ANY LUCK?: FISHING HATS


Bill Curtis, the legendary Florida Keys guide.

Bill Curtis, the legendary Florida Keys guide.


I recently wrote a piece for Orvis about fly fishing superstitions and the perils of lucky hats. When the fishing’s going well you rightly take the credit, when the hat’s gone then suddenly it had mystical powers and is the source of all your struggles. This kind of irrational logic is typical of the angler who can’t decide if the sport is fundamentally simple or profoundly unknowable.

What makes a lucky hat? Age, most importantly. You’ve had it for a while, it’s often stained in some way or has an identifying mark. It feels reassuring and might have an origin story. It belonged to an uncle or was found at a fly shop on short notice and brought good fortune that day. It might even be theatrical, so unexpected that people presume you’re an expert because you’re wearing something so ridiculous. In the end the hat, like all superstitions, is at once mercurial and powerful, withholding the source of deeper powers. You don't know what it’s truly capable of, and it’s better that way.

Here are some hats that, over time, can be source of angling luck. Not that you need it.


Charles Ritz channels Tiroler tradition.

Charles Ritz channels Tiroler tradition.


John Gierach, a Filson classicist.

John Gierach, a Filson classicist.


Art Lee wearing a  Quaker Marine Oysterman  in the Catskills.

Art Lee wearing a Quaker Marine Oysterman in the Catskills.


The author and his lucky hat before a tragic separation in the Lamar Valley.

The author and his lucky hat before a tragic separation in the Lamar Valley.


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Filson Tin Cloth Hat

This is for the long haul—it will not reveal its true character until it’s been creased, stained and pinned with flies. Preferred by the great fishing writer, John Gierach. $70 from Filson.


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VILLAGE HATS LONG-BILL CAP

A classic silhouette perfect for flats fishing, available in a range of colors. Velcro closure isn’t ideal, but can’t complain at this earthbound price. $12 from Village Hats.


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BARBOUR WAXED-COTTON HAT

Waterproof, surprisingly lightweight and good when it’s not too sunny—say, pursing for salmon on a rainy October day when morale is low. £28 from Outdoor and Country.


There’s also the eBay route if you want to roll the dice without trying it on (hats and sunglasses are always a gamble).

-L.L. Bean long-bill cap in khaki.

-Filson long-bill cap that they discontinued for some reason, is now offensively priced when you can find it.

-Orvis navy baseball hat with their classic angler logo.