With peak float season quickly drawing to a close, there’s no better time than the present to take an inventory of your wading gear for the low flows and cold months to come. Our wading gear guide will help ensure you stay safe and dry pursuing your favorite species on the fly this fall and winter.
While we’re still in the heart of hopper season, cool autumn mornings and snow aren’t too far off. Having the proper base layers will help you weather any surprise rain, snow, and cold fronts that come your way. Layering on your feet, legs, and torso will help the chill off while still allowing you to remain mobile and safe.
In milder weather, I usually wear a pair of wool socks, thin leggings like the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottom, and my favorite hiking pants to keep my legs warm. When the temperatures really drop, I turn to some quality layers from Patagonia. On my legs, I wear the Men’s Shelled Insulator Pants. These soft-shelled pants have a fleece lining that helps keep me on the water in sub-freezing temperatures. Pairing the Insulator Pants with some leggings should be all you need to keep your legs warm under waders throughout the coldest of months.
Jackets & Vest
On my torso, I wear Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoodie for the majority of the year. This versatile layer can be worn with a T-shirt in warmer temps (mid-60s) and layered all the way down to sub-30s with comfort. My favorite aspect of this jacket is that it’s relatively thin yet still provides warmth and wind protection when necessary. The Nano Puff Hoodie fits effortlessly under my waders even with some additional layers.
Vests are another great layering option as they help keep your core warm without limiting your arm mobility throughout a cast. Whether you opt for a down, fleece, cotton, or any other synthetic, I’d recommend throwing a vest in your trunk. The Simms Rogue Fleece Vest is a great option for the upcoming shoulder months.
Waders are one of the pieces of equipment that can really make or break your day on the water. If you’ve ever had leaky waders on a cold day, I think you’ll agree. If your waders fail in the winter you run the serious risk of frostbite and hypothermia. For that reason, it’s worth considering purchasing a quality pair of waders even if you only get out a few times a year, as they’ll likely last you many seasons. I typically like to buy waders and boots with a little extra room to allow for layering in colder months. The offerings below are sure to last years and years of abuse and come backed by quality companies and guarantees and are also some of the favorite choices of @teamflylords.
Simms G3 Stockingfoot Waders
The Simms G3 Stockingfoot Waders need no introduction. These American made waders have traversed waters across the globe and are worn by male and female anglers alike. While they come with a hefty price tag, they are sure to handle whatever you throw at them. Simms G3 Stockingfoot Waders are made with premium GORE-TEX® Pro Shell 3-layer uppers and 4-layer lowers that provide top-notch durability and flexibility. They shouldn’t fail you for years to come, however, Simms has customer service worth writing home about in the event that you spring a leak.
Simms Freestone Waders
The Simms Freestone waders may come with a more wallet-friendly price tag compared to the G3 waders, but they certainly don’t lack any features and come backed by Simm’s quality and materials. The Freestone’s are made of a 4-layer Toray fabric that is incredibly durable and still maintains breathability. These are my personal choice of waders at the moment and I don’t have a single complaint after 75+ days on the water.
Patagonia Men’s Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders
New for 2020, Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent Waders are the most technically sound offering from the manufacturer to date. Pockets, removable internal knee pads, and adjustability like the convertible chest to hip functionality and cinch top give these waders a custom fit. To many anglers, an added benefit of these waders is that they’re made from recycled materials. If you’re tough on your gear, we’d recommend putting the Swiftcurrent Waders to the test.
Orvis Pro Waders
The Orvis Pro Waders are the new flagship wader from Orvis and blow previous models out of the water. Orvis chose to use a proprietary 4-layer Cordura® fabric shell in the upper and 5-layer Cordura fabric shell in the lower to achieve industry-leading abrasion and puncture resistance. Like the Swiftcurrent Waders from Patagonia, the Orvis Pro Waders come with removable knee pads, a feature that really shines crawling through streamside brush and over boulders to reach the most inaccessible fish.
Orvis Clearwater Waders
The Orvis Clearwater Wader is the most pocket-friendly offering on this list and still manages to pack a punch above its price range. These waders incorporate many of the stylistic and design features as the Pro Waders like the new integrated gravel guard and waist-high conversion but come in a 4-layer nylon fabric as compared to the 4 and 5 layer Cordura® shells on the Pro. Like all other offerings on this list, the Clearwater waders have anatomical neoprene booties that help contour to your foot.
Having a quality pair of wading boots will help keep you upright and dry throughout the seasons. A benefit that is extra important during colder months when the risk of hypothermia looms. Felt soles can be dangerous in colder months as they will quickly ice over. I opt for rubber-soled boots that are practical year-round.
Simms G3 Guide Boot
The Simms G3 Guide Boots have been around in their current iteration since 2018 and is one of the longest-lasting options on the market. These boots come equipped with Vibram soles and an enhanced abrasion-resistant upper. The G3 Guide Boots are my personal choice and they have been great since I equipped them with HardBite Studs (more on studs/cleats later).
Patagonia X Danner Foot Tractor Sticky Rubber Wading Boot
When Patagonia and Danner set out to create the Foot Tractor Wading Boots, their goal was to create a wading boot that would last a lifetime and they achieved just that. Handcrafted in Portland, Oregon, the Foot Tractor wading boots are able to be recrafted and resoled over time. While the price tag may scare a lot of buyers away, making an investment in quality gear will help eliminate dreaded equipment failures when you least expect it.
Along with their new Pro Waders, Orvis also released the Pro Wading Boots. In collaboration with Michelin (the tire manufacturer), Orvis was able to achieve industry-leading wet-rubber traction and increased abrasion resistance. The Orvis Pro Wading Boots also come with OrthoLite® insoles to help deliver maximum comfort all day long.
Once you have base layers, waders, and boots that you can rely on, there is some other gear to also consider. Purchasing a wading staff and cleats for your boots will ensure traction on even the slickest surfaces.
Carrying a wading staff is one of the single best ways to stay safe while wading. Often collapsable, wading staffs provide stability in swift currents and on slick stream beds. The Orvis Ripcord Wading Staff is a lightweight, compact option, and comes with a manufacturer lifetime warranty. The Simms Pro Wading Staff is another premium option made with carbon fiber tubing and a contoured cork grip. Both wading staffs fold to about a foot long and come with carrying pouches. Trekking poles, ski poles, and even a hearty stick can serve the same function for a fraction of the price.
If you’ve read any of my other gear articles you’ll know that I’m an advocate for wading boot cleats. Regardless of whether you wear felt or rubber-soled boots, there a ton of options on the market. These cleats will provide added traction on slick surfaces whether you’re traversing moss, mud, ice, or snow. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of wading boot cleats, be sure to check out our comprehensive breakdown.
As the wet wading season is quickly drawing to a close, consider taking inventory of your wading gear for the cooler months ahead. In addition to gear, wading responsibly is another great way to ensure a warm and dry fall/winter season. It’s helpful to remember these few simple tips while wading:
1. Always take your time.
2. Keep your body perpendicular to the current.
3. Always keep one foot firmly planted before taking your next step.
I often enjoy a day of solitude on the river, however fishing in high or cold water can be dangerous and it’s best to fish with a friend. If you like to fly fish year-round regardless of the weather, having quality wading equipment is of paramount importance. These offerings from Simms, Orvis, and Patagonia are sure to meet the needs of the most demanding angler.
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.