Some of the best bites occur during the nastiest weather.
That’s why quality rainwear is as essential to an angler as rod, reel, line, and lures.
“You get what you pay for,” said Chris Leonard, a design engineer of technical apparel for Frabill. “I see guys with expensive boats throw on cheap raingear.
“People should take care of themselves first and then they can really focus on fishing.”
But just buying quality rainwear isn’t enough either. If a fisherman doesn’t properly care for it, he might as well be trying to keep dry during a downpour with a plastic poncho. And the idea that quality gear requires complicated care doesn’t “wash” either, according to the experts for Frabill, Simms, and Carhartt.
“There’s a misconception out there that it’s hard to care for Gore-Tex and other breathable fabrics,” said Matt Crawford, a public relations representative for Simms. “That’s not true. It’s as easy as doing your laundry. That’s one of the benefits.”
Another popular misconception is that you need a new suit before you really do. Just because you feel cold and clammy --- even wet --- when you wear your current gear, and it is damp to the touch on the outside, doesn’t mean that it’s leaking. The Gore-Tex folks call this “a case of mistaken identity.”
Actually, if the suit doesn’t have any tears or faulty seams, chances are you can make it perform as well as it did when it was new. It’s just a matter of properly caring for your investment.
That means re-application of a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment to your rainwear.
“Having a good DWR finish on the outside is critical,” explained Harry McPherson, a senior manager of men’s outerwear and accessories for Carhartt.
“DWR makes the rain bead up instead of soaking into the fabric,” he continued. “But it degrades over time and by washing. Also, anything that rubs against it constantly, like straps, can weaken it.”
When DWR is inadequate, your gear can appear wet on the outside, as the outer fabric absorbs moisture. In turn, that will make it heavier.
Additionally, condensation can collect on the inside. That’s because damp outer fabric lowers the temperature of the gear through evaporative heat loss. As a result, warm, humid air inside the garment condenses on the inside laminant surface so that it feels wet and the clothing appears to be leaking.
When should you apply a DWR? When you wash and dry your rainwear. And when should you do that? When it needs it, and, at a minimum, at the end of the fishing season before you put away in storage.
“Clean rainwear performs better and smells better,” said Frabill’s Leonard, who added that you’ll encourage mold growth if you put it away wet or even damp.
How do you wash it? Just follow the directions that come with the rainwear, said the experts.
“There’s no need for commercial machines,” McPherson said. “Do it at home.”
He added that applying a DWR every time you wash and dry isn’t necessary, and you can strengthen the DWR with just a quick spin in the dryer when the suit doesn’t need washing. “The heat gives it a charge,” he said.
If you do want to apply DWR, do so after you’ve washed the rainwear and before you put it in the dryer.
“Wash with a synthetic fabric cleaner,” advised Leonard. “Avoid detergents with a lot of additives, dyes, foaming agents, fragrances, and brighteners. They leave residues that can affect the water repellency effectiveness.”
ReviveX by Gear-Aid is one of those cleaners designed especially for rainwear and other synthetic outerwear. It offers a spray-on DWR as well.
Stains also can harm the suit’s ability to repel water. That’s why the really stubborn ones should be pre-treated, Crawford said. Dish washing detergent, such as Dawn, will help dissolve grease.
When you’re ready to wash, make sure that all of the zippers are closed and Velcro enclosures are sealed to reduce the chances of snags and abrasions. Some manufacturers recommend turning the garments inside out; others don’t.
At the end of the wash cycle, rinse twice before spraying on the DWR.
Finally, even if recently washed your rainwear and applied DWR the week before, don’t neglect its day-to-day care. After a session in the rain, air it out. When it’s dry, zip it up and give it a good shake to get out the grit that could damage it.
Take care of your gear, said Crawford, and you’ll discover “there’s no such thing as bad weather.”
What Lies Beneath
Even if you properly care for your rainwear, you might not be comfortable fishing in the rain, cautioned Simms’ Matt Crawford and Frabill’s Chris Leonard.
The No. 1 fishing shirt in the world is a cotton tee shirt, Crawford explained, but it’s exactly the wrong thing to wear under synthetic rainwear designed to let air through but keep moisture out. That’s because “cotton doesn’t breathe,” he said.
Leonard added, “People forget that they sweat. You want vapor to be able to pass through the layers, and the worst for that is cotton.
“Cotton is for the couch. You want breathable base layers like fleece, polyesters, and wools.”
Against your skin, you should wear wicking undergarments, such as Dri-Fit by Nike, Crawford added.
“Anglers have been slow to use these types of things,” he said. “But they’re really fortunate now because they have so many options that have been tested and perfected in other environments.”
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)