I was checking out the Simms waders in the Denver Minturn Anglers fly shop, and got into a discussion with one of the staff about wader safety and the importance of wearing a quick release wading belt. Even though fly fishing is not considered a particularly high risk activity, there are still instances of accidental deaths. Often the danger is related to improper wading.
Every angler needs a good reminder now and then that waders are designed to keep water out instead of increasing the depth of waters that are being waded in. Using waders to go into deep water, especially when it is fast flowing, is simply asking for trouble. As with most things we do, common sense should be the guide to smart wading. There are a number of basic tips to follow:
- Use a wading staff even when walking on shore and pay attention to where you are stepping; most falls happen on dry rocks
- Wading when it is not necessary can spook fish
- In the water, use a wading staff to determine depth and avoid stepping into deep pockets; avoid areas where the current is too strong to allow you to place the staff where you want it
- Keep the staff in front and walk to it
- A wader belt is your fly fishing seat belt; buckling up high in the chest, especially when in deeper water, will help trap air in the waders in the event of a fall and prevent water coming in
- Be careful of your limits; anglers with limited wading skills should avoid waters above their knees, especially in faster water; deep water means more buoyancy and less traction
- Avoid stepping on large rocks where balance can be precarious
- If you do fall into a pocket and are being pulled downstream, try to float with feet positioned downstream, and work your way to slower and shallow water
- Always know the depth of water for your next step
- Do not cast and walk at the same time
- Remember that your endurance will decrease as the day progresses
I think it is important to be reminded frequently that patience and caution are the keys to safe fly fishing trips!