A good fishing shirt is an often overlooked piece of gear for the modern angler, but the Patagonia Sol Patrol II shirt shouldn’t be. Over the last ten or so years I’ve been fly fishing, I’ve usually just worn another performance shirt I own for hiking and backpacking, like my Arcteryx Phase SL long sleeve or one of my Icebreakers merino wool shirts. But over the last year (2015), I’ve fished my ass off and found that trying to dig around for one of my good shirts every weekend was becoming a pain in the ass. My girlfriend also found this annoying, because she’d also be the one making sure each of these was getting washed every week. So it should come as no surprise that she finally just bought me the Patagonia Sol Patrol II shirt for my birthday in September.
Being probably one of the hardest people to shop for, my girlfriend was nervous that I’d find some issue with any shirt since I’m very particular about my fly fishing. But I must say, she, and Patagonia, knocked it out of the park with the Sol Patrol II. It’s a lightweight synthetic that feels soft and isn’t noisy. The features on the shirt from top to bottom are specifically geared toward the fly angler.
Two button flap chest pockets along with a side zip generously deep chest pocket work great with waders. The chest pockets are great for holding an extra pack of leaders, a spool of tippet, or even a handful of split shot so you don’t have to grab them from your pack as often. The zip pocket is perfect for holding a license, ID and credit cards, or even your car keys while you’re suiting up to get out on the water (I have a notorious habit of forgetting where I put my keys in my excitement to get rigged up out of the trunk of my car).
Little features are also added to the shirt that make it go a longer way. One thing I love are the roll up sleeve tabs that keep your sleeves securely up and minimize you having to constantly pull them up over your elbows. The placement of the tab are good too, they secured the rolled up sleeve just about the elbow, allowing full range of movement. Another awesome little feature is the snap closure collar, if you fish with any sort of lanyard around your neck, you’ll immediately see how great this is.
On the Water
The lightweight but bolstered design of the Sol Patrol II makes it awesome to wear in warm weather, as well as a layering piece under a jacket during colder months. Even though I got it in early September, I tested it out on the water during an Indian summer day in the mid 80’s trying to catch the fall striper migration, in 40-55F temps under a soft shell on the Westfield, and under a hard shell in the pouring rain fishing the Salmon River.
It dries pretty quick too, which I tested when my line nipper came off my Simms retractor and fell into thigh deep water on the Salmon. After losing a pair of nippers exactly 5 years ago on my last trip to the Salmon without catching anything, I knew I had to go down for those so the curse wouldn’t be repeated. So needless to say, even with rolling the sleeves up all the way up to my bicep, I still fully soaked them (but got my nippers back). The sleeve was soaked, but after I unrolled it and let it air dry, it was only damp after about an hour later (and it was only in the low 60’s). That’s a decent dry time. Better than cotton in those conditions. Here’s a photo from that same day, catching a little brown on while dead drifting an egg pattern for steelies. Go figure.
Throughout the summer, this is my go to shirt, even on days when the temps get up into the 90’s. Here’s a photo from mid-July 2016, catching my first striper on the fly. It also might be the world’s smallest striper caught on a fly. Shut up.
Firstly, the sizing on these shirts is pretty off. My girlfriend initially ordered the size Medium for me. I’m pretty much the perfect Medium for everything I own. I’m 5’8″, 160 lbs, wear a size 40 suit jacket and a 30″ waist. The size medium looked downright blousey on me. Given the softness of the material (almost silk), it was pretty droopy in the arms and around the chest.
There is a little extra material in the arms to help range of motion, but too much of it for the standard sizing. I felt like an extra on Saved By The Bell. No worries though, sent it back to Backcountry and turned around with a sized Small, which fits perfectly. The sleeves are the right length, the requisite amount of bagginess, and a good fit in the shoulders. So, long story short, definitely not athletic cut. For further comparison, the Arc’teryx Peakline shirt I just bought is a size Medium and fits perfect.
All in all, the Patagonia Sol Patrol II shirt is a pretty solid option for those wanting a dedicated look-like-you-belong fly fishing shirt. My only gripe about them, besides the oversized fit, are the color options. I went with the khaki-ish Stone color. I would’ve considered the white, but knew I would make a mess out of it. The blue green and red-pink are a little too Bahamas for my New England blood, so the khaki it is. Coupled with my green and beige Orvis SilverSonics, I do feel kinda like a Game Warden though.
Whatever. The shirt works.
And looks good after a day of fishing at the bar.
Get one. Roll your sleeves up. Catch fish.