I’m proud to announce that WadeOutThere hats are now available. This hat has been an ongoing project for me since I built the WadeOutThere website and published my first blog post almost four years ago. If you want to know how the WadeOutThere Hat came to be, or why it’s been so long in the making, you’ll have to follow me back to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, 2018. Maybe you’re thinking, it’s just a hat Jason. Fair enough. I’m grateful you’re here either way. But if you’re interested in what makes this hat so special for me, here’s the story…
Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan
In the evenings of my last combat deployment we would sometimes meet on the roof of the old Kandahar International airport. There was a cipher lock on the chain link fence that surrounded the building. No one knew who found the code, but eventually we all knew it. Past the gate there was a boarded walkway that entered into a dark hallway opening into large cavernous rooms with blackened bomb blasted walls. Light came down in columns from the holes in the ceiling where American bombs had entered.
At the end of the hollow structure were makeshift stairs that led to the roof. On top, we walked along the solid parts back to the front of the building’ and stood there looking out at the steep mountains to the north where we had all fought.
Sometimes someone brought a small Bluetooth speaker and played music quietly. Now and then there would be cigars. We talked about smoking BBQ and brewing beer. Where we’d plan on hunting deer and the other things we would do when we got back.
There was an odd quietness whenever one of our jets took off while we listened to the sound of our friends turning into the darkness.
I knew this was the last time I’d fly the A-10 in combat. That I’d never again fly over those mountains and hear the voices on the radio in my helmet calling back to me as I checked in.
I spent much of my last deployment struggling with this fact and wondering what life would look like moving forward. When I finally did come back, the river was there for me.
The only real thing I kept with me from that place besides the memories, was the hat they gave me when I showed up.
The Original WadeOutThere Hat
The original WadeOutThere Hat was a simple tactical ball cap that our mobility officer had purchased for us before departing Missouri. Our headwear for the deployment had a few requirements:
First, they had to have our last name on the back.
Second, they had to have our rank on the front.
Third, even though as pilots we always wore our tan flight suits, the material had to match the desert camouflage of our battle dress uniforms (BDU’s).
The problem of individuals’ different names and ranks was solved with the Velcro patches on the front and back of each hat where we could affix our unique patches. I soon found another use for the Velcro after the deployment.
Back home I continued to wear that hat while hunting and fishing (without my rank), until I had an idea for the Velcro on the hat that made more sense in my new outdoor endeavors.
I cut the foam out of a fly box in the shape of a two by three inch rectangle, glued Velcro to the back, and stuck it onto my hat. Now, my favorite headwear had a built-in fly patch, and well, I thought that was pretty cool…
Hats on the Back Burner
Flying fighters was something I’d wanted to do since I was a small boy. By the time I flew my last sortie in the airplane I was thirty eight. That’s a long road.
It didn’t take long for my mind to search elsewhere for meaningful work that I could pursue with a similar passion. With the help and encouragement of my brother, I created WadeOutThere as a blog to pursue my love of writing, fly fishing, and art.
READ: WADEOUTTHERE | A WadeOutThere Story
I soon conceived it might be exciting and useful to create WadeOutThere merchandise. Hats were an obvious choice, but there was a problem: I already had a very unique hat I really liked. How could I sell hats to folks that I wasn’t wearing myself?
There were other problems. I would have to find a hat design that matched what I already had. Also, I needed to produce quality fly patches. Chopping up fly boxes wasn’t economical and it didn’t exactly look professional.
So my idea of selling my own WadeOutThere hats with a Velcro fly patch lingered in my brain. I continued to wear my prototype to the river, imagining that one day I could make the hat the way I wanted.
Help From Downstreamwear
I met Nic Jovanovich through Instagram. After I started WadeOutThere, I figured social media would help to spread the word about what I was doing, and went about opening my business accounts on various social media platforms and Googling things like “what is a hashtag” and “how do I DM someone?”
When I saw what Nic was up to with his own brand of outdoor apparel, I was enamored with the idea that someday, if I was lucky, I might have my own logo on something as cool as a tactical hoodie from Downstreamwear. It turns out I didn’t need luck. I only had to ask.
One day for no particular reason that I can recall, I asked him in a direct message (DM) on Instagram, “Would it be possible to get my logo on one of those hoodies? I’m new to this type of thing. Do I just send you a file or how does that work?”
“That’s exactly how it works. Show me what you’ve got,” was his reply.
Nic delivered. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and his patience and professionalism with me on colors, layouts, and designs was outstanding. Eventually I had my WadeOutThere Tactical Hoodies.
When I mentioned to Nic about my idea for a WadeOutThere hat, and that I was thinking of giving up on the idea, Nic came through again. He convinced me to stick with it.
“This is very possible and very doable,” he said. “I can help you with this.”
Nic helped me find the right design and material for the hat, and his encouragement also motivated me to keep digging for a solution to the foam fly patch problem, which I eventually discovered after almost a hundred phone calls ending with, “Sorry, we don’t do that sort of thing.”
Nic has created something special at Downstreamwear. The clothes he creates are top shelf, and I’m grateful he took the time to help me create merchandise I’m proud of. He’s also a great fly fisherman and a good friend.
You can listen to our conversation surrounding Nic’s fly fishing journey on Episode 002 of the podcast, or visit his website at Downstreamwear.com to see for yourself the detail, care, and style that goes into his products.
WadeOutThere Hats Available for Purchase
WadeOutThere Tactical Hats are available at the shop on the website. You can purchase them here as well:
Here’s a few unique things about this hat:
- Available in WadeOutThere brand colors gray and green, and camouflage (for when you really want to put the super sneak on some spooky trout.)
- Every hat comes with a Velcro foam fly patch to swap out flies on your hat while you’re out on the river.
- Every hat comes with a Velcro WadeOutThere logo patch for off the river.
- Each hat is made of sturdy but lightweight ripstop material.
- Versatility. Put any patch on front you want. Whether you’re a die-hard Colorado fan, or a passionate member of Trout Unlimited, you can represent what you’re most passionate about in fly fishing with this hat. One of my favorites is a simple American Flag.
- Tactical. The WadeOutThere Hat is tactical in its design and function and that’s on purpose. I love talking tactics. It’s a holdover from my previous life. Tactics are what we develop and use to solve problems, another favorite part of fly fishing for me. If you like WadeOutThere, it’s part of what you enjoy as well.
- No button on top of the hat. Also tactical…
Just a Hat…
I don’t share this story in hopes that you’ll buy a hat. Like I said at the beginning, I’m grateful you’re here either way. This blog has become a way for me to share my fly fishing stories and the lessons I’ve learned on my fly fishing journey. Turning my idea into a hat that I can share with you is part of that journey.
So what makes this more than a hat for me? Maybe because it took so long to figure out how to make it work. Maybe because it’s a blend of a past life and a new one.
I’ve had numerous passionate anglers as guests on the WadeOutThere Podcast who also view fly fishing as a new chapter in their lives. Many subscribers and followers have reached out and shared similar stories in their own fly fishing journeys.
That journey could be as simple as wading into the river to forget your troubles for the day or even a few hours. Maybe those are the only hours or days you get to escape all year. And that’s okay. We all progress differently. That’s the beauty of fly fishing. It doesn’t care what brand you wear or gear you have. You don’t even have to go a hundred days a year to have fun and learn something. It’s always there for us. We just have to go back.
I’m proud to offer these hats for purchase in the shop and to think that some of you might make it part of your day on the water. WadeOutThere friends.