Philip Weigall test drives a pair of lightweight stockingfoot waders.
Along with the likes of graphite rods and wide arbor reels, breathable waders have proved to be one of the true ‘breakthrough’ products in fly fishing. That’s not to say that breathables are essential for every fly fishing situation: conventional hip boots remain convenient for short trips and shallow water, and wet wading is fine if the day is warm and water temperatures mild. However, I can think of at least three recent situations where breathables—in this case, a pair of Simms Lightweights—proved indispensable.
The first was a muggy summer day on the Goulburn: air temperature 35°C, but the water just 12°C—verging on unbearable for wet wading. I stayed cool walking from one spot to the next, yet warm while standing in waist deep water.
The second occasion was a three day trek into Tasmania’s northern highlands during some icy spring weather. I needed waders that were light and compact, yet capable of keeping me warm and dry in sub-zero temperatures. Wear-ing the Lightweights in combination with polyprops and polafleece trousers, it proved to be my flyline freezing to the runners, not cold, that eventually forced me from the water.
The third occasion was a summer day trip to alpine Lake Skinner. The Lightweights fitted neatly into the back of my fly vest for the stiff 90 minute walk in, kept me comfortable when I was forced to wade the deep edges and 9°C water, yet offered good freedom of movement as I rock-hopped around Skinner’s cluttered banks.
The question is, do the Simms Lightweights offer particular advantages over other breathables?
Being a true Gore-Tex wader, Simms Lightweights are saltwater resistant, unlike many other breathable wader brands which soon perish when exposed to salt. In terms of portability, the Lightweights are competitive, folding into a very compact package and pulling the weigh-net scales down to just 1 kilo. When it comes to comfort and fit, Lightweights in common foot-sizes are available in no less than 6 different body and leg combinations, so it is easy to find a perfect match to body shape.
While it is too soon to personally assess the all-important durability and longevity of the Lightweights, the early signs are good. The leg fronts have laminated reinforcement, and despite pushing through a fair bit of scrub already, so far no leaks. (And the comprehensive repair kit that comes with the waders is a nice touch, just in case!)
Talking to retailers, the Lightweights have an excellent record, with warranty repairs apparently very rare. This fits with Simms’ established record for quality. I have a pair of Simms wading boots that are still going strong after 12 years—including some periods when they doubl-ed as hiking boots! So the heritage is promising.
As for the Lighweight’s shortcomings, the only feature I really missed was built-in gravel guards. These are available on some of Simms top-of-the-range waders, but not on the Lightweights. Price-wise, at around the $650 mark the Lightweights are dearer than some breathables on the market. However that’s hardly exorbitant, especially considering the Lightweight’s Gore-Tex construction.
Overall, Simms Lightweight waders qualify for serious consideration by anyone in the market for a pair of breathable waders, particularly if fishing in brackish or salt water is contemplated.
For more information contact Mayfly Tackle: phone 03 98990034.