Ted Leeson wrote a wonderful book titled “The Orvis Guide to Tackle Care and Repair.” The book covers most any equipment
maintenance effort you may undertake and it’s a book I would suggest to anyone that fly-fishes. He devoted a full chapter to the care and repair of waders. And, typical of him, he starts right out with a truism “Before you an fix a leak, however, you must find it.”
He goes on to say there are four basic techniques for finding “pinhole leaks” which are the best at hiding their true location. After all, rips and punctures are easy to find. The four are 1) the Flashlight Method, 2) Inflation Method, 3) Water Method and 4) the Alcohol Method.
My favorite is the Inflation Method and here’s how I go about it. We have a small red vacuum (Dirt Devil) that allows you to connect the hose to the exhaust port. I use that configuration to inflate the waders. I put the hose into the waders and use the wader belt to gather and clamp the wader material around the hose. Then I turn on the vacuum and watch the waders inflate. If the belt is too loose the hose just pops out and I start over. So far being too tight and over inflating the waders hasn’t been a problem.
Once the waders are inflated Leeson recommends using a 3 to 1 mixture of dish detergent and water (3 parts water) for leak detection and applying it with a rag or sponge. I prefer to use “Super Miracle Bubbles” sold in most department stores in the kid’s section and I apply it with a paint brush.
That’s right, a paint brush. I just pour the solution into a pail, dip the brush and paint the Super Miracle Bubble onto the waders and watch for bubbles. Often I find more than one leak and when I do I take a photo (love digital cameras) to keep track of them.
Once I find the leak I switch to the repair mode and Aquaseal is my best friend. I just wish the sold it in a tube that would fit my caulking gun. I go through a lot of that stuff.
Generally I turn the waders inside out and start coating the seams. If the leaky seam is in the crotch area I drape the waders over a rounded chair-back so I can get at the seam. If it is a leg seam I lay the waders on the floor or a table with the leg seam up and smoothed out. Once I have the wader seam exposed and accessible I use a popsicle stick or small stiff brush to coat the seam spreading the Aquaseal over the seam tape in the problem area. My goal it to apply the Aquaseal so that it covers the seam tape and extends at least a quarter-inch beyond the edge of the tape.
That’s all well and good if you’re at home or here in the shop but I’m guessing you don’t take a vacuum with you on a fishing trip. I know I don’t but there are ways to patch waders in the field. Leak detection isn’t as easy and room and a nice clean area to work in usually is hard to come by but it can be done.
To that end I carry a field repair kit. Orvis has put together a good one. The Wader Repair Kit contains a tube of Aquaseal, several pieces of waterproof tape (can be applied to wet waders), latex gloves, application brushs and it all comes in a zip-up pouch. The tape provides a quick and semi-permanent patch that will last for several outing. Certainly long enough for you to get through the day and usually long enough to finish out the balance of an extended trip or until you can find the time to apply the Aquaseal for a truly enduring repair.
Another great field fix product is Loon Outdoors UV Wader Repair which works on wet or dry waders. The stuff is certainly simple to use. You apply it to the leak area and let the sun cure it – in a matter of seconds. My first experience with this product came one day when a customer came in and asked for a quick wader repair glue. I had one tube of UV Wader Repair I had ordered in to try. I told him I hadn’t used the stuff and didn’t know how well it worked but if he wanted to be the Guinea Pig he could try it.
He was willing so I gave him a plastic bag to put inside the wader leg so he wouldn’t stick on side to the other, a popsicle stick to spread the UV Wader Repair with and he headed out to his car to repair his waders. He came in minutes later and asked if he could apply the UV Wader Repair inside instead of outdoors. It seems he had laid the waders on the hood of his car – smoothed out the area around the rip he had and then squeezed a bead of UV Wader Repair along the edge of the rip. After putting the cap back on the tube and picking up the popsicle stick he found the bead of UV Wader Repair had already cured. Had he not been here he would have had to find some shade and not just cloud cover as the UV Wader Repair will cure even with cloud cover it just takes a bit longer. Actually you can cure it at night.
But there’s a trick to curing it at night and the trick comes in the form of a small UV flashlight. Something Loon Outdoors calls the UV Power Light and sells as a companion product to the UV Wader Repair. A friend of mine, Greg Burchstead, once used the UV Wader Repair and UV Power Light to patch the bladder of his float tube. It seems a ride in the back of his truck in bright sunlight was too much for his fully inflated float tube. The heat expanded the bladder and a seam let go. When Greg got where he was going his float tube was useless. The next day he called me with the story of his successful repair and said he’d be stopping by for an extra tube of that “stuff.”
So that’s my take on wader repair. if you have the room and time use Super Miracle Bubbles (or soap and water) to find leaks in inflated waders. If you don’t have time and room to work in do the best you can locating the leak and slap some waterproof tape from your Wader Repair Kit on for a temporary fix or put a more permanent fix on by applying Loon Outdoors UV Wader Repair. However you choose to do field repairs be sure and review the repair when you get home and have more time. Hope this helps some