Fly fishing instruction wading safely
- keep one step ahead of trouble!

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Wading safely for fly fishers information and advice to help you go fly fishing more safely

wading safety advice
Wading safety advice

Wading safely for fly fishers invaluable information and advice to help fly fishing safety. There is no single type of waders ideal for every situation and in some places certain wader or boot types are downright dangerous. Here I will try to explain some wading techniques that may help you to wade more confidently and safely. Before any of that however every angler must realise that wading is dangerous, your life is in your own hands, if you are not sure that you can take the next step, stop and figure out the situation and make sure that you will be able to negotiate your way out safely. Remember too that you can get just as wet in one foot of water as in ten if you fall over and in freezing weather the consequences could be as bad especially if you are a distance from help or shelter.

Vision of the river or lake bed is a prerequisite for wading. You should never put your foot down if you don’t know for certain where the next step is or cannot see what you are stepping onto. Polarized glasses are therefore a very important asset and do not consider wading without them. Choice of colour for the lens is important too because certain lens colours are better in certain water types. For instance in peaty water amber lens seem to give better vision and in salt water some anglers prefer gray. Whatever type of glasses you choose make sure that you have them attached to you by means of a cord or lanyard. Using the polarizes glasses and your water reading skills plan out your wading route whilst you are still on dry land and most importantly make sure that there is a safe way out of the water before getting in. Once in the water the most important thing is to keep your balance and your footing. Should you be unfortunate enough to loose your nerve and “freeze” anytime whilst wading relax and get your legs and body moving gently, take time and figure out the situation. Do not attempt to move whist you are “stiff” or panicking. Most of this article is devoted to ensuring that you avoid such instances but if it happens you should be prepared. A good quality inflatable life jacket will be an enormous comfort at such times but keeping out of trouble in the first place is infinitely better than getting out of it!

entering the water
Entering the water

The safest way to wade into or over a river is to wade upstream. It is more physically demanding but you should always be able to get back out the water by retracing your steps. If you head into the water in a downstream direction and get into difficulties you may not be able to escape with the force of the current is against you. A classic example of this situation is the “hogs back” gravel bar that often extends downstream before dropping off into deep water on three sides. And there is another deadly danger with some of those bars because the gravel may be quite loose and if you go onto the steeply sloping downstream edge it may slide and take you with it into deeper water as it avalanches beneath your feet. Making progress upstream can be tiring and especially if you are headed almost straight up river it is usually easier if the water is not too deep to lift your leg high and out of the water with each stride. Wading downstream is perfectly safe if you know your limits, have an escape route and don’t attempt to wade to the top of your waders or get into currents that are so powerful that you cannot stand comfortably. When leaving the water choose the easiest route available, one that is clear of herbage like thorns or brambles. If you have to climb a steep or sheer bank choose your handholds and footholds carefully. Sometimes it is much easier to crawl out using your knees to avoid lifting your feet high and becoming unstable. Handholds on low, strong branches or roots are a good help and you can make good use of both hands by placing your rod and other paraphernalia on the bank to reduce encumbrance before clambering out.

A stout wading staff is an enormous comfort and benefit in many situations. If you are armed with a decent salmon rod you can use that as a wading staff in an emergency, it’s better than falling in! Another use for a long rod is to use it like a balancing pole by holding it across you body at shoulder level like an acrobat. When wading in current, presenting the minimum obstruction to the flow with your body attitude means that you have to withstand the force of as little water pressure as possible. Waders that have no “slack” around the legs or body help in this respect but best of all to learn how to use your legs to support each other and point your feet in the best direction to ensure the best possible grip from the ball of your foot.

Wading Part 2

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.