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Trouts Journal

What’s in a Wader (besides an angler)?

Ivan Orsic / Oct 10, 2011

Presumably even the Roman fly angler had waders to keep their sandals dry, but today’s wader technology meets and weather and water conditions, and even helps the environment.

When most people think of fly fishing, the images that first come to mind are rod and reel, the flies themselves, and of course the fish. But any true angler knows that to get far out on the stream takes a great pair of waders. After all, fly fishing is by nature an in-stream activity, and you don’t stroll into a trout-filled mountain waterway in sneakers and blue jeans.

No, you wade in, protected from getting wet and getting cold by a great pair of waders. This versatile fly fishing accessory is also a part of the system for safely walking in stream beds and protection for the environment itself.

Waders are essentially waterproof “pants” that extend up to the waist or to the chest (more like overalls) to allow for an angler to stand in relatively deep and/or roiling water without getting wet. Waders often also have built-in temperature-control systems to keep a fisherman’s feet, legs and seat warm even in the very coldest – albeit fish-infested – high mountain streams.

Waders must have been around in one form or another since the beginning of fly-fishing, with some counting back to Roman references around the time of Jesus, and others to early writing on the subject in England in the late 15th Century. In any case the streams had to be just as wet and just as cold back then as they are now, so the Romans must have had something to cover their sandals and keep their togas dry.

In modern times, however, waders were first made of vulcanized rubber, like boots with very high uppers that joined as rubber pants. One would, presumably, wear warm socks and pants inside of the rubber waders. The downside was flexibility – rubber thick enough to insulate isn’t very maneuverable – and if water did happen to get inside they could get quite heavy and difficult to shed. Also, rubber tends to restrict the release of moisture from the inside, so a perspiring angler would find the waders damp and uncomfortable, especially in warm weather and warmer streams. One of the ways to combat this lack of flexibility and the rubber-suit-sweat issue was to make the waders as lightweight as possible; the lighter the weight, however, the more prone they were to snags and rips, and therefore leaks.

Modern waders have advanced amazingly, with the use of such more versatile materials as PVC, neoprene and Gore-Tex fabrics and materials to counterbalance any downsides and provide comfort that anglers even 20 years ago could have scarcely imagined.

There are basically two types of waders: stocking foot waders and boot waders.

In the now more popular stocking foot variety, the waders look like any traditional wader except that the bottoms for the feet are, as the name suggests, stockings. The idea is for the angler to buy wading boots to go along with the waders. The advantage here is that wading boots are available in a variety of weights and soles, so they can be interchanged for the conditions of the waterway in question. Modern wading boots are made to protect the wearer from slipping on rocks and/or stream beds and shorelines, to provide excellent support and stability even in rushing water, and warmth in cold conditions. Many stocking foot waders come with their own built-in gravel guards to keep sand, rocks and other debris from getting into the boots; or gravel guards may be purchased separately for this purpose that will accommodate both boot and wader.

Boot waders are just that – waders with built-in boots. Obviously, manufacturers offer different types for different conditions, but as mentioned earlier the stocking foot type with accompanying wading boots have become the wading outfit of choice.

Waders also come in two main varieties as it relates to the pants portion of the outfit: waist waders and chest-high waders. Waist-high waders – let’s be honest – are a little more than waist high on most people, high-water pants if you will. Chest waders generally cover up to mid-chest with a bib-like construction. Both varieties usually feature built-in suspenders. Also, look for the variation called convertible waders where they are both waist high and chest high with the ability to convert from one to the other with ease to meet the conditions at hand.

With the introduction of the newer fabric materials for the outside of the waders, waders have become more lightweight, more flexible and more snag- and leak-resistant. Also, there are some now have no sewing whatsoever, but rather heat-sealed double-tape seams that protect from leaking, and of course those with sewn seams are also double-taped and include new water-proof YKK zippers for maximum protection. Always look for waders that come with a repair kit that, for obvious reasons, is relatively easy to use stream side.

The newer fabrics, like Gore-Tex, are also highly breathable while at the same time being waterproof. The advantage to that is the water protection without the sweat build-up of a rubber suit. And since these fabrics are very lightweight, wader makers can add layers in the highly worn areas – knees, seats – to boost durability without being cumbersome.

Wader makers have also taken advantage of the many forms of the now very popular polyester fleece. Placed in the feet or stockings, and in linings of hand-warmer pockets, fleece is very lightweight, very warm, breathable, wicks moisture away from the skin to keep it dry, and is itself very quick-drying. What a great combination of attributes.

Of course, wader makers have also added new features like extra pockets to keep sunscreen and lip balm, or to carry around additional flies and leaders, or simply a good location for a sandwich or snack for those anglers who want to eat, as they say, on the fly.

The only brand of fly fishing waders carried at Trout’s Fly Fishing is Simms. Like everything else in our Denver shop and online at troutsflyfishing.com/shop/, we only sell products we have used ourselves and believe in whole-heartedly. Simms has a full range of waders for men, women and even children, so come by and let show you why your wader choice should be Simms. Call 877-464-0034 for complete details.

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