Will a shirt improve your odds of catching fish? If your business is catching fish this is a serious question. Comfort, colors and convenience will improve your odds, I have no doubt. Let me explain the technical features of a fishing shirt and you’ll understand why picking the best shirt will help you catch more fish.

I’m a firm believer that having the right gear at the right time is one of the things a fly fisher has control over. I’m not talking about having something super expensive, I’m saying if any item (a shirt or anything) is designed for a particular situation or condition it will be better in that use.

If you’d like to SKIP all the below and just get what I consider the best fly fishing shirt for the money check out the SIMMS BUGSTOPPER SHIRT (Link to SIMMS). Designed with the correct colors, comfort and fishing features in mind.

If your looking to get a great fly fishing shirt with the convenience using AMAZON here’s a link to Orvis’ Clearwater Aerated Chambray Long-Sleeve Shirt.

A perfect example: On a Mid-June day I was tossing flies along the Au Sable River, I was getting skunked bad. I could see fish rising. The weather seemed right, mostly cloudy with a slight breeze and a chance of showers. I was fishing in a spot that historically was very productive for me, but Nada/Zilch/Zero.

Red shirt from underwater Bad
Red shirt from underwater Bad

Because it looked like rain, I put on my “just in case” rain jacket I keep stashed in the car. It’s RED, I’m talking bright red. Then it dawned on me that I was glowing like the sun to the trout population – basically, I was a big warning flag waving my arms around. Yes, I took the jacket off, and hooked a couple fish.

Why you need a “FLY FISHING SHIRT”

Color Selection for a Fly Fishing Shirts

The example above describes the importance of color selection. So to dive a little deeper into colors. If the shirt will be the outer wear seriously think about the surrounding you’ll be fishing. If in the woods you don’t necessarily need camouflage color, but it wouldn’t hurt if the shirt has some of those qualities.

What Color Should You Wear for Conditions

Open Water with Big SkyLight Blues Broken-Up with Whites
Spring Creeks with ForestLight Greens with Plaid to Break-up
Fall Salmon in WoodsBrowns, Grays and Even Camo

Sun Protection while Casting a Fly Rod

I’m in my 50’s and am really starting to worry about skin cancer. If you’ve ever had a couple spots cut off and sent in for a biopsy you know what I’m talking about. Selecting a shirt that protects your skin needs to be a priority.

Protecting your neck, shoulders and arms with sun screen is good, but if you get sun screen on your fly, chances are you won’t catch a trout.
Fishing shirts are rated for sun protection with a UPF number. The higher the number the more protection the fabric provides. The formula is pretty straight forward example – UPF 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. In an interview Dr. Grossman (link to credentials) explained how fabric covering your skin is much better at reducing skin cancer risk as compared to lotions. Read it here. Be safe from the sun and cover up with a shirt rated at UPF 30 or higher.

A Comfy Shirt Extends Fishing Time

Fly Fishing Shirt Vents-front and back
Fly Fishing Shirt Vents-front and back

Once you wear a shirt designed for fishing you actually get to understand what you’ve missed. Fabrics, venting and extra gussets make a shirt more comfortable. I purchased my first fishing shirt from Simms a couple years ago and after getting home from my first outing I immediately bought another. It was the Bugstopper (link to Simms) who still sells this model.

What makes a fly fishing shirt comfy?

  • Materials, look for a polyester/nylon blend. A +65% polyester is usually quick drying and light weight.
  • Venting, most fly fishing shirts have a large vent across the back between the shoulders. The best shirts will carry this venting into the arm pits and around to the front. Venting slots must be covered with a light mesh to stop bugs.
  • Warm and Cool? – I believe a long sleeve shirt can reflect the sun’s rays to keep you cool and with the correct layering will keep you warm when it’s cold out.
  • Bug resistance, I’m not sure about how well materials “integrated bug repellents” work. I do know having more of your skin covered is a sure way to fend off mosquitoes and black flies. I still have memories of trout in a feeding frenzy, and getting driven off the river because I was wearing a t-shirt.
  • Roll-up Sleeves, Okay I’ve been saying protect yourself by covering up, but what do you do when it’s 85 degrees out and it’s time to run into town for dinner? Wearing a long sleeve shirt might look odd, but rolling up those sleeves and buttoning in place fits into most situations.

Can a Shirt be DESIGNED with the Fly Fisher in Mind?

Dedicated fishing shirts are absolutely designed for convenience to the angler. Having pockets in the right spots or a square cut on the bottom are just a couple of the considerations incorporated into a fishing shirt.

Fly Fishing Shirt Chest Pockets
Fly Fishing Shirt Chest Pockets

What design considerations should you look for in a fishing shirt?

  1. Pockets, chest pockets are necessary. My preference is to have two vertical ZIPPERED chest pockets. I’ll keep my glasses on one side. (I wear a prescription and sometimes need to put on my bifocals to tie knots) On the other side I’ll stash a small fly box and tippet. I like having zippered pockets, think about the excitement of landing a fish – you bend over and plop something falls into the creek. Odds are whatever fell in it was important and is gone.
  2. Integrated sunglass chamois, at first, I thought this was a gimmick but after having this and using it my fishing life is a little better. Most of the better fishing shirt will have a chamois sewn into the bottom hem of the shirt. Face it most fly fishers are a little older and wear a prescription of some sort. Quickly cleaning those glasses keeps your fly line on the water longer.
  3. Gear tabs, I love having my scissor clamps readily available. Clamping it onto a small loop is perfect. A buddy of mine has the same shirt as me and uses the same loop to attach a zinger for his clippers.
  4. Material cut and gussets, you’ve got to have freedom of movement with a fly fishing shirt. Unless it’s really cold, my shirt won’t be tucked in, so look for a square cut bottom hem. Armpit gussets allow for your arms to be extended without binding, this is another great feature.

Some Popular Brands of Well-Designed Fly-Fishing Shirts

The big brands in the sport understand the value in having the fly fishing equipment. Shop around some great values can be found. Most of these brands have quality closeouts that incorporate a core design features needed. The newest releases are usually marketing a new color or technology.

SIMMS – Any shirt designed in Bozeman Montana has the right features built in. Two stand outs are the BUGSTOPPER (I have two of these) and the BIG SKY (Links to the SIMMS website for prices).

ORVIS – With a history that started in fly fishing Orvis is a brand you can trust. The Orvis Clearwater Aerated Chambray has all of the qualities I spoke about in this article. These shirts are sold at AMAZON, here’s a link to check the prices and reviews. Orvis Clearwater Aerated Chambray Long-Sleeve Shirt.

Patagonia – Although I haven’t owned a Patagonia shirt the Long Sleeve Sun Stretch shirt has 90% of the design and comfort elements reviewed in this article. Check out the great reviews and prices with this link over to Patagonia’s Sun Stretch Shirt.

Can a fishing shirt make a difference? I think so, if you’re comfortable, protected and have your gear at your fingertips you’ll have you’re fly on the water more which increases the odds.

Selecting a fishing shirt
Selecting a fishing shirt