Backing my truck into the driveway one Saturday morning in October, my wife Michele was sitting on the front porch drinking coffee. “You go for a swim,” she asked with a chuckle, my pants soaked at the crotch and knees, a telltale sign of wader failure.
I’m pretty frugal; the wife would say cheap. While there are some things in which I’m willing to invest more seriously, waders aren’t one of them. Trust me, I’ve owned most every make and model under $200, only to get a couple of seasons out of any I try. I’ve asked other surfcasters their advice; Simms, Cabela’s, L.L. Bean, Hodgmans, Frogg Togg, ProLine, the recommendations are endless, and I’ve worn just about all of them.
I hang my waders on a rack in the garage after most every trip, and occasionally even rinse them with freshwater. But eventually, the seams go, hooks penetrate the fabric, or the material just wears out. I’ve used patches, epoxies and resins, but it’s always just stemming the tide. The bigger the initial investment, the harder I try miserably to stop the inevitable. Conversely, I’ll drop $60 at a shop for the least expensive breathables in a pinch, a great option for mid-season replacements which often find their way to the curb before the next run begins.
After stowing my gear and changing into dry clothes, my wife and I climbed into the pickup and headed down the road in search of yard sales and flea markets. It’s a regular fall thing for us, hunting for rare gems as folks clear out summer essentials to make room for winter items still in storage. It’s coincidentally a great way to find previously enjoyed fishing gear.
Heading into this particular trip, Michele found a Facebook post about depression era glass for sale. After being distracted off course by a couple of hi-vis signs on telephone poles towards a new tree trimmer, steel spring clamps and a heavy-duty Bogen tripod, we finally found our originally intended destination. There in the driveway lined with tchotchkes and old books we were greeted by a lovely woman sitting in a beach chair sorting through boxes.
I’m not sure if you’d call it karma, kismet, or fate, but as luck would have it, hanging on a lamp post in the yard was a set of American-made Lacrosse waders in my size. “They were my husband’s,” the woman said, “I bought them for him years ago, but he hardly ever used them.” She and I talked fishing for several minutes, particularly of husbands and wives who fish together. It was mutually agreed that the ladies typically catch more fish, and bigger ones at that, key points that Michele was more than happy to drive home.
“Neoprene,” she said as I fumbled with the leather straps of the old PVC coated nylon shell, “everyone seems to want neoprene now,” she continued, explaining how her husband recently passed which was the primary reason for the sale of the various mementos on the driveway. “For you though, $40,” she said with a smile.
Actually, we never did introduce ourselves, and I never mentioned what I did for a living, but I promised her that I would in fact use them, and use them hard. A half-hour after handing over a pair of 20s, my well-worn Cabela’s were unceremoniously deposited at the curb as my new, discontinued set of Duralites were hung in the garage in time for my Sunday morning session.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you, this wasn’t the first time I’ve bought second-hand waders, and it certainly won’t be the last. But as I cheap as I may be, I’m sentimentally hoping for quite a few tides out of these particular waders, and several good stripers. I’m sure the original owner would appreciate that.