Orvis Ultralight Wading Jacket

David Anderson avoids soggy ducks reviewing the latest Ultralight jacket from Orvis.

Given my karma with such things, I assumed that the minute I bought a new rain jacket, I would be personally plunging Australia into yet another crippling decade-long drought. But the first day I took the Orvis Ultralight out on Lake Dartmouth, it rained hard and cold all day and has hardly let up since. As fishing goes, this sucks seriously soggy ducks, but for reviewing rainwear, it was like plucking the golden goose.

My specific needs in a new wading jacket were simple. Besides obviously needing to be watertight, I wanted it to be light and compact enough to live in my pack permanently, and more suited to chasing summer trout than winter steelhead.

The first and most notable feature of the Orvis jacket is that its light, stretchy and soft-to-touch fabric is more supple than expected.

In combination with the loose cut, this stretch also allows total freedom of movement. Even swinging my old 11′ 6-weight single-hander, that’s best described as ‘physical’ while carrying an extra ‘layer’ from Cooties-19 lockdown, I never felt restricted.

The next most notable feature is the brilliant hood that offers a wide field of view and a large, firm bill that works as well over a beanie or fishing cap.

There’s a three-point drawcord system to close it down even tighter if required, though I found it most comfortable left as is and didn’t experience any rain coming in. Worth a mention, the hood doesn’t roll up or fold away.

In terms of packability, once scrunched down tight, the Ultralight is only just bigger than the lightest hiking stuff I’ve seen. It’s still far easier to carry than a 4-season wading jacket while having most of the same fishing-specific features. 

Breathability is amazing, and even after full days on the water and trail, through cold and warm weather, I haven’t experienced any clamminess or lingering damp.

The jacket is fully seam taped inside. To keep water from running up your arms, the Dolphin Skin cuffs have a short inner sleeve of soft rubber-like material that, once cinched under the outer sleeve, fit snugly and don’t let any water in when landing fish or flailing about in the rain.

For outside storage, there are two flush chest pockets and two handwarmer pockets that both offer some stretch and a lot of room. The zippers are all water resistant YKK AquaGuard and though a little firm, the pockets remain dry.

There’s a net ring tucked under a small flap on the back and two subtle attachment tabs, for hemos or zingers on the front. On the inside there’s one open pocket just big enough for a  phone, but it doesn’t close securely.

In length, this is a little longer than a wading jacket needs to be when worn over waders, but, on me at least, is just long enough to be worn as a casual jacket which makes it very useful off the water as well. I also think it looks quite smart, possibly even cool, though I’m not the kind of person you would ask for fashion advice.

Two colours are available, a flat, two-tone grey with high-vis green touches and a brighter orange over dark grey that might save you being mistaken for that very rare fly fishing deer during hunting season. 

And last, but in no way least, I’ve found the Ultralight to be completely watertight inside and out no matter the weather, and that, I suppose, is the main game.