As I begin with the words for this column, I’m not sure I am writing them for informational purposes or out of a sense of complete frustration. Perhaps both? Anyway, every so many years, fly …
As I begin with the words for this column, I’m not sure I am writing them for informational purposes or out of a sense of complete frustration. Perhaps both? Anyway, every so many years, fly fishers find, whether at the end of a season or during a season, their waders need to be replaced. So begins the search for a new pair a fishing waders. From a rational standpoint, looking for a new set of waders should be a rather mundane task. I’m guessing that with few exceptions, it’s a fairly easy process that depends on how much money one wants to spend to wade around a river. These days, wader prices run anywhere from about $100 to $650—in some cases, more than that, depending on the brand, country of origin and quality.
So, what’s the issue here? Several companies make waders these days, right? That’s true. However, only two of the premium manufacturers that make stocking foot waders make waders that will accommodate my 29/30 inch inseams. And from what I’ve learned, none of the wader manufactures I’m familiar with make bootfoot fishing waders with 29/30 inseams, even by special order.
Years ago, probably well into to the late 1970s, there were several manufacturers of fishing waders in the U.S. I remember companies like Red Ball, Marathon, Hodgman and Orvis all offered a variety of waders, mostly bootfoot and many with felt soles. Hodgman was probably the standard of that period, with their canvas bootfoot waders. I think everybody who was a serious fly fisher in that era, including Lee Wulff, had a pair. The Hodgman waders had a tendency to be on the heavier side, hot to wear during the summer, but were very durable. And they were available with 29/30 inch inseams.
Here we are in the 2020s, and fly fishing is big business. But for some reason, none of the premium wader manufacturers make bootfoot fishing waders in my size, if they make them at all. The shortest I’ve been able to find—and I tried a pair—had 31/32 inch inseams. I even custom ordered a pair of “large shorts” only to learn upon arrival to find that “short” meant 31/32 inch inseams. Looking back, I obviously didn’t ask the right questions when I spoke with the sales associate about what “short” actually meant.
Frankly, I don’t get it. There are certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of fly fishers who are on the short side with inseams in the 29/30 inch range. So, what’s the problem here? Why no bootfoot waders with 29/30 inch inseams, and why so few companies with stocking foots in that size? While I don’t have a definitive answer, I’m guessing that marketing research by these companies has determined that it’s not necessary to make waders with 29/30 inch inseams.
Of course, trout season has opened, and I’m getting desperate. So, after weeks of searching the internet, I spoke with one of the premium wader manufacturers that happens to make women’s stocking foot waders and asked if a pair of “ladies” waders might work for me. He thought they might, so I ordered a pair along with pair of wading boots (brogues). Note, there are no bootfoots for the ladies. Those waders and brogues arrived a few days ago, and I was hoping they would fit. Sadly, they were too long in the leg and too tight in the chest. In addition, and after wearing bootfoots for over 50 years, I just did not like the way the stocking foot/brogue combination felt on my feet.
By now, I’m guessing that readers of this column wonder why I’m insistent on using felt bottom bootfoot waders? Part of it is habit and part of it is laziness. Keep in mind, donning a pair of bootfoot waders takes a lot less time than stocking foots and brogues. Same thing, once I’m off the river and back at the car, boot foots are quickly removed and I’m on my way. Perhaps more importantly, I wear orthotics inserts and do not believe they would work with stocking foot waders. Then there is the option of hanging bootfoots on a wader rack, which allows them to dry. Can’t easily do that with stocking foots, although I’m sure there is a way to do it.
What are my options? Not many. Right now, there are no felt-sole, bootfoot waders available in my size. Since I don’t particularly care for the stocking foot and brogue combination, those are not an option, either. And even if I did, only Orvis and Patagonia make that type of waders in my size. Fortunately, I still have a pair of Simms felt-sole bootfoot waders that I purchased in 1999 or 2000. To say they are “long in the tooth” would be an understatement, to be sure. Nevertheless, they have served me well, keeping me dry and warm over those many years. Last time I used them, they leaked slightly, so I sealed the seams with Seam Grip. So, we’ll see how they hold up.
I just may send a copy of this column to several of the wader manufacturers. Perhaps at least one will consider that short guys prefer, need and will purchase bootfoot waders!