Why Fly Fishers Wear Waders When They Don’t Seem Necessary

Why do fly fishers wear waders when fishing a small creek on an 80-degree day?

I admit to doing an eye-roll when I’ve seen fly fishers do this. But as one of our podcast listeners recently reminded me, there are at least two good reasons for it. I added a couple more that came to mind. So here are four reasons you might want to wear chest waders even when they don’t seem necessary.

1. Ticks

Ticks spread Lyme Disease.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 300,000 people a year get Lyme Disease. Most cases occur in the Northeast and upper Midwest. In fact, 14 states account for over 96% of cases reported to the CDC.

It makes sense that chest waders can provide an effective shield. Of course, long pants and long-sleeved shirts can help, too. But it’s possible that chest waders offer a bit more protection from a tick crawling up underneath your pants leg or untucked shirt and burrowing into your flesh.

2. Poison Ivy

I remember getting nasty rashes when I was a boy after tromping through the brush on my grandparents’ farm in Pennsylvania. The culprit was poison ivy.

Once again, a pair of long nylon pants and a long-sleeved might be sufficient. But waders might just be the ticket. If you know you’ve walked through poison ivy, be careful about grabbing the legs of your waders when you remove them!

3. Snakebites

I have a few friends who always wear waders when in rattlesnake or copperhead country. Sure, a venomous snake’s fangs could puncture your waders and sink into your calf. But it’s also possible the fangs could get caught in your baggy waders.

Honestly, I don’t know how effective this works — and I hope I never have to find out. But if you have had firsthand experience with waders preventing a snakebite, I’d love to hear from you.

4. Warmth

On a cold winter or spring day, chest waders are the ticket for staying warm. They provide an extra layer of insulation, and they are waterproof.

Do you think of any other reasons to wear chest waders when the temperature is so warm or the water is so shallow to make them unnecessary?

I don’t always wear chest waders when I’m fly fishing. But when I do, it’s for a good reason.

5 Replies to “Why Fly Fishers Wear Waders When They Don’t Seem Necessary”

  1. I have an old pair of leaky waders that I wear for small stream fishing where you wouldn’t think waders are necessary. In addition to the reasons you state, I wear them because streams are messy, muddy places and waders are pretty much heavy duty coveralls; like I said, the waders are leaky, but they are good enough for slopping around in ankle deep water, through brambles and over muddy logs. I also wear them when I shovel the walk. It gives old waders a second life rather than just throw them away.

  2. This reminded me of last autumn when I was walking down to the stream early one morning. I was making my way quitely through some stream side weeds and dodging a few spiderwebs which had sprouted up over night. Looking down I glimpsed a spider balenced right along the top of my waders. As I raised my hand to brush him along on his way (way the hell away from me) I stumble and watched as the fun little guy fell down inside my waders. If you listen intentionally on a quiet summers morning I believe you can still here my blood curling scream.

  3. If you are going to spend a few hours standing in cold water, it doesn’t matter how hot the air temperature is, if you are kneeling behind a rock with water above your crotch! Most of the places I go fishing from the bank is nearly impossible, way too many trees!
    It must be nice to be up north and not have to deal with quite so much vegetation.

  4. I propose that wearing waders is a good precaution to prevent an infection, and possibly sepsis, if you have a scratch, wound, or open sore. Think about what fish and wildlife do in the water and the stream banks. Not to mention that many municipalities have their waste treatment plants on the very streams and rivers we fish.

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