The signs of spring—the red-wing blackbirds, the spring peepers, the trout stocking trucks—are all starting to stir, and many anglers are making plans for their first trip of the year. Though the air is warming, the water is still ice cold, especially in areas where there is still snow melting. To stay comfortable when tracking down your first fish of spring, dress right under your waders.
I never gave much thought to what I wore under my waders. If I can avoid wearing jeans or dress pants, I do—they aren’t warm, they bunch up, and they are just plain uncomfortable when worn under waders. I used to wear an old pair of sweatpants, maybe two, and tuck them into my socks so they wouldn’t ride up, but that can create an uncomfortable bulge around each ankle. (On the flipside, it’s a good look when you walk into a convenience store after coming off the water.)
Last fall, I started wearing Rogue Pants from Simms, which are designed to be worn under waders. They are warm without being too warm, have a comfortable fit and slide easily into and out of a pair of waders—no sock-tucking necessary.
The greatest challenge in under-wader wear is keeping the feet warm. I’ve tried just about everything. You can forget chemical warmers—they need air to be activated, and there isn’t enough of that circulating in the lower reaches of your waders. I’ve tried two kinds of electric socks with disappointing results. The best bet is to wear two pairs of quality socks, but not just any socks. Thick socks will restrict circulation, which will make your feet cold, and they can also cause your feet to soak with sweat, which will ultimately make them feel wet and cold.
Start with a thin liner sock made of sweat-wicking material—now is a great time to find them on sale at ski shops—and pull on a quality pair of ski socks over them. Never wear cotton socks in your wading boots, as they will soak up sweat and make your feet cold—go with wool or polypropylene material.