The hours you spend fly fishing on beautiful mountain rivers and streams are appreciated by many. However, before you pack your fly rod, there are a few important guidelines to follow for wading bird safety. These guidelines will help you be better prepared, especially if you are new to carrying waders and may not be used to navigating the current one.
- Don’t forget to buckle up. One of the most important tips for keeping waders safe is wearing a wading belt. This should be mandatory when wearing waders, as the belt will slow the flow of water into your waders’ legs and make it much easier to get out of a river. Although icy water is uncomfortable, do your best to stay horizontal as you near the shore and drain the water from the tips of your waders before you get up.
- Sport the right size and material. Use the manufacturer’s size charts, but always try on waders before buying. When choosing the best pair of waders, you should also consider water temperature and conditions. Neoprene waders give you the best insulation and durability when fishing in cold water (to avoid cold legs or numbness), while breathable waders are your best choice when fishing in warm water during the summer months (to avoid overheating).
- Slow down. This is a good guideline for general fishing safety, and not just for wading bird safety. Take the time to read the waters when visiting a new river or fishing spot. Find out about your fishing spot in advance, make sure you have a valid fishing license, and read the regulations for the waterway you plan to fish on. When you arrive take it slow. Make sure you use slow, controlled movements to reduce the risk of falling.
- Do a practice exercise. Put on a pair of waders and go for a swim or go to a river with a knowledgeable friend during the warm summer months. Fill your waders with water so you can do a practice exercise. Run through the steps of hovering on your back, paddling with your arms to keep your head up, pointing your feet downstream to steer yourself over rocks, and find a convenient exit point. Performing practice exercises will help you prepare for the eventuality that you are ever faced with an emergency situation in colder waters.
- Use the buddy system. Lock your arms when wading through fast flowing water. Two people are safer when they are connected and you can catch each other in the event you trip over.
- Bring a wading stick. While you might not think you need a pole, you might be surprised at the added comfort and stability you get when wading rapids when using one. A wading staff can be especially helpful if you are wading in cloudy or spotty water as they will help you better assess the water depth.
- Mix against step. Instead of lifting your feet up to take a step, you shuffle across the floor. When you raise your legs, the current can push your legs out from under you. However, if you keep your feet in contact with the ground, you reduce the chance of this happening.
Apply these six wading bird safety tips for a more relaxed and enjoyable fly fishing experience. Dress up your waders, grab your fly box and head to a river near you … the trout are waiting.
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Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.