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updated: 7/16/2014 4:41 PM

Wading's evolution has been worth the wait

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I vividly recall buying my first pair of hip boots at an Army surplus store in Elkhart, Ind.

Because extra cash was at a minimum almost 50 years ago, I was concerned about getting something cheap and functional, with cheap being the operative word in that era.

I had grown fond of fishing Indiana Lake, half of which was in southern Michigan while Hoosierville claimed the rest. All I needed was a fishing license from either state to go after largemouth bass and big bluegills. Christiana Creek was another gem that held smallmouth bass.

But I wasn't willing to "wet wade" in any lake or stream because I had some bad experiences twice before during other excursions while wearing a pair of sneakers and shorts.

And for you macho types out there, please hold your catcalls for another time.

I used the hip boots through one particular spring and summer. I even took my trusty Heddon fly rod, fly box and vest to a trout-laden stream in central Michigan, and plied a section of the narrow body of water catching a few rainbow trout. But before long, the inevitable happened.

When I stepped in to the water on another creek I noticed the water temperature was extremely cold. I didn't place much value with that fact until I placed an old household thermometer in the water. The mercury hovered near the 40-degree mark. Ouch!

At that same moment I felt the cold water encircling my feet and toes. I admit I was a stream dummy back then because I didn't understand that those cheap hip boots had deteriorated so badly they were leaking like a sieve.

This setup was all one piece, with the actual boot itself either glued or sewn to the rest of leg portions.

The next day I went to a fishing tackle dealer and purchased my first set of chest waders. I figured I made a good buy for $29.95.

With a new job in hand, I moved to Madison, Wis., in the late '60s. Over a three-year period, I put those waders to good use by exploring streams in Michigan and Wisconsin, chasing both warm water fish as well as trout. And then leaks started again.

Once again I looked at the seams around the boots near the bottom of the gear. I found a slight cut in the wader's skin, and that made it a candidate for the patch kit.

Several years ago I made my first trip to New Zealand, where the rivers run extremely cold and the trout have a reputation for stripping line off a fly reel like a runaway train. It was suggested I purchase a set of ultralight chest waders for the trip. Actually, my wife and I each had a set and we packed all of clothes, waders, and gear into carry-on bags.

Those waders lasted almost to the end of last year's trip to Colorado's Laramie River.

Because I am a rather stocky chap, getting in and out of chest waders can be quite a task. That's when I discovered the Orvis company manufactures the Silver Sonic model, a rugged, lightweight, and easy-to-wear set of chest waders. I purchased the front-zipper model, which was a dream-come-true for me.

The company claims the seams of the waders are "Sonic Welded." I don't know what means, but I've already rubbed up against some sharp, waterborne branches and rocks and these waders held their integrity.

I've used the Sonics four times so far this season and despite their lightness, I barely noticed the cold stream water rushing past me. And the rock-solid, locked-tight zipper appears to be waterproof. Now that's something to crow about.

I've come a long way since those "disposable" hip boots in Indiana and subsequent pairs of chest waders that also eventually acted more like a sieve than anything else.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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