Summer fishing is fun, but watch the sun
By Luke Clayton
Jul 26, 2017
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Having spent a great majority of my life out in the elements, both summer and winter, I have learned, sometime the hard way, how to prepare for the heat of summer and winter’s chill. For many years, I worked as a surveyor; these are the guys you see out looking through their “instruments,” surveying parcels of land or setting construction stakes for roads, bridges and utilities. Because of the nature of their work, surveyors are always outdoors. It never gets too cold or too hot to survey. The surveyor’s creed is “there’s no money to make setting back at the office!”  Back in my days as a working surveyor, if I wasn’t working I was usually either hunting or fishing with friends or the family during my “free time.”

About 30 years ago when I first began writing outdoor articles for newspapers and magazines, my exposure to the sun was really stepped up. I was always on some sort of story assignment when away from my primary job surveying. 

The old saying, “I wish I knew then what I know now” certainly holds true for myself and many other outdoor types of my generation. Health problems caused by the sun’s rays and accompanying heat are much more in the limelight today than a few decades ago and to my way of thinking, that’s a very good thing. Precautions can be taken that will almost eliminate the risk of skin cancer or heat stroke and more and more people are now “savvy” to protecting themselves from the sun.

I went on a catfishing trip last weekend to Lake Fork with my grandson Jack Zimmerman and longtime friend Guide Seth Vanover prompted me share some ways to stay safe from the sweltering summer sun. We got on the water a bit later in the morning than I recommend. I had to drive an hour or so to Jack’s house and then drive another hour to the lake. We dropped our first baits into the water about 8:00 a.m. Action was fast paced and in a matter of a couple hours we had a cooler full of good-eating channel catfish.

Guide Seth Vanover and Luke's grandson Jack Zimmerman beating the heat on an early morning catfish trip at Lake Fork. photo by Luke Clayton

I commented on the long sleeve shirt that Seth was wearing and stressed the fact of just how important protection from the sun’s harmful rays really is. I felt a bit guilty that I had not taken the time to equip Jack and myself with wide brim hats and long sleeves. The ball caps we were wearing do shield the eyes from the sun but do little to protect ears and face.

Twenty years ago, I had a small skin cancer removed and consider myself pretty well informed in how to avoid future skin problems. I’m convinced keeping one’s skin covered is by far the best protection.

But, what’s the best way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UVR) ? Clothing is the most basic and generally the best means of sun protection. Not all clothing is equal, however, and some of it isn’t actually very good at protecting us.

So, what makes a piece of clothing sun-safe?

You can have clothing over every square inch of your body, but if the sun goes right through it, you might as well be wearing short sleeves. Fabrics are made of tiny fibers woven or knitted together. Under a microscope, we can see lots of spaces between the fibers; UV can pass directly through these holes to reach the skin. The tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the less UV can get through. Twill, used to make tweeds or denim, is an example of a tightly woven fabric. Open weave fabrics provide much less protection.

Fabrics are made from many types of fibers, including cotton, wool, and nylon. Most fibers naturally absorb some UV radiation, and some have elastic threads that pull the fibers tightly together, reducing the spaces between the holes. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, lycra, nylon, and acrylic are more protective than bleached cottons, and shiny or lustrous semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon reflect more UV than do matte ones, such as linen, which tend to absorb rather than reflect UV.

Finally, consider the fabric’s weight and density — light, sheer silk gauze will provide far less UV protection than heavy cotton denim.

Obviously, most of us that spend time on the water frown at heading out on hot summertime fishing trip wearing a heavy denim long sleeve shirt but I truly believe we would be safer from the sun if we did. Thankfully, there are all sorts of “tight woven” fabrics today that are lightweight and extremely protective from the sun. All the larger sporting goods stores have several brands of “fishing shirts” in stock. Columbia is a brand that comes to mind that is a leader in outdoor wear and in sun-protective clothing.  A visit with a knowledgeable sales person can be very helpful when choosing clothing that suits your personal needs. A little time online can also go a long way in learning about what is available today.

Sun stroke or heat exhaustion is another very real problem when spending time outdoors this time of year. It’s important to stay well hydrated and this equates to drinking plenty of water before and during a summer outing. I’ve learned that earing foods high in protein also help prevent dehydration. 

On this recent trip, the sun was bearing down around mid morning. We had a cooler full of catfish and I casually asked Jack when he might be ready to go.

“Gramps, it is getting hot...I’m ready when you and Mr. Seth are,” was his reply.  I could tell that my 15-year-old grandson, in peak physical condition was beginning to get uncomfortable and he probably sensed that “Gramps” would stay all day but the smart thing to do was get back in the shade before it got “really hot.”

Besides, Seth had an afternoon guided fishing trip to run that began at 3:00 p.m., during the hottest part of the day. Seth commented that he hoped his charges for the afternoon trip came prepared for the 96 degrees they would encounter thanks to a cloudless July sky.

So, keep your skin protected from the sun, drink lots of water before and during the trip and enjoy your summer fishing trips!
To enjoy some red hot summer summer catfish “catching”, contact Vanover at or call 903-736-4557.

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