[Guide] Base Layers for Flyfishing Waders

Do you suffer from sticky wader leg syndrome? Does the stink emanating from your waders after only 2 days into a week long fishing trip clearing out your camp? Are you wondering why you’re legs are soaked with sweat after a long day in your Gore-tex waders? I’m going to let you in on a little known secret in the fly fishing community to sweat and stink free waders. Something that all outdoor enthusiasts already know, whether they are backpackers, skiers, or climbers… Base layers aren’t just for the bitter cold of winter. They make them for spring and summer use too.

Many gear labels have been making ultra lightweight base layers for some time now, either in synthetic or merino wool.

Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Bottoms

If you suffer from sweaty, soggy, stinky waders, even with the top of the line Gore Tex ovies, try out a pair of these. They can even turn a $100 pair of LL Bean introductory waders into an actually comfortable experience. Trust me, I fished in a pair of those for three years before I saw the light. Furthermore, most waders are double layered from the thigh down as “gravel guards”. This puts a big hamper on any breathability down there. A lot of the breathable comfort, in my experience, comes from the material from the knee up.

My Experience

Last fall, I went on a week long vision-quest style road trip to Montana with a buddy of mine to fish the Big Horn, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers. I bought two new key pieces of gear for the trip. A pair of Orvis SilverSonic waders, and a new pair of Patagonia Capilene Lightweight bottoms. Knowing that you’ve got a week of fishing ahead of you is a good time to justify an upgrade to “big boy” waders, but it’s also a good time to plan ahead to minimize the funk. That last week of September in Montana, we saw day time highs of 85 and nighttime temps drop down into the high 40’s. Since we were car camping the whole week, our waders had about an hour of warm weather to drive at the end of the day before they just got socked with dew.

These Capilene bottoms helped a lot with minimizing the funk the can develop from sweating and skin-to-wader contact, besides making waders feel a whole lot breathable. In fact, most waders perform far better and feel better with a base layer on underneath. And no, gym shorts don’t count as a baselayer. Nor do jeans. Check out this article by Yellowstone Angler, comparing a bunch of the top brand waders in a head-to-head shootout (it helped me decide to buy the SilverSonic’s)

If you’re thinking that they would feel hot and sweaty, they don’t. Rather than insulate, lightweight base layers thermo regulate. Meaning, the feeling of any temperature changes becomes mellowed out. So rather than a feeling of warmth, you feel a constant temperature. Even when your top half is getting cooked above water and you’re submerged in 55 degree from the waist down.