[img2="left"]http://www.sanjuanriverforum.com/images/zipwaders.jpg[/img2]Anglers wade in heaven with waterproof zippers
by Ed Dentry - RockyMountainNews.com
September 6, 2006
Back in the days when waders were made of real rubber from trees, wading anglers dreamed of the impossible.
Zippers. Waterproof zippers in waders, to be precise. Now, that would be a merciful invention: something to relieve unwanted fishing pressure on demand without shipping river ballast when not in use.
I've known lots of people who've slogged around in rubber body socks harnessed up to their armpits. Every one yearned for the ultimate contrivance.
Standard quote from fishermen down through the ages: "If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they put a zipper on chest waders?"
It's been done, but poorly. Now it's being done again, and this time the trend might stick. Thanks to better technology, a trip behind the tree may never be the same.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, a few manufacturers installed waterproof zippers in revolutionary neoprene waders. Zipper demand was high because neoprenes were like thick pantyhose with a death grip on your body. But the time wasn't right.
"That zipper wasn't quite as technical as the ones we have now," said Diane Bristol, marketing director for Simms, the high-end wader and fishing gear company in Bozeman, Mont.
"It was difficult to use, and it was heavy. So we dropped out. Then we dropped neoprene waders and introduced breathables."
Bristol was among hundreds of tackle representatives who unveiled their employers' new fly-fishing products two weeks ago at the FlyFishing Retailer World Trade Expo at the Colorado Convention Center.
Simms was among a handful of manufacturers displaying breathable waders for 2007 featuring waterproof zippers in front. The come-on for its G4 Guide waders was a photo of a zipper, with the motto: "Only leaks when you want to."
A serious foreign competitor, the Sir-Francis Co. of Modena, Italy, also unzipped its new line, the Evolution stocking foot wader, at the trade show.
More affordable zippered breathables by Hodgman, which was purchased last year by the personal flotation giant Stearns, also were on display.
Is the zipper tide poised to rise again? Marketers are counting on it. Now that the breathable-wader novelty might have worn off some, it would seem a convenient time for minor adjustments.
For more than a decade now, anglers have been so smitten with waders featuring inner layers of Gore-Tex and similar comfortable, breathable, waterproof membranes that they almost forgot zippers.
But never completely. While surfing Web fishing chat rooms this week, I discovered a query from an angler wondering how those early-generation, zippered, neoprene waders are holding up these days.
Another angler responded, "Never had um, but it sounds like a submarine with a screen door."
That has changed, now that high-tech waterproof zippers are on the worldwide market. Of two leading waterproof zipper manufacturers, Simms chose YKK, with international headquarters in Tokyo.
Sir-Francis and Hodgman get their zippers from the Riri Group, a world-class manufacturer with factories in Switzerland and Italy.
"We are the only European company licensed to use Gore-Tex," said Simone Palli, export manager for Sir-Francis, which has been distributing fly-fishing tackle in the United States for three years.
While zippers are the main, new attraction, it is the type and amount of breathable membrane, pockets and other trimmings and length of warranty that will determine the price of these waders.
Simms and Sir-Francis use several layers of Gore-Tex, the original and not-cheap breathable membrane. In keeping with its economical thrust, Hodgman uses less expensive Horco-Tex.
Retail prices for the high-end zippered chest waders next year are expected to range from $700 for the new Simms G4 model to $425 for the Sir-Francis Evolution.
A Hodgman representative at the trade show said she thought the affordable T.A.C. (Total Allowable Catch) Hodgman wader will retail for about $200. The Hodgman Guidelite zippered wader already on the market sells for about $395.
Never mind other refinements. These zippered marvels promise to go down in history as the only products ever to bring new meaning to the term "fly fishing."
Article Courtesy of of Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com