ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

My great fishing wader dilemma: an update

Posted 2/21/24

A few years ago, I vented my frustration in the River Reporter over not being able to find a pair of bootfoot waders in my size. In that column, I explained that no manufacturer of premium chest …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

My great fishing wader dilemma: an update


A few years ago, I vented my frustration in the River Reporter over not being able to find a pair of bootfoot waders in my size. In that column, I explained that no manufacturer of premium chest waders made bootfoot waders with a 29-to-30-inch inseam aside from Orvis. That company offers its Pro Zip Front bootfoot wader, in large/short with a 28-to-30-inch inseam, for $898. 

Orvis also offers less expensive bootfoot waders, but not with a 29/30 inseam. The same can be said for L.L. Bean and Hodgman. Up until a short time ago, Aquaz made a bootfoot wader with a 31/32-inch inseam. I have a pair, and despite the length, the waders actually fit but are tight across the chest. That model is now discontinued.

At the time of that column, only Patagonia and Orvis made stocking-foot waders with a 28/30-inch inseam. I tried a pair from Patagonia, and while they were beautifully made, with a correct inseam, they were too tight in the chest. In addition, they were difficult to put on due to the absence of strap releases and convertible design. So if you order a pair of those waders from Patagonia, keep those factors in mind, and check the larger chest sizes. I believe the company makes a large short, which provides much more room across the chest, allowing for insulation in cold weather, along with easier access. 

With no bootfoot chest waders available in my size, and being more than a bit desperate, I tried several pairs of stocking-foot waders from other manufacturers in addition to those from Patagonia. In every case, I ordered the shortest sizes available, only to find them all too long in the inseam. For example, I tried two pairs of stocking-foot waders from Redington, both zip front and regular models, and found them too long as well. 

As an aside, I found Redington waders and wading shoes to be of excellent quality at a very reasonable price. So, if you are a bit longer in the leg than I am, Redington is an excellent choice, with a large selection of sizes. 

Then about six months ago or so, I received an email from Skwala. Skwala is a relatively new manufacturer of premium waders, headquartered in Bozeman, MT—the same city as Simms. Skwala now manufactures three different models of stocking-foot waders: RS Zip Front, Carbon and Back Eddy. 

That email explained that the company would offer its Carbon wader in two short sizes: medium and large short. The inseam is 28 to 31 inches and accommodates shoe sizes 9 to 11. All Skwala waders are convertible and appear to be very well made.

When it comes to premium waders, Simms has always been the benchmark for excellence. That is, until recently. My guess is that Patagonia, Orvis and Skwala are now of equal quality. To top it off, all Simms premium waders are made in Bozeman, which for some fly fishers is an important bonus.

Nevertheless, for whatever reason—and it may very well be marketing—Simms does not make a wader with an inseam shorter than 31-32 inches. I’ve contacted representatives of the company on several occasions and asked why,  and was told “We don’t have a pattern.” I’ve been a Simms customer for many years, having purchased three pairs of the company’s felt-soled bootfoot waders when the company made waders with shorter inseams. 

I still have a pair, purchased in 2000, that was usable until about a year ago. The seams now leak, but the original Hunter felt-soled boots are still in excellent condition after all these years. My last column about waders, which appeared in the April 21, 2021 edition of the River Reporter, featured a photo of those very waders. About a year ago, I offered to mail those waders to Simms to use as a pattern to make waders with shorter inseams. That offer was declined. 

In addition to the problem of finding waders that fit, I’ve had problems with wading boots, too. I wear a size 9 1/2 shoe, and purchased wading boots from Orvis and Redington in size 10, which were a bit too small. So that means I’ll need a size 11, which will be too large and likely cumbersome to wade with. As an angler 5-feet-8-inches tall and about 150 pounds, with a 9 1/2 shoe, I find there are very few options available to me for waders and wading shoes. 

Now, with Skwala, Patagonia and Orvis offering waders with 28-31 inseams, hopefully other premium wader manufacturers—including Redington, Grudens and Simms—will get the message and start making waders with shorter inseams. And just maybe one of those companies will add bootfoot waders with short inseams to its product lines. 

At one time, not so long ago, bootfoot waders were the mainstay for American anglers. Hodgman, Red Ball, Orvis, Marathon and even Simms all made quality, felt-soled waders that were available in sizes that fit us shorter folks. Then at some point, the companies that remained all switched to stocking-foot waders. As a result, quality bootfoot waders are all but impossible to find, at least in my size. 

Note: There are any number of chest waders on the market. I’ve limited this discussion to those considered the best.

ramblings, catskill, fly, fisher, wader, update, dilemma


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