TO GET TO THE BEST STRETCH, park to the side of a muddy road, slog down half mile of snowed-over trail, slide down a bank disguised by a six-foot snow drift, link arms with your partner for a crossing that tests both weight and wit, tip-toe across a bar that slams pea gravel into boot crannies, and weave through a felled sugar maple while dodging stobs.
The water there rushes cellophane-clear over stony shallows and rides through deep, slow bends. Football-sized brown trout and rainbows are there — little brookies, too. And a few fishermen whose icicled beards and heavy catches flash like polished badges.
That water is so cold it burns exposed skin like fire. Let a set of waders leak and when the trickle hits the angler’s bottom, he’ll be off squealing in a high-stepping blur, breaking trail back to the pickup.
Years ago, I fished that perfect stream in a borrowed pair of Redington waders. They kept me dry and kept me fishing until dark. So I had high hopes when a new pair of complimentary Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front Waders arrived in the mail.
After a few weeks of heavy use, I can say they fish Texas-dry.
Getting into and out of waders is part of a wade angler’s rite of passage: you bundle up like Ralphie’s kid brother in A Christmas Story just in time to get hit with a coffee-thermos-inspired emergency. Your buddies stand around and chuckle as you grunt and stumble through an increasingly panicked, half-frozen wilderness burlesque.
With the front zipper on these waders, I can be in or out in seconds. I have to admit, I was more than a little skeptical about just how water proof a zipper could be. When I first used the waders I crept into the river, testing the zipper against the cold current an inch at a time. Even with the water lapping at my beltline, the RiRi Storm Waterproof Zipper and the 100% nylon DWR coated wader fabric do their job. They keep the water out.
And the zipper may well be a safety feature for any poor angler who finds his waders swamped. The shoulder straps are quick-release and adjustable for comfort.
When I first stepped into these waders, I knew they were designed with fly anglers in mind. They have the pockets I’ve been looking for. The two exterior pockets are sealed with YKK water resistant zippers and offer the perfect storage spot for fly boxes and a small waterproof camera for quick evening trips when I don’t want to worry with a vest. The interior pocket offers a safe place for tissue, car keys, driver’s license, cash, and a fishing license. (Note: You have to unzip the front zipper to get to the interior pocket.)
The waders prove themselves on my walk in to fish. I darted across a busy road, slipped down a half-manicured trail, stepped over a couple logs, hopped to and from a waist-high boulder, crouched to study the water, and climbed down into the shallows. The waders were light, so I wasn’t fatigued. They breathed well, so I didn’t get sweaty.
The articulated legs are comfortable and allow a full range of motion. The stitchless seams are Ultra Sonic Welded and double taped, which makes them more comfortable and less likely to leak. The waders are constructed from a 3-layer material and are reinforced with 5-layer fabric for durability on the legs and bottom – durable enough that I could sit on a rock or walk a trail with a little more confidence. In case of a snag, repair material comes with each set.
A good deal of my fishing over the years has been done in graveled creeks. It’s my favorite way to fish. But those creek beds are full of Kamikaze pea gravel that attacks incessantly and somehow always gets deep into my wading boot. Once it’s wedged under my heel, I try to ignore it, keep casting, and wade down the creek on my tip toes.
But eventually I break down. I rip off my boot, bounce around on one foot, and dump the rocks. I get back to fishing. And within just a few hundred feet there’s another gravel attack. On it goes all day.
When it’s time to get the hook out of a fish’s mouth, my hemostats are conveniently clipped to one of two d-rings at the base the shoulder straps. It’s all adrenaline and ‘attaboys’ when I pull a keeper out of a winter current; but as soon as the hook is out, the wind turns my fingers into numb sausages. Now, after each catch, I can slip my hands into the micro-fleece hand warmers.
The waders allow plenty of room for layers, like a fly vest or a shell over top without impeding my range of motion. (Note: Poorly sized waders are no good. The booties can be too tight. Layering can be a problem. Consider getting a professional to help find the right size for you.)
The Sonic-Pro Zip Front Wader is Redington’s finest set of waders: light, easy to pack, care for, use, and store. $349.95 buys a whole lot of dry and a great deal of functional luxury for anglers fishing perfect streams anywhere. For those who are a little more cost sensitive, Redington’s Palix River Wader and Sonic-Pro Stocking Foot Wader offer fewer bells and whistles.
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Shane was raised in the family boarding house at the edge of the Pascagoula River Swamp. Mudcat, as his closest friends know him, has hiked in the Andes, fished with machetes in the Amazon basin, and paddled dugout canoes deep within Southeast Asia's Ring of Fire. He now writes about the outdoors and the folks in it from the best city in America: Austin, Texas. Find him at http://www.batcityoutdoors.com.