Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ramblings of a Low-budget Bushwhacking Serial Wader Killer

I retired the worst pair of waders I have ever owned this week. And that is saying something because I generally buy cheap waders and beat the crap out of them, meaning I go through a lot of pairs. These weren’t the cheapest or the most expensive pair I have ever owned, but they were far and away the worst.

I bought them last fall, my first pair of Patagonia waders (my first piece of Patagonia gear ever, and probably my last). I got them on sale at Sierra Trading Post and they worked fine for the late fall and winter fishing. Then, in the middle of a multi-day spring trip, I waded in and felt cold water rushing into one foot. It didn’t take long to find the leak, which was actually a pretty good tear along the seam at the calf. I chalked it up to my own ineptitude, figuring I had walked through some heavy brush (as I am apt to do) and tore them open.

A large patch and a half tube of Aquaseal fixed that tear and the waders seemed to keep me dry through the summer. But I sweat so much in the summer months that I often can’t tell if my waders have slow leaks or not. Early fall brought another fast leak to the other foot and then each day of fishing seemed to bring more and bigger leaks, most of which occurred on the seams in the breathable material. Finally I couldn’t keep up with the leaks and had to decide whether to buy a new pair or coat the entirety of each leg in Aquaseal, which may have been a little stiff and made it difficult for me to run away from a bear or a dog or a landowner who owns a shotgun and doesn’t understand the river access laws.

My favorite pair of waders was my first pair of breathables (yes, I remember the days of spending nine or ten hours fishing in neoprenes). They were Hodgmans and they treated me well during college when I often fished three or four evenings a week during the summer and spent much of that bushwhacking. They even survived a midriver fall onto a sharp rock that left the waders torn and me bleeding (cold river water seems to be a good clotting agent, fortunately). I talked a girl I knew into sewing them up and then I covered the stitches in Aquaseal,* both inside and out. Much to my satisfaction it worked, and I kept those waders for another couple of years.

*Aquaseal, the UV repair stuff from Loon Outdoors, and a knowledge of how to locate a wader leak are are three things I cannot do without.

My new pair of waders represents another first for me: a piece of Cloudveil gear. They are not the high-end guide models but rather the low-end economy series—which I could only afford because they were on sale (I’m nothing if not consistent). I generally get two years from one pair of waders, but those Patagonias (just a reminder: worst pair of waders I have ever owned) only lasted one year. So here is hoping these Cloudveil fly fishing jeans last three years to even out the numbers and preserve the average.

I'll be testing them out with a couple of days on the water soon. For the first time in a while I plan to be wearing dry socks while I (hopefully) catch a few trout.


  1. While I generally subscribe to the rule "you get what you pay for" I would agree it doesn't seem to apply in the case of waders.

    Keep dry and good fishing.

  2. Northernfly: Yes, it seems waders are something of a crapshoot. That is why I tend to go cheap (well, that and I am poor). I have heard some good things about the real high end waders, but have yet to gamble the requesite three bills or whatever they are going for these days.

    By the way, I checked out your blog. Good stuff. Looks like you are a pretty good stillwater fisherman. That is something I definitely want to get better at.

  3. Just stumbled upon this and thought I would let you know my experience with the low end Patagonia waders:
    Had mine for about 9 months before they ripped on the shin/knee after falling hard on a rock. I thought they should be more durable and took them back to the store. After explaining my story to the sales clerk, she explained that Patagonia stood by their "ironclad" guarantee and offered me three options: have them fixed by Patagonia for free; have them replaced for free; get a refund for the amount I paid for them. I bought them on sale from Cabelas and still had the email receipt. I got full credit, no questions asked.
    Yes they were expensive, but I love their guarantee. Just wanted to add my two cents and no I'm not a Patagonia employee.

    Thanks for the great site and good luck with your next pair of waders.
    Great work on the site and

  4. Thanks, Zac. I'll have to dig through my email and see if I can return them. Not sure if Sierra Trading Post will honor Patagonia's guarantee.

    Anyway, thanks for checking out the blog.