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How to be sun smart

4 min read
sun smart

A brimmed hat is a must when fishing under the sun. Photo: Drew Farwell | Unsplash

It’s no news that Kiwis need sun protection. The harmful UV rays can cause severe health problems, and it’s always advisable to wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days, and protective clothing. So, it comes as no surprise that those who love the outdoors are probably the most vulnerable.

Skin cancers, such as melanoma, have reached epidemic proportions. Here are a few sobering facts: in New Zealand, every year, 6000 people are diagnosed with melanoma and around 70% of melanoma cases occur in people aged 50 years and older. More than 350 Kiwis die of melanoma every year – another source says 503 – and skin cancer kills more people than all other types of cancers combined.

But here’s the good news – most skin cancers can be prevented by taking care when venturing outdoors.

When I was a kid – far too long ago – there was no awareness of using sun protection. Indeed, there were no sunscreen lotions. As kids, I remember we used to sunbathe on the hottest days.

Plus, being a keen fisherman, there were many days fishing on or near the water, with the sun blazing down and the reflection upwards of the sun from the water’s surface – a double whammy.

Peaked baseball-style hats were the first choice rather than brimmed hats, as they were much more fashionable, but in reality, sheer vanity and stupidity. Baseball-style hats do nothing to protect the vulnerable ears and temples, nor from that upward reflection off the water. You can get peaked caps with back flaps that cover sides and, importantly, ears, but a brimmed hat is a must. 

So are fingerless gloves that protect the tops of hands. For a change, being sensible – well part way anyhow – I now wear light fabric long-sleeved shirts and have virtually shunned short sleeve shirts. Wear lightweight longs and have the tops of your feet covered with sneakers or a suitable slip-on. Best of all, rug up to the maximum. You can buy neck gaiters (buffs) that protect the neck, ears, and lips. The latter is important to avoid those ghastly cold sores caused by sun or wind exposure. It’s virtually a suit of lightweight armour.

Nevertheless, I’ve still got that sun-damaged skin from earlier foolishness and vanity. Consequently, I periodically have to touch up sunspot areas with a prescription cream and my doctor regularly attends to patching me up with dry ice. Friends have had serious skin cancer problem areas surgically removed.

sun smart
Pick a time to dodge the sun – a twilight time kahawai on the fly rod. Photo: Tony Orman

There are also myths about protection from the sun. Sunscreen, for one, won’t last all day; rather, it lasts only for a few hours before it needs to be reapplied. Also, don’t be misled because it’s a cloudy day. According to research, majority of the sun’s rays can come through cloud cover.

One alibi of anglers shunning sunscreen is that the scent of it will deter fish. True or not, it’s not worth the risk. The remedy – if it’s true – is washing your hands after applying sunscreen.

Then there’s another aspect that anglers just don’t seem to appreciate. I see cars towing boats festooned with fishing rods heading for the local marina at about 9am on a cloudless, sunny day with all the hallmarks of a sweltering belter.

Fish generally don’t like hot, sunny hours. In fact, trout hate it, as the water temperature ramps up. So, if you’re chasing trout, head out early around 6am and knock off at perhaps 10am. It’s almost unchallengeable that the best time for fishing is the ‘change of light’, i.e. dawn and dusk. This is particularly so with species such as snapper, cod, and tarakihi; in fact, I’d confidently wager, almost every fish species.

I take this a step further by doing much more of my fishing during the first hour or two of the night. As the water temperature drops, the trout will feed. In any case, much of a trout’s tucker is nocturnal, such as caddis moths, shrimps, kouras, and even mice. Similarly, with snapper under the security of darkness, they come into shallow water on a rising tide. Check the tide times to find optimum times of an incoming tide coinciding with dawn or dusk. My two biggest snapper – both 8kg – were caught on a bright moonlight night.

I’ve found kahawai, subject to tide, to invariably feed best in that twilight hour or at first light. If I fish during the day, I absolutely shun those bright, sunny days, but a cloudy day may be acceptable.

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