It has been a while since I've suffered the displeasure of stinky waders. This is most likely because I don't get on the water as much as I'd like to these days, or that I've been finding a way to destroy my waders before I've owned them long enough to build up an odor. The reality for most of us, however, is that after a while waders begin to turn rank.
Earlier this year, upon boarding a Dehavilland Beaver -- cozy quarters for a five man float plane ride to a preposterously fishy salmon stream in the Tongass National Forest -- myself and the rest of the group I was fishing with received a rank waders warning from our guide for the day. As the doors closed and the cabin air immediately began to feel stagnant, we were warned of the impending doom. "Imagine that a wet sheep fell out of the sky and landed on an unsuspecting cat, who was was happily snacking on dead pink salmon. As a result, the cat pissed itself to death. The pair lay in a pile. Now imagine all this happened several weeks ago. Right here," as he motioned to his mid and lower torso area. The reality didn't turn out to be quite that bad, but at least we were prepared.
The culprit behind the malodorous stench that well-worn waders emit is bacteria. Even the best breathable waders eventually start to stink. And the reality is that the types of bacteria that can thrive in the warm, often moist environment inside your waders can do more damage than simply stinking up the place, they can cause some nasty infections. I've spoken with and read about many anglers that ended up with serious infections as a result of having worn bacteria-filled waders. The typical circumstances involve anglers donning their waders while having small, pre-existing cuts or abrasions on their legs or -- more commonly -- having fallen while wearing their waders and, despite the fact that the waders didn't puncture or tear, have broken the skin inside the waders. In these scenarios, bacteria living inside the waders are given an opportunity to enter the bloodstream.