Waders are not essential kit for fly-fishing. While they do keep fishermen warm and dry when fishing in cold conditions it is still possible to catch trout year round without them.
Arrive at any popular trout river early in the season, and it might seem like everyone is dressed in chest waders. This was certainly the case last weekend, despite the temperature reaching 80 degrees I was the only angler out of 8 who was not donning a pair.
So just how necessary is it to own and wear waders while fly fishing?
When to wear waders?
If you feel cold while in the water, you might want to consider purchasing a pair of waders. When new, they do an excellent job keeping you warm and dry.
I consider wearing waders when the air temperature is under 70f / 20c or cooler and I plan on entering water deeper than my knees. When It is warmer, I nearly always wet wade.
I find waders are a useful piece of kit when the air temperature is cold and I plan on standing in water that deeper than my knees. If I am spending the majority of my time standing on the shore, I often will continue to wet wade in even cooler conditions.
Early spring and late fall is the time of year I mostly wear waders.
At this time of year, the rivers are generally flowing high and the water is cold. Plus there is no sheet ice to walk along to avoid getting wet in the shallows.
In the summer,
I much prefer to wet wade. The air temperature is simply too hot to comfortably wear waders. If I am night fishing a river mouth, I might occasionally wear them.
I also sometimes wear them when fishing late at night.
In the winter
Before there is significant ice on the river I definitely wear waders (Unless I am casting from the shore).
Once ice sheets start to form, I often find it more comfortable just to dress warmly wearing multiple layers of synthetic thermals and merino wool. I then try hard to stay out of the water.
I once slipped on a rock covered in invisible ice and ended up fully submerged in a mountain stream. Despite looking like a drowned rat, I was still surprisingly warm thanks to all of the layers I was wearing. It still spelt the end of my fishing trip.
One final advantage of waders is that they do provide excellent protection against biting insects. Some mosquitoes do seem to have the ability to bite through thin pant material.
Disadvantages of waders
– While waders keep the water out, they still trap sweat and moisture in. On a hot day they feel quite clammy to wear.
– Waders are expensive, and even the quality ones sooner or later will leak.
– Waders feel quite stiff and cumbersome to walk in.
– You have to be extra careful are brush and thorn bushes.
– If you fall in, your waders are going to be wet for the rest of the day.
– If not stored properly, waders will eventually grow mould.
Advantages of wet wading
– Much more pleasant in hot weather.
– Can wade deep without worrying about water going in over the top.
– Quick drying wading clothing,
– Feels much more agile
What to wear when wet wading?
I usually wear one of two outfits when wet wading. The first is when conditions are still a bit chilly, usually early spring. The second I wear over summer.
What I wear when wet wading in the spring?
In the spring, I usually wear synthetic thermals with quick drying broad shorts overtop. The thermals keep me warm, even when wet and being synthetic they dry very quickly. Except for my socks all of my wet wading gear dries very quickly.
I love merino thermals, but I do not wear them wading. Because wool gets heavy when wet and it takes forever to dry.
On my feet, I wear thick woollen socks and my wading boots. I do not wear neoprene socks overtop. I find they develop holes rather quickly and are simply not worth the hassle.
What I wear when wet wading in the Summer
My Summer wet wading outfit serves two main purposes. It must dry quickly, and it must protect my skin against the sun and from biting insects.
I wear long nylon pants and shirts, just the standard ones worn by all fly fishermen. I personally find the Columbia Silveridge clothing fits me well, but all nylon clothing is basically the same. Brand does not matter to much.
On my feet I still typically wear thick woollen socks. My wading boots are slightly loose fitting to accommodate waders, so thicker socks helps to pad them out. In summer, I also often wear trail running shoes rather than my wading boots.
Do I need to wear waders when fishing a stream?
Waders are not usually required when fishing small streams and shallows creeks. That is because deep crossings are really required.
In other cases, small streams require quite a bit of pushing through streamside vegetation or scumbling over logjams and beaver dams that can easily damage or puncture waders.
Do I need to wear waders when lake fishing?
In my experience, most lake fishing is down from the shore, or from a boat. There is very little need to enter the water itself.
When shore fishing, the trout often cruise within easy casting distance of the shore, entering the water just spooks them.
There are a few exceptions. If you plan on fishing river deltas, waders can be a good purchase. That is because anglers often stand well out in the lake while waiting to intercept cruising trout.
Do I need to wear waders when fishing rivers?
Waders can be useful when fishing large rivers during the colder months of the year, or in cold conditions.
The deeper you need to wade, the more important waders become to keep you warm.
When fishing large rivers I personally do not wear waders often over the summer months, the water level is usually low and the temperature is usually fairly high.
Waders are excellent in float tubes and wet fishing kayaks
One of the best places to wear waders is when fishing from a float tube. They are nearly essential.
That is because, when float tube fishing out legs can spend a significant amount of time in the water, and even relatively warm water starts to feel cold after enough exposure.
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