Due to the inclement Irish climate it is necessary for kayak anglers to wear clothing that will keep them warm while they are fishing and they need to know that if they do happen to take a dunking that their clothing will protect them. I have heard many people advocate that the drysuit is the only thing you should wear and nothing else will do. I disagree; a wetsuit has its place as I will explain shortly from my point of view.
A drysuit really is the only option to a kayak angler in Ireland during the colder months. The biggest danger to a kayak angler is hypothermia, not drowning, and the Irish costal waters are very cold for many months of the year. To fall in and remain immersed during the winter could see the early stages of hypothermia set in within minutes. With a drysuit the angler has the option of layering their clothes underneath to trap heat within thermal layers. I have always found that no matter what I am doing in the outdoors during the winter months that many thin layers trap far more heat than one or two thick layers. On the warmer days a drysuit’s underclothing can be reduced to as little as shorts and a t-shirt.
Drysuits can be expensive but they are most definitely worth the high price. They will keep you dry but they possess no thermal qualities at all – heat and warmth come from what you wear underneath. There are many manufactures of drysuits and they are produced in many different styles and colour combinations. Choice is of personal preference to the user but make sure you get one that fits well but has enough room underneath for plenty of winter clothing layers and one that allows free movement of the arms for paddling and fishing. A relief zip is worth investing in and getting a suit that does not have one to save a few Euros is false economy; you will probably end up getting one fitted at a later date. The drysuit I use was produced by a company called Palm Equipment.
Wetsuits do have their uses and advantages for kayak fishing. In the warmer months I occasionally carry fins and a snorkel set on the back of the kayak. If the fishing is slow and the underwater visibility is good I like to anchor up the kayak and have a look beneath the waves. A wetsuit facilitates this. They do have a few disadvantages though starting with the fact that they are not suitable for the colder months. A wetsuit will keep you warm when you are active in the water or on the kayak. If the suit gets wet and you are sitting atop a kayak in a cool breeze you will soon become very cold and they are definitely not suited to static bottom fishing during the colder months. They are not breathable so if you do decide to use it in the summer you will perspire. I have taken to calling mine a ‘sweatsuit’. However, if this does not bother you a wetsuit is a good, cheap alternative for a fair weather enthusiast. The wetsuit I use was manufactured by O’Neill.
Concerning drysuits and wetsuits – both should be rinsed with freshwater after use in the sea and subsequently hung up somewhere that they can drip dry. When dry they should also be stored on a hanger, avoiding folding them at all costs. With a drysuit, pay particular attention to the wrist and neck seals as well as the zips and if any shows signs of stress or damage, send them to be repaired or replaced. One word of warning about drysuits and kayak angling – sharp fishing hooks can puncture drysuits which can go unnoticed. Practice care when fishing and inspect your drysuit regularly for cuts and nicks. The last place you want to discover a hole in your drysuit is two miles/kilometres out after capsizing.
A full range of drysuits can be found in Ireland at the Canoe Centre.