Many aspects contribute to a great day on the water. The scenery, the company, whether or not the fish cooperate – the list goes on and on. However, one of the most commonly overlooked aspects arguably plays the most important role in the quality of your day – gear. Think about it. If one of the guides on your favorite 5-weight is broken, it’s not going to be nearly as enjoyable (or effective) when you’re trying to drop a hopper underneath that juicy cutbank. If your drag isn’t running smooth, how happy are you going to be when you get that fat rainbow on the reel and your tippet breaks on the first run? Whether it’s rods, reels, packs, nets, boats, whatever – if the gear you rely on isn’t performing at its best, you are diminishing the quality of your day.
BY JOHN FRAZIER, Simms Fishing Products
Let’s Talk Waders
While waders aren’t going to help you find more fish, hook more fish, or release more fish – they are without a doubt one of, if not the most, critical pieces of gear in your arsenal. The sole purpose of waders is to keep you dry, therefore, they’re designed to keep you comfortable. Nothing throws a wet towel on an otherwise fantastic day quite like the feeling of being cold, wet, and most importantly, uncomfortable.
Over the past 30 years, Simms has earned a reputation for building the highest performing, most durable waders in the world. However, the materials and construction methods Simms utilizes will only take them so far. The truth of the matter is, Simms wader longevity lies in the hands of their owner.
Keep in mind, when it comes to washing waders, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
On any given day, you can walk on the floor of Simms’ repair center and find waders that are 10, 15, even 20 years old hanging up to dry. These waders have been repaired and are getting ready to be sent back to their owners for continued use. Waders like these that have endured season after season of abuse and are still going strong aren’t from a special production run, or built by a singular wader making guru – they’ve just been treated with care by their owners. If properly cared for, all Simms waders have the ability to last for the long haul.
Rule number one for wader longevity – be mindful of what you wear underneath them. You’d think that with as harsh as most fishing environments can be, the exterior of the wader would take the brunt of abrasion and wear and tear. And that is true, but only when you wear appropriate layering. It’s amazing just how abrasive some fabrics like denim and canvas can be to the interior of a wader. And let’s not forget, pants made from these types of fabrics all have buttons and zippers which obviously can degrade and destroy a wader very quickly. Besides, do you really want to fish in jeans anyways? Probably not. Do yourself and your waders a favor – wear appropriate layering underneath.
Washing and Drying
Another major contributor to wader longevity is washing. Of course, you don’t need to wash your waders after every single fishing session, however, it’s definitely a good practice to give them a wash every so often. The Gore-Tex membrane is porous. The way it works is that the pores in the membrane are smaller than a water molecule, but they are big enough for water vapor to escape. This is how waterproof breathability is achieved. Regularly washing your waders not only keeps them fresh, it prevents fish slime, oil, dirt, and other substances from building up and blocking the pores/breathability of the Gore-Tex membrane.
Keep in mind, when it comes to washing waders, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. The best and perhaps the safest way to wash your waders is to do it by hand. Turn the wader inside out, use a soft scrub brush with soap that doesn’t contain fabric softener, scrub the interior, and rinse all the soap off. Repeat this process with the waders turned right side out. If you want to use a washing machine, you can. However, it’s best to use one that doesn’t have an agitator. If it does have an agitator, make sure the machine is set to its most delicate cycle. Whether you hand wash or use a washing machine – do not use a dryer. Hang them in a cool, well-ventilated area until dry.
Nothing degrades and compromises a wader more than being stored improperly, especially for long periods of time. Just like socks and underwear, your waders should have a designated spot while not in use. That designated spot is not: Waded up in the back of your car, haphazardly tossed in the corner of your garage, or crammed in a duffel with your wet and funky wading boots.
The best way to store waders is to hang them. Hanging them keeps creasing, bunching, crumpling and other compromises out of the equation. Ideally, where you store your waders is also where you allow them to dry out. If you don’t have that luxury and for whatever reason you have keep your waders stored folded up, just make sure they are completely dry (inside and out) before you fold to store. Wherever you store your waders, make sure it’s an area free of or at the very least, out of reach from mice and other small rodents.
Finally, just like any piece of valuable gear, waders greatly benefit from annual or even bi-annual maintenance. This is an opportunity to find and correct small issues, and/or identify and fix problem areas before they get worse and really compromise the integrity and life of your wader. While Simms does have and encourage the use of their in-house repair center, there are many basic repairs consumers can easily do on their own. One of the most common (and easiest) repairs on a wader is fixing pinholes.
Simply turn your waders inside out and spray with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). If there is a pinhole, the problem area will turn very dark. To fix these pinholes, smear a very small amount of Aquaseal over all the dark spots that appear.
Once all the pinholes have received a small application of Aquaseal, allow the wader to dry (inside out) for at least 24 hours. Remember, Aquaseal is only meant for pinholes found in wader fabric and works best with a less is more approach. It is not meant to be used on attachments such as stockingfeet.
While conducting maintenance on your waders, if you find a trouble spot that is something you don’t feel comfortable handling on your own, or a component needs to be replaced always feel free to reach out and chat with an authorized repair technician. In a lot of cases, they can walk you through a bigger repair job, send you patches and repair kits, or replacement components such as dividers, buckles, and zipper pulls.
Keeping your waders in top-notch condition not only provides anglers with a better experience, it adds years of life to an incredibly important piece of gear. It’s not hard and it doesn’t take a lot of time – it just takes a little bit of discipline. Take care of your waders – after all, they were designed and built to take care of you.