Safe Wading, Part Two

Fly fishing involves a lot of time on the river and creeks that make their way throughout the landscape of this country. These rushing waters can be potentially dangerous if you’re not careful, though. In Part One of this series, we discussed some basic, but very vital, tips for staying safe while fly fishing. Today, we’ll continue with a few more guidelines that will help keep you safe the next time you strap on your waders and step out into the current.

Sometimes it helps to increase your points of contact when wading a river. In this case, I’m referring to using a wading staff. A wading staff is an indispensable piece of equipment when wading conditions are difficult because it gives you a vital, third point of support. This will make wading easier by letting you maintain two points of contact while one foot is making a stride, which can mean the difference between staying dry and falling in.

Aside from a staff, a wading belt is must-have when using waders. It will slow the flow of water into the legs and boots of your waders and make escape from the river easier should you fall in. If you’re wearing a wading belt and you fall in, your legs and feet will usually remain dry until you make it to shallow water and are able to stand. The key is to remain bent over as you head to shallow water, so you can drain the water from the top half of your waders. Your arms and clothes will be soaked, but if you drain the water out of the waders and keep your pants and socks dry, you can still fish the day with minimal discomfort.

When crossing a creek or river, it’s easier and safer to move at a slight downstream angle with the current than move directly across or against the current. To do this safely, you’ll want to locate a spot where there is a balance between shallow water with fast current and deeper water with a slower current. Either situation can be disastrous, though, so be sure to test the current before committing. This is the perfect place to use a wading staff. If you don’t carry one, it might be worthwhile to use a streamside stick.

A personal floatation device will be necessary for wading anglers that can’t swim very well, or can’t swim at all, and may be a good investment for anyone in big rivers and cold water. CO2 inflatable suspenders and solid, kapok-filled vests can be found in stores where rafting or water recreation gear is sold. Also, a whistle is one of the best tools you can carry whenever you visit the woods, and is an excellent safety item for waders to carry for emergency location. Be sure to store one in your fishing vest the next time you hit the river, just in case.

The tips outlined above will be a great asset to your fly fishing skillset and keep them at the forefront of your mind will go a long way towards reducing any potential anxiety or fear when you’re standing in the current. Be sure to come back for Part Three of this series, where we’ll discuss the varying types of river bottoms and how to safely navigate each type when you’re wading a river.