THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS have produced a veritable “blizzard hatch” of new wader and boot features. Meanwhile fly fishers have watched prices trend upward to match the increased costs of producing products with more layers, waterproof zippers, new fabric treatments, and all sorts of new ideas that have come out of some rather expensive research. Yet the wader and boot market continues to grow, and manufacturers have found plenty of reason to “expand and fill” in both premium and lower-priced models in 2010.
Last year was the year rubber boots became all the rage, and this year more and more manufacturers are following suit. Despite some angler skepticism, several more manufacturers have done away with felt altogether, in favor of various recipes of sticky rubber — many of them with studs as an option.
Simms’s big new announcement for 2010 is the waist-high G3 Guide Pant ($380). The G3 Guide Pant is a fully featured model to complement last year’s convertible wader. It includes a waterproof zipper in the fly and water resistant zippers on the slanted pockets. The wader has the same rugged 5-layer construction as the G3 Guide and the older Classic Guide models, and a more conventional belt system than the convertible models. Offered in 14 stock sizes, the G3 Guide Pants have built-in Guide Model Gravel Guards designed to slip over wading boots and check in a just a smidge over two pounds (38 ounces) making them a great choice for a hike-in fishing trip to a remote stream or pond. Simms also introduced their new Hardbite Star Cleats at the show. These star-shaped screw-in studs are designed to screw into Simms’s StreamTread soles to provide maximum gripping power on slick stone and slippery stream beds. (Just remember, metal cleats also scratch decks, so be sure to plan for an alternative if you plan on jumping into any fiberglass guide boats.)
Cloudveil Mountain Works unveiled several new waders this year, starting with the $500 cream-of-the-crop Snake River Pro wader. The new wader is made with Gore-Tex’s Pro Shell fabric and has been somewhat redesigned from last year’s 8X Pro, which it replaces. Meanwhile, the Snake River Wader Pant, at $425, will also replace last year’s Crystal Creek. To round out the lineup a bit, Cloudveil released the Gros Ventre (pronounced “Grow Vahnt”) wader—an attractive green model featuring proprietary fabric in four layers below the waist, for only $200.
Chota has two major new boots for 2010: one a high-top, the other a sneaker so low-profile you could honestly wear it into a restaurant. In fact, Chota’s booth staff all wore the sneakers throughout the show, surprising quite a few anglers when they were told to look down. In addition to an all-rubber sole on both new models, Chota’s owners have developed a tungsten-carbide cleat for maximum rock-sticking power.
Immersion Research, a group which has its roots in the kayaking market, is taking a noticeably different direction in wader design. The representative explained that his Immersion Wader ($250) derived directly from the kayaking pants he had worn under spray skirts; with a stretch neoprene gasketed waist, these waders looked very comfortable. Immersion Research also manufactures breathable waterproof spray pants for boat use, without booties.
L.L. Bean’s best new product in many of our reviewers’ minds was the Silver Ghost wading shoe ($119-139 depending on whether you buy cleats), a (to use a New England aphorism) wicked-tough design made of welded gray fabric, with rubberized soles.
We came very close to giving Orvis‘s inventive new Sonic Waders a “Best of Show” award in 2008. However, manufacturers are often challenged to bring out new designs that depend on materials providers holding up their end of the deal. Orvis wasn’t happy with the fabric end-product, and they wisely held off delivering the waders until they felt the fabric quality matched their very inventive seam design, which uses a patented radio-welding system instead of stitch-and-tape construction. The Sonic Waders are especially lightweight and compress nicely for travel, and the tapeless seams promise to help eliminate wear.
Meanwhile, Redington won an American AnglerDealer’s Choice award for its Eco Grip Rubber Sole Boot ($129). The soles of this boot are both lugged (i.e. cleated) and also siped (a term describing slices that open up when the booth is flexed, rather like a gecko’s feet). In stealthy gray-on-black, these are low-profile boots with a lot of punch.