Wading, Waders and Wading Boots
Wading is a common practice among virtually all fly fishermen. Wading allows us to move around in the waters we fish to get a good casting angle or simply to get to the other side. Depending on conditions, you may or may not need waders, wading boots, etc.
Regardless of whether you have waders or are "wading wet", wading can be very dangerous and there are a number of important tips for safe wading. I have known two fly fishermen that drowned while wading and have taken more unintentional swims than I care to mention. Here are some things you should always keep in mind when wading.
Important note: While writing this section, I read numerous articles and watched several videos. None of them talked about one of the safe wading techniques I believe to be very important. I have fished a lot of what I will call "big water". By that I mean rivers that I know have sections that have either very deep runs, significant rapids or even water falls. If you do not know a section of river well, you need to do one of two things: (1) ask someone who does know the water if there are wading hazards in the area you intend to fish or (2) once you have decided where you are going to fish, take a walk downstream a couple of hundred yards or find a high vantage point to see if there are places below you that may be of concern. Another thing that I saw only mentioned once was what are termed "sweepers". I have fished all the major rivers in the West and one thing most have in common are trees that have fallen into the river and are often laying perpendicular to the current...these are "sweepers" and they are one of the most dangerous things you can encounter when wading. If you fall and the current takes you into one of these sweepers, you are in real trouble. I know a guy who this happened to and they did not find his body for several months. It was only found when the water level dropped several feet late in the fall. If you stand on the bank and look at a sweeper, it may appear that the current is flowing around it...do not be fooled! Most of the water is flowing through and under the tree. If you are caught in a sweeper the current will not take you around it, the current will take you into and down under it where the branches of the tree will catch you and not let go...beware the sweeper.
Video: Safe Wading Techniques - (Orvis)
Article: Wading Basics - by Dick Galland (Midcurrent)
Wader Manufacturers: At this point I have just looked at breathable stocking foot chest waders but will expand this section in the future. I have not reviewed any of the clearly Chinese manufacturers but we should all be clear that many of the less expensive waders listed below are undoubtedly made in China.
Simms - From what I can tell, Simms is the only brand of waders that is still made in the USA. Simms sells primarily through its large specialty dealer (fly shops) network but noticed that they will also sell direct from their web site. Based upon my checking, the price of their waders ranges from $179 to $849 Their warranty is second to none (60 day "no questions asked" free replacement for any leak, 1 year free repair with few exceptions like barbed wire and a $60 repair fee after Ist year). Hard to but I !
Personally, this has been my goto wader for at least 25 or 30 years. I can say I have only purchased 2 pairs of waders since buying my first pair of Simms. I have spent on average 25 days a year in Simms waders. In that time I have been in/out of drift boats probably a thousand times, crashed miles and miles of brush, climbed over countless logs and even crawled on my hands and knees to get close to rising fish...all in two pairs of Simms waders. With the exception of full time guides, I am about as tough on waders as any body I know. My waders have been repaired numerous times but I have done all of this in two pairs. I my mind, Simms is one of the two or three best companies in the fly fishing business.
Reddington - Prices range from $119 to $499. They sell direct and through a large dealer network. Their warranty is better than most with 1 year on materials and workmanship (repair or replace) with dated proof of purchase by original owner. Reddington will repair waders for $45 but there are a lot of conditions so you will need to check their web site for details.
Patagonia - Prices range from $249 to $599. The sell primarily through their specialized dealer network but will also sell direct via their web site. I have a number of friends that fish hard and often and swear by their Patagonia waders. They do not get very specific about their warranty but I understand it is pretty generous compared to many.
Dryft - Prices range from $249 to $399. Dryft sells direct only via their web site. Their warranty is not clearly stated on their wen site but it does say "If you have a problem within the first 30 days we will replace the product for you at no charge to you".
Orvis - Prices range from $169 to $398. Orvis sells direct and through a network of specialized dealers. Orvis has a 60 day "no questions asked" repair or replace warranty on waders. Beyond that, any additional warranty is not stated on their web site. I have dealt with Orvis many times over the years and I have always found them to be very reasonable and have been satisfied with their service.
Caddis - Prices range from $99 to $299. They sell through a dealer network and direct via their web site. Caddis warrants their products to be free from defects in materials and/or workmanship for one year from date of purchase (proof of purchase is required). I could find no repair policy on their web site.
Cabela's - Prices range from $69 to $139 for Cabela's branded waders (they sell numerous brands). They are not specific about a wader specific warranty but do provide the "60 day no questions" refund or replacement. I could find no stated repair policy.
Hodgeman - Prices range from $69 to $399. Sells direct and through general tackle dealers. Their stated warranty is 1 year (defects in material and workmanship) to original owner. Their web site also clearly states that they do not repair waders. Beware of that...
Frogg Toggs - Prices range from $109 to $349. Frogg Toggs warrants this product to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for 1 year. The warranty begins at the date of the original purchase. Proof of purchase is required to obtain warranty coverage. I could find no stated repair policy.
Note: If you buy waders because you really need them to protect you from the cold water, do yourself a big favor...buy the best quality waders you can afford. And, regardless of which brand you purchase, get one with a good warranty.