Hodgman Hickory Swale Waders to work. The Nantahala was still pretty chilly last week, and it was downright cold in January when we arrived at the river with air temps in the upper teens. The waders themselves are lightweight, so they'll remain comfortable when the days are warm, but they've performed beautifully, and with fleece wading pants beneath them and the built-in neoprene stocking feet on the waders, I've stayed completely dry and plenty warm.
Almost as important as keeping me dry, the lightweight material used for the Hickory Swale Waders allows for great mobility. My favorite Appalachian streams have steep beds, and getting to good spots calls more than a little rock climbing and rhododendron tunnel crawling. That's a tough task in bulky waders, and I've been thrilled by the mobility I've enjoyed in these. I'll still shed 'em as soon as I can stand to do so and will wade wet when water temperatures allow; however, for most trout tailwaters and for cool-season fishing days, waders are necessary, so I'm grateful for a good comfortable pair to wear.
These waders are also really well designed in terms of stuff like gravel guards, padding, reinforcements in high-wear area and strap adjustments, and the Hodgman folks obviously gave good thought to practicalities of fishing with a removable fly patch (which works nicely for spinning lures too, by the way), lined hand-warming pockets and a full length, fully waterproof front zipper. Those seem like little things until you spend a few days in a pair of waders. Having stuff well designed and in the right places allows you to be more comfortable and more efficient, which can result in more opportunities to catch fish!