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When I was chastised for wearing a Simms Fishing Products hat while deer hunting a few summers ago, my hunting buddy didn’t mention the trout silhouette. I would have understood that. You know, wear stuff that matches the stuff you’re after, but it was the condition of the hat that prompted his comment. “Now Jeff, that hat is hiiiideous.”
When gear becomes a friend 060717 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly When I was chastised for wearing a Simms Fishing Products hat while deer hunting a few summers ago, my hunting buddy didn’t mention the trout silhouette. I would have understood that. You know, wear stuff that matches the stuff you’re after, but it was the condition of the hat that prompted his comment. “Now Jeff, that hat is hiiiideous.”

The author with his favorite hat on a fishing trip in California. Photo by Jeff Lund.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Story last updated at 6/6/2017 - 4:49 pm

When gear becomes a friend

 When I was chastised for wearing a Simms Fishing Products hat while deer hunting a few summers ago, my hunting buddy didn’t mention the trout silhouette. I would have understood that. You know, wear stuff that matches the stuff you’re after, but it was the condition of the hat that prompted his comment. “Now Jeff, that hat is hiiiideous.”

He took a second breath after ‘hat’ to properly inflect the first syllable of ‘hideous.’ “What are you talking about? It’s just getting good,” I said.

I bought the orange trucker hat in 2009 from a fly shop in Ketchikan. It was the summer Dad passed from cancer so I fished and wrote a lot. I could argue that’s why I’m so connected, but I wouldn’t believe it. Symbolism isn’t everywhere; sometimes life is coincidence.

Anyway, it was immediately my favorite fishing hat, and since wearing new fishing hats makes you stick out in a neophyte sort of way, I went to work breaking it in.

I wore it fishing, yeah, but everywhere else too.

I hiked mountains in it, which is the most efficient way to get that first sweat ring. I caught a 100-pound halibut and pulled an octopus from a shrimp pot wearing that hat. I’ve caught king salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, sockeye salmon, ling cod, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and tree limbs in that hat. When I was a groomsman in my cousin’s wedding … it was back in the hotel, but that summer, on the Klawock River … you got it. I wore it on two drives through Canada and at the drive-thru at Dutch Bros. Coffee. I wore it on the Stanton Island Ferry, while I ate pastrami on rye at the Carnegie Deli on a walk through Central Park and during a ball game at Yankee Stadium.

A Simms rep at a California fly shop felt the abuse the hat had loyally endured under my ownership justified a free camouflage substitute. I love the camo hat, but two years later Old Orange is my hat of choice.

It’s not intimidated, nor does it let me down. When I fished the four-river loop on Prince of Wales Island one July, it was there for every fish. When I floated the Thorne with my college friends that summer, it drank more sweat. In a downpour without rain gear on the Harris, it finally got a wash.

By the time the day came in which my hunting buddy took time from mountain glassing to comment on my hat, it had deteriorated grotesquely.

Blonde tufts of hair stuck out from the gaping holes in the mesh that were initially frayed by branches and thorny berry bushes that line my favorite river in Northern California. Since then the mesh has disintegrated slowly, but that hasn’t stopped me from wearing it. The bill fabric split in front, not because I washed it and tried to sell it at Abercrombie and Fitch, but because it’s been soaked in cold rain, and dried next to a hot wood stove or campfire repeatedly since I bought it almost a decade ago. The hat is synonymous with the wildlife I always wanted to live when I was a kid. That’s why it would be wrong to put it in the wash or retire it. A good hat is meant to be worn, not put on a wall, or poisoned with Tide. It’s been there when I’ve been at my best and my rejected worst. It’s my Wilson. At the end of the day, it’s just a hat. But when it’s your favorite, it’s your favorite, and that means something.