Wading Safely in Rough Water

How hard could wading into the water actually be? Even though your just walking it actually takes much more skill than you realize. It isn’t like walking down the street, you need to take a few precautions.

Wading Can Be Dangerous

Before heading out to your nearest river remember that wading isn’t for everyone. You need to respect the river. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or have years of experience. One slip and you could be rushing down the current.

  • You’re dealing with the force of moving water against your body. What seems like a gentle current can quickly pick up and get out of hand.
  • You can’t really see the ground as your walking. Who knows if there’s going to be a drop-off or loose rock below your feet. Even fisherman with years of experience will occasionally take a tumble(especially as you get older).
  • Underwater rocks and plant life can be downright slippery. Doesn’t matter what type of waders you’re wearing sometimes you just can’t get solid footing.

Take it Slow!!!

Even though wading is just walking it shouldn’t be taken for granted. The one cardinal rue of wading is to always: Take it Slow! Make sure you test your footing before taking the next step.

If you can’t see the bottom slowly step down and try not to get off balance. Test the footing in front of you before taking the wait off your back foot. Nobody can predict unseen rocks, Dropoffs and quick current surges that are often invisible from the surface.

Just remember to wade slowly and cautiously one foot at a time. Trust me all it takes is one bad step and you could end up with more than a bruised ego.

Consider Buying a Wading Staff

Personally I spent years refusing to use a wading staff. Throughout that time I slipped and slid all over the place. Don’t know if it was an ego thing or just ignorance at a young age.

I busted my tail more than a few times without causing much serious damage. Looking back I realize how easily things could have gone wrong. One slip and I could have busted my head open on a rock (happened a few years ago on a hike)

Don’t Risk it! For the price of a wading staff it’s stupid not to have one on slippery terrain(check out this collapsible wading staff). Just hook it to your belt/vest and collapse it down when you don’t need it. You can as a probing device to test depths and as a third leg on slippery terrain.

You Can’t Just Use a Stick

Although a stick lying on the ground may work well as a wading staff, what do you do once your out in the water. Out in the middle of the stream all you can do is toss it to the side and fend for yourself on the way back.

If you’re really really desperate and don’t want to spend the cash on a wading pole bring out your ski poles. You can probably find a cheap ski pole at goodwill for a couple bucks. During the summertime ski poles aren’t a hot item so you might even find a few in the clearance racks.

Two People are Better Than One

You would think one person wobbling around on slippery rocks was bad enough, linking two people together has to be a recipe for disaster. Unless you’re bringing along a serious clutz the opposite is true.

By linking arms together two anglers are able to gain strength and stability. While one person is struggling the other will most likely have firm footing. On difficult terrain use each other for balance try not to move fast.

Beginners Should Always Find a Buddy

Wading isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s the classic Ernest Hemingway struggle of “Man vs Nature”. I don’t care how many years you’ve spent in the gym, nothing gets you ready for that water rushing against your back.

Beginners need someone with a little experience to show them the ropes. The stronger wader should position himself upstream (since that’s the harder position) and slowly work your way into the water. With a little practice most people should be able to get by with just a wading stick in a few outings.

Handling The Current

When you finally hook a fish and it want to use the current against you he turns broadside to the current. This is great for a fish trying to fight against you, but it’s horrible for the fisherman.

Like a knife cutting through butter, you want to create the thinnest silhouette as you can. In other words, you want to stand sideways to the current. (easier said than done when battling a fish)

My silhouette might look more than a keg than a knife, but it doesn’t matter. Fat or skinny, sideways is always going to be the most efficient way to handle the current.

Sometimes Your Going to Take a Tumble

Suppose your eyeing the perfect place to cast behind a midstream rock. It’s slow going, but you’re making your way across the treacherous stream. You slowly wade across the water and boom, the bottom gets deeper than you thought.

Whatever you do don’t turn around and try to wade out offering up the broad side of your body. You’ll quickly get swept away. Just take your time and slowly back your way out of the water. Inch by inch make your way out of the water.

Go out into the water enough and you’ll eventually take a take a tumble. It’s going to be scary, but hopefully you’ll tumble less times than you think. Luckily through a lifetime of angling, I’ve only really fallen twice, though there’s been plenty of close calls.

Most of the time, you just get a bruised butt and wet gear. You can normally get upright pretty quickly if your belt and waders are tight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take that ride down the river.

What if You Get Swept Away?

Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do if you get swept away by the current. You can claw and kick all you want, but there’s no fighting the current.

If the current does take you, all you can do is ride it out. Don’t worry about holding onto your rod and gear, all of that can be replaced. Try to keep your feet downstream and protect your head so that you don’t strike a rock.

Although it can be a little scary most of the time you’ll hit calm water in 30 seconds or less.

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