Woman fly-fishing, mountain lake

New year, new gear. Or is it that simple? Landowners and anglers, particularly women, might have more options than we could ever consider when it comes to selecting wader boots. Here’s a guide to narrow the field:

Image of Buckskin Mary Boot from Korkers
Buckskin Mary Boot, available for $140 via Korkers (image courtesy, Korkers)

Terrain

The first factor to weigh is where you’ll be wearing your wading boots. If your intentions are to hike wooded areas and along stream and riverbanks more than actually walk through them, avoid felt soles, which wear down more easily than sticky rubber. Felt is frowned upon by some, too, for its ability to transfer “hitch hiking” organisms from stream to stream. Check with your state to confirm it is not banned. Most importantly, keep your boots clean between uses. Older or disabled anglers, or those in super slick environments, might feel more secure with felt soles, while rubber fans have crampons and studs to offer grip. Can’t decide? Simms Intruder has a hybrid option (see below), and Korkers offers an interchangeable outsole.

Seasonal use

You can keep your feet dry without laying in waders. Go wet wading in warmer climates wearing neoprene socks with gravel guards. Socks for standard-turned-wet waders start at $25. On the high end, Patagonia sells a stylish pair complete with Fitz Roy Trout logo for $45. When sizing wet wader boots, check whether neoprene socks are built-in. Your foot won’t have room to double up.

Image of Patagonia Fly Fishing Neoprene Socks with Gravel Guard
Patagonia Fly Fishing Neoprene Socks with Gravel Guard, available for $45 via Patagonia (image courtesy, Patagonia)

Size

Sizing waders can be a challenge, especially for female anglers. Men should order one size up as wading boots are sized to allow room for wading socks.

Waders labeled Men’s by most retailers are simply unisex, and female anglers need to order one size down from their regular boot size. (A woman with a US size 8 boot should order a men’s wading boot size 7). For women, that can pose a slight riddle, if a woman’s size 8 is a man’s size 7, but men should order a size up, should you order a 9? Retailers say order an 8. Check for a free return shipping policy, order both, and return the ones that don’t fit. (Compared to online, brick-and-mortar wader boot shopping is like hunting for Easter eggs with time and fuel costs.) Some online retailers offer size charts when ordering. A few retailers sell women’s wading boots. Size charts are straight forward, but keep in mind women’s “fit” might be little more than a marketing label.

Simms Intruder Boot, available for $180 via Simms (image courtesy, Simms)

Weight

Weight is one factor highlighted by gender-specific shopping, but all anglers should keep in mind how much boot they feel like hauling for a day on the water. At 36 ounces per pair, Patagonia Women’s Ultralight Wading Boots ($189) weigh in at nearly half that of Simms Headwaters® Pro Boot ($140 on sale), which weigh around 30 ounces per foot.

At least half-a-dozen lightweight styles are on the market, and several more not labeled lightweight fall comfortably in the middle.

Entry level & economy

The same way nippers can cost you $5 or $50, the cost of wading boots ranges from $80 to $300. Fly fishing has a gadget-heavy market, but “the quiet sport” is all about peace of mind. If you know you won’t be on the water much or you’re just getting started, protect your purse. You do not need to spend a fortune on high end wading boots. Cabela’s, White River, and Orivs all offer wading boots for $80; Redington for $110.

Style

Have a soft spot for vintage gear? This female angler opts for the reliability of a new boot for destination fly fishing, but some fashionable size 8 woman should buy these awesome vintage Orvis wading boots. Aren’t they pure style? Maybe just get them for light stream treks on your land? Any excuse. eBay offers endless wader boot window shopping, new and used.

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  • Heather Richie is a writer & producer whose special interest is the land traditions—particularly the foodways and sporting—of the modern American and unbordered Souths.

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