8 Tips for Easier and Safer Wading
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
I'll be the first to admit that I've never been the most aggressive wader.
It's impressive to me whenever I see an angler crossing a waist-deep stream in swift current or pushing the limits when chasing stripers from the beach. I've always erred on the side of caution and like to keep myself out of trouble, even if that means maybe missing a great opportunity here and there. Regardless of your level of bravery while wading, there are some things that can be kept in mind for a safer, easier, more enjoyable experience.
Here are 8 tips for better wading...
Angle- I like to keep my body aimed straight ahead as best I can when crossing a river. This way the current will hit me directly from the right or left side which lessens the impact with my body and allows for better overall stability. Doing this also lets me shift some weight to the upcurrent leg which gives me a better and more confident stance at times.
Wading Staff- Everyone could use some extra help when wading gets a bit more challenging and a wading staff can provide that. Much like a cane, a wading staff provides another contact point on the bottom to brace yourself against when the going gets tough. A nice tree branch or something like a wooden dowel should work okay too, but an actual purpose-built wading staff is of course the very best option.
Wading Belt- When I was much younger, for some reason I didn't wear a wading belt for many years. A wading belt doesn't just keep your waders tighter around your midsection providing better looks and comfort, but more importantly it can keep water from flooding inside so quickly should you ever fall in. Wading sketchy waters without a belt is a recipe for possible disaster if you should happen to fall down and water floods in!
Seek Help- Wading tough areas with someone can be a big help. As a skinny kid, I used to steelhead fish a lot with my dad and we'd often hold hands and cross swift areas of the river together with him on the upcurrent side. I guess this could also be a bad idea if one person falls and makes the other person go down too, but I know for a fact I couldn't have handled some of that water on my own.
See Bottom- Wading gets extremely dangerous if the water is dirty and you lose sight of the bottom and have to feel your way along with each step. I've waded in deep, dirty water a few times and it's not something I enjoyed. Even in water with more clarity, be very certain of what you're getting into before taking that first step. Make sure the path looks good all the way to your end point and that you are confident the depth/current will be manageable.
Boot Type- One boot type isn't perfect for all situations. Felt-bottomed boots work especially well for slippery, smooth river rocks and won't damage the floors of a drift boat, but they also get dirty, can transport invasive species, and can freeze up. A more basic rubber tread is great on land, sand, and gravel, but may slip easily on slick rocks. For added traction, boots can come with some type of metal studs or separate ones can be added/removed to some boots. There's also options like studded chains that can be put over the entire boot.
Don't Be too Bold- If you are unsure about wading a particular area, skip it. Against my better judgement, I got a little too bold while surf perch fishing at a beach in California one day and almost wound up in a heap of trouble when a rip current started dragging me away as I fought against it. Luckily, I was able to stay on my feet and fight my way out of that scenario, but it shook me up to say the least!
Take Shorter Steps- I often like to take shorter steps when wading anything but the easiest bottom terrain. This helps me to place my feet more precisely and gives me better control of my legs when fighting the current. If wading on a down slope, it also prevents me from getting too deep too quickly.
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