a square inch of my skin exposed to the sun when I’m fishing.

  7. Pingback: Tippets: History of Floatant, California Drought Worsens, Long Billed Hats | MidCurrent

  8. Patagonia discontinued the best hat ever, one with a flap that covers your ears in its “up” position, and folds back to cover your neck. It’s light-weight and has a green under-bill. Mine’s been through the laundry many times.

  9. I was an early adapter of the long billed cap…the longer the better. The Simms you are sporting is a well made and comfortable “mid-billed” hat at 3 3/4″. Patagonia’s gone and lamented long-bill 4 1/4″ hat with clever, internally Velcroed removable sun shield was a fine hat. My current favorite is cool polyester with a mesh liner for added air circulation, has externally mounted Velcro tabs for a large sunshade option and sports a mega 4 5/8″ bill…I have one in olive for trout and one in tan for the flats. New to me is a cotton hat (from Vietnam!) featuring a 4 3/4″ bill.

    As you have correctly pointed out, especially for those of us requiring Rx eyewear, top quality, real glass, polarized shades are one of our most important pieces of fly fishing equipment…but their effectiveness is drastically diminished if you allow sunlight to be reflected off their surface. The long-billed hat is an enhancer of visual acuity in addition to increasing the effectiveness of health-necessary sun screen. If someone in another boat kids you that they enjoy reading your stories and why do your cats have so many toes, just smile and enjoy being a little different, a little better equipped.

  10. Wore one for many years. Probably the best for tropical wear. Those with the long bill and up/downer stiff rear ear/neck cover feature for south Florida flats fishing. Mark Sosin sells one similar. Capt Harry’s in Miami used to sell them until the Cuban hat maker passed away and they simply disappeared. No hat maker picked up the same design.

  11. A lot of the newer hat designs have much to wide a brim, attempting to block more of the side sun light and glare. Those models tend to block your eyes following a fly back cast. I think Mangrove and TFO have to wide a brim model. I have them and went back to the old one’s I’ve managed to coax along. Note that the old one’s were along the the lines of the famous Sword fisherman’s long bill caps.

  12. Back before long-lining when there was a harvestable population of swordfish, they were hunted with harpoons from a bow pulpit. Having to spot them form a long way off is how the original long billed swordfishers’ cap came into existence. The dark, light absorbent underside bill color of well designed anglers’ headwear is widely accepted by us. It has surprised me that it took Major League Baseball for ever to switch from a standard light grey under bill color to a dark one…only a few years ago!

  13. Kent

    Next hot day take along a whole bunch of watermelon cut up in nice big chunks and kept ice cold in the cooler. Pop those chunks down all day and see what a difference it makes. It has a wonderful rejuvenating effect.

  14. Yeah and none of the Companies are making them anymore! Been wearing them for years, but mine are all worn out and none of the fly fishing manufacturers are selling them anymore. Very frustrating. My favorite had ever because was a sage longbill that had the most amazing texture that it could be washed over and over again. Great write up

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