Safe Wading, Part One

When fly fishing, wading through the current is the best way to get to those hard to reach holes where fish are holding. However, navigating swift currents can be tricky. Today, I’ve provided you with some tips to help ensure you don’t slip and injure yourself—or worse, get carried downriver—the next time you’re wading through the waters in search of trophy trout.

One important thing to remember when wading in a river is to go slow. While this obviously entails being careful while wading, it also means taking time to evaluate current conditions, especially when you are fishing unfamiliar waters. When entering the river and moving through the water, make your moves slow and controlled to minimize the risk of falling. As you practice this, it will steadily become second nature, but wading is always slower than traveling on dry land, and as the hazards become greater, your approach demands a bit more caution.

Aside from moving slowly, standing firm by creating a wide stance when you’re on a slippery surface is smart. To do this, stand so your feet are shoulder-width apart and flex your knees to lower your center of gravity. By having your feet wide apart, your slipping foot tends to shift your center of balance to the opposite foot. Learn to never cross your feet, but slide them instead. This method may feel awkward at first, but practice will make it feel natural. With wading experience and practice you’ll find that you’ll be able to wade faster when implementing this technique.

Foot placement and balance are other critical elements of safe wading. Typically, your foothold will not be flat and uniform on the river, like a floor, so you must adjust your foot position. Your foot may need to be turned inward or outward, up or down, in order to fit a given foothold, and most of the time, this foothold will be very small. Furthermore, you’ll find that placing your foot in a secure foothold among cobbles or boulders is most secure when you stand on the arch of your foot, rather than the ball.

If you’re constantly searching for balance, or your foot is constantly slipping from your chosen foothold, then it’s time to evaluate your foot placement and determine whether you are fitting the terrain or hoping that the terrain is fitting your step. Time is the best teacher when it comes to recognizing the feel of secure footholds, so the more you practice wading the easier wading will become. Be sure to stop by for Part Two of this series, where we’ll explore more tips on how to safely wade a river.