What do you want or indeed expect from a waterproof top?
September has crept up on us and it's not long now until we are fully in the swing of autumn fishing - and of course this often requires that we wear some kind of waterproof top to protect us from the elements, whether that be rain, getting splashed/soaked by the sea, or just plain wind and cold. If we think principally about lure fishing here then I take it that most of you use a relatively lightweight jacket or smock that you can layer up underneath if needs be, but how well are they serving you? I am asking a few questions in this blog post and I would really appreciate your thoughts in the comments section below - thank you in advance.
I have worn any number of different waterproof tops over the years, and as much as I think some of them work very well, I pretty much always reckon that there's room for improvement. I gave some "proper" technical jackets a go a while back, those really lightweight shell-type things from the outdoor market, but as good as they were as waterproof garments, all the zips seized up in saltwater and the sleeves were mostly next to useless with the amount of water they let in. A failed experiment I guess you could call it.
There has to be some serious merit to these kayaking waterproof smocks, and as much as I favour jackets (with zips down the front) over smocks, I was kinda put off when a mate of mine wore his out fishing for the first time and it leaked like a sieve in through the front pocket I must presume. OK, there have to be good ones out there, but do any of you have any meaningful experience with them?
I think some of the Simms waterproof wading-style jackets are very good, but for the most part they are a hideous amount of money for what they are - as much as I like my Slick jacket for example, I remain convinced that there has to be better stuff out there for far less money. Saltwater remains a killer of much good stuff, so logic of course dictates that there has to be some merit in some of the specialist sailing gear. Again, do any of you have any experience with any of it? Musto, Helly Hansen etc., surely they make gear that would work for us anglers.
There are a few things that in my opinion can really let a potentially good waterproof top down, presuming that is that it's waterproof in the first place!! First off, the sleeves - it drives me loopy how much water can leak down the sleeve and up your arm when you are simply fishing away. I accept that submerging part of your arm to say release a fish means you might get a bit wet, but lure fishing in the rain, why should this mostly result in wet sleeves? I once used what was potentially a pretty good wading jacket at a nice price, but it leaked like a sieve down the sleeves and the material inside then took about a week to dry out. It was pretty obvious that nobody had ever tested the thing in the rain!! Another time I was on a photo job over in France and I was wearing an expensive (fly fishing) wading jacket from a company that I was doing some work with at the time. I had had nothing to do with bringing the jacket to market, but it looked like it might work for lure fishing - until that was it rained, and I kid you not it was as if I had strapped a funnel to my sleeves and literally invited all the rain to pour down them. Within a short space of time my arms were soaked, and this then soaked through to my chest etc. I have never seen a (fishing) jacket work this badly for fishing. As much as you would like to believe, I honestly reckon some stuff just never gets tested properly.
One wading jacket that served me incredibly well was my Greys GRXi wading jacket - bear in mind that I was wearing mine a few years ago now, but I put it through everything you could put a jacket through and it just kept on going. I don't know what the Greys wading jackets are like now or even if they do this GRXi one anymore, but at the time I was hugely impressed with it, and especially at the price as well.
One thing on many jackets that drives me loopy is the hood design - now in a perfect world I would never have to wear the hood as I don't really like being covered with material as such, but when was the world or the weather ever perfect? For a while I was wearing the most fantastic Daiwa jacket that I believe came from the match fishing world, and whilst it was nearly brilliant for my lure fishing, it happened to have the most awful hood on it. I understand that it might have worked well for anglers sitting on a seat-box on the side of a lake, but a bit of breeze and driving rain in your face and it just would never stay in place - you'd end up soaked. Wow would I have liked to get hold of that particular jacket and tweaked it for our needs.
I guess my interest in the whole waterproof jacket/smock subject was seriously piqued over at the ICAST show I went to, and specifically when I came across the rather awesome looking Stormr stuff - and especially their Fusion jacket above. If you have never been to the US, then you need to understand that they take the outdoors very, very seriously, and they make any amount of gear for that world. As to whether this Stormr stuff might or might not appear here in the UK, that depends I suppose on whether there is enough confidence that us UK and Irish anglers would look to buy specialist stuff like this for our fishing - it's nothing to do with me if that helps, albeit I should be getting hold of one of their lightweight, breathable but tough as hell looking Fusion jackets in October I hope, and I'll give it a proper thrashing and report back. And yes, the sleeves and hood designs looked good to me when I saw the jacket at ICAST - check out the details on their website here.
But how important is this word breathability to you with a jacket? It seems that this particular word is thrown about at will, but is it important to you that your jacket or smock at least makes half an attempt at offloading moisture (sweat) build up inside? One side of me thinks that this is vital, but if I stop and actually think about, unlike my waders when I have no choice but to walk miles and miles while wearing them, I will do nearly anything I can not to have to walk and walk in a waterproof top. I just don't like it. Sure, if it's lamping it down I have no choice, but fishing in a waterproof top is enough of a pain for me without taking it off when I can and walking/scrambling back to the car or to another spot. Maybe that's just me, but it leads me on to thinking about a different kind of waterproof top that might work really for us.
Neoprene - sure, the thought of neoprene waders for lure fishing fills me with dread, indeed I reckon you could keel over with them on a long walk, but what about a very specialist neoprene based top that has been designed specifically for fishing/sailing etc.? I understand that plenty of the more hardcore striped bass anglers use waterproof tops like this, so why not us? Yes, again it's because this Stormr gear looked so good that I am increasingly interested in trying some neoprene based stuff out. Take a look at their Srykyr jacket above (and on their website here) and tell me that this doesn't at least get you a smidgen interested.
When I was out in Kerry the other day doing my guiding stuff with John Quinlan and their rather special Thatch Cottage Ireland operation, we did a couple of sessions out in the surf. Now to be fair it wasn't firing, but conditions looked perfect and at some point those surf breaks are going to fire and I just hope that I am over there when it does. The actual fishing aside, what was the first thing that happened to me on both mornings? I wade out with the clients, and within a couple of minutes the first decent wave that hits me manages to get in under my waterproof jacket and move on up my body to kindly deposit some nice cold saltwater down the front of my chest waders. You gotta love it.
Granted, it was my mistake for not better tightening up the waist clinches on my jacket, but then I look at something like the specialist Stormr Surf Top (above and here) and I can't help but think how it could work for me in certain situations. Sure, I can't see myself using a top like that a whole lot, but for the worst of the weather or conditions it does look kinda ideal. If I was back in my bait fishing days when winter to me was all about fishing as many (mostly cod related) hours as I could possibly fit in, I reckon I'd have gone for a top like this and loved it. There's a lot to think about here, but I would really welcome your thoughts and feedback. I see no reason to be cold and wet when you are fishing, and I see no reason not to keep looking for products that could just serve us better. In the meantime though, please summer stick around for a while longer, and then please give us SW 3/4 gusting 5 on all the good tides until at least mid-Jan. Too much to ask?