The other day, gun angler, soft plastic revivalist and all-around cormorant Steve Starling asked if I wanted to try one of his new ‘Finesse’ camouflage fishing shirts made by Mad Keen and, if so, in blue or green?
The question reminded me of a recent post to my Instagram and Facebook pages where I put up a shot of guide Cameron McGregor and my friend Michael ‘Is this hat too Canadian?’ McMartin, in his totally Canadian red and black check cap and received the inevitable comment about bright colours spooking fish.
It isn’t the first time that’s happened either, and I’ve had many negative comments about the fashion sensibilities of my fishing friends over the years. In fairness to them, though, even if they actually have no taste, it’s not their fault, it’s mine.
The problem is photography and anglers in drab clothing generally don’t stand out of the background enough to make a good scenic fly fishing picture so I always ask people I fish with to add a bit of colour to their hat or shirt in the interest of quality journalism.
#FakeNews? No doubt, but this story goes many, many years back to a bass trip in New England with fellow fly fishing photographer Peter Morse, where he suggested we needed to add a little colour to our clothing because everything else, including the fish, was some dull shade of green. We did and yes, his photos definitely looked better than mine and I don’t mind admitting here that I’ve adopted the practice ever since.
All this still begs the question: does the colour of your shirt or cap spook fish and, more importantly, should I get the bright blue or the duller green?
I won’t claim to be an expert on fish psychology but from my own observations—mostly chasing trout on small streams—there’s a lot you could worry about before wardrobe to improve your success. For example, if your line, leader and fly land like the Hindenburg on most casts, it’s probably not your hipster country- and western-inspired red check shirt with matching cap that sent the fish bolting upstream like Usain. That said, if I weren’t doing photos my own preference would lean towards dull clothing and fly lines, because it can’t really hurt, can it?
Not trusting my own opinion on the matter, I asked Flylife Magazine editor, author and very experienced trout-on-fly guy Rob Sloane for his thoughts:
“One of my key rules of engagement is ‘make sure the fish can’t see you’. And they don’t always spook and swim off at high speed—sometimes they just go sulky and refuse to feed. Bright shirts might be just the thing for our magazine pages but unless you are supremely confident about your fish spotting ability, it pays to blend in to the background as much as possible. “
I also asked ‘mostly unseen by trout because he wears a lot of camo’ guide Scottie of Indulgence Fly Fishing why he so often is seen (or perhaps unseen) wearing camo in his pictures:
“Trout can spot a small insect a meter above the water.
Some big bumbling fisher wearing contrasting or bright clothing sticks out like a sore thumb on the streams. The fact that you decide to wear neutral or camo style clothing automatically puts your mind into stealth mode and has you hunting for trout.”
Sounded like good advice, so I ordered the green.
When the shirt arrived, the ‘camo’ pattern turned out to be more ‘G.I. Joe tries hard psychedelic drugs then melts’ than what I expected but looked very cool anyway with its swirly patterns and faded top-to-bottom look, and while I probably wouldn’t wear it to the polo, it’s certainly not boring.
The shirt is made of light polyester and has venting on the back and underarms to help shed heat, and a thin internal mesh layer on the back and inside the pockets to aid free movement when things get sticky.
Personally, I have always preferred synthetic shirts for fishing because they’ve proven very tough, quick-drying and don’t stick to my back under my camera pack like cotton shirts do.
Steve says the shirts never need ironing to look good and as I never iron fishing clothes I will take his word on that. I will say that after its first wash it dried wrinkle-free on a hanger.
On the outside, there are two large gusseted front pockets with simple velcro closures that should prevent stuff from easily falling out if you bend over to land a fish or fully commit to a face plant. Completing the G.I Joe look, the sleeves can be rolled up and secured with a tab and hidden button.
Lastly, if you’re not already a redneck and prefer to stay that way, the shirt is designed with long days in the harsh Australian sun in mind and has a large collar with an extension that can be folded out to cover a bit more of the back of your neck, as well as extra-long sleeves that cover more of the tops of your hands.
And the Cobalt blue version ?
I’m definitely getting one for the polo and to solicit more comments about spooked trout!