Everybody and their mother knows I can give fly fishing waders a good swift kick in the
crotch pants. As gear goes, waders are what I am toughest on, and as a result I generally don’t scrimp when it comes to them. The last full-time use pair, Simms Guides, have just about had it. And while I’m all for pushing the limits I’ve been going through enough Aquaseal nowadays that I figured I might as well ante up. I bought the pot of Gore-tex – a pair of Cloudveil 8X Pro Shells.
I’ve had these waders out just one full day – in other words the jury is still deliberating. But that day was warm (at least by spring in the Rocky Mountains standards), and the water cold. The terrain was intermediate, and I took a few spills (go figure). My guess was it’s as good a time as any to set forth some uninformed opinion. [side note: click any picture to see a large view]
Looks aren’t everything, but they sure help
If the Cloudveil 8X Pros were made of recycled sandwich bags and held together with Elmer’s Glue, you’d still think they were designed by Donatella Versace. These suckers look goooooood. The color is called vetiver, which is another way of saying gray, green, beige and none of the above, simultaneously. The material, with the exception of the lower legs, is lightweight ripstop fabric and silky to the touch. Shoulder straps and belt (a integrated job) are made of stretch elastic, and colored to match the rest. All the zippers, stitching, and related unimportant stuff is carefully crafted. Just looking at it screams ‘refined’ owner.
Nevertheless, John Gierach wisely noted that if you want to be thought the expert, one tactic is to wear beat up gear. Unfortunately, that was before digital SLRs and Flickr existed, and now you have to look your best even if the photos of you sitting on the bank trying to untangle your three fly rig are the closest thing to respect you’re ever gonna get. These waders do that for you in spades. I’m just happy when there are some grass stains on the knees – while I spent some time scrambling around rocks trying to net a friend’s fish in a tough spot, those knees are still pristine. Bummer.
What feels good is worth paying for
Like I said previously, the short test was done in fairly warm weather and while doing some walking that would test the average bear. Fly fishing can be a workout if you want it to be, and the last thing you need in those circumstances are waders that are supposed to breath but choke instead. Thankfully, these waders ‘respirate’ like a yoga instructor.
The Gore-tex Pro Shell here isn’t really eight layers of material – it’s a combination of three layer ripstop in the chest area, three layer wader fabric below that, and five layer tough stuff around the lower legs. The fabric itself is billed as the ultimate for extreme outdoor enthusiasts. Fly fishing isn’t an ‘extreme’ sport, despite marketers’ efforts to make it so. But you do have to balance the risk of hypothermia while standing in near freezing water against creating a tropical ecosystem around your butt cheeks on warm days. These waders can walk that tightrope – after nine hours hucking several miles, and standing waist deep in sub-40 degree water for extended periods of time, I didn’t notice a hint of condensation within. Even after making a steep climb back to the truck and immediately pulling them off (and please note: I am an out-of-shape lard ass), they were dry as a bone.
Sure, at $475 they are on the pricey side. But so were the Simms when I bought them and I’ve gotten plenty of useful life out of those. Me thinks this Pro Shell stuff is worth the bucks.
A few words about service
In a nutshell, I wasn’t impressed. The goods I’m wearing now were ordered through a dealer in early March, and I didn’t receive them until mid-May. I can’t blame the dealer – they called about them several times and got nothing but excuses. I called Cloudveil myself several times too, and didn’t fare any better. Further, a tweet on the matter generated a response, but zero in the way of actual assistance thereafter. Social media blah blah blah. The company could do themselves a favor by hiring me to restructure their procurement and distribution operations, and rebuild their customer service arm from the ground up.
It’s tentative and preliminary (subject to my trademarked longer term brutalization), but the Cloudveil 8X Pro Shells are worth a third mortgage. Very functional, and very comfortable. As for the service issue…
If you are the kind of angler who punches holes in their waders while taking piss breaks in rose bushes, and find it necessary to hold the manufacturer responsible for your ineptitude (i.e. send them in for repairs), go for it. But you might want to think about hanging up the sport while you’re at it. Fly fishing requires gear, and gear breaks. Understanding this, I’ll do repairs myself whenever the option is available. Unless you’re a prima donna, don’t let my initial experience in the service regard deter you – and if you are, please take up croquet.
MG signing off (to hit a steambath in my waders, and feel good doing it)