Do I Need To Buy A Pair Of Fishing Waders?

An angler walks across a blue landscape holding a fly rod.

We wear waders because we’re creatures of comfort. Typically, when chasing trout and salmon, we’re plying cold waters. It’s difficult to stand in cold water for long periods of time, and it can be dangerous and hypothermic, if you’re not wearing waders.

Wearing waders while fishing for cold water species will extend your fishing time and allow you to withstand the elements for as long as you wish.

Anglers in tropical destinations do not wear waders because the combination of warmer water and higher air temperatures allow for “wet wading” conditions.

You’re Going to Need Waders If...

  • You’re steelhead fishing in the fall, spring, or winter.
  • You’re a trout fisherman that loves wading cold tailwater fisheries and fishing in the spring, fall and winter.
  • You’re a saltwater fisherman in New England or in any northern ocean where water temperatures hover around 50 degrees.

For those of us who chase cold water species and spend more time riverside than in the seat of a boat, waders are a must. The only way you’re going to be able to make cast after cast for that fish-of-a-thousand-casts is if you’re dry and comfortable.

Take a tailwater fishery like Arizona’s Lee’s Ferry: Even on a hot day, it’s almost impossible to stand in its numbingly cold waters for any time without a pair of insulated waders.

Who Doesn’t Need Waders?

Anglers in the western part of the U.S. or anywhere where air temperatures are warmer and drier. In those conditions, anglers only need waders during the coldest part of the spring, fall, and winter.

During the summer, waders aren’t needed. A quick-drying pair of pants and sandals or wading boots is all you need. During hot and dry Montana days, standing waist deep in cool mountain water is a pleasure you don’t want to miss.

Before you go out and buy a pair of waders, be honest with yourself about the type of fishing you’ll do the most. Only fish in the summer months out West? Then you may not need a pair. If you like to rock hop small mountain streams in the mountains, a nice pair of hiking boots, rubber boots, or hip waders may be all you need.

You Don’t Need Waders When...

  • You’re doing all your fishing from a boat and won’t be getting out to wade.
  • You fish tropical destinations like the southern coasts or anyplace the air and water temperatures are on the warmer side.
  • You do most your fishing from the banks of a river or pond.
  • You fish tiny trout streams.
  • Hypothermia isn’t a concern.

Waders are great inventions. They allow us to spend more time in cold water fishing for the species we love. Most of us are going to want a pair of waders, but it doesn’t always mean that they’re totally necessary.

The pleasure of wading a stream in the summer time with a good pair of boots or sandals (and without the constraints and clammy feeling of a pair of waders) is one of the great pleasures of fly fishing.

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