Leave Your Cowboy Hat at Home

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Bob Reece

In Cheyenne, Wyoming we host Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. 

That folks, is a great time and place to wear a cowboy hat.  On the other hand, spotting and stalking fish in glassy water is not.  Whether on still or moving water, the clothing that you wear can have an impact on the success of your fishing day.  This is especially true when stalking fishing in water with high levels of clarity.  In both my personal and guide days on the water I’ve seen this impact fish-to-net success. 

While I guide entirely on still waters, many of those days are spent spotting and stalking fish with clients.  During those experiences, two different people stand out in my mind.   One arrived in a fluorescent pink sweatshirt.  To start the day off, we fished indicators.  With the morning dry fly activity, we began to slowly move down the shoreline in search of rising fish.  As soon as I told her we would be trying this method, she removed the sweatshirt and wore a drab colored under shirt. 

The other client wore a bright white cowboy hat. 

After briefly removing it, he placed it back on his head and refused to take it off for the remainder of the day.  Standing at a height of six feet and five inches, this proved to be a problem during our attempts to pull the sneak on various trout.  

Although a less polished angler, the sweatshirt client drastically out produced the owner of the hat.  Visible indicators to your movement in these situations are important and should be considered by fly fishers.  Trout frequently experience predation from above and any clear display of movement often sends them skittering for cover.  

Before heading out on your next angling adventure, consider where you’ll be fishing.  If I know I’ll be working a piece of water with significant bank structure, I dress to match the vegetation and landscape for that time of year.  Conversely, if there isn’t sufficient cover; I frequently wear mottled or camouflage blue in an attempt to blend with the sky scape.  Taking these steps gives you a better chance of increasing your fish-to-net success during your angling ventures.  

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Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Leave Your Cowboy Hat at Home

  1. I’ve studied a lot of underwater photos from a fish-eye’s view. As the view approaches the edge of the sight window the images are compressed vertically (squashed down) and the color rapidly approaches dark green/dark brown/black.

    If the sun is in your face, thereby lighting up your clothes, bright colors are even more pronounced.

    I would think a dark/black cowboy hat would be fine…

  2. One of my best days ever Salmon fishing was next to a guy wearing a yellow rain jacket. I almost got into an argument when I saw him walking in before sunrise but those fish were swirling, snapping and biting all day. So maybe next time I look for the guy with the brightly colored clothing to fish next to.

  3. Ed Dunn’s book on fishing the Henry’s Fork seems to refute this observation as he demonstrates fishing in outlandish colored fluorescent shirts, shiny flyrods, etc. Of course, he used 16′ leaders , fishes upstream or quartering downstream, wades quietly, etc. Personally, I think movement is the key as well as the fish’s sphere of vision.

    • Howie, that’s interesting. I”ll have to take a look at that. At least for the waters that I fish and guide on, my personal experience would speak to the importance of drab clothing when water conditions are calm and clear. This has been true for me when stalking fish and when posted up in a stationary position as fish cruise around waterways. I agree that long leaders are very important as well. I hope its a good day for you!

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