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Author: Frank Ross
When replacing gear only means a 30 minute drive or clicking onto Cabela's web site, having the best may not mean that much. When you're in Canada's Northwest Territories, 250 miles from the closest town and 200 miles from the Arctic Circle, gear failure means a ruined trip.
On a recent trip to this region of the world, fly-fishing for grayling was one of my options, so I phoned Joel Yuodsnukis, Cabela's wader product manager. I was looking for the lightest, toughest pair of waders possible. Weight was a consideration because of baggage limitations on the floatplane that makes the final leg of this trip. I was limited to 70 pounds. When you add up a rifle, rods, reels, hunting boots, spotting scope, binoculars and enough clothes and raingear to last a week, the pounds add up quickly.
After discussing the terrain and water I'd be fishing, Joel suggested that I take along a pair of Cabela's Premium Dry-Plus Waders. One of the factors that led to his recommendation, beyond the weight issue, was footing. Cabela's has been making these waders with stocking feet for some time, but this year the boot foot model was introduced and that meant one less thing to pack, or forget to pack. This area is covered in rocks and the grayling stream was only accessible by a two and a half-mile hike. As a matter of fact, there are more rocks than dirt on the tundra. Plants are so desperate to find a place to sink their roots that many grow in the cracks of rocks. Naturally, all of the rocks in the water are covered with moss. I'm not a worrywart, but breaking an arm or wrist in a bad fall was a major concern, since medical attention was almost two hours away by floatplane.
On the morning of our scheduled grayling hike, everything was wet from a storm that had blown through overnight, and a crisp breeze was dropping the wind-chill down into the 30s. I also took a pair of wader liner pants. I'm not into being cold, and since I'm on the thin side I have to make up for a lack of insulation by wearing extra layers and warm socks. After slipping on a pair of liner socks and Cabela's Ultimax wool socks, I followed with the liner pants, a Windsheer jacket and then the waders. I decided to make the hike in my waders instead of carrying them because I had two rods and a backpack full of camera gear and Snickers candy bars -an important fly-fishing accessory.
Cabela's liner pants are designed to manage moisture, so I wasn't too concerned about the heat that a long walk would generate. Their outer shell is combined with a polyester micro-fleece lining to wick moisture away as quickly as it's generated. A comfortable fit is easily created with an elasticized waistband and drawstring. Around the ankles, a Velcro®-cuff eliminates the problem of riding up, and when you're just hanging out around the cabin you can convert them back to a straight-leg design. To keep things from slipping out of your pockets and sliding down into your waders, the rear pocket and two front pockets are zippered.
When we began our walk I simply opened up my jacket to release heat from my upper body, and even after almost two hours of hiking up and down rocky hills I was very comfortable in the waders.
During our jaunt we came to an area on the backside of the peninsula we were crossing, where it descended to the river we would fish. As I stood on the hill looking down at 100 yards of thick brush I wondered about damaging the waters with a snag. The last thing I wanted was a pair of leaking waders after such a long hike. I hesitated a moment, then forged ahead, comforted by the knowledge that I had brought waders with a reputation for rugged construction.
Prior to my trip, Joel had explained the care and attention to detail that sets these waders apart. The seams are taped with the highest quality tape in the industry for durability and 100% waterproof reliability. A new nylon gaiter is sewn on for additional strength, and with their rubberized elastic cuff I didn't have to worry about debris collecting in the boot. One of the most unique aspects of the boots is the way they wrap around your foot and ankle, providing ankle support and comfort. The deciding factor for me was the felt soles, and as the day progressed I was more impressed with their effectiveness. To cap off this great design a tightly woven micro denier nylon fabric is combined with a Dry-Plus® membrane for extreme protection and breathability.
Double-layer knees prevent wear and tear when kneeling on rocky stream banks and I did a bunch of that, posing for photos with all of the big grayling I caught.
After we arrived at the river, I quickly assembled my 4-piece, 4-wt. Willow Creek travel fly rod and waded into the swift current. This area had received more rain in the past few weeks than in all of previous four seasons and water was running high and fast. In a matter of minutes I managed to feel my way out into the main stream and induce a fat grayling to take a black scud.
At first I was moving very slowly and deliberately, unsure of how effective the felt sole would be on the moss-laden rocks, but it didn't take long for me to start moving freely. After a full day of wading I hadn't slipped or even come close, but I had caught a bunch of fish. The area we were fishing had not been fished in over two years, and needless to say, the fish weren't spooked by even my most clumsy presentations.
All too soon the trip was over. If I had it to do over again the only thing I would do differently is spend more time fly-fishing for grayling. Catching 18- to 20-inch grayling on a 4-wt fly rod is something to behold.
Click here to view Cabela's Premium Dry-Plus Waders.
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