Women In Waders!
Finding the right kit to wear on the river is near impossible. I’d find it easier to push water uphill with my hands tied behind my back than find good fitting waders, boots and jackets. Why is it that men are spoilt for choice but that in this area women are so restricted? I recently needed a new pair of wading boots, 6 pairs were ordered and returned before I finally found a pair that would “do”, more out of frustration and need than out of comfort and desire. Interestingly, each time I ordered a pair they arrived with a ladies clothing catalogue enclosed, not ladies country wear or fishing kit but skirts, pretty blouses etc. When I ordered a pair from the same company but had them delivered to my father’s address and in his name, a fishing kit catalogue was enclosed! Is it any wonder that when I go to buy fishing clothes, waders etc I find myself increasingly thinking “I’m not a feminist BUT……………”?!
It shouldn’t be so difficult to find chest waders that don’t have legs that stop mid-thigh, or a chest bib that doesn’t come up to my chin. If I waded that deep I’d be in over my head! Jackets too all seem to be scaled down versions of the chaps ones, not cut for women and rarely seem to offer the range of options for keeping warm that the men’s ones do. Trust me, Spring fishing in Scotland is COLD and I’d really appreciate a warm jacket, decent lining to my waders or lined trousers and a set of underlayers that didn’t resemble something my Grannie would wear! I know that more men than women fish but how are we ever going to get more women into fishing if we can’t get them into the right kit. Waders are never going to be sexy but they could at least be attractive, cut for the female form and comfortable. Too often they’ve been designed by people who don’t fish so can’t understand our needs. How are you ever going to get it right if you’re second guessing?
One of the most iconic female fishers of our time, Joan Wulff, an American, approached Garcia in the 1970’s about improving women’s clothing and equipment. It took until 1995 to get a woman’s fishing vest made by Annex Outdoors. One vest and it took 20 years! Things have hardly improved since then, whilst America & Japan have increased their market in this area, here in the UK we really lag behind.
Here’s my tip, for what it’s worth, as a woman who virtually lives in waders: If we feel good about ourselves we feel empowered and if we feel powerful, happy and relaxed when we’re fishing we’re going to want to keep fishing! And we’ll encourage more women to start fishing. If more women keep fishing they’re going to need to buy more kit so we’ll keep the manufacturers happy and employed!
Any manufacturers reading this who need a willing tester or design input in this area from someone in the know, who puts them through their paces on an almost daily basis, please get in touch. SOON. Before I turn into a clichéd grumpy old woman………….!!
Speaking of which, an excerpt of a recent conversation on social media below…..
It all started with a comment made by a chap that “Fishing is not a fashion parade.... waders are waders, women should and could buy any standard waders. There is no need to class waders as men’s or woman’s!! . . . can they give any ‘practical’ reasoning for not wearing the same waders as men??"
My reply: "Hate to state the obvious but women's bodies are created totally differently to men's, we have different fat distribution sites, curves, bottoms and boobs. To imply that we could buy unisex waders is like saying that we have to pee upright like men - yes, we could probably try to do it but it's not exactly practical in the work place!! I'm one of the first to say that fishing isn't a fashion parade but, particularly those of us who work in the industry, need to be comfortable and have practical kit. We aren't all out to pout on Instagram in a bikini, some of us fish through passion, simply because we love the way of life. Plus we'll never entice more women into fishing if they can't get kit to fit. It's not about fashion it's about form and it's also a means to get more people sharing and loving our way of life.
Years ago I was approached by one of the biggest rod manufacturers who wanted to produce a range of rods specifically for women. I laughed them down, we can cope perfectly well with unisex rods, lines and reels (and certainly not pink ones - yes they REALLY suggested that!) but we do need warm, waterproof, well fitting waders, boots and jackets. In the last 5 years I was also asked to contribute towards and test a range of women's waders and jackets, unfortunately due to costs they have never been made available to the UK market. When I asked, again, last year I was told that they couldn't sell enough to make it viable. I pointed out that they'd never sell ANY here if they didn't have any to market and asked how many waders would make it profitable. The answer astounded me, I could have sold the amount in 2 weeks of the season alone!! I'm sure that other women in the fishing industry will find the same too, there are so many girls wanting to give fishing a go but unable to get decent kit at an affordable price. We can't all hop on a plane over to the states to get kitted out.
So, on a practical level I need waders that I can cast comfortably in whatever the conditions, that the legs are long enough to scramble up banks and over rocks without tearing or restricting my movement, I need waders with shoulder straps that adjust enough not to keep dropping down my arms mid cast when doing a demo, with thermal inserts for cold Spey days (of which there are many!), a layered jacket for all weathers with accessible pockets for flies, nylon, glasses etc and boots that fit comfortably, not just scaled down versions of men's ones! And I'm quite sure that I'm not the only female angler who feels the same. Perhaps myself and a couple of other fishing ladies should put our 'pretty little heads' together on this sometime
On a more positive note to the girls, if we can achieve what we have for the future of ladies and children in the fishing world in ill-fitting kit, just imagine what we could be capable of if we could get the "perfect waders" on.
As someone once said, just remember that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but SHE did it backwards AND in high heels!"