Hot, humid days in Key West. July in the Amazon without a breath of wind. Deep in the mangroves where the only sounds are the whine of mosquitos and tarpon popping way back in the forest where you can’t reach them. These are the intensely hot days when I’ve put the SolarFlex Armor shirt ($130, simmsfishing.com) through the ultimate sweat test. And as a result I’ll never go back to the tropics without one in my duffel.
Here’s why it’s the best sun (and heat) protection out there: The shirt has both a hood and a built-in neck gaiter. That means you can’t lose the gaiter, and there are no gaps near your collarbone or at the base of your neck.
When you position the gaiter over your nose, and then pull the hood up over your hat brim, you have double protection that provides a truly effective barrier against damaging UV rays. When the sun is especially intense and not straight overhead, you need both layers to shade the tricky areas around your temples, your forehead, and your cheekbones right under your sunglasses. When the gaiter is up, you breathe easy through a built-in mesh panel over the mouth and nose that also helps prevent foggy glasses. When the sun is straight overhead, I often go without the hood. When the sun is low and at my back, the hood is all I need. Thumb stirrups hold the sleeves down over the backs of your hands.
This shirt was originally available in a plain off-white “Tundra” color, but is now available in the new Cloud Camo pattern from Simms. In a flats skiff, the camo doesn’t do much except look good. In photos, at a bar or restaurant, or at the airport, it just looks better than off-white, especially if my lunch, blood, or fish slime are on it.
But there have been a few times while wading the flats where I’ve dropped to one knee, and thought to myself: “This fish doesn’t even know I’m here.” One memorable bonefish ate the fly just two rod lengths away, and I still wonder if the Cloud Camo shirt made the difference.