Best Fly Fishing Waders for the Money

Waders help you catch the fish while keeping you warm and completely dry.

​A good pair of fishing waders keep you comfortable on the water.

You’ll be a better angler if you’re comfortable on the water. We’ll help you choose a pair of waders that will give you the proper amount of durability based on how often you’ll be fishing.

Introduction

Most veteran anglers have a love/hate relationship with their waders. When they're warm and dry at the end of a long day, life is pretty good. When their waders leak and are cold and soaking wet, there is nothing worse. In theory, waders create a waterproof barrier between you and the water. If you've not worn waders before, imagine wearing a waterproof pair of overalls, except with waterproof neoprene socks sewn into the bottom.

Historically, waders were made out of rubber, plastic and neoprene. Each evolution was better than the last, but the major difference between those technologies and today's wader is the fact that they are breathable. Non-breathable waders are like wearing a giant plastic bag. Breathable waders have really changed the game entirely, making anglers more comfortable on the water, and giving them the freedom to fish all day in extreme conditions. We're firm believers that there is no such thing as “bad weather" only “bad gear".

Do I need waders?

Waders are not required to go fly fishing. In many parts of the world the fishing season stays warm. If you have a hardy soul and are planning to fish only during the warmest months of the year, or in the tropics, you may not need waders. Not having waders will greatly limit your opportunities to fish during the spring and fall. Even in the summer time, wading rivers during the morning or evening hours can be pretty chilly. If you're planning to take your fly fishing addiction to the next level, live in an area where it doesn't stay warm, or want to fish all year, waders are a must have. The current wader technology allows anglers to be very comfortable and spend time fishing year-around. Some of the best fishing of the year can happen during the cold days of early spring or late fall, without waders you are stuck at home.

How to Choose the Best Waders for Fishing

Stocking Foot vs. Boot Foot

Most waders are designed with stocking feet. Stocking feet waders have a waterproof neoprene sock sewn into the wader. Boot foot waders have an integrated wading boot attached. Boot foot waders are easy to slip on and off, and for some anglers who are not hiking long distances, or constantly fishing from a boat, these are a good option. We recommend stocking foot waders for your first pair, as they offer the ability to match them with a separate and proper fitting wading boot that will ultimately give you better ankle support.Waders will greatly vary in their construction but generally the more money you spend on waders the greater the durability. You’ll need to decide on how much fishing you think you’ll be doing. If you plan on fishing more than 20 days per year, we recommend a middle or high priced wader. If you think you’ll be fishing less, buy a more economical wader and invest your dollars elsewhere.

Frogg Toggs Amphib 3.5mm Neoprene Stockingfoot Wader Review

The Frogg Toggs Neoprene Stockingfoot Wader keeps it simple and utilizes the same fabric as the more expensive Freestone model. This is the perfect wader for someone looking to get started on a budget. While perfect for beginners it’s also the lightest weight model for anyone looking to pack it away, or frequently fishing in warmer conditions. You’ll find the same great fit in the Neoprene as higher priced Frogg Toggs models. Built in neoprene gravel guards fit snugly over the top of your boots to keep out rocks, and are held in place by a metal hook tucked neatly on the underside. I wade without waders all summer and just need something the spring and fall.

Breathable Waders

Breathable waders are made of woven materials that allow air to pass through, but keep the water out. This weave also allows moisture from perspiration to move out through the wader. We only recommend buying breathable waders for new anglers; they are vastly more comfortable and perform infinitely better than other materials like neoprene or plastic. Because breathable waders are so comfortable, you can even put your waders on before you get to the water. Just pop them on before you leave your house, drive to your favorite spot and you’re good to go! The bottom line is that if you are more comfortable, you’ll fish longer, have a better time, and ultimately catch more fish.

Simms G4 Pro Stockingfoot Wader

The Simms Pro G4 is quite simply, the ultimate in GORE-TEX® waders. Waterproof, durable, breathable, and stacked with features for even the most discerning angler. Whether you are battling the skin peeling wind of Tierra Del Fuego for behemoth sea-run browns, or standing in the frigid mind numbing winter steelhead waters of the Pacific Northwest, these waders will stand up to the best you can throw at them. The lighter colored upper portion of the wader is constructed in 3 layers to maximize breathability, while the darker colored high-use areas are built with 5 to increase durability. The zippered pockets keep hands warm with interior quick dry micro-fleece, and can be zipped to the top to avoid trapping water. Knee articulation, elastic suspenders, and form fit neoprene booties are designed with your comfort in mind. The well thought out docking station includes a built-in retractor; flip out tippet tender, fly patch, and forceps tab. You'll have everything you'll need for a quick outing to your favorite trout stream or steelhead flow. Integrated neoprene gravel guards fit snugly over the top of your boots to keep out rocks, and are held in place by a metal hook tucked away neatly on the underside.

Size Does Matter

Getting the right sized wader is about more than being comfortable. Improperly fitting waders will stress seams or cause abrasion on the fabric. These problems will eventually cause leaks. When you are trying on your waders, make sure you have enough room in the ‘ol wedding vegetables area. Crotch seams are notorious for getting stressed and causing leaks. You should be able to do a full squat without causing undo stress. You should also be able to swing you leg over the gunnels of a boat, or a downed tree. Make sure to check that your not getting bunching around the inside of your knees, as this can be a sign that you need a longer inseam.

Caddis Men's Taupe Affordable Breathable Stocking Foot Wader

The Caddis Men's Taupe wader keeps it simple and utilizes the same fabric as the more expensive Freestone model. This is the perfect wader for someone looking to get started on a budget. While perfect for beginners it’s also the lighter weight model for anyone looking to pack it away, or frequently fishing in warmer conditions. You’ll find the same great fit in the Blackfoot as higher priced models. Built the attached gravel guards fit snugly over the top of your boots to keep out rocks. I wade without waders all summer and just need something the spring and fall.

Durability

Wader manufactures have done a great job recently of increasing durability. You’ll also need to accept that all waders will eventually leak. The length of time your waders will last depends on how much you’re fishing, and how well you take care of them. Guides who are on the water between 150 - 200 days a year may only get 1 season out of a pair of waders. The average angler fishing 20 times a year may get 5 seasons or more.To increase durability, waterproof/breathable waders are constructed in layers. Some companies will use as many as 7 layers in their designs. Other manufactures believe that it makes more sense to provide extra layers in the high use areas like the butt and knees. In general, the more layers a wader is constructed with, the more durable the wader. On the other hand more layers can sometimes mean a reduction in breathability. Many “lightweight” waders are less expensive and built with fewer layers, but are perfect for new anglers fishing less than 20 times per year.

Maintenance

It’s hard to know how long your waders will last, but taking good care of them can increase their lifetime by double. The more chances you take with sticker bushes and brush, the greater the chance for poking holes through them. Sometimes the benefits can be worth the risk, as the fish of your dreams may be living in the hardest place to access! When your waders get dirty, it stresses the fabric and will eventually start to leak moisture through the material. As the dirt gets trapped in the weave of the material, it can greatly reduce the breathability, and you’ll notice extra condensation inside the wader that was previously being moved away from your skin and out the fabric. Eight times out of ten, new anglers complaining that their waders are leaking, are simply finding this extra condensation building up rather water actually coming in.

The best thing you can do for your waders is to keep them clean and dry when you’re not using them. You’ll improve the performance and help them last a long time. Each manufacture has their own recommendations for cleaning them and maintenance, but if you can simply remember to hose them off after each use, and hang them to dry, you’ll rarely have a major problem.

Most waders are not designed for use in saltwater. More and more anglers are starting to fish from the beaches and finding their waders prematurely wearing out. If you don’t wash your waders down with a hose after using them in the salt, they will leak. The corrosive effects of the salt and the residual crystals it leaves embedded into the fabric will kill them faster than anything else. Each wader manufacturer will have their own process and chemicals to use for repairing holes and seam leaks. If you learn how to properly repair your waders they’ll last even longer. Take the time to follow their instructions very carefully, and always have the necessary supplies to fix them.

Waist-high Waders

Waist-high waders are just like pants. They are either synched with a belt or have a suspender system and are great for days spent fishing in shallow water, when it’s hot outside, or when spending the day in a drift boat. Overall, they are going to be less versatile, and you may find that they will limit you during the day for fear of wading too deep. If you’re looking for your first pair of waders, it’s best to get a pair of chest-highs first.

Chest-high waders

Chest-high waders offer the most versatility. Many models today will allow you to wear them with normal chest-high coverage, or convert them to drop down and be worn like pants. They are appropriate for any angling situation where you want to stay warm and dry. Unlike the other styles, they’ll allow you to make a river crossing, fish deeper water, or get away from the bank to make further casts.

Wading Belt

Wading belts are required. They are buckled around your waist, outside the wader. If you fall in they stop water from filling the inside of your waders and sinking you like a rock. Wading belts will also help to trap a little bit of air in the bottom portion of your wader and help you float a bit. At 8 pounds per gallon, water can enter your wader and drown you pretty quickly, simply wearing a wading belt is cheap insurance. They also allow you clip a knife or pair of pliers onto the belt for easy access. Most waders are built with integrated wading belts or have one included with the purchase these days. Just make sure you use it!

Gravel Guards

Gravel guards are like gators. They wrap around the junction between your wader and the opening at the top of your wading boots. This prevents gravel, rocks, and sand from entering your boot. Besides being really uncomfortable, foreign debris can wear out the feet on your waders very quickly and cause them to leak. Most waders have integrated gravel guards these days, but some inexpensive models will not.

Under Your Waders

Don’t wear jeans under your waders! Besides being uncomfortable, they won’t transfer moisture out of your wader. Why buy breathable waders if they’re not going to help you keep condensation off of your skin? Instead, you’ll need a pair of long underwear, or pants made out of fleece, capilene, wool, or any other material that wicks moisture away from your skin.

Wading Safety

Nature can jump up and bite you when you least expect it. Don’t be a hero when it comes to wading. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable as you wade than go shallower! The currents in rivers are much stronger than you’d expect, especially if you are new. Combine that with incredibly slippery rocks, and you’ll be on your wallet faster than you can sneeze. Catching a fish is not as important as staying alive. Wading is a developed skill and takes time to master. Start slow and you’ll soon find out that fish are a lot closer to you than you think! Remember to always wear your wading belt. Take your time and use common sense.

Wading tips

There a lot of tricks to wading that will help you stay safe. The biggest skill you can learn is to go slow. It’s not a race; take it one foot at a time.

  • Don’t move one foot before the other is planted.
  • Stay low. If you lower your center of gravity and keep yours knees slightly bent, your legs will act like shock absorbents.
  • Go with the flow. The water is going to push you around, and your feet are going to slip. Try to not stiffen up and fight it. You’ll need to find the balance between staying relaxed, but rigid enough to keep your balance.
  • If you’re with a friend, stand side by side and hook your arms across each-others shoulders. You’ll be able to provide support for one-another, and if one person is slipping, the chances are the other is solid.
  • If you need to make a crossing, start well upstream of your target on the other side of the river. It’s far easier to angle downstream than to fight the current straight across.
  • You’re going to fall in at some point! Everyone does, try not to panic and take your time standing up. Get your feet under you and simply stand up. So often anglers will start to swim before they need to and fill their waders with water. If you begin drifting down stream, try to get your feet positioned down river and slowly push them down to the bottom to stand up.
Randy Todd
 

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