Anyone who has taken the time to read the Welcome page of the Unaccomplished Angler knows that I don’t do gear reviews, per se. Well, like so many fishermen are prone to do, I lied. That being said, bar none the single best gear acquisition I’ve made in recent years would have to be my Dan Bailey waders (the Monomaster being a close second). I’d purchased another brand of breathable waders less than a year before seeing these modern marvels in one of the multiple magazines I prescribe to (‘prescribe’ is not a typo), and I knew right away I had to have a pair. Now one might think it a foolish waste of money to buy an expensive pair of waders when a perfectly good and much less expensive pair of waders hangs in the garage. But before you judge me too harshly, let me remind you that behaviors regarding anything related to fly fishing do not fall under the category of “rational.” No, I did not need them. But I wanted them. That’s all the justification I required as I waxed and polished my credit card and marched confidently into All About the Fly to make the purchase.
At this point I ran into an unexpected logjam: After 42 years I was shocked to find that most men are taller than me. There were size L and XL to choose from, but they didn’t have my size (apparently they don’t keep children’s waders in stock). Luckily they could order me a pair, and within a week I had a pair of size medium Dan Bailey EZ Zip Guide Waders that fit like a loose-fitting glove. Reminiscent of a little kid with a brand new pair of Ked’s sneakers, I was so enthused that I wore them home from the shop. On the way I stopped at the local grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner, and the cashier apparently really liked my new waders too, because she kept staring at them. Who could blame her – they’re really quite something to behold. But don’t take my word for it – read what the manufacturer has this to say about the merits of the EZ-Zips:
“…a front access RIRI waterproof zipper for exceptional ease on and off, plus the convenience of the zipper for adjusting to vent air for your maximum comfort…Many fishermen roll down the upper portion of traditionally designed waders to cool off or for shallow water wading. Just zip down the zipper and your upper body will cool off.”
This all sounds quite impressive, but I bought them not for the ease of getting them on or off, or for the ability to quickly cool my upper body. No, I bought them for the matter of liquid.
Fishing is all about liquid: From the water in which we stand when wading, which is the same water that floats our boat, to the great amounts of water that falls from the sky in the form of cold rain upon the hoods of insane anglers who find themselves fishing during the winter months when sane anglers are huddled around a crackling fire reading books about summer trout fishing. But fishing is also about other liquids – the liquids that float our kidneys: The coffee we drink in the morning as we’re driving to the lake, or for those unenlightened souls who never acquired the taste for grown-up caffeine, the Coke they have with breakfast in camp before hitting the river. During the cold months we may take a break from not catching fish to sit in the cab of a truck with the engine running to thaw our toes and pour a hot cup of something from our thermos. When it’s hot, we may drink water or some variety of other bottled/canned beverages to keep ourselves properly hydrated, or to perhaps drown our sorrows when the fish repeatedly refuse our offerings.
Suffice it to say, beverages factor prominently into the lives of anglers, and what goes in, must come out. And unless you’re body is not functioning properly, sooner or later anglers must relieve themselves. If an angler is of the female gender, the act of relieving oneself is not a simple endeavor and that’s all I’m going to say about that. But if you’re a guy, the task at hand (no pun intended) can be as easy as standing up and letting things flow. However, much of the time we anglers find ourselves swathed in layers of clothing that make the simple act of relieving ourselves a bit more labor intensive. Let’s assume, for the sake of this example, that the fisherman (and it’s OK in this case to say fisherman because I’m referring of course to the men in the listening audience) is wearing the following gear/clothing: Long johns, fleece pants, a fleece jacket and a few other cumbersome layers to restrict upper body movement, waders, and a gore-tex jacket. Maybe some gloves, too. With this laundry list it’s safe to conclude that it’s a cold day. It’s probably raining or perhaps even snowing, and if it isn’t, there’s likely a cold winter breeze blowing. You’re standing thigh-deep in a frigid river, and suddenly your bladder reminds you of the 3 cups of coffee you ingested 2 hours ago. Now, barring a catheter or Adult Depends (which I have considered, mind you), you’ve got two choices: Ignore it or deal with it. If you choose to the former, that’s your decision and you must pay the consequences. But if you’re like me you must deal with the situation, so let’s assume that to be the course of action.
Now most guys don’t relieve themselves at the first hint of a full bladder–we file the urge away for as long as we can (it’s the same instinct that prevents us from stopping and asking for directions). Afterall, if you don’t maximize the amount of time that your fly is in the water, your chances of catching a fish are greatly diminished, and the odds of catching fish are stacked against you in the first place. So, by the time you admit to yourself that you must do something about the growing discomfort low in your abdomen, you realize you have a problem. Glancing over your shoulder towards shore, you become painfully aware of just how long it’s going to take before you can actually do something about it. You’re 30 feet from the river’s edge. Beyond that it’s another 15 yards of gravel bar before the privacy of some bushes. The current is strong enough that you must choose your steps carefully so as not to loose your footing: A tumble in the icy water would quickly put an end to your day of not catching fish and leave you soaked, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid by getting to shore as quickly as possible. The going is slow, but you make it to water’s edge. Your bladder is barking at you to hurry it up, so you quicken your steps over the gravel bar. You don’t dare break into a run because each step is a careful orchestration of muscle control: Using the right ones while not relaxing certain others. Finally you reach the safety of the bushes, locate a suitable branch on which to lean your fly rod, and commence to disrobe.
The first possible task at hand may be that of removing your gloves. Admittedly, gloves worn while fishing are cumbersome so let’s assume you’re not wearing any, which expedites your mission. Next, you must embark on the adventure of unzipping your rain jacket. With numb fingers (because you weren’t wearing any gloves) this sort of simple dexterity becomes considerably more difficult and the unthinkable happens: The storm flap gets caught in the teeth of the zipper. Now you’ve nearly got a crisis on your hands. To avoid me rambling on unnecessarily, let’s jump ahead to the point at which the train has been backed off the tracks: You successfully remove the jacket and drop it to the ground with careless regard for the exact location. You are now without a waterproof barrier and instantly become aware of this as the driving rain begins to soak your undergarments. The waders must now be lowered to at least waist level (preferably slightly below). Like a stonefly nymph struggling to shed it’s shuck you wriggle and writhe as you attempt to get a hold of the farmer john straps, wasting yet more precious time. Finally the waders are down, followed, hopefully of course, by the fleece pants, long johns and perhaps your favorite Spiderman boxers.This is the point at which you realize just how cold your hands are, and you give forth an audible, high-pitched gasp. The wind reveals its Arctic origins as it bites at your exposed nether regions with a ferocity that takes your breath away. The old bladder is way past panic mode when you finally relax certain muscles and let things flow. “Aaahhhhh….SH#T—!!!“ In your frenzied scramble to remove all layers of clothing, you failed to acknowledge the one Cardinal Rule that all men learn as boys: Don’t pee into the wind. You remember this an instant too late, and in an attempt to minimize the damage you pivot abruptly, sending a stream of heavily pressurized bodily fluid in a wide arch which partially misses your rain jacket that was haphazardly dropped on the ground without regard for certain logistics. With the wind now pounding your backside and the rain drenching you from above, you must wait impatiently for the flow to subside. Those three cups of coffee seem to have transformed into a 3 quarts, and by the time you’ve drained the holding tank, Mother Nature has done a pretty good job of beating the crap out of you.
Now, had you been sporting a pair of the Dan Bailey EZ Zip Guide Waders, all that would’ve been required would have been for you to unzip your jacket, (calmly, I might add because of the confidence that comes from knowing you have plenty of time), then lower the zipper on your waders and, well…you get the idea.
Cooling? Ease of ingress and egress? Riiiiight. If I were in charge of marketing for Dan Bailey I’d have named these the EZ Pee Guy Waders. I suppose there’s a reason I’m not in charge of marketing for them, or any other company.
At any rate, I give these waders two thumbs up. I’ve had them for 4 years (which means I am no longer 42) and they’ve never leaked.
But I have.