Dress for success

I had a customer a few years back that came up to fish with me during a real cold spell early in the smallmouth season. It was early May, and the water temps were perfect for big pre-spawn females. Sadly, a nasty cold front dropped in just prior to this particular customer’s visit. In early May, this isn’t uncommon, and I really tried to stress how important it was to dress in layers. “Bring some fleece to layer up with,” I kept repeating.

28 degrees to begin the day, with a high expected to only approach 40 degrees. And northwest winds 15-20mph. Ouch! Not what I’m looking forward to. So here I am at the boat ramp—long underwear on, fleece overtop, and insulated bibs over everything. Although I look like the Michelin Man, I’m ready to go.

So here comes my customer. Nicest guy in the world, and we’ve been fishing together for a long time. He’s got a light Columbia shell in his hand, and he’s only wearing fleece pants and a very thin fleece top. I try not to gawk at the lack of clothing. After our preliminary greetings, I can’t hold my tongue through my shivers any longer. “Dude—I thought you reassured me that you were going to layer up since it’s going to be cold today.” His response still makes me chuckle, “you told me to wear fleece,” he said, “so I did.” “Yes, but not ONLY fleece,” was my quick response. I forget how the rest of the conversation went, but I think he tried to tell me that he would be fine, and not to worry about it.

After about an hour of fishing, struggling to hold a certain boat angle on a sandy break line, I can’t help but notice discernible shivering from my customer. Despite repeated pleas by me to offer additional clothing, his response is the same, “I’m ok.” I pull out my spare bibs, fleece jacket and hat and put them on the boat’s seat. “Just in case,” I tell him.

It wasn’t long before I saw what seemed like one of the members of the Blue Man group finally putting on my spare clothing. After the trip, a sheepish, but gratefully warm customer handed me back my spares. “I thought I’d be ok with the fleece, but I think you were right—I needed more than just fleece.”

Not to say that I know it all, because I certainly don’t. But layering for the weather is something that I make routine. It’s always better to have to peel layers because I’m too warm than to try to suffer through a day on the water when I’m too cold. Thankfully, that particular customer and I are still good friends to this day, and still fish together when we can. And now, when the weather is cool, he still wears his fleece—under other layers!

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