First, let me say again that I enjoyed flying with you. Congratulations on all the exciting things happening in your life with work and family. Good for you on the upcoming fly fishing adventure. I hope you catch lots of trout and end up on a river again soon.
Now about those waders. You asked me what waders I recommend you buy for your upcoming fly fishing trip. I know I gave you an answer already, but I thought it would be useful to explain my advice in a little more detail. None of the links below are affiliate links. I get no money from you buying any particular product.
I really think quality and cost are your most important factors, but I did some specific links in here just to help you get started.
I hope you don’t mind I am sharing this letter with all the readers at Wadeoutthere as well. Ha! Here goes:
Do You Really Need Waders?
My initial answer to, “what waders should I buy?” is to ask — do you really need to buy waders? I ask this for two reasons:
- It sounds like you are going in the summer and it will be hot. I do not use waders unless I will be fishing in temperatures in the 60s to low 70s. Unless you plan on going fly fishing more often and in cooler temps, then I don’t think you need to invest in waders.
- If you are just starting out in fly fishing, you may be using a guide. Many times (almost always) waders are provided for clients and included in the cost of the guide service. Be sure to ask about waders when you book because sometimes, they run out.
River Shoes and Pants
In lieu of waders, I recommend getting some quick drying pants to wear with river shoes or comfortable sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet. River shoes will give you better traction and dry out easily. You can wear them with socks or barefoot. Shoes are better in the river than sandals because the combination of the current and wading tends to churn up pebbles, rocks, and small vegetation around your feet. Sandals keep out less debris. Open toe sandals are right out.
Here is my recommendation on river shoes and pants:
https://www.simmsfishing.com/riprap-shoe-s17 I own these and love them. You can wear them on the river, and they will be dry the next day for the airplane. The insoles can be easily replaced with a Dr Scholl’s insert for increased comfort.
https://www.orvis.com/p/astral-water-ready-trail-shoes/2n15 These seem comparable to the Riprap shoe and might be more comfortable depending on your feet.
https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/Ascend-Timber-Creek-Pants-for-Men I own these pants. They are cheap, light, very quick drying and great on the river.
https://www.eddiebauer.ca/p/10307889?sp=1&color=485 I own these pants as well. I wear them on the airplane, and they are very nice and light. You can take them on the river too.
https://www.orvis.com/p/jackson-quick-dry-pants/0a4r These pants are super light and I have had them forever. They are a little less comfy than the Ascend and Eddie Bauer pants, but still very nice.
https://www.eddiebauer.com/p/12951063/mens-guide-pro-pants?sp=1. These are on my Christmas list. I think they look a little sturdier than the other river pants I own, but still very light.
So far, my answer to what waders you should buy as you start out fly fishing has been — no waders at all. If you still want to buy waders, or think you will need them based on the above criteria then I would buy either of these two products:
Orvis ultra-light convertible wader. https://www.orvis.com/p/men-s-ultralight-convertible-wader/2jby. I own these waders. These are a good price, high quality, and great for travel because they are very light and compact. I like that they easily “convert” to pants, and I find them very comfortable and sturdy.
Simms G3 Guide Waders. https://www.simmsfishing.com/shop/mens/waders/g3-guide-waders-stockingfoot#. These are more money, but they are probably the best waders on the market. Simms started out making waders in the 1980s out of Bozeman, MT. They are known for great waders and many guides use them.
Both Orvis and Simms have cheaper waders for sale that would all be excellent in my opinion if budget is a concern.
If you decide to buy waders, then you are going to need boots. Eighteen years ago, when I bought my $99 fancy Orvis waders, I did NOT buy boots. This was mostly because I was broke. I used old USAF Academy issued running sneakers with my waders by loosening the laces and putting them over the stocking feet. Not optimum, to say the least, but I did this for many years.
When I finally decided it was time to buy some boots, I purchased a pair of Simms that I still wear today. They are high quality, supportive, and built like a tank. I have fished in them for years and they have held up wonderfully through very aggressive climbing hiking, and wading. The thing I like least about them is that they are quite heavy and inflexible. If I was to buy boot today, I would buy something both lightweight and sturdy. I recommend either:
The following video from Mad River Outfitters is a great comparison of the two boots. Spoiler alert, the Simms boots are three ounces lighter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM4_I7iZFt8. Search Mad River Outfitters in YouTube for other great fly fishing product reviews and great videos explaining fly fishing to beginners. Another excellent video from them on fly fishing accessories is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyIKuXE4sC0. In this video he also explains how you do not absolutely NEED waders, boots, and a fly fishing vest when you are starting out. I certainly had none of those things when I began fly fishing.
I would buy the Orvis Ultra-light wading boot because I think they look a bit sturdier and I like the metal rings for the laces. Also, they are a touch cheaper for close to equal quality and weight. Finally, I just like the way they look more. Both boots are probably great, and to be honest, any boot that you buy from Orvis or Simms is going to be outstanding. Its really about comfort, cost, and personal preference.
DEFINATLEY try wading boots on in the store with waders or a neoprene sock and walk around. Get what feels good, because you’ll hopefully be spending lots and lots and lots…and lots of time in them.
If you go with a wading boot, I think a neoprene sock with a laces guard is well worth the money. These are Orvis and Simms:
No huge difference between the two. They both do the same thing pretty much. Be sure to wear the neoprene sock when you are trying on boots. Use caution if you plan on wearing extra socks with the neoprene socks. Extra socks can make things too tight and cut off circulation. I learned that lesson the hard way. My right big toe was numb for months. If you do wear an extra pair of socks, make sure everything is comfortable.
Wading boots with the neoprene sock are also a nice alternative to river shoes because they provide more stability and hold up better in the long run. If you are going to bring waders but decide one day you don’t need to wear them, then you can use the boots and neoprene socks with pants.
I recommend either Orvis or Simms. These are the two main companies that I use for gear. They are both high-quality, made in the USA companies. Simms was started by John Simms, out of Bozeman MT in the 1980s. You can read more about their story here: https://www.simmsfishing.com/discover/service/our-story
Orvis began in the 1850’s! Started by Charles Orvis in Manchester Vermont, 1850s. It is the oldest fly-fishing company in the US and is also a very cool story: https://www.orvis.com/s/about-the-orvis-company/261
There are some other great companies out there as well. Reddington, Patagonia, and Cabelas come to mind. I stick to Simms and Orvis now because I am pleased with their quality and customer service and I know what I am getting.
Philosophy on Gear
Starting out in fly fishing, I made about $165 per month as a freshman cadet at USAFA. I had to borrow an upperclassman’s car and sneak off campus to purchase my gear. A quick trip to Walmart while I was “over the fence” (sneaking off base), and I would be on my way to UC Boulder or UNC to chase trout and girls. I saved a couple years to buy the “fancy” Orvis waders. My accounting teacher and OIC (Officer in Charge) of the fly fishing club Captain Haynie recommended I buy them. I don’t believe in buying lots of gear, but I do believe in quality. Those waders lasted me over ten years.
Whatever you decide to buy, please keep three recommendations in mind:
- Buy waders with stocking foot (not attached boots). Buy your boots separate. This is due to comfort and utility.
- Avoid boots with felt soles. States that have outlawed felt soles are Maryland, Alaska, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park have all outlawed felt soles. States that have considered the ban are: Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, New York, Vermont. In my opinion it’s a matter of time before the ban is in every state.
- If possible, try to buy your gear at the store where you can try items on versus online. Especially with the boots because the sizes run different. For example, if you were a men’s size 11, you may need a boot in 12. Try them on with the neoprene sock. The guy at the store should know this and be able to help you.
- Do not let the cost of fly fishing gear keep you from starting out in fly fishing. There is not that much gear you absolutely NEED, to start out. Get what you need and spend what you can.
You don’t need waders to start fly fishing.
River shoes or wading boots with neoprene sock and some quick dry pants are great in warm weather. If you do get waders, make sure they fit well and are comfortable for you specifically, regardless of your budget. I recommend Orvis or Simms, but lots of brands have quality products and most will hold up well for the average fly fisherman.
I hope this helps. Thanks for what you’ve done at Delta and good luck in retirement.
PS. Thanks for the great blog post idea. Wadeoutthere.