The Ten Commandments of Wading

Kevin Mayer practising his spey casting :: The LOONS Flyfishing Club

 1.  The faster the river is flowing, the lower the depth level you can wade

This means wading only mid-thigh in swift water. One can wade deeper than that in some slower stretches of the river, but stick to shallow stretches when on a raging river.

2.  Keep your strides short

Panic leads to larger strides which can result in getting ‘stuck’ in the current with your feet about a yard apart. This makes balance difficult. Besides, when you try to take a step, the current assaults the one leg on which you are standing and raises the odds that you will end up making a splash.

3.  Make sure you have the right soles

Felt soles, though controversial, are still the best, especially in fast-moving rivers with smooth-rock bottoms. They are controversial because for years, it was thought that fly fishers who didn’t fully dry out their soles and then fished in a different stream contributed to the spread of invasive species.

If you take the time to wash your felt soles and to let them dry before going to another river, you eliminate almost any chance of spreading an invasive species. Metal studs work well too – either as an alternative to or (better) in addition to felt soles.

4.  Use a wading staff

Some simply use whatever stout branches could be found along the river’s edge. It makes good sense to purchase a wading staff… Orvis and Simms make good wading staffs. The Orvis can be assembled in much less time.

5.  Angle downstream when crossing a river

This enables you to work with the current, not against it. The current will actually push you along. Remember command #2 and take short strides.

6.  Don’t try to turn around in fast current

This is where a lot of anglers get into trouble. Either use a sidestep or back up carefully. Remember to take short strides and to angle downstream as you back up towards the bank.

7.  Wear a wading belt with chest waders

Seat belts save lives… so do wading belts. They keep your chest waders from filling up with water if you slip and take an unexpected bath. If you forget your wading belt, forget about wading for the day!

8.  If you fall in, don’t try to stand up too quickly

And keep your feet down river. Stay in a sitting position and wait until you reach knee deep water before you try to stand up.

9.  Let your fly rod go

If you need to use your hands to stroke to shore, give it up… better to lose your fly rod than your life. You might even recover your fly rod downstream. If not, you now have an excuse to buy the latest and best fly rod you’ve been drooling over in your local fly shop.

10. Don’t wade fish alone

It’s not worth the risk. At least avoid certain rivers or stretches or runs.

If you’ve rolled your eyes at any of the ten commandments of wading, let us remind you how shocked your body will be by the cold temperatures of the big freestone rivers in the West. Let us remind you, too, that one slip can lead to a broken arm or (worse) a head injury that can limit or incapacitate you. So when you break these commandments, you put yourself at risk. Keeping them will protect your life.

Wade safely, friend. Wade safely.

The LOONS Flyfishing Club

The LOONS Flyfishing Club