Wad­ing in

Wet-weather cloth­ing is ar­mour to an an­gler: the first sight of a chink therein a cause for gen­uine dis­may. I'm in the mar­ket for wellies...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

Jeff Prest de­scribes his jour­ney to find the ul­ti­mate wet weather gear – with hi­lar­i­ous con­se­quences!

IKNEW the time had come when my right welling­ton smiled at me. The crack in the rub­ber up­per that I’d cov­ered with Storm sure a year ago, had re­opened and was grin­ning broader than ever, as if we’d bumped into each other at a school re­union. At the back of this widen­ing, rub­bery mouth, I saw a dirty cream sliver of the boot’s in­ner lin­ing. In­stinc­tively, I took a step back from the wa­ter, vul­ner­a­ble once more. I thought of all those miles we’ve cov­ered to­gether, all those pud­dles and frosts that their nice fur lin­ing had laughed at, all the grassy crevices their soles had some­how gripped when I seemed doomed to fall. And now here we were, at the end of the line. At least welling­tons don’t make you feel worse by wag­ging a tail and rest­ing their head on your knee. None­the­less, it was a re­minder that there’s noth­ing like out­door pur­suits to trans­form the way you view out­door cloth­ing.


“Wardrobe mal­func­tions threaten en­tire days of deep­en­ing mis­ery, as a moist feel­ing works its way up your cast­ing arm.”

For the townie, it in­volves noth­ing more than what our moth­ers called “a sen­si­ble coat”; some­thing that spares you when you’re caught out, mid­way be­tween home and Tesco Ex­press. When it’s part of your hobby to be in the rain while ev­ery­one else flees it, how­ever, then a coat is just the be­gin­ning. And like Amer­ica’s Se­cret Ser­vice, it will be called upon to be way more than just ‘sen­si­ble’. While metropoli­tan liv­ing in­volves brushes with the weather, the out­doors­man en­gages it head-on, grap­pling with it fre­quently for hours on end, be­cause there’s nowhere to run. So it’s no sur­prise that the likes of an­glers see weather-ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing not in terms of in­di­vid­ual gar­ments, but as a dour col­lec­tive that is re­quired to close around us from head to toe, like Spar­tan shields, at the first hint of damp. Wardrobe mal­func­tions in our world don’t just en­tail a men­tal note to swing by Marks & Spencer next Satur­day; they threaten en­tire days of deep­en­ing mis­ery as a moist feel­ing works its way up your cast­ing arm. That wasn’t just a torn welly I re­coiled from on the banks of a reser­voir; it was a breach in my south­ern flank through which the old en­emy could soon pour, lay­ing a cold, morale-sap­ping siege to my foot. If town­ies get caught in the rain, an­glers get caught, in­ter­ro­gated and beaten up by it, and it makes us very sen­si­tive to in­clemency. When­ever I’m asked about mem­o­rable days’ fish­ing, some men­tal twitch means it’s the Bi­b­li­cally-wet ones that spring to mind. Loch na Bo, in Moray; Lough Glen­noo in Co Ty­rone; slant­ing seas on the wrong side of the har­bour wall in Cardiff Bay (“I would put the ket­tle on,” said the skip­per, “but it would prob­a­bly fall off…”) In­evitably, your de­fences against such mael­stroms be­come an an­cil­lary ob­ses­sion. That door­way or bus shel­ter that the ur­ban­ite dives into when the heav­ens open? We’re wear­ing it; it’s all we have and no-one in MI6 is more sen­si­tive to the word ‘com­pro­mised’ than we are. This para­noia isn’t helped if, like me, you’re one of those un­lucky peo­ple who ef­fec­tively rain from the in­side out. ‘Hy­per­hidro­sis’, to give it its tech­ni­cal name, or ex­ces­sive sweat­ing. I don’t pong, I has­ten to add, but no mat­ter how gen­tle my walk­ing pace, af­ter 200 yards, I’m gush­ing more than Joanna Lum­ley. Be­ing ad­vised of the ab­sorbent virtues of the cot­ton un­der­shirt, 20 years ago, was a gen­uinely life-chang­ing mo­ment.


Un­for­tu­nately, the body heat caus­ing this wretched con­di­tion makes me the worst night­mare of breath­able fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers. Back when golf was my thing rather than fish­ing, my mother bought me a top-of-the range, breath­able, all-weather jacket. When I showed the club pro its sod­den in­te­rior af­ter 18 holes, he looked at me in hor­ror, as if be­hold­ing a swamp mon­ster. If the Trout-Fish­er­man gig ever goes south, I could hire my­self out as a sort of crash test dummy for the mak­ers of Gore-Tex. In the short-term, though, I’m ef­fec­tively sand­wiched be­tween an in­ner and outer storm front, the mo­ment it starts to rain, with lit­tle so­lace to be had from end­less racks of angling ap­parel. In de­spair af­ter yet an­other damp drive home re­cently, I de­cided I’d look beyond the fish­ing world and go straight to the fi­nal fron­tier. Who, af­ter all, must en­dure even greater down­pours, and more sto­ically, than the wild wa­ter fish­er­man? The mil­i­tary. My new pon­cho is green, ex-Ger­man army, makes me look like some­one from an abat­toir and from the per­va­sive pong it emits, may well have en­shrouded more than one com­bat fa­tal­ity in its time. Sadly, the plan – that rain would just drip harm­lessly off its shin-level hem with­out even reach­ing the gar­ments be­neath – was dis­missed by an ex-sol­dier be­fore I’d even tried it. “First item of kit I got rid of,” he as­sured me, hark­ing back to his days de­fend­ing the realm. Test­ing it en route to the bus sta­tion one morn­ing, I dis­cov­ered why. Rain has no way in but body heat no way out. Keep­ing an equi­lib­rium whereby con­den­sa­tion<rain means wear­ing it only when I am very, very still, but then that may have ap­plied just as much to the men for whom it was first de­signed. Which is why I call it my sniper’s coat. And while we’re talk­ing la­bels; we re­ally need to re-as­sess our use of the pre­fix ‘fair-weather...’ as a mild in­sult. If there’s one thing that hy­per­hidro­sis and a leak­ing welly teach you, it’s that those peo­ple who work with Na­ture may not be the dumb ones.

That wor­ri­some jux­ta­po­si­tion – hop­ing fish bite and pray­ing that ris­ing damp doesn’t...

Jef­frey Prest: The TF Fea­tures Ed­i­tor on what’s caught his at­ten­tion this month.

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