Wading is important to most anglers and to fly anglers in particular. As covered in the first part of this series, wading skill and safety starts well before a fisherman wets a boot. But once preliminary steps are taken, it all comes down to knowing how to put boots on the river-bed. And good wading is very necessary for good fishing. Following are additional rules for wading effectively and safely:
Good wading starts before an angler enters the water. When approaching a stream or river, fish first to the closest water and wade only when you have to reach areas outside casting range. During high water events, fish will often hold along the bank and when the water is slow and/or clear, wading can easily spook fish. As the saying goes, “most people stand where they should be fishing…”. And when you do have to wade, plan your route first. What wading hazards exist? Are there better non-wading ways to access the fish.
Use a wading staff. A wading staff adds a third point of contact, and everyone knows a tripod is as sturdy as one can get. A wading staff also helps an angler probe for holes or unexpected drop-offs. Make sure your wading staff has a lanyard that is secured to your belt. If you don’t have a wading staff, a sturdy tree branch can make a suitable substitute.
Lean into the current. If using a wading staff, plant the staff upstream and lean on it. If the current is too strong, it will stand a leaning angler up and not back.
Cross with the current to conserve energy. Cross at a slight downstream angle with the current. This conserves energy and you can focus on safe wading and not fighting the current. When wading upstream, try to utilize slow water and eddies. If in need of resting, look for slack pockets behind rocks and obstructions for relief from the current.
Cross upstream if wading looks challenging. Wading upstream makes it easy to retreat if you get in to trouble.
Wade with profile minimized. Remember that a low profile against water means less pressure. Wade sideways to the current where possible so that one leg is “in the draft” of the leading leg.
Do the shuffle. Maximize contact with the bottom and “feel” with your feet as you wade. Keep a wide stance and make sure you place each foot in a secure place before placing weight on it.
Know your wading limits. Pick a reference point for ‘not wading’. In general, any depths above the knees make wading more challenging. The more body mass in the water, the more buoyant one becomes. And use your gut as you wade. If you are not feeling safe, consider retreating.
Pick your crossing points. The best place to ford a creek, stream, or river, is at the head of a riffle where the water is shallow or the tail of a pool.
Always pivot in the upstream direction. Pivoting downstream may result in your being pushed downstream and losing your balance.
Never cross your legs. Always bend your knees slightly to lower your center of gravity. Wade with a wide base – legs shoulder-width apart.