If you fly fish in rivers and streams, you're constantly on the move, hiking to and from different locations, wading rocky shorelines, bogs, sloughs, and sometimes navigating difficult terrain just to get to and from your favorite fishing spots.
Functional wading gear helps you do all that and catch more fish, because you're more comfortable, you can stay on the water longer, and make the most of your time while you're out there. But even more important, good wading gear helps keep you safe by keeping you upright, and keeping you dry in a variety of conditions. Let's take a look at some different wading systems that cover all the seasons, and all kinds of rivers.
Look for boots with adequate screened drainage ports. These help quickly drain water while walking from spot to spot, and they keep sand and grit out of the boot.
Bootfoot waders keep you warmer in cold conditions because there is more dead air space in the boot. Warm feet keep you in the water longer during the winter.
For hot, summer fishing, where you still occasionally need to wade deep, consider convertible waders that you can wear as pants most of the day and roll up into chest waders for crossing the occasional deep spots.
Felt vs. Rubber
For decades, everyone wore felt on their wading boots which still works great on slimy river rocks, but you need to add metal studs for traction hiking up and down the riverbanks, especially on snow, ice, mud, or even wet grass.
Rubber soles are easier to clean than felt, much more durable, and give you more traction under a great variety of conditions hiking to and from the river and along muddy, rocky unstable river banks. For smooth algae-covered rocks on the river bottom, you'll need studs to cut through the slime.
While fishing hot summer days in small streams, consider hip boots that are quick and easy to slip on, and help keep you cool.
Cuffs are important in a fly-fishing jacket because you keep your arm upright while casting in the rain. Poor cuffs allow rain to run down your arm and pool up around your elbow and shoulder. Look for a watertight cuff that snugs up securely around your wrist.
Look for a jacket with an adjustable hood that fits neatly around your baseball cap and provides adequate peripheral vision.
Lace vs. BOA
Laces are dependable and inexpensive, but they can be tough to deal with when they come untied in wet, muddy or icy conditions. They can also catch on branches and other obstacles, and eventually they'll break. You can rachet up your Boa Lacing System wearing gloves or mittens, and you get constant tension from your ankles down to your toes. At the end of the day it's quick and easy to just pull the button and step out of the boots.
Make sure that the cuff fasteners secure neatly and do not create a catch point that grabs your fly line while casting and shooting line.
Never wear your breathable waders without a wading belt that secures snugly around your waist. Without a wading belt, the waders can parachute in forceful current if you fall in. Waders should have belt loops to keep the belt in a comfortable location.