I understand that change is inevitable. Everything changes eventually. Most of the time I don’t like the changes that take place (unless I initiate them). Obviously, in the times we live in, new technologies seem to affect almost every aspect of our lives. I’m not a “Techy” kind of a guy, as I don’t buy into the latest & greatest technologies. I seem to have a certain distrust of all computers & anything that isn’t strictly mechanical with physical moving parts. Heck, I still have a rotary telephone (& yes, I do make calls on it). However, it wouldn’t be fair to call me a luddite either. I do firmly believe in the benefits of technology - when all the bugs have been worked out & it's put to positive use.
So what the heck does that have to do with waders?? Okay, I’ll tell you - I am really going someplace with this.
For all my life I have always prefered to wear hip waders. Not just any hip waders either - the old, heavy rubber hip boots. I have my reasons for this, which may or may not make sense to you. When I was a young kid learning to fish with a fly rod, almost all anglers in trout streams wore rubber waders, mostly because they were the best that was available at the time. Back then I was too young & small to wear any waders, but eventually I grew bigger & the first pair of waders my parents got me were rubber.
Then a new product came on the market (or at least came to my attention) called “neoprene”, which promised all kinds of good things for waders like reduced weight, more comfort, etc. Later on came “gortex” that also promised the same things, only better - all of which only stood to confuse a kid in rubber hippers. I’ll admit that seeing grown up, really good anglers wearing this new gear made me curious about its benefits.
Then one day something happened that forever changed how I would look at waders for the rest of my life (so far). A friend of the family, who was also an avid fly rodder, was accompanying us on a day of trout fishing. This day was special in that it was the first day for a brand new pair of waders for our friend - & not just any waders, but a pair of brand-spanking new neoprene waders. This was a pair of (at the time) state-of-the-art fishing boots, folks. They were expensive & it had taken him a while to save up the money for them. He was so proud of them & we were all really impressed.
On our way to the stream from the car we had to go over a barbed-wire fence. That’s where it happened. Our friend accidentally slipped & ripped a huge gash in his new waders before he ever got to the water!!! Horror of horrors!! Well, nobody said it, but if he’d been wearing rubber boots we could have quickly & easily fixed them with a tire inner tube repair kit that we all carried. It was in that moment that I decided in my young adolescent mind that I forever would:
1.) Only buy waders that were readily available (back then you could get rubber hippers in just about any hardware store)
2.) Only wear waders that could be quickly, easily, & cheaply repaired on the spot along the stream without any special equipment.
Rubber boots were my answer, so I always wore them & never paid any real attention to the improvements & innovations that were made in waders as the years went by. For many years I fished away, decked out in my rubber boots, in ignorant bliss…..until the day a couple of seasons ago when the pair I was wearing finally ‘gave up the ghost’. These were well used boots that lasted me a good ten years, but the patches had patches & finally the rest of the rubber dried up & perished. I had to admit that I needed a new pair.
Off to the store I went to get another pair of rubber hip boots. I quickly realized that something had happened in that last decade since I had bought my last pair. Rubber hip boots weren’t available in any store, anywhere in my area. What was going on? All I could find were gortex or neoprene boots & confused blank expressions on the faces of young store clerks when I explained what I was after. It was frustrating & sad & I finally had - reluctantly - to settle on a pair of neoprene waders. After all, this was the height of trout season & the big hatches were on. I was desperate.
I knew these were supposed to be nice boots, but I hated the things. They just didn’t feel right on my legs. They weren’t comfortable to me. I felt like a kid who had lost his security blanket - scared, confused, & uncomfortable. I figured I just needed to give them a fair chance, so I fished out the rest of the season with them. That winter I stored them away properly. I thought maybe I’d learn to like them next season, but I never got the chance.
On the first fishing adventure of the next season these neoprene waders leaked!! It was as if these new boots had somehow self-disintegrated over the winter in the closet. Back home I tried to rejuvenate my old rubber boots that I hadn’t built up the courage to toss out yet. That was pointless, too as the rubber was just too far gone. Here another season was starting & I couldn’t wade the streams! Something had to be done.
Since no stores in my area had rubber hip boots I was forced to hurl myself into the 21st century by shopping for them online. I had no choice. When I buy boots, I want to try them on first, talk to the clerk about the weather, & generally smell the new rubber. So I reluctantly searched the internet. Luckily, I found a pair that looked promising & I ‘bit the bullet’ & ordered them.
They arrived & tried them on. They were heavy rubber & just what I’d been after. A quick trip to the stream was in order so I took them out to a good, deep area on the stream about a mile from my house. No leaks & they felt just right. I had the joy of a youngster who had found his lost teddy bear!! I’m sure I looked a fool, standing in the stream, arms raised in the air, shouting “yes”!! Finally, I had a pair of sturdy rubber hip boots on my legs again!!!
I know that waders & wader technology will continue to advance. I’m sure that the comfort & reliability of waders in the future will surpass even what we have today. Thank you, just the same. I’ll keep wearing my rubber hip boots for as long as I can. Is that practical or logical? No, not really but my waders are where I draw the line. I know that change is inevitable, but there’s some things I don’t want to change. Consistency can be comforting in some ways. So go ahead & think I’m a loon. Point & laugh when you see me on the trout stream. I will unapologetically & proudly fish in my old rubber hip waders!!!.....
…..so why hip boots & not chest or waist waders? Well, that’s a story for another day. I better quit now before you think I’m, completely daft!!