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The Backstage Pass

Coming Prepared with the Right Saltwater Flats Clothing

May 03, 23

Saltwater fishing presents a number of challenges. In a lot of ways, it’s the pinnacle of fly fishing where skill and luck converge where a poorly presented fly or a loud thud of a foot hitting the hull of a boat could result in spooked fish. Polling all day on the flats and then losing your opportunity at a fish in a split second is frustrating. The key is to manage the things you can control. You can’t control the weather, but one thing that should be dialed for every trip to the flats is your clothing. Well-selected clothing not only increases your chances at fish but also protects you from the elements.

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Saltwater Clothing Colors: What Should You Wear?

It’s important that when choosing your flats outfit that you take into consideration the color of your clothing. The flashy shirts with bright colors may look good in the photos, but to the wary bonefish or permit that’s a beacon indicating a potential predator. Fish on the flats are continuously hunted by barracudas and sharks. Many times, bonefish, permit, and tarpon will follow a stripped fly all the way up to the boat! A brightly colored angler standing on the bow is just the sight they need to see to high tail it out of there. Leave the red shirt at home in exchange for a more neutral colored shirt. Light blues and tans typically do well in addition to multi-colored shirts that break up your silhouette. You can even go as far as to pair your shirt with the color of your surroundings. For example, maybe a sand-colored shirt in Mexico or a blue or white shirt in the Bahamas.

Sun Protection While on the Flats


The number one reason for choosing good gear is protection from the elements. On the flats, the primary factor is the sun, and the problem becomes how to manage it. By the nature of flats fishing, anglers are subjected to long days under the beating sun standing at the bow of the boat. If you’re not adequately prepared, the sun could quickly put a damper on your trip. Nothing ruins a trip like getting sunburnt on the first day and then having to bare out a full week being miserable. For that reason, be sure to pack a long-sleeved shirt that protects your arms from the sun. Simms’ SolarFlex Hoody or Patagonia’s Tropic Hoody are great pieces of gear every angler should own. They are comfortable, breathable, and most importantly keep you out of the sun.


It’s tempting to just pack a pair of shorts. It’s beautiful and warm out, and especially for anglers escaping winter in the North, the temptation just to wear shorts is strong. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a pair of shorts on the trip, but be sure to pack a pair of long pants as well. It won’t take long for your bare legs to get roasted from the sun standing on the bow. Furthermore, even with sunscreen, if you’re wading or if the fishing’s good and you’re jumping in and out of the boat getting your photos it won’t be long until the sunscreen wipes off and your legs are the color of lobsters. Pack a pair of long quick-dry breathable pants to protect your legs from the sun. Simms Superlight Pant will keep you covered and in the game chasing fish on the flats. Patagonia’s Sandy Cay or Guidewater Pants offer quick drying and protection from the sun on the salt.


Be sure to pack a good buff. Not only can you pull it up to cover your face from the beating sun, but you can use it to keep the rain off if a storm rolls in. Simms Sungaiter and Patagonia’s Sun Mask both offer great buffs.

Sun Gloves

Putting sunscreen on the backs of your hands should be second nature. There’s a reason most guide’s hands are darker colored than the rest of their body- they’re in the sun all day long season after season. But for someone who takes a few trips a year to the flats, gloves offer an additional layer of protection and can keep your mitts from becoming crispy red nubs. Simms SolarFlex Sunglove and Patagonia’s Sun Gloves are both terrific options.


This should go without saying, but never leave home without your hat. A good cap that keeps the sun off your face is invaluable. Make sure to grab your hat touting your favorite baseball team or fishing brand. Your forehead will be thanking you when the end of the week comes around and you’re not entirely sunburnt.

Rain jackets

A good rain jacket is a piece of clothing that’s often overlooked. Storms rolling through on the flats are not uncommon so be sure you’re prepared. Sitting in the soaking rain can be miserable and can quickly ruin an otherwise excellent day of fishing. Check out Simms Waypoints Rain Jacket or Patagonia’s Torrentshell. Both are great and offer relief from the rain when the skies open up.

Saltwater fly fishing presents a number of challenges. Not only the challenges of placing your fly in front of the fish to eat but environmental challenges as well. Anglers traveling to the salt should be conscious of possible weather changes as well as the nearly ever-present sun. Sunburn and miserable fishing conditions can be managed with the correct gear. Doing your homework can be the difference between a good trip and a great trip, and with a few tips and tricks, every angler can be prepared to thoroughly enjoy their fly fishing adventure to any of Yellow Dog’s destinations. If you have any questions or need suggestions on gear, don’t hesitate to contact Yellow Dog and any of our team members will be more than willing to help.


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