Friday, February 09, 2007

Fly Fish with Mel: How to Equip for a Trip to Maldives - Apparel (3)

To the uninitiated, a take from a saltwater predator usually leaves a lasting impression, literally. Many a times, I have been so mesmerized by the visual excitement of tracking my piscatorial foe to my fly that I forget to let go when my quarry decides to scoff down my offering and head straight out into the wild blue yonder. You can imagine the agony when plastic line rubs into tender water soaked flesh.

Fortunately, humans have developed the ability to learn from their mistakes. Better yet, they designed solutions for these problems. Nowadays, you'll hardly see me fly fishing for any saltwater quarries without my Waterworks-Lamson Stripper Glove.
These gloves have an extension over the index and middle finger to protect them from abrasion. They are sold individually but I bought a pair so I have full cover for both hands. Since I hold the fly rod in my right hand, the glove protects my index and middle fingers while I control the line in-between strips. The left glove protects my stripping hand but it is more for preventing me having different coloured hands at the end of my fishing trip.

These Boots are made for Walking

Since I'm on the topic of protection for limbs, I must say that the feet require the most protection. It is not the coarse grains that cause the inconvenience. On the contrary, it is the fine powdery stuff that causes the greatest damage. Add to that, all the jagged corals that lie hidden beneath the foaming waters at the surf, you may just find yourself with a pair of battered feet.

On my virgin trip to the Maldives, it is an understatement to say that I was ill-equipped. I was only wearing a pair of Teva Sandals. It was a miracle that my feet were not cut to shreds by the razor-sharp corals. On my next trip, I bought a pair of Simms Flats Sneakers that were an exact fit. I wore a pair of cotton socks confident that the shoes would keep the sand out. It did but only the larger grains. Vents in the sides of the shoes allowed powdered sand swirling in the turbulent water to enter. Building up over time, it got in-between my socks and the shoes. While sand on it's own will, at most, cause you a little discomfort; when it gets between your shoe and your feet, it starts to cause abrasive damage whenever you are walking. By the end of the first day, my feet were sore and bruised. Every subsequent day, I was left in a predicament; to bear with pain and discomfort and put the shoes back on or enjoy the comfort of bare feet and stay aboard and forgo fishing.

It took me a good long while of trial and error before I settled on a pair of Orvis Saltwater Wading Boots at the recommendation of a friend. In fact, about five of us were wearing the same design on my last trip in 2006. The boots come with a neoprene sock that has a flap that folds over to act as a sand guard. The neoprene sock acts as an effective barrier that prevents the sand from rubbing against your skin.

The hard toecap gives you peace of mind as you walk amidst the serrated edges of the coral skeleton. In fact, my toecaps still bear the scars of my last trip.

It is quite unfortunate that Orvis has seemingly discontinued this particular model of Wading Boots so I am unable to provide a link to you. However, there are many other brands of wading boots available in the market. The Simms Flats Sneakers does provide you god protection but you may want to buy a size larger and wear a neoprene sock to prevent the abrasions. As for the neoprene socks, you can try using a pair of Seal Skinz Socks.

Orvis has since released another model, the Premium Christmas Island Wading Boots. I cannot comment on this as i have yet to try it on or even see it up close. So if anyone of you who's reading this and has tried it, drop me a note on how it performs.

I must maintain that while we walk the flats and consequently the coral patches, we do so with caution even though it is usually coral skeletons that we tread upon.

During one of our forays, Gerard and I chanced upon a small patch of LIVE coral in thigh-deep waters. It was a fantastic sight.

I hope that such a revival will become a more common sight in the Maldives in the coming years.