The wader debate - does the perfect solution exist?
Bear in mind here that it wasn't very long ago when most saltwater anglers didn't know about lightweight or "breathable" waders from the fly fishing world, yet here we are now when for many of us they are quite simply another bit of accepted fishing tackle (clothing) that we take out fishing with us - and it's not just lure anglers using them in the saltwater world.
So what you have is this slightly strange situation - many of us are using an item of fishing clothing that we can't really do without, yet on the flipside we are using a product in an environment that it was categorically not intended for. Argue all you like that waders should be doing this and that, but now find me references to fly fishing waders having been designed for what is often some pretty brutal saltwater use. I have worn breathable waders for years now, well before I ever got big time into lure fishing in fact, and as invaluable as I find them for my fishing and indeed work, the saltwater environment just tends to kills them in the end - and in my mind it's combination of the actual saltwater itself doing harm to seams and materials, and then of course rocks, thorns, hooks etc. putting holes in the material.
But, for all that in some respects we don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to our freshwater waders failing on us with saltwater use, I am with any of you here who have had their waders fail on them - obviously it drives me mad. In essence we have no right to complain, but on the other hand it annoys me that in this day and age some waders don't do a better job of standing up to the saltwater environment. A decent pair of breathable or lightweight waders are not cheap, and of course there are some out there that do far better than others. I also have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of so called "unexplained leaks" are no more than angler error at either not realising they have gone and put a hole in their waders, or via just not looking after their waders by not washing them down and drying them off after use. Saltwater is a killer, end of.
So what can we do about it? Are there any magical solutions out there that will solve all our wader issues? Well there might well be, but none that I have come across. You can spend a heap of cash on top of the range Simms waders, but take it from me, an angler who has done just that - as awesome as they are to wear and move around in, and without doubt their levels of breathability are a step up from any other waders I have used over the years, they are still going to get trashed with heavy saltwater use. Although my Simms G4 waders are still going, they were essentially condemned by Simms after just over a year of heavy use.
I have been wearing their new G3 waders for much of this year, and again they are so good to fish in - but I don't remember using a leakier pair of waders for a long time. I haven't been aware of putting any holes in them via slipping etc., yet I can't recall having to patch up a pair of waders as much as these ones. I was deep-wading with them in Ireland the other day and I ended up with a wet crotch area (and no, I hadn't wet myself with excitement) - it hadn't happened before, so why was it suddenly happening now? I really look after my waders as well. Are top of the range breathable waders worth the cash for what we put them through? The jury's out for me.
Another solution of course is these non-breathable Bass Boots chest waders. They are a good product that I think would suit many anglers really well, although I simply can't wear mine in anything approaching warm weather - the build up of sweat is quite something, and it then cools down and stays damp against your legs and you end up bloody freezing!! Outside of warm weather and if you're not walking long distances then they are seriously worth checking out.
Their new off the shelf versions are cut pretty well, but not as well as a pair of Simms (but then neither are most other waders to be fair), and it niggles me that the shoulder straps are not done with some kind of stretchy material as we tend to find on breathable waders. Kneel down to do something and the shoulder straps on these new Bass Boots dig into your shoulders instead of stretching with you. Personally I will always prefer a neoprene sock that means I can wear really thin liner-type socks over my feet and not have to worry about a lack of cushioning that you get with the very thin (but very tough to be fair) Bass Boots tech sock things. Easily sorted I am sure, but it's an oversight if you ask me when targeting the lure fishing market.
There is one solution to these problems I suppose - don't wear waders. Go wet wading or wear a wetsuit (or don't get in the water, ever), which to be honest I will not be doing save for a bit of wet wading during our warmer months. Do I want to be over-chest deep in cold saltwater for say three hours without a pair of chest waders on? Not on your life thank you very much, but then you might well be a lot tougher than I am. Nope, I need lightweight chest waders, but for the life of me I can't find the perfect solution, and mainly because I don't think it exists.
I see no other way around this for the time being than getting the best quality waders you feel that you can get for the money - and then looking after them as best you can whilst accepting that you're going to have to learn to mend leaks (rubbing alcohol spray and Aquasure), regularly wash them down in freshwater and dry them out, and of course get friendly with a wader repair service such as Diver Dave - check here. Some waders I see and hear about in my opinion do fail too quickly, and I can't get away from believing that for the the same kind of money there are in fact good (or at least better) and not so good chest waders. But together with this statement I also come back to angler error and not looking after gear properly.
So, I hear you ask, why isn't there a company out there making serious, saltwater proof (if there can be such a thing), lightweight and breathable waders for us at a price that we are happy to pay? Well first off, how big is the market in reality, how much are we prepared to pay for a product like this, if indeed a product like that can actually be made, and as a fishing tackle company would you actually want to be making this kind of thing anyway? Well I'd sure love it if a tackle company did actually do all this, but I know that if I was a fishing tackle company and I knew how hard gear like this was actually used, I'd be staying well away from it!! In the meantime, use, abuse, wash, mend, and be thankful if your waders do last well for you. And as for wading boots? Another time.
Waders aside, I was rather chuffed to get the front cover of Mel Russ' last issue in charge of Sea Angler magazine - it's Steve Richardson with a 9lb bass he caught on a trip to the south coast of Ireland we did earlier this year. I have to say that I am over the moon with how they have used my photo and made it work with all the other stuff that has to go on a front cover. I have no say in what is picked as a cover shot, but I can't help but hope that some of the shots of Steve's 11lb bass that he caught the other day over in Ireland might make a Sea Angler cover someday. You haven't seen these shots yet, but there are a few there that I am seriously happy with - we shall see...........