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An old-school bucket hat protects the neck as well as the face on a sweltering day.  Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

What the well-dressed angler is wearing

Tangled Lines

Two weeks ago, after a long, chilly, wet “spring,” it suddenly turned into summer. I dutifully folded and stored the flannels and Viyellas and big old Filson wool shirts, and dug out and hung the madras, seersucker, aloha and summery shirts.

Then the temps dropped like a tungsten head nymph tied on a jig hook. Of course.

This is why we have sweatshirts and cotton sweaters.

I have amassed a large collection of what eBay-ers refer to as “safari” shirts. I use them for fishing when it’s not super-hot. My old ones have split collars and years’ worth of fishing-related grime baked in.

So I scoured eBay, discount sites and the usual suspects and came up with a dozen or so mostly tan or beige shirts from Filson, Orvis, Cabela’s, Australian Outback and Eddie Bauer (which still exists, sort of). Some have epaulets and some don’t. I prefer to go without, the field promotion contingency being somewhat remote.

Plus there is the danger of being mistaken for Stewart Granger in “The Last Safari.”

Combined with some new LL Beanflex plain open collar sport shirts in beige and olive, I am set for the fishing/camp season.

I also got some new Space Age fabric fishing shirts for the really hot weather, the old ones having become even more appalling than the cotton safari shirts. Those I picked up during the winter when the purveyors of fly-fishing clothing, who make ordinary fashion vultures seem benign by comparison, unveil the latest gimmickry and unload last year’s at fire sale prices.

Everything gets treated with permethrin. I dislike ticks.

A note on grime:

There is a difference between well-worn and disgusting. The late Marty Keane, an expert on antique fishing tackle, used to call signs of wear and tear on rods “honorable use.”

Honorable use on a shirt is a small bloodstain that won’t come out. Depending on the audience, the stain may be attributed to a) a gigantic brown trout that bit the angler or b) the time the angler rescued a small child who had just been bitten by a giant brown trout.

Grime is a dark ring around the collar that yields to no known solvent — similar in effect to the combination of dust and grease that always settles on top of the refrigerator.

Grime is also a smell — an odor that invokes, in no particular order, memories of high school locker rooms, stale Fritos, mothballs, kerosene and that strange uncle from childhood, the one with the murky past who collected stuffed owls.

Hats: Ball caps keep the sun out of the eyes. They do nothing for the neck and ears. So I prefer something with a 360 degree brim.

The peril that lurks here is, once again, of the Stewart Granger variety. Or Indiana Jones. 

The bucket hat, usually cotton or a cotton blend, is a shapeless item with a decent brim and a grosgrain band. They start out looking disreputable and steadily disimprove with age.

Mine is from Dorfman Pacific, is 75% cotton and 25% Space Age, and comes in XXL for those of us with enormous noggins. The 2-inch brim keeps out most of the sun, and it blends nicely with the other detritus of everyday life on the so-called kitchen table.

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