When it comes to various brands in the the fly-fishing world, everyone seems to have an opinion on how "good" certain items are. It's quite interesting sometimes how the same product can be life changing for person A, only to be regarded as completely terrible by person B. A great example of this is my personal favorite fly rod that I own. We won't get into specifics as to which rod that exactly is -because it really doesn't matter- but the point is, some people I talk to love it. Some people could care less about it. This analogy could be said for any product imaginable as well- leader/tippet, hip packs/slings, even certain fly patterns. One brand though within the fly-fishing world that unarguably recieves a thumbs up from anyone who has ever held a fly rod is Simms Fishing Products, and in particular, their American made, Gore-Tex waders. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time at their headquarters in Bozeman a couple weeks ago for both meetings, as well as setting a little time aside to take a tour of the factory where the waders are made. Let's just put it this way, using the term 'impressive' to describe what goes on here is an understatement. Upon entering the building (for the first time I might add) there was an instant feeling of pride in the air. These people A) really like working here and B) and were incredibly proud of the products they produce. The factory was buzzing and everyone was hard at work. We started the tour in the wader repair room. Our owner Tucker had a few pinholes in his personal waders and we used these an example of how the repair process all goes down (pictures below). Talk about having things down to a science. Next, it was time to see some waders actually get made from start to finish. I was taken around to a variety of stations responsible for everything from cutting the raw Gore-Tex, to sewing on zippers, to taping seams, to (what I heard is one of the most pride-filled job around the place) sewing in the Made in USA tags. Simply put, it was pretty eye opening to see the amount of work that goes into making a pair of Simms waders. To put it into perspective, building a pair of their top-of-the-line G4Z waders requires 125 distinct steps. Additionally, every wader produced has an average of 22 different people that touch/are involved in the construction, regardless of model. While I couldn't get an exact figure of how many pairs of waders are produced daily, I asked if it was over 100 and received the answer "over 100 is not incorrect". Yes indeed, pretty darn impressive.
Below are some pictures from my tour. I think you'll agree, it's quite the operation.
Did you know applying alcohol to Gore-tex will show you where the holes are? In the picture below, alcolhol is being applied to Tucker's waders.
There they are! See those little black spots? Those are the individual pin holes that need sealed up.
There was also a patch that needed applied for a tear in the seat of Tuckers waders.
And on to the testing tanks. All repaired waders are turned inside out, and filled with water to make sure no leaks were missed.
Into the actual factory we head. As you can see, everyone is hard at work producing the best waders money can buy.
Raw sheets of Gore-Tex are being cut into the different sections of the wader that will eventually be sewn together. A pattern is laid on top of the sheets and then cut out, piece by piece. As you can see below, this pattern is for the inside leg of a womens' G3 wader.
Once all the Gore-Tex for a particular pair of waders is cut, the various pieces are bundled up and stored here.
Orange carts with stacks of 'waders in the making' can be seen throughought the facility. I couldn't help but think about all the fun, beautiful, and fish-filled places these were bound to wind up.