Since his last Filson Life story on Fishing’s Opening Day in Vermont, New York City writer, editor and veteran angler David Coggins has decamped for the open skies and picturesque rivers of Montana. This time, with a pair of Pro Guide Waders in his bag.
You don’t set out to truly test waders any more than you set out to discover if Advil cures a hangover. They’re supposed to work without thinking; they’re designed to be taken for granted. In a day completely immersed in water, you are expected to be kept dry and warm. A leak cannot be forgiven.
To the committed angler, an ominous weather report is no impediment to a day on the river. As you step into your waders—trying to ignore the deepening gray sky—you understand that they are your last line of defense against the elements. They are critical, and, as an integral part of your fishing getup, they should be tasteful and discreet. You aren't vain enough to want them to be downright stylish—in fact that might arouse suspicion—but you look forward to keeping them for the long haul. Like a club chair, you want your waders to be well-used, and age naturally while you forget all about them.
But then you find yourself in the rain. Not just a passing rainstorm, mind, but a day of rain: Ten straight hours on DePuy Spring Creek, the iconic stream outside Livingston, Montana. It’s May, it’s cold, it’s your one day to fish the celebrated water. You aren't leaving. After a morning getting stumped you wonder if you should have a whisky back in town. But that would be too logical.
You find a new stretch of river. And what’s this? You catch a fish. Optimism strikes—you deny that you ever doubted. Then, that terrific (and all too rare) thing happens: the water comes alive. It’s a hatch and the fish are cued in. Yes, you are in your seventh hour on the water. Yes, it continues to pour. But if the fish don’t mind, you don’t mind. A rational observer might question your motivation. Rational? Don’t talk to me about rational. You've got three more hours before it’s dark. You catch some good rainbows, yes, you lose an epic brown (it is spring creek fishing, after all, technical and challenging). The day is a triumph. You remain dry enough that you forget all about your waders, you've got more important things to worry about. And that’s as it should be.