We've all done it, tried to ignore that creeping, cold tickling around our backsides, that gradually spreading icy chilliness that shifts subtly from irritating annoyance into downright discomfort, and for the boys, possibly a degree of shrinkage. Don't worry, you're not incontinent, not yet, the truth is far more straightforward - your waders have sprung a leak. Those 5 stylish layers of Gore-Tex, promised by the ads to be so technologically advanced as to be virtually bullet proof, have been beaten by the very element from which they are meant to protect you, and it is astounding how quickly a few ingressing molecules of H2O can put paid to your fishing enjoyment. Misery, of course, loves company, and it reaches out far beyond a damp crotch to seek companionship in the contents of your wallet. However, in these days of financial constraint and metaphorical, if not literal, belt tightening, many of us can ill afford to take out a second mortgage for a pair of what non-anglers would derisively label 'rubber pants' so it would be a wise move to undertake a certain amount of detective work before taking the plunge.
First off, damage assessment. Is it really as bad as we think? Probably, but we need to be sure, so a degree of close forensic examination is called for.
Tip #1 don't look for the hole anywhere near where you think it is. It is NEVER that simple and unless there is an obvious rip, you probably won't see anything, even with a magnifying glass. Wader punctures, piercings and failures are devious buggers; they secrete themselves in seams and joints and in all the inaccessible places nowhere near where you are feeling the wet. You may locate what you think is the culprit, only to be deceived by a harmless graze. The real villain is lurking 3 inches to the left. So how do we flush them out (no pun intended) of their hiding places?
One way is to hang up the waders (outside, guys, please), fill them with water until they resemble a well fed Michelin man and scour every inch for oozing droplets. Droplets, for the most part, can be dealt with; spurting, however, is not good news.
Another, but no less messy, method is to fill a bath with water and arrange your waders so that they are puffed up with trapped air and try to submerge them. They will resist, so persevere. Under pressure, a chain of small air bubbles should escape from the leak, making it easy to pinpoint. The trick is then to mark the hole(s) so you can find them again later. If you can suggest something more effective than circling it with a red chinagraph pencil, I'd like to know.
Now we have our suspect, what do we do with it? Luckily, there are several options open to us.
If your waders are new and still under warranty and you think the leak is possibly a manufacturing fault and not damage due to improper care or accident, you should be able to return them either for repair, or a refund. Be aware though, attempt at self repair may invalidate your warranty, so it pays to ask.
If the waders are your best or favourite pair, or the ones that cost you an arm and a leg and a deep, resentful scowl from the other half and you would like hang onto them, the waders that is, consider having them repaired professionally. It will take some time and cost you, but it will be worth it and cheaper than a new pair. Good repairers are like gold dust and word gets about who they are. Seek recommendations from fellow anglers. If you want to know mine, drop me a line.
But what if the waders were cheap(ish) or worn or old and you see their failure as an ideal opportunity to upgrade? This is where you have to box clever.
Tip#2, sigh dramatically whilst hugging them lovingly to your heart, turn on the waterworks and declare them to have 'had a good innings' before giving them a decent send off. Be sure to observe a suitable period of mourning before getting out the catalogues.
As a last resort you could try repairing the waders yourself, however, though it may be the cheapest option, it can be a tricky, tedious process, often fraught with frustration and hair pulling and with no guarantee of success.
If you have ever repaired a puncture on a bicycle inner tube, then patching up a pair of waders is not dissimilar. It takes the same amount of patience, trial and error and repetition until you get it right, the difference being a slowly deflating bicycle tyre will not result in your inner socks filling with water and you sloshing around in a pair of mobile puddles until you develop a rampant case of trench foot.
Tip# 3, if at all possible, patch the hole on the INSIDE. Better still, go for the belt and braces approach and patch both inside AND outside together and don't forget to check for water tightness again before you wade into the river. It's too late once you're in and Karma does like a laugh.
Those of us who use them appreciate waders are a necessary evil, and a darned expensive one too, but you really can't do without them if you want to paddle any deeper than the top of your wellies, so you want to take care of them. Be aware that, although the adverts claim they are all but indestructible, they really aren't. They can be quite delicate, so finally...
Tip #4, treat your waders like a second skin - what will hurt you will hurt them also. You will bleed out, they will leak in. Obviously it's hard to avoid all hazards - stones, thorns, hooks - but make an effort to look after your waders and they will give you long and faithful service...until the new catalogue comes out.
Tight lines and dry bums to you all!