Angling Safety While Wading
When learning to fly fish in a river there comes a time when the beginner needs to step into the water to be able to cover fish lies better. It is then that the need for waders is required and this brings a new set of problems to the equation. Continue to read as we discuss the need for angling safety while wading.
The need to wade in water is not so we can cover fish but is so we can cover them better as getting further out into the river allows the angle of the cast to narrow. This means the fly or lure can be fished around the lie of the fish at a controlled speed and depth which will increase our take percentages. Other needs for wading are when the growth of vegetation on the banking is such that we need to bypass obstructions and getting into the water is therefore essential.
So we have discussed the need for wading now let’s get down to the safety of it which is the main topic of this article. Water flowing down a river may look and seem easy to navigate but if you are new to a beat or river it is always a good idea to ask for directions down a beat from a gillie, guide or go with someone who knows the beat and let them go first especially if it is rocky. Some would argue that the first down the beat will have a better chance to hook the fish but I know from experience that the angler coming behind will get his share of the fish every time.
What equipment should we use?
I have found it that a good pair of wading boots is essential, they must fit you correctly and have decent grip. Studded felt soles are very good but some rivers are now doing away from using felt due to the possibility of carrying disease from one system to another as the felt can be a harbour for parasites. The more modern aqua grip sole is becoming more popular to avoid this and is a very good substitute that gives good grip on slippery rocks.
A wading belt is a good idea, one that can be fasten tightly around the waist so if you do fall in this will slow the rate at which water can fill the waders and allow the air in there to keep you buoyant for longer.
A life jacket or vest is also a very good idea. There are some good ones on the market today that inflate automatically upon contact with water and have a built in canister of air for inflation. However these need to be checked regularly for leaks etc and as there is an expiry date on the bottle they have to be changed regularly. Air bottles are around £20-30 so it’s not a big problem when you consider the cost of a life. Personally I find these heavy and if you are fishing for a long time can become cumbersome. I prefer the foam vest ones which come in all shapes and sizes mine is specific to fly fishing and has extra pockets which are a bonus. It also adds an extra layer to protect you from bad weather or wind.
The final piece is a wading staff. When it comes to wading staffs there are a few things to consider. The staff length should be close to your sternum when on the ground. When wading deep you need to be able to grab it without putting your arm in the water and getting a wet sleeve. The butt should have a good rubber end to reduce noise when drawing it over the rocks and stones of the river bed. It should also be heavy enough to stand upright in a good river flow, if it is too light it will float away from you and be more of a hindrance than a help. You should also make sure to attach it to yourself with a lanyard or noose so you don't lose it when you stumble or have to drop it to play a fish.
When wading it is important to keep checking the depth at which the water is around you. In fast water the flow will cause the water at your back to rise up further than your front and as you need to lean into the current you find you can get wet if wading too deep so don't allow water to be more than 4-5 inches off the top of your front. Wading deep is a skill that takes time to learn so I would not recommend that a beginner go in above the upper thigh until you have got used to the way the pressure of water feels around your legs and how the flow of water presses you against obstacles on the river bed. If a beat has become too deep move out and onto the next do not try to make your way to the end for fear of embarrassment from your peers. Many a life has been lost due to stupidity when it comes to wading and most could have been saved if common sense had been used.
If you do manage to stumble and fall in, DO NOT PANIC as panicking is the cause of most fatalities. Simply open your arms away from your body in the shape of a cross. Move your feet so they are facing downstream and lie back calling for help or use the whistle attached to the vest to attract attention. If the water has a fast flow you will need to watch for boulders hence the need to keep the feet facing downstream. If the water is slow but deep use your arms to paddle and slow kicks with your legs to swim to the side but go with the current not against it this way you will not tire so easily.
You can swim easily enough with a rod in your hand but if it becomes difficult let it go you can always look for it after as someone will likely catch the line. At the end of the day a lost rod is no were as bad as your life. Try to find somewhere easy to climb out. Stopping at a steep bank may cause you to slip and fall again, it’s better to reach somewhere more suitable. Water logged clothing and waders are heavy so be careful getting out and let the water drain from your waders before trying to stand up.
So there you have it a guide to wading safety. I hope you have found it useful and can put it to good use the next time you decide to go wading or are new to the sport. Any comments gratefully received. Tight Lines!
Written by Mark Thompson who has been involved in the tackle trade for 6 years. He has fished the North West of Ireland for Salmon and Trout most of his life and has recently begun writing about what he has learnt in the new site www.howtotroutfish.org. Check it out if you are new to fishing for some useful information and tips.