For over 25 years, Tony Orton has made a living from being on the ocean, and all that sun and wind has been hard on his skin. However, he has found a few innovative ways to be sun smart on the water...
For years I really struggled with sunscreens. Most would make my skin sting and after continuous days on the water, I would get rashes from a reaction with the creams that were supposed to be protecting my epidermis.
I am also pretty fussy about not getting sunscreen smeared on my leaders and live-baits. If you are going to go to all the trouble of using expensive fluorocarbon leaders that are less visible in the water, then getting sunscreen all over them defeats the purpose of using such a product in my eyes. I would call myself a minimal sunscreen applier and really found it a hassle to stop what I was doing to apply a protective cream.
A few years ago I discovered a sunscreen that was locally made, not greasy, did not have a strong smell, applied clear, and I did not need to cake it on to get the protection I needed from the intense UV rays that we are unlucky to have here in New Zealand.
This sunscreen has been a game-changer for me, and the days of itchy sore skin from overuse of sunscreen are gone. It can take a while to find the right sunscreen that suits your skin and I think it’s something we overlook. It’s easy to just buy the cheapest one or go with what we have always used. I went through a process of trying different sun lotions and was always interested in what my clients were using, until I finally found the right one for me.
Each day my plan is always the same for applying sunscreen. As soon as I get to the dock, I put it on. I like to get it on well before it gets hot and while my skin is still dry. I then put a second coat on not long after the first (normally after we have caught our live-bait) before the sun is up and hot. I feel it gives the sunscreen time to soak in before my skin gets sweaty or wet. I also find if I put my sunscreen on early enough and get that good base coat (like a good painter) then I get way better protection for the day than if I put it on once I am sweaty or had already been exposed to the sun that day.
Back in the early 2000’s, I did seven years fishing in Central and North America. It was hot and the humidity levels were super high. Some days it felt like I was sitting in the cockpit or helm area in a pool of sweat. I still remember looking down from the tower and seeing my deckhands sitting in the cockpit with their feet in buckets of ice water trying to cool down. This is where I was first introduced to specifically designed fishing clothing; that is, breathable shirts, neck gaiters (breathable face coverings), lightweight breathable pants and gloves etc. All these products were designed by anglers for anglers and they certainly made fishing in the tropics a hell of a lot more comfortable. These specialised fishing clothes mainly came out of the USA and were made of UV-rated fabric. They were also quick drying, loose fitting and specifically designed to keep the sun off and at the same time keep you cool and let the air flow over your body. It did not take long for these styles of clothing to make their way to NZ.
All ready for another day on the water escaping UV rays.
We are now very lucky to have a huge selection of quality fishing clothing here to pick from. The days of wearing a pair of footy shorts and singlet out fishing for the day are well and truly over (it gives me nightmares just thinking of the sunburn I would have the next day).
The areas I find I get the most sun damage are my ears, bottom lip, back of my neck and the tops of my hands. My lips and tops of my hands are always an issue (even with sunscreen) as they are always wet and fully exposed to the sun. I have gone away from trying to reapply sunscreen and zinc to these areas and now cover up fully to just keep the sun off 100%. I use SolarFlex guide gloves and neck gaiters to keep the sun off my hands, face, ears and neck. The neck gaiters are great – they’re nice and loose fitting, have vent holes in the nose and mouth area so you can breathe easily, as well as vent holes to get rid of the moisture that causes fogging of your sunglasses.
The breathable gloves are a game changer. They have hard-wearing leather patches in areas that give me grip when fishing, gaffing, casting and even lip grabbing kingfish. They have the tips of the fingers removed so knot tying is easy and the SolarFlex material keeps the sun off the back of your hands.
Fingerless gloves are great for tying knots, are breathable to keep your hands cool and the sun off, and feature leather in areas for handling rods and fish.
New Zealand’s weather can change at the drop of a hat. Some days it can be super hot then a few hours it feels like the middle of winter. Even in Northland the mornings can be a little nippy so wearing a breathable shirt only might not be enough to keep you warm.
I run with the layers theory and always start the day with a thermal shirt under my breathable fishing shirt and as the day heats up, I just take off the thermal layer and put the breathable fishing shirt back on. When you are handling fish all day, the SolarFlex fabric is hard to beat – it dries quickly, keeps you cool and protected from the sun’s damaging rays, plus it’s a lot less prone to staining than a cotton shirt is.
My wife has me trained well. After a day on the water, I spray some stain remover on the bad spots, and into the washing machine go my gloves, pants and gaiter. Somehow, they find their way into my drawers a day or so later in perfect condition!
I still remember the pain of sunburn in the inner leg area. Damn it hurts, especially if you’re on the water the next day and the sun is beating hard onto your sunburn. For years now I have been a big fan of wearing lightweight breathable pants when fishing. Not only do they keep the sun off your pegs but they also have some great features like plier holders, they dry really quickly if you get wet, and are fantastic for keeping the bugs off you when you are sitting around at the end of the day having a few cold ones.
Pants specifically for fishing are a must these days. They keep the sun off, are breathable for comfort, dry quickly and have handy features like pockets for your pliers.
The great thing about all this specifically designed and made fishing gear is it reduces the amount of sunscreen you need to apply so if you are like me and a little lazy with the ‘slip, slop, slap’ then covering up completely is a great option!
February 2022 - Tony Orton
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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