Fishing guides are creatures of habit. We have the same routine every morning, put on the same clothes, walk into the lodge and make the same cup of coffee and usually eat the same breakfast. That’s how the day starts. Throw a wrench in that program and you’ll probably not like how it goes. When it comes to dependable fishing/work clothing, guides are even more habitual. Sometimes to the point of belligerency. We know what works and we know what we can depend on. We depend on that gear until we can’t depend on it. The 2020 season was a turning point for me in regards to depending on gear.
Bristol Bay Alaska Fly Out Lodge work is the testament trial for waders. Absolutely nothing compares to one season of use. Guide waders go to Bristol Bay to die or live briefly. Extended life in a pair of Alaska guide waders is two seasons and you will be sweating bullets throughout that second season knowing that the leaks are coming. It’s not a matter of if they leak, it’s when are they gonna start leaking. The past few years, I along with many other Rapids Camp Lodge guides had just accepted the fact that we had to spend top money for waders at the beginning of each season knowing that said waders would be leaking like cheap cheesecloth by the first of September, if not sooner. It had become an “acceptable casualty” of the job for all of us. In other words, we conditioned ourselves to accept the unacceptable. Aka- being wet and cold in September while wearing an $800 pair of waders.
Now to be fair, a pair of waders should not last forever and I am exceptionally hard on gear. We are asking a synthetic fabric to keep us dry while standing in water. There has to be a shelf life on that. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” simply is true. However, shouldn’t an $800 pair of waders keep an Alaska guide dry for more than 90 days? I think so. It’s just an opinion but, I think so. Granted, the guide price is less than $800 but, it’s still in the several hundred dollar ranges. Despite what nonprofessional anglers believe, most of us do have to pay hard-earned money for our work gear. There are boxes that have to be checked in order for a professional guide to spend hard-earned money on waders all while hoping they just make it through September without leaking. Until the beginning of the spring 2020 Alaska season, I had been a creature of habit for the previous 20+ years. Since Gore-Tex waders had been conceived, I had stayed with one company because they worked. Over the winter of 2019-20, that program quit working. Therefore, I made a change.
I ordered the relatively new Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders as my go-to for the 2020 Alaska season at Rapids Camp Lodge. I had heard some good things from other guides and felt somewhat ok about my decision. As a curmudgeonly creature of habit, it was admittedly difficult to make the change. Alas, something had to give. I figured the worst thing that would happen was that I was wearing a chic-looking pair of waders and still cold and wet come September. Seems fine. Right? At least the customer service from Patagonia is second to none in the industry. I had that going for me. How bad could it really be???
The first thing I noticed upon donning the new “Gucci” waders was that they fit. Like, really fit. I didn’t feel the same confinement as the “Gumby” suit that I was accustomed to wearing. It felt like I had put on a pair of pants that had a little extra up top. Ok great. Box checked. The next thing I noticed was that the new waders seemed really durable. The material seemed like it would hold up for a tag alder infested tundra march as well as take the abuse of me performing the guide duty of wrestling a floatplane in the wind. Again, box checked. Now with these boxes checked there were only two more boxes of significant importance.
- How well do they really breathe?
- Will they make it to September without leaking? The answers to both would only come at a time when it is crucial for the wader to perform. They either will or they won’t.
End result is the Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders perform far above and beyond any wader I have ever worn in over three decades of guiding and four decades of wader wearing. (Yes I am old.) My opinion is that the breathability is better than any counterpart wader in the same price range and higher. This is solely based on my wearing said waders and performing 12-15 mile tundra hikes with a 50-pound backpack five days a week during one of the hottest Alaska summers on record. I don’t care what the algorithms in the test labs say. The Patagonia waders breathe better than any other wader I have worn. That’s real life. As far as the big white elephant in the room, how did they hold up? I wore them 95% of my workdays from June through September and they still do not leak. In fact, for the most part, they still look mostly new. The pictures speak for themselves.
Thanks for reading.
Chad Bryson- Head Guide Rapids Camp Lodge