Why Should I Use Waders to Fly Fish?

Have you ever watched pro-level fly fishing on YouTube or perhaps even in person? If so, then you probably noticed that most if not all the anglers were wearing waders. Are waders really that necessary when fly fishing? If so, why?

Waders are a great accessory to wear when fly fishing for these reasons:

  • Keeps you mostly dry when standing in the water to fish
  • Safeguards anglers from slithering creatures in the water
  • Offers cold-weather protection

If this is the first you’re hearing of waders, this guide is a must-read. We’ll discuss what waders are, why anglers use them, and the different wader types and materials so you can choose the right pair for you. Keep reading! 

What Are Fly Fishing Waders and Why Do You Need Them?

We’re sure you can visually identify waders, but we wanted to take the first part of this section to explain them anyway. 

Waders are boots or clothing that are waterproof. Many wader materials abound, which we’ll talk further about later, including Gore-Tex, neoprene, and PVC. The first set of waders were created in the 1850s. 

Anglers use waders a lot, as do those who are into waterfowl hunting. Other applications of waders include the fields of sewerage, water supply maintenance, aquaculture, agriculture, and chemicals.

Here are the benefits of wearing waders for fly fishing.

Keeps You Mostly Dry 

Could you catch fish when fly fishing from a boat? Yes, but that’s not how most anglers do it. 

Many of them will stand in the water to get a great vantage point of the fish and increase their chances of reeling in a fantastic catch. 

Sure, an angler could wear waterproof pants to fish in the water, but then there are just the pants between their skin and the water. With waders over a pair of waterproof pants, now there’s an extra layer for more dryness.

After all, it’s not like most anglers will catch fish in 20 minutes and then call it a day. Whether you’re fly fishing or bowfishing, you’re committing to spending hours if not the entire day out on the water. 

You need to stay as dry as you can. That will keep you from catching a cold or even the flu, and so waders are integral. 

Safeguards You from Slithering Creatures in the Water

What kind of creatures are you sharing the water with when you go fly fishing? Well, if the water is on the opaque side from disturbed sediment, then it’s nearly impossible to tell. 

If you’re only wearing a pair of waterproof pants or maybe swimwear when fly fishing, then you’ll find out the hard way what’s in the water with you when whatever that is slithers by your leg.

It could be seaweed or an eel. Who knows? 

You’ll jump a mile high and probably scream too, scaring away all the fish in the nearby radius. Plus, depending on what you’re sharing the sea with, you could get bit, stung, or otherwise injured. It’s a bad situation all around.

With a pair of waders on, you won’t even notice if you’re passing through seaweed or eels on your way to your latest catch. That will do wonders for your composure. 

Offers Cold-Water Protection

When the autumn arrives and the days get shorter, the air temperature isn’t the only thing that decreases. So too does the water temperature.

Just the thought of stepping into an icy cold body of water to go fishing seems unbearable, let alone committing to the idea of spending hours in the water at a time.

A good pair of waders can insulate you so you’re less likely to feel the cold temperatures of the water as well as the wind chill. 

You’ll be able to ward off cold and flu, as we mentioned, but more so than that, you can prevent hypothermia. 

Hypothermia can cause symptoms such as tiredness, slurred speech, lack of memory, confusion, and shivering. Without treatment, hypothermia can sometimes be deadly, especially if the exposure to cold conditions is rather prolonged. 

You’ll certainly need insulated waders when fly fishing after Labor Day! 

The Types of Waders

As we alluded to in the last section, not all waders are the same. Let’s take this section to go over the different types you can buy and wear so you can decide where waders will fit into your fly fishing accessories list. 

Wading Pants

Not quite waterproof pants but used the same way, wading pants can be worn over waterproof pants or any other pants style, including jeans. You wear wading pants the same way you do any other trousers, which makes slipping them on exceptionally easy.

That’s important if you want to get out to the fish quickly, such as when you know it’s going to rain soon. 

Another benefit of wading pants is that they don’t constrict your movements. Your upper half is completely free to move as you need to. Your lower half, while maybe not entirely flexible, can still stand, kneel, bend, and otherwise position yourself. 

Hip Waders

If you can imagine a very long pair of wellington boots, those are hip waders. 

The boots extend all the way to your hips. They’re not quite pants, as they don’t cover the upper thighs, crotch, or buttocks. 

For that reason, you won’t want to wear hip waders if you’ll be venturing into waist-deep water (or if you think you will be) unless you’re wearing upper body waterproof protection. 

For swamps, still waters, and shallow bodies of water, a good pair of hip waders is usually all you need. Since there’s less to them, you might spend less money buying hip waders than you would wading pants.

Plus, because hip waders encompass less of your lower body, you’ll have a higher degree of flexibility in a pair of these waders than you would in wading pants. 

Chest Waders

The third style of waders is the chest wader.  

Chest waders are the traditional pair of waders you’ve seen pro fishermen sport. These look like pants, as the bottom half is indeed a pair of wading pants. Chest waders will go up higher on the body than wading pants, as the waders cut off around your chest. 

A pair of overalls sit on your shoulders to keep the chest waders secure. The overalls usually come with straps or buckles for adjusting their tightness so you don’t have to worry about the overalls slipping off your shoulders all day.

Chest waders can be one of two styles: bootfoot or stockingfoot.

Let’s begin by talking about bootfoot waders. As the name implies, bootfoot waders already include boots that are attached to the pants. 

You don’t have to waste time digging through your hall closet looking or your boots. They’re always there.

The boots attached to bootfoot waders are waterproof. Plus, with the stransition from the waterproof pants to the boots, the lack of seams prevents water from ever getting in. This further fortifies the waterproofing of bootfoot waders.

The other style of chest wader is the stockingfoot wader. A stockingfoot wader refers to that which does not have boots attached. 

The pants will usually feature elastic at the hem to keep them secure around your ankle. That elastic hem is also supposed to create a waterproof seal between your foot and your boot when the boot is on and tied tightly. However, it’s on you to buy your own boots. 

Stockingfoot waders have their own benefits too. If the boots of a pair of bootfoot waders become worn or damaged, you’d have to replace the entire pair of waders even if just the boots are in poor shape. 

With stockingfoot waders, you can replace your boots at will. That said, you are paying for twice the materials compared to a pair of bootfoot waders.

Regardless of whether you want the boots attached or detached, chest waders are convenient for a multitude of reasons. Your upper body has a full range of motion, and your lower half still benefits from flexibility as well. You’re no less flexible than when wearing a pair of wader pants. 

Full-Body Waders

You’re almost never going to see anglers wear full-body waders, but they are a wader type nonetheless, so we thought we’d talk about them. 

Full-body waders are a pair of waders that cover you from head to toe. These are technically bootfoot waders since the boots are built-in. So too are gloves so your hands aren’t exposed. The waders would zip up, with a hood that goes around your head. 

Wader Materials – How to Choose

Finally, as promised, let’s talk about the various types of wader materials, as these too will influence your decision. 


The original waders were produced using vulcanized rubber. These days, rubber waders have become more uncommon, but they still exist. 

Lightweight, flexible, and very waterproof, rubber is mostly used to make wader boots but can comprise the entire suit.

Rubber waders don’t breathe very well, so if you want them, we’d recommend hip waders at most. You’re also more restricted in how you can move in a pair of rubber waders, which is another good reason to only purchase rubber hip waders. 


Few materials are more appealing for a good pair of waders than neoprene. 

Durable and very well-insulating, neoprene is available in thicknesses between three and five millimeters. The thicker the waders, the better they are for cold-water fly fishing. 

That said, thicker waders are not very breathable, so buy a pair of neoprene waders for the autumn and even winter months (depending on where you live) and then another pair made of a different material for spring and summer fly fishing. 

Polyester or Nylon

If you’re looking for the ultimate in breathability, those would be polyester or nylon waders. 

These materials on their own are lightweight and semi-waterproof, but they’ll usually have a waterproofing membrane to make them even more efficient at keeping water out. 

When the days turn cold, if you’re still fly fishing, this is when you’ll want to retire polyester or nylon waders.   

Final Thoughts

Waders are recommended for fly fishing since you must stand in the water. With a pair of waders, you can stay dry and catch as many fish as your heart desires. Now that you’re privy to wader materials and styles, you can buy a pair or several and do more fly fishing this year!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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