I have a bladder the size of a Wheatley fly box. Toss in a cold autumn morning and - as George would say, 'Shrinkage' - and peeing on the river becomes a major ordeal.
Well, no more. My new Patagonia zippered waders will see to that. No more shedding layers - peeling like an onion to get the straps down and the pecker out. No more worrying about the second cup of coffee, or the third. The robust waterproof zipper on the Rio Gallegos waders might be a wondrous piece of technology, but to me it's just plain practical and long overdue.
As a professed gear geek and former journalist, I research the heck out of every major purchase. My chief criteria for waders were comfort, durability, and practicality. The most extravagant waders don't amount to anything if you can't kneel in them or they don't breathe properly.
I generally like and use Simms fishing products, but the Montana-based company missed the mark on their wader design. Simply put, the neoprene cuffs wear out. Guides and serious fly-fishers frequently scuff their ankles while wading and climbing in and out of drift boats; I'm surprised that Simms hasn't properly thought this through.
In contrast, Patagonia has. Maybe that has something to do with company founder and avid fly-fisher Yvon Chouinard, who seems to bring a mountaineer's mindset to Patagonia's design team.
The burly, form-fitting gravel guards on the Rio Gallegos remind me of a rugged hiking gaitor. I don't pussyfoot around with my choice of wading boots, and I want a cuff that will stand up to them.
Another feature I really like on the Patagonia waders is the quickly adjustable straps, which eliminate having to roll or bunch the waders down to your waist on warmer days, as with other brands. With a flick of the tabs on the Patagonia straps, you can adjust the waders to any length from armpits to crotch.
I expect we'll be seeing similar designs from other manufacturers soon.
Toss in lined, generously sized handwarmer pockets, storage galore, and a sculpted fit, and the Rio Gallegos are as close as it gets to the perfect fishing wader. A non-zippered version is also available, and a lifetime warranty doesn't hurt, either.
For more information and your closest dealer, visit Patagonia's Canadian fly-fishing site.