Gruff, seasoned anglers and antagonistic young seekers of “authenticity” alike might deride the discussion of what shirt to buy for fly fishing. The clothes don’t make the man (or woman), but the fact of the matter is that you need to wear a shirt while you’re out on the water. Comfort, function, and yes, even aesthetics, go into this decision-making process. If you choose an old t-shirt, you’ve made a choice. If you pick the flannel that you’ve been fishing in for decades, you’ve made a choice.
I’ve made a choice: the Orvis Drirelease shirt.
For the past year, I’ve been fly fishing in a handful of these shirts. From cool fall mornings to sunny summer days I’ve found myself reaching for one of my Drirelease tops. They look great – which isn’t a fact to gloss over – but they really shine when it comes to comfort and functionality.
Here is my experience with these understated but impressive shirts:
These might not be the softest shirts I own, but they are certainly in the running. Featuring a poly/cotton blend, they are softer than most all-cotton garments out there. Beyond the material, the stitching is positioned and constructed such that it doesn’t rub on shoulders, necks, or elbows. Little details like this seem insignificant, until you’ve been hiking and sweating all day in a shirt that chafes your throat.
The sleeves and hem are long enough to keep you covered while you move, but not so lengthy as to be cumbersome. I’d call the fit “semi-fitted,” and I order my normal shirt size (medium).
With a name like “Drirelease” you can imagine the most prominent feature of the clothing line. It works, too. I’ve soaked these shirts in sweat and river water, and they dry quicker than some of my performance running apparel does. This is so important in the fall or spring, when being a little damp can turn a cool day into a cold one. Something else I noticed about the shirts was how, after a day on the water, I wasn’t totally… funky. A lot of fabrics are anti-stink, but Orvis was able to achieve this in the Drirelease line without the use of chemicals.
The other major functionality issue of the shirts is their varied styles. Hardly limited to fashion, long-sleeved, quarter-zip, and hooded models all cater to specific temperature or exposure conditions. My most recent acquisition – and perhaps my favorite – is the hooded model. With a beard and this lightweight hoodie, I don’t need a buff to protect myself from the sun.
They look good, plain and simple. I still wear caped, pocketed, collared casting shirts from time to time, but the Drirelease line doesn’t look super fishy. There is an understated Orvis fish logo, but otherwise it just looks like a comfy and understated casual shirt. The colors are bright but not blinding, and come in a pretty wide assortment.
You don’t need an expensive shirt to catch fish or have a good time out on the water. However, if you are going to buy a nice shirt you probably want the best shirt for fly fishing. Across seasons, conditions, and environments, the Orvis Drirelease line has impressed me to the point that I’ve worn more and bought more than any other shirt I own.
They’ve also impressed me to the point where I’m recommending them unsolicited. They do run between $50-$70. So I’d suggest getting on the Orvis email and physical mail lists. The coupons you’ll get for online and in-store use will allow you to get one or two Drirelease shirts for a great deal.