My Big Fishing Dilemma: Update

My Big Fishing Dilemma: Update

Written by Tony Bonaviste

A few years ago, I expressed my frustration in the River Reporter at not being able to find a pair of boots in my size. In this column, I point out that no premium chest wader manufacturer has made chest waders with a 29- to 30-inch inseam except Orvis. This company offers the Pro Zip Front bootfoot, in a large/short size with a 28- to 30-inch inseam, for $898.

Orvis also offers less expensive footwear, but not with a 29/30 inseam. The same can be said about L.L. Bean and Hodgman. Until recently, Aquaz made shoes for 31/32-inch feet. I have a pair, and despite their length, the waders actually fit but are tight on the chest. This model has now been discontinued.

At the time of writing that column, only Patagonia and Orvis made 28/30-inch underfoot waders. I tried a pair from Patagonia, and although they were beautifully made, with the right inseam, they were too tight in the chest. Additionally, it was difficult to wear due to the lack of strap versions and convertible design. So, if you order a pair of these Patagonia waders, keep these factors in mind, and check the larger chest sizes. I believe the company makes large shorts, which provide much more room across the chest, allowing for insulation in cold weather, along with easy access.

With no chest waders available in my size, and being a bit desperate, I tried several pairs of toe waders from other manufacturers in addition to those from Patagonia. In each case, I ordered the shortest size available, only to find it was too long in the inseam. For example, I tried two pairs of Redington sock waders, both zip-front and regular models, and found them to be too long, too.

Additionally, I have found Redington waders and waders to be excellent quality and at a very reasonable price. So, if you have a slightly longer leg than mine, the Redington is an excellent choice, with a wide range of sizes.

Then about six months or so ago, I received an email from Squala. Skwala is a relatively new manufacturer of premium waders, headquartered in Bozeman, MT – the same city as Simms. Skwala now manufactures three different models of sock waders: the RS Zip Front, Carbon, and Back Eddy.

That email explained that the company would be offering the carbon shorts in two short sizes: medium and large short. The inseam measures 28 to 31 inches and fits shoe sizes 9 to 11. All Skwala shoes are convertible and appear to be very well made.

When it comes to premium waders, Simms has always been the standard for excellence. That is, until recently. I think Patagonia, Orvis and Squala are now equal in quality. What’s more, all of Simms’ premium waders are made in Bozeman, which is a major bonus for some anglers.

However, for whatever reason — and it may be marketing — Simms does not make waders with an inseam of less than 31 to 32 inches. I contacted company representatives on several occasions and asked why, and was told “we don’t have a pattern.” I have been a Simms customer for many years, purchasing three pairs of the company’s felt-soled boots when the company made waders with shorter inseams.

I still have a pair, I bought them in 2000, and they were serviceable until about a year ago. The seams are leaking now, but the original Hunter felt-soled boots are still in excellent condition after all these years. My last column on waders, which appeared in the April 21, 2021 issue of River Reporter magazine, featured a photo of these waders. About a year ago, I offered to mail those waders to Simms to use as a template for making waders with shorter inseams. This offer was rejected.

In addition to the problem of finding suitable wading boots, I had problems with my wading boots as well. I wear a size 9 1/2 shoe, and bought Orvis and Redington waders in a size 10, which were too small. This means I would need a size 11, which would be quite large and likely cumbersome to wade through. As a 5’8″ angler, about 150 pounds, and a 9 1/2″ boot, I find that there are very few options available to me for waders and waders.

Now, with Skwala, Patagonia, and Orvis offering waders with 28-31 inseams, hopefully other premium wader manufacturers — including Redington, Grudens, and Simms — will get the message and start making waders with shorter inseams. Perhaps one of these companies will add waders with short insoles to their product lines.

At one time, not long ago, long-footed waders were the mainstay of American fishermen. Hodgman, Red Ball, Orvis, Marathon, and even Simms all made high-quality felt-soled waders that were available in sizes to fit shorter people. Then at some point, the remaining companies switched to using waders. As a result, it’s impossible to find quality shoes, at least in my size.

Note: There are any number of chest waders on the market. I’ve limited this discussion to those considered the best.

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