Finding the Best Fly Fishing Waders
Comfort, comfort, comfort!! (And style). My general rule when shopping for any type of clothing is, if I’m not comfortable in it, I won’t wear it. Well, all the more so in the case of waders! I simply don’t want to be standing in a river or lake, or bay, or any body of water for too long if I’m not comfortable with the waders I’m wearing. But of course, I want them to look decent, and be practical too! So, here we go!
5 Factors to consider when buying your first, or hundredth pair of waders for fly fishing:
1. Breathability – you want to go for a synthetic material, preferably gore-tex or dri-plus in warmer climates, and neoprene for cold weather or water. Avoid nylon and rubber waders altogether!
2. Footing – go for a stockingfoot wader as opposed to a bootfoot wader (see stockingfoot vs bootfoot section below)
3. Weight – lighter is better
4. Insulation – unless you’re doing your fly fishing in freezing or near freezing conditions you DO NOT need an insulated wader.
5. Manufacturer – go for one of the big names, this is not the piece of gear to sell yourself short on to save a few dollars. Orvis, Patagonia, Cabela’s, and Simms are good, solid, established manufacturers for waders.
Types of Fishing Wader Material
Neoprene: I would only recommend these if you now you’ll be fishing where it’s cold (weather, water, or especially both). If that isn’t the case for you, don’t buy neoprene waders. Why not? Because they aren’t breathable and they will become warm or even hot for you unless you’re truly in a cold climate. If you will be in the cold, and you know that, a Neoprene wader is a great choice. If you’re in the market for a Neoprene wader be aware that there are different thicknesses for these waders, the thicker they are the more suitable for really cold conditions.
Ahhhh, my favorite type of wader. If you’ve been fishing for a long time you likely remember when these didn’t exist. Fishing in warm climates with waders before breathable waders were available was sticky, smelly, and uncomfortable. Not anymore!
Breathable waders keep the water out AND allow the angler’s sweat and body heat to escape. Now you can spend a full day in the water while staying comfortable and dry throughout. MY favorite material is gore-tex, but it is also the most expensive. I’m of the mindset though, that if you’re going to be fishing in waders, it’s worth it to have at least one pair that you know is reliable. The goal really should be not to even notice the wader, you want it to be as fitted, comfortable, breathable, and not noticeable as possible. It’s worth it to spend a little more to ensure you’ve got the best wader for you.
Choosing a Stockingfoot vs Bootfoot
You may be surprised by our recommendation here, asking yourself ‘why shouldn’t I get a bootfoot wader? If I buy a stockingfoot wader don’t I also have to buy boots to go over them?’
Here are the reasons we recommend stockingfoot waders:
1. All around comfort. Don’t believe us? Try them on for yourself!
2. Easier to get on and off.
3. Easier to pack. Trust us on this one, there’s something odd about trying to fold up a pair of pants that has two big boots attached to the end of it.
4. Versatility, in certain conditions, you don’t need to put the boots on at all, but with bootfoot, that option never exists.
5. Changing boots. If you’re foot size changes, or a boot gets snagged and rips, or anything else happens to damage the boot or cause you to need to replace them for any reason…maybe it’s just a new style you like! You don’t have to replace the whole wader. You can just go buy new boots!
Hip Waders and Wading Pants
If you know you’ll be fishing in shallow water (water that doesn’t come past mid-thigh), you may opt for a hip wader or a wading pants. They are by and large more comfortable and very easy to get on and off.
Wading pants look and feel like pants, they are light and comfortable, and they’ll keep you dry. If you know you’ll be fishing almost exclusively in shallow water, hip waders or wading pants are a great investment.
One last thing on waders, I want to re-emphasize that it is worth it with this piece of gear to buy from the professionals. Typically, if you go to a Wal-Mart type store it won’t be long before you run into leaks, rips, or just general wear on your wader. Invest in a good, solid pair from a legitimate source and you should have many long, dry days in the water.