Video Tuesday Tip: How to Wade Safely


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In today’s video Tuesday Tip from the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center, we discuss safe wading practices. With many people fishing in very cold water over the winter, and with the upcoming runoff season, it’s a good time to review wading safety. (I know, it’s one of those boring but important topics and you’d rather have us give you some tips on where you can catch big fish right now and exactly how to do that. But you can’t catch fish if you’re swimming.) If you’ve never done any serious wading, you should watch this video. And even if you have, it might be a good refresher—it’s not the last word on wading safety, but it will get you thinking.

Falling down in shallow water can be a real drag, as well as painful. But losing
your footing in deeper water can have dire consequences.
Photo courtesy Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center

13 thoughts on “Video Tuesday Tip: How to Wade Safely”

  1. Good short film. I wince when I see older fishers bucking the current without a wading staff. I’m 65 years old and not ashamed to say I’ve been using one for about 6-7 years. Finally, I think something a lot of older fishers could do to prevent spills in the current is get a lot more walking exercise. I’ve just lost about 35 lbs since the beginning of the season and it has markedly increased my steadiness in the current !

  2. Good points
    Additional thoughts :get trapped air out of waders;before wading stretch and bend to loosen up muscles

  3. Pingback: How To Wade Fly Fishing | top - fishing competitions
  4. Something that helps me a lot is to try and keep my knees slightly bent when wading. This lowers my center of gravity, enables me to react more quickly and fluidly when something unexpected happens. It also feels stealthier… Like I’m this fly fishing ninja, or maybe Jack Reacher goes fishing.

  5. I keep inexpensive back-up waders and spare clothing/socks in my car. If I do go down I’m ready to fish again with a quick trip back to my car and a change into dry everything!

  6. Good video! I would add something on swimming when you do get caught. Important to swim on a diagonal to a bank downstream, to not hurry, to secure your zippers and your rod if you have time. Also important to avoid downstream willows and to head for the inside edges of bends even though that may not be the side you want to be on. It is far safer to cross the water again in a safer place than it is to be swept on the outside edge into willows and roots.

  7. Been at this for over 35 years. Many more of the spills I have had were due to tripping on an unforeseen large rock and losing balance than from slipping. For this reason, I try to take small steps. Yet I have to admit that sometimes when I get absorbed in casting and moving in the water, I can and do take a spill. Did it as recently as last week. Fortunately, it was a slight one.

  8. I have a younger brother who has been a fly fisher for many years. Recently, I learned that he does not and will not wear a PFD. Apparently, few of you do. I’m a sea kayaker of many years, and none of us would ever consider getting in our boat without wearing one that was correctly fitted. I know he wears a wading belt, but it scares the hell out of me! Can you explain why?

    1. I have been thinking of this myself, maybe getting one of those type V pfd. Helps to keep the head above water and does not seem to get in the way as much when not needed.

  9. Good video on wading safety. One comment, based on my experience.

    Yes, I see the point of keeping your wading staff downstream of you, in order to be able to lean on it. Somehow, I was taught long ago to keep the staff UPSTREAM. I think that once saved me from a life-threatening circumstance.
    I was out fishing during the Great Lakes fall salmon run. I had gone out crossing the stream in a gentle riffle, maybe just a little more than knee deep. No problem. Coming back, no problem either. I had my staff in y upstream hand like I always do. Midway across, I felt a pressure on the staff. Turning upstream, I saw an almost totally submerged log, about 6 feet long, maybe 8 inches diameter, with sawed off ends, with just a tiny bit above the surface. It was balanced 90 degrees to the current against my staff. As I tried to clear it, the log spun me around. Now facing downstream, I started to topple forward, jamming my rod against the bottom, breaking it at about the middle. Luckily, I didn’t fall in. Maybe I would have just gotten wet, but likely would have been injured hitting the stream bottom.

    So, I was grateful that my wading staff was upstream and gave me that warning. Maybe I should have seen the log beforehand, but even in clear, slightly tannin-stained water, it was not very visible even when it was against my staff.

    Have fun, but be careful out there,

    Peter G – Batavia, Illinois

    1. Aha, found the reference:

      Joe Brooks, Trout Fishing, 1972, page 223, figure caption:
      “When wading in a heavy current, author uses a makeshift staff for safety. Staff should always be held on the angler’s upstream side so he can lean into the current.”
      Then on page 224:
      “If you use a staff on the downstream side, the current pushes hard against you and may push you into the staff and throw you off balance or even trip you.”

      Peter G – Batavia, Illinois

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