I seem to have nothing but bad luck with waders. It's becoming expensive and annoying, to be honest. I read stories about guides who put in 200 days per year in a pair of waders, and they last for year after year and after year. I swear that I never get even 100 days out of a pair of waders without some trouble along the way. Yes, I did have a pair of Red Ball super lightweight waders that lasted me close to 2 decades, but to be honest, I rarely fished during those 20 years. I spent more time running ultramarathons and fishing on occasion.
So, two weekends ago, on opening day, I did walk into a ground-level barbed wire fence while wearing my waders. I have the Orvis Super Sonic Guide Waders. I got these two years earlier, when my previous waders developed leaks in the seams and Orvis offered a good deal on an upgrade. So, I took that deal and I like the waders. I've had zero complaints with these waders, to be honest.
After I stumbled into the barbed wire on opening day, I looked the waders over carefully. Other than cosmetic damage on the boot gaiter, I couldn't find any problems. I fished in the water for a few hours with no problems. I stayed warm and dry.
Last night, I got out again for the first time since then. My very first step into the river greeted me with cold and wetness. It quickly became clear that there are 3 holes in the left leg of the waders and none in the right. To be honest, most of the damage to the gaiter was on the right side, which makes this even more confusing to me.
So, I fished for a few minutes. But, the current was high (a river I prefer to fish in the 1000-1400cfs range was at 3000cfs), cold, and off color. Plus, given the flows, it was hard to even get my streamer out to where I normally catch fish. After 15 minutes, to be honest, I was cold, wet and pissed off.
So I went home. I might have thrown a little temper tantrum (When dealing with cancer as a constant backdrop in your life, sometimes emotions just win). Orvis can take up to 6 weeks to fix a pair of waders. To be honest, I have not yet fully investigated the extent of the damage. It might be minor damage (maybe some tearing) from the barbed wire fence. But, if so, why did I stay dry two weeks ago? It might also be a red squirrel that's been living in my wood pile in my garage. It's possible the waders were chewed on while I stored them in the garage, and if that happened, repair could be very difficult.
So, with some of the best fly fishing of the season just a couple weeks away, what do I do? First of all, I should have 2 pairs of functioning waders. I simply cannot take 6 weeks off fishing every time I get a leak.
So, my wife volunteered that I should get a second set of waders. I had a way to get a decent deal on some new waders and took advantage of that. It's an expensive set of waders from a high priced company, but at least I was able to get the deal. I did that this morning.
Next, I need to finish drying out my waders and inspect them. If I find small holes, I will repair the old waders myself. If I find that the squirrel chewed them up, and the holes are larger, I'll send them back for repair.
But, at least I'll be able to fish in the interim. And, after repair work, I'll have a second set of waders. And then, I'll get my third pair back from a friend who has been borrowing them, and test them out, hoping they can be a third pair or something my son or wife can use on occasion.
I also clearly need another way to store my waders. They need to be hanging at all times, and at a place where no f*cking squirrels can eat them. But, I'll figure that out.
I would never go through life with only one fly rod, one reel, one pair of wading boots, one wading staff, or just a single box of flies. Yet, somehow, I've set myself up for a single point of failure with my waders, And, I feel like an idiot.
How long has it been since I bought my first ever hip boots (Yes, that's how old I am; I started with hip boots)? Probably well over 40 years and somehow, I'm just learning this lesson now? In those days, I couldn't afford backups and I would wet wade a lot anyway. I wet wade when I can these days, but it will be two months or so before it's warm enough to do that comfortably here in VT. Plus, I fish into November, and late fall is not wet wading season in VT.
Well, nobody ever promised this was an easy sport. Or cheap. Or that I'd be any good at it. I just keep working at it, trying to get better, and trying to keep on top of my gear. I honestly think that I have gotten to the point where I own way more fly fishing gear (in terms of dollars) than I own skiing gear. And, I've been teaching skiing for 17 years now.
I know that fly fishing can be done differently than I do it. Simms, Patagonia and Orvis aren't the only wader or boot manufacturers out there. I don't have to be in love with Hardy rods or Hatch reels. I don't really need an Orvis credit card.
At the same time, despite all of my year of experience in this sport, I still feel like a rookie at times. And, if I can spend a few dollars to ward off a rookie mistake, well, I guess I'll do that.
I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog, to be honest, but any guesses when I will actually catch a fish this year? My guess is Thursday, 5/4.