Flows are coming down and we’ll be out chasing some hungry trout in our local rivers before long. While fishing from the banks provides a lot of opportunity, many of us will don our waders, or slip on our wading socks for some wet wading on the hot summer days, and venture out into the river. Practice these tips for safe wading in our beautiful waters.
Have a plan. Visualize your journey into and through the river. If you are crossing to the other side, pick a tree, rock, bush or other landmark as your target. Ideally, the landmark should be downstream because moving with the current is easier, less-fatiguing, and safer than upstream. If you try to move straight across, the current is going to move you
This video from Orvis also suggests that in some instances, you may want to wade in an upstream angle in case you run into trouble – you can then turn around and retrace your steps. In short, read the water, know your own capabilities, and plan a route.
Read the river. It’s not just for finding fish! First, if you can’t see the bottom because of discoloration, or if you are unfamiliar with the river, or it’s getting dark, use extreme caution – or don’t wade at all. Before crossing, check upstream or downstream from you. An easier route may just be a few yards from where you are standing. Shallow riffles, particularly those at the end of tailouts, may offer the best opportunity to cross or to get to a better position on the river. And, connecting back to the previous point about having a plan, you might cross the riffles and then survey the river if you’re crossing to the other side.
Try the buddy system. Crossing with a buddy provides additional stability. Hold on to your buddy’s belt – not his or her shoulder. This will give you a sturdier anchor and since your hand is lower, you will be less likely to knock your partner off balance if you happen to stumble.
Shuffle don’t stride. Shuffling your feet along the bottom has a lot of advantages. You’ll be able to feel any rocks, holes, or irregularities on the river bottom. In addition, by not lifting your foot too high off the bottom, you stand less of a chance to have a raised foot and leg knocked off-balance by the current.
Try a Wading Staff. “The broader the base, the greater the stability.” A wading staff can offer one more point of contact in the water and add more stability to steady yourself. Key point, and I speak from experience with this one, is to hold the staff in your downstream hand. If you have it in your upstream hand, the current will (trust me on this) sweep it into your body and perhaps between your legs causing a very unsteady moment or two in the river as you try to get the staff out from between your legs.
Wear a Waders Belt. Falling in the river is no fun. Having your waders fill with water is not only less fun but dangerous. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Maybe your waders would fill up with one or two gallons. Your mobility is severely impacted with restricted movement and increased weight. A wading belt will prevent water from rushing into your waders.
Know your abilities. Read the river. Have a plan. Just like the “grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence” – the fishing may not necessarily be better on the other side of the river. Be safe as you make your decision to wade or not to wade!
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside