I have no idea what the weather patterns are like in the Smokies, now or in April. But I’ll share a few products that we’ve come to adopt as standard gear for times when we wear our wet wading gear in, typically hiking 2 to 6 miles each way, over broken, often steep terrain.
Beyond those distances, if our days start and end with more than an hour / hour and half hike one way ( depending on terrain ), it all gets packed in. For this we wear hiking boots a separate pair of socks, but we still wear the Aruba Pants or a similar product on the hike in and out.
These are what I wear when wet wading. They are Columbia Aruba III ( now Aruba IV ) pants, actually I’ve worn them dating back to the original Aruba model. They are available in a wider array of waist and inseam sizes than many of the fast drying pants found today. Try finding a fast drying pant with a 30-32 inch waist and a 34+ inch inseam in most “ Fly Fishing “ specific name brands.
There is a fair amount of brush whacking to do here as well as bracing ourselves with our legs, against the pull of the current in and amongst the rocks and boulders. As much as I like the idea of shorts, months of wet wading in them would leave my legs looking like raw ground beef. The Aruba pants are a very light fabric and will fold down to nothing in a pack. They have a mesh brief in them, that if you wish can be cut out. Some guys do, some guys don’t. While they have good abrasion resistance for a light fabric, they serve as my waders for around six months each year and so I treat them as I would a pair of waders. Which means, I’ll go ahead and rock hop and bushwhack as called for, but I wouldn’t expect them to survive a cleats up slide into second base.
The product literature states that they are fast drying, but in reality the fabric doesn’t actually absorb water like conventional fabrics. For the most part the fabric repels water for quite a while. Taking a knee in deeper water as I’m doing here, doesn’t allow enough time for the fabric to become saturated.
As soon as I stand up, the water runs right off the fabric and they feel and appear to be dry. The lower portion of the leg, that is exposed to hours of submersion will become saturated. But upon exiting the water, most of the water runs off and within fifteen minutes to a half hour of being out of the water, they’ll be completely dry again. This of course is temperature and humidity dependant. Out here, we typically have very - very low humidity and April temps in the sub 3,000’ elevation levels will be in the mid 50’s to low 70’s. So selective wet wading at that time of year is possible, it’s subject to water temps. From late spring, until the first snowfall, these are what you’d find me wading our rivers in.
Cabela's: Columbia® Aruba™ IV Pants
Cabela's: Columbia® Aruba™ III Zip-Off Pants
Under the Aruba’s I wear a pair of wicking underwear that are mid thigh ( bike short ). You already wet wade, so you know there are few things less comfortable than long hikes in heavy wet, clinging, chaffing pants made of natural fabrics. So wicking or fast dry underwear shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to complete part of the wet wading system, as opposed to wearing a typical cotton underwear. Or just go with the Aruba’s built in mesh brief, if it’s roomy enough for you.
I use a two layer system of socks when wet wading. If you own wading boots that were purchased with the idea of wearing a stocking foot wader inside of them, then it’s likely you did so with idea of wearing a pair of socks under your waders. So your boots would actually be a little to big to fit properly with just a pair of wool socks.
Here’s the problem, now your wet wading with no waders ( no neoprene stocking foot ) to fill out the boot. If you're just fishing around your car, no problem. But if like us, your days start and end with long hikes over broken terrain, having your foot slop around from side to side and from front to back in loose fitting wading boots will lead to blisters. Bad news if you’re then going to be submersing your feet on and off all day, then facing a long hike back out with all sorts of contaminants entering your loose fitting boots. So to take up the slop, we wear a 3 mil neoprene sock. This not only takes up the space left by the absence of your stocking foot waders, but adds a temperate wet suit like dimension that helps your body maintain a slightly warmer environment for your feet while wading.
Cabela's: Cabela's 3mm Neoprene Wading Socks with Built-In Gaiters
Cabela's: Simms® Guard Socks
Under those we wear a pair of Work Gear Pro 2 socks, the tops of these socks can be worn up to provide a bit more bruise protection from rocks while wading or rolled down to cuff the neoprene over-sock.
Read the products description and think about what you’re asking your feet and shins to take in a day of hiking and wet wading. Again this sock helps to fill up the rest of the void, left by the absence of the stocking foot waders and socks, inside your wading boots. They also help to retain that finite layer of temperate water around your foot. They have a much softer - more forgiving texture to them than saturated and compressed wool socks do. In fact they tend to keep more of their loft when walked on for miles and they tend not to bunch up. They also add a bit more shin and ankle protection from rocks and your boots stiff uppers, tongue and laces. They also dry in much less time than do most natural fabrics of the same thickness. We’ve never had a pair shrink and they wear like nobodies business.
Fruit Of The Loom Work Gear Pro 2 Pair Crew: Men : Walmart.com
If the weather where you’re going to be is cold and damp and you have room for two pairs of them, I’d pack along a second pair of socks. But the Aruba's should dry quickly. There’s nothing as uncomfortable as hiking in heavy, wet, clinging and chaffing pants, in hot or cold weather. I know the idea of socks made of these materials runs counter to what we always thought about wet wading socks, but everyone I wet wade with that’s gone to these socks, has stuck with them.
The other six months of the year - give or take …it’s back to Simms chest high breathable’s.
Anyway, those are the products we’re onto.
Have a great Trek, TT