An old TV show-which name I can’t recall- had the main character make a very profound statement on life which was “Find out what you don’t do well and then DON”T DO IT’. I have watched a lot of You Tube and Vimeo videos lately and have notice that a lot of the fly fishers charge right into the river up to their chest with the enthusiasm of a bull going after a red cape. I keep waiting for the cut to them floating downstream like the hero of “A River Runs Through It” and I am constantly disappointed. Are the shots of them tripping over a rock or log and being swept downstream in a swift current getting edited out or are all these guys super strong waders who have never faced the reality of wading which is You Will Get Wet.
I have almost died on two occasions in my younger days in relatively mild waters all because I failed to pay attention to what was going on while I was wading. The older I get the more careful I have become. I now marvel at the antics of my younger contemporaries but at the same time realize that I was just as adventurous in my younger days. I still enjoy wade fishing but, as stated in the opening sentence, realize that I cannot do at 72 what I did at 25. For your consideration, here are my suggestions for the older wading fly fisherman-and the younger one too.
- If the area or water looks unsafe to wade, IT IS. No fish is worth your life.
- I don’t care what they are called- sticky soles, clingy soles or whatever- rubber sole wading shoes can kill you. I have owned two well known brands of these type of wading shoes and they ended up in the trash can very quickly. In my home waters I was slipping and sliding all over in even shallow and relatively mild current. Stick to felt or, if you must, get aluminum or chain cleats.
- Take small steps when you are wading and feel your way along the stream bottom. Look where you are wading, use polarized glasses. If you are afraid of dislodging insect life, what are you doing wading anyway!
- Use a wading staff or a ski pole for stabilization. Why do you think tripods are so successful. Put it on a cord so you don’t lose it. Belt loops can keep it out of the way.
- Angle upstream and not downstream. Current can be deceptive when going downstream.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for sticks or branches floating downstream. Let boats know what side you would like them to pass on. Canoeists and tubers usually don’t have a clue how to navigate, so watch out for them.
- Wading in the dark is a lot tougher than you think. You lose visual reference.
- Wade with a partner nearby. If not, at least let others know where you will be wading and when you will return. Wear a life jacket (PFD) or PFD suspenders and a waist belt. It traps air and can help you float. If you do fall in point your feet downstream so they hit obstacles first, not your head
- Carry only what you need for your wading excursion. You are not going on a camping trip. I’ve seen guys burdened down like pack mules and they would probably sink if they fell in.
- Learn to cast better. Take a casting class, learn to double haul, take up Spey casting and just improve your casting skills. The sloppy casting and poor techniques from the days when you could wade closer are over. Good casting can overcome chancy wading.
Remember that you are out there to have fun and relax. The old phrase “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance” is good advice. Now go out and enjoy the water.
La Pêche est ma Folie