Female anglers have been at a disadvantage with regards to gear for years. Our options have been limited at best and frustrating at worse if they even existed. For years, I’ve walked into fly shops only to leave in frustration and disgust as I look at the racks upon racks of men’s gear and clothing and mad as all get out at the male anglers trying to sell me a men’s small or something in pink. Thankfully, manufactures are realizing not only do women fly fish and they plan on staying in the sport, but we sure are ready to buy good well designed gear made especially for us. Yes, there have been waders made for women on the market for a while, but they are either feature poor or priced incredibly high. Patagonia, just entering this market in January 2014, is a bit late to the game, but the wait is well worth it.
For starters, the fit, arguable one of the most important features, is incredible. A poor fitting pair of waders wears out quickly if there is excess fabric, or can cause irritation if too tight in the wrong places. Excess fabric can also lead to discomfort and hinder mobility. If water is rising or an angler needs to move quickly, the excess fabric can become dangerous in addition to cumbersome which is why women should not buy men’s waders. Don’t do it ladies, ever.
The fit on the Patagonia Spring River Women’s Waders is tailored perfectly to a women’s figure. They are made with enough ease to easily accommodate variances in body shape without being too bulky or too tight in any one area. I ordered the regular small even though my bust measurement is a smidge larger than the size chart and my hips are a smidge smaller than the size chart. I also wear a women’s size 7.5 shoe and my feet with a pair of Smartwool socks and Simms wading socks fit very comfortably in the bootie of the wader. They are also still comfortable without the Simms wading socks. I have not tried them barefoot. Even with a tee shirt, a fishing shirt, and a pullover sweater, I had enough room in my waders to access the inside waterproof pocket, but not too much to feel bulky.
These are the first pair of waders I’ve ever worn that I’ve forgotten I had on waders. From getting my rod rigged after slipping on the waders to walking through a field to fishing on a drift boat to wading on the Norfork, I easily forgot I had on a pair of waders. My previous pair of Lady Hodgeman always felt like waders, and I felt clunky lumbering around, but the Patagonia just felt comfortable. I was able to move freely in all conditions. On the river, the fit of the waders allowed them to hug my legs as I waded without bulking up in any one particular spot and they didn’t add drag as I waded. I could walk through deeper areas as well as shallow areas with ease. I was even able to kneel down in the river to release the lovely big rainbow I landed without any issue. The waders moved with me like an outfit should. On the boat, they were comfortable as I casted from the drift boat, allowing me to move easily with full mobility. They were also great wind protection and kept me warm.
For features, the waders are incredibly feature rich. The suspender feature provides convenient, the hand warmer pocket is fabulous, and the two waterproof pockets are wonderfully accessible. The suspenders also include clip on tabs for zingers so you can keep items in very easy reach. The wool lined booties are a great feature for colder stream wading, especially for women who’s feet tend to be colder than most men. Overall, this is my new favorite piece of gear, in fact the gear driving me towards finding a time to fish again just so I can use them. After springing a leak in my Lady Hodgeman waders, thanks to a thorn, I hobbled through November and December being careful of how deep I waded, so I could wait until January to order the Patagonia Spring River waders. I’m glad I waited because these waders were well worth the wait and I’d order them again in a heartbeat.
Pros: The fit. These are the best fitting, most comfortable waders I’ve worn. The anatomically correct legs and feet give a tailored streamline fit without too much excess fabric. The waders are also feature rich, including the much talked about suspender system.
Cons: If anything, maybe the price. Coming in at $399, the waders are not inexpensive but they are also not the most expensive on the market. They are not designed for someone who wants to tryout fly fishing. Instead, the waders are designed for female anglers, those who love the sport and are willing to invest in it. That said, if you are a man and want to get your lovely lady into fishing and have the means to afford these AND accept life if she doesn’t fall in love with fishing, then these waders will help her fall in love with the sport and not be the deterrent that most other waders will be because she will look darn cute in them and still feel like a lady.