Wader Woes and How to Beat Them

Unfortunately, one of the greatest difficulty that women have as they get started in flyfishing is finding waders that fit. Im talking about neoprene waders, not those giant wide rubberized ones that you sized to fit by cinching up a belt at the waist. Neoprene is more expensive than rubber, but a lot more functional and comfortable, if you can get the right fit. And its important to get a good fit since good waders are an investment and something you will be spending a lot of time in as you pursue flyfishing. So, take your time and try to get it right the first time. Also buy the best you can afford. Take care of them and theyll last you for years.


Until recently women had to settle for getting the best fit they could in waders manufactured for men. Finally, now we are beginning to see waders especially designed for women in the fly shops and in the catalogs. Our troubles are not yet over, however.

Just because a wader manufacturer says that the waders are sized for a woman, that doesnt mean that we can assume theyre sized like the clothes were used to. Even the description small, medium, and large, may not be of much help.

Since every womans sizing is different, the only sure way to beat the wader woes is to go into the stores and try them on and keep trying them on until you find ones that fit or until you decide that none of them fit. Be sure to try on several different brands of waders because theyre all designed differently. Try them on with heavy wool socks to assure adequate foot room. Theres nothing worse than cold feet while fishing. And dont hesitate to try on both mens and womens. You may discover that the mens fit you best after all.

You need to remember that waders have to fit you from your armpits to your toes. Thats a pretty tall order for wader companies, given that no two of us are shaped alike in all those parts of our bodies. Sometimes waders will fit at the top but the legs will be too long. Sometimes the rest of the waders are comfortable, but the feet are way too big. Probably the only way to get a perfect fit everywhere, is to order custom made waders. Most companies will, for an extra charge of between $50 and $75 customize waders to your exact measurements. For many women that makes sense. Obviously, if you decide to order custom waders, youre going to have to wait for them to be made. So, if you want to go fishing now, you probably will have to select waders off the shelf. If thats the case, then buy an inexpensive pair for temporary use while your custom ones are being made.

Now for what you should look for in waders. First, dont buy waders that fit too tight. You often need room to put sweats or other warm clothes underneath. You also need to be able to climb in and out of the boat easily, bend over or kneel down and release a fish, and hike comfortably to your fishing spot. You cant do that if you have form fitting waders. (Sorry, but this is not a glamour sport.)

Next, consider when and where youll be fishing so you can decide whether to buy 3-millimeter, 4-millimeter, or 5-millimeter waders. If youll be fishing early and late in the year as well as float tubing in cold water lakes, you should buy 4 or 5-mil neoprene because its thicker and, therefore, warmer. If youre going to fish mostly in warmer climates or lakes, then 3-mil waders are fine. Three mil waders will be cheaper but are not as warm and may not wear as well.

We cant discuss waders without setting out the pros and cons of stocking foot vs. boot foot waders. Some flyfishers prefer one and some prefer the other. Stocking foot waders require that you buy your wading boots separately. Many believe that you can achieve a much better fit in your boots when buying them separately. If you do that be sure to try them on. Dont assume that the sizing is what you expect. Try them on over waders with wool socks inside. That way youll avoid buying boots that turn out to be too small when you are all rigged up. Be sure that the wader boots have felt soles. Felt makes walking on slippery rocks much easier.

The biggest advantage of boot foot waders is their easy on and off. Because of that many guides prefer them. The disadvantages come in when trying to get a good fit. Many women find that even with all their socks on and felt insoles, they slide around in boot feet waders because the fit isnt tight enough. Even custom boot foot waders can have this problem. Boot foot waders are also get heavy fast when youre hiking the river or heading back to camp after a long day. The other problem Ive had with them is that they are very bulky to pack. Many of the trips I lead require limited gear because of small plane or raft space. Boot foot waders can take up your fifty or sixty pound allotment fast and not leave room for much of anything else.

Other features that you should consider when buying waders are whether they have knee pads (again, remember releasing those fish) and whether they have a chest pocket. You can live without a chest pocket, but they are really handy for everything from your camera to your car keys. Knee pads, on the other hand are essential, I believe, and will add years to the life of your waders.