View Full Version : Wading

09-18-2007, 07:28 PM
Is it just me or is there a trick to wading? If you see me (ask my dad) I'm all over the river. Is it a skill you have to get or is there a special little fisherman's trick that I don't know about??


09-18-2007, 08:33 PM
I think the only trick is to avoid turning an ankle, or busting up a leg or skull. If all those things are avoided, it's been a successful day wading.

Seriously...I did a lot of wade fishing in college, although it certainly wasn't in mountain streams. It was in swamps, off the beaten path, where I found some bass that probably had never seen a lure. A different set of hazards, to be sure. You had to shuffle your feet - you never knew what exactly was on the bottom. Same thing when I got into surf fishing in the gulf - shuffle the feet to avoid the stingrays. In the moving water, it isn't quite a shuffle, but I definitely use my feet to "test" the bottom for my next step. I take things slow, and I try to find areas like gravel or cobble, where you can get a firm footing. I try to avoid stepping on submerged rounded rocks - they tend to be very slick. Some streams are easier than others; for example, I find the West Prong of the Little Pigeon to be very slick - I usually end up with a few bruises to the shins on that stream.

09-18-2007, 09:44 PM
This thread reminds me of the first time I brought my Dad fishing in the smokies. I took him up to treemont and we had just started fishing as Dad had taken up sticking a little plunge pool just below the parking lot where lynn camp and thunderhead prong start to dump in. I was about 30 ft. or so away from him when I looked up to see nothing but his hat floating on top of the water and then saw him bob-up. We laugh about that now and though I'm sure somebody has a better name for that little spot it will always be known to me as Wet Fathers Pool on the middle prong. I can't fish that stream with out visiting that little pool with a bit of a chukle.

09-18-2007, 09:47 PM
...such as the amount of algae or "rock snot" on the river bed and rocks. Not to mention the current and one's leg strength. It's one thing to decide where to put your foot, another thing to actually "hit" the target your foot is heading for. I like to wade between the larger rocks and try to stick to the sandy spots or even gravel when possible. I also carry a wading staff whenever I wade so as to have it to resort to if the current is stronger than anticipated or the bottom is slicker than expected. I figured the cost of a good staff is far cheaper than just the cost of an xray, let alone a complete trip to the local emergency room.

Along with the staff, I try to be far more conservative in my stride when wading as opposed to how it is just walking on dry land. Then there is also the question of whether you are wearing felt sole, some of the "hi tech" rubber soles, or studded felt. I tend to wear studded felt soles in areas such as Abrams which are notoriously slick. One other thought is to make sure of your next step before moving your back foot. In other words, test each step carefully before you commit to the next one. Back to the staff and in consideration of it soon being fall and there being a massive influx of leaves in the water, I use my staff to check the soundness of the stream bed beneath any leaves so I don't step in over my head or deeper than expected. I have seen more than a few piles of leaves gathered on the bottom in such a way as to "mask" a hole much deeper than the leaves appeared to be.

Just some things to consider...


09-18-2007, 11:40 PM
I find when I first get in and when I am leaving is when I am most vulnerable to falling. I think its because when I get in I am not used to being in the water. And when I am leaving I am just tired or in a rush. SO having said that I try and be careful right when I get in and do not have my sea legs, and when I leave I go slow and try not to rush myself.

09-19-2007, 10:45 AM
I have tried to avoid spending much time actually in the water except when it is necessary to get from one spot to another. I figure the less time I spend in the water and fishing from the sides instead, the less chance I have of spooking the fish (not an original thought - just some good advice from Walter).

I've spent enough time on my rear end over the years to do a lot of what other folks have mentioned when I am in the water - testing each step, opting for sand or gravel rather than rocks whenever possible, making sure I know where my next couple of steps are going to be before I commit, etc. Slow and easy is always the best policy when moving through the water.

09-19-2007, 02:49 PM
I know what you mean. I've taken many a hurtful spill myself. My problem is watching the water and my casts more than watching where to walk. Two things that helped me not to fall as much are 1) I bought a wading staff and I USE it - yes it was hard to swallow pride and do this but now I love it, better to swallow my pride than gallons of mountain water 2) don't step on the white rocks, no matter how much you think you can walk on it, you can't. Also, always face upstream. Good thread.

09-19-2007, 03:55 PM
I'm a good bit older than you and my motto is "Wading Staff always and move slowly, making sure your next step is solid". I enjoy all your posts.


09-19-2007, 07:43 PM
Thanks, that will help, but I won't be wading for a while, because my leg is still healing. When it does heal, I'll try not to get in trouble, because I'm all wet and my dad likes his truck dry. I got a little better at it, but I still always miss calculate how deep the water actully is.


09-20-2007, 11:13 PM
I waded slick streams in flip flops much of my youth, so I may have a little different view than some. I especially like ljsouth's and pmike's posts above. I've had to teach my wife to wade (she is NOT natural at it), and when she hits slick rocks, there is nothing really to do about it. She is just too old to learn how to slide. I think it is like trying to teach someone a sport or an instrument; past a certain age, they may be able to function, but they are never going to be great at it.

But Giantfish, you are young, so here are some of my thoughts.

1) This is most important. Wading can be dangerous, and you are gonna fall sometimes. YOU BETTER KNOW WHERE AND HOW you may fall before you take your next step. Really. Be prepared. I have never broken anything, and it's because when I fall, I fall well. I can't really take credit for that, it's just an artifact of wading so much at a young age. You better be prepared to end up wet, no matter what time of year it is, or how careful you are. And you better not end up in water over your head if you are wearing waders!
2) Don't trust your eyes when you see the bottom. Step slowly and deliberately. Don't "step" so much as slide your foot, feeling along the bottom, to the next purchase.
3) Small rocks, sand, clay and mud are always safer than bigger rocks and bedrock. Of course, you may end up pretty deep in mud some times, but at least your leg won't be broken. :smile:
4) For the times when you have miscalculated, it might be helpful to be able to slide, although if you slide into a badly angled rock and break your ankle, it will have been much better to simply fall in the water instead. You probably shouldn't even develop that skill. I remember an incident when I was about 8 where the current got me and slid me about 20 feet. The water was too muddy to see the bottom. Although I was proud of myself for not falling in at the time, as an adult, I would have purposely fallen on my butt so that I didn't risk breaking a leg or ankle, or even worse, catching a foot and drowning.
5) Don't ever push it. At some point, you will want to get somewhere, say the other side of the Hiwassee, or the Madison out west, and you'll be tempted to cross deeper and faster water than you should. Let me tell you, if you have done that, and felt the water start pouring over the top of your waders, you will never do it again. There are plenty of fish to be caught in life, and it is not worth the risk.
6) Each stream has a different character, as you probably know. For example, if I fish Abrams for a long stretch, I know I'm getting wet. I may not even wear waders, and avoid that stream during cold weather. It's because the bedrock there is all at angles, and slick, and you simply slide downhill into these leg-breaking holes. It is especially true that you should be careful on a stream like that one.
7) Don't worry about casting or the fish until you have established a good, stable stance. It is easy to start casting or thinking about the fish before you have really stabilized yourself.
8 ) Felt and cleats and such are very nice. Wish I had those when I was younger.
9) Staffs are nice too. But I think some folks may get too confident when they have a staff, and fall in anyway. It is probably just as important to make sure that you aren't pushing your luck, wading into a dangerous place to begin with.
10) Don't worry about your flyrod! If you fall well, and break it, so be it. I've broken a lot. If your flyrod is too expensive to break, then get a cheaper flyrod. While growing up, my preacher used to say, "If your Bible is too nice and expensive to write notes in, then give it away, and buy a cheaper one." Probably no matter how expensive your flyrod, your broken ankle or leg will cost you more in both money and time. Plus, most expensive flyrods have great warranties anyway. And even if you break it, you can still fish, provided you duct tape it back together. You do carry duct tape, right? ;)

Hope this helps!

09-21-2007, 12:45 AM
I thought I would add an amen to his comment about or to the effect that your health and welfare are more important than that of your rod or other gear.

Almost 2 years ago as I was fishing along Little River, near Elkmont, I slipped and almost dropped my rod. In order to save my rod (which is a St Croix with lifetime warranty), I strecthed myself and fell accross a large boulder. I ended up with a bruised arm and after I returned home upon having my annual physical, the Dr. noticed I had torn a spot on my lower stomach resulting in a hernia. Let's see, to have my rod repaired would have been less than $30.00 dollars, hernia surgery?...Thankfully the hernia was small and appears to be healing without need or surgery

When all is said and done it's far cheaper and wiser to replace broken or lost gear than to mend your injured body.


09-21-2007, 11:46 AM
Gaintfish, as you have proably seen I fish a section of water at a quik pace, but when wading I will stand a look at the river for a long time. I like to figure out where to go and what steps I need to take to get where I want ot go and once i get there how to get back out. I also look at how much impact I am going to have on the fish and determine if the trout will bust me. I have learned that rock hopping can get you wet faster than anything and also puts up up with in the trout's field of view. Watch for angled rocks which wild slide you into a deep hole most times. If walking on leaves watch for hidden holes. As you know I tend to spend alot of time in the backcountry by myself (even with a healing broken foot) and the only way I can dothis is to be super carefull.

09-21-2007, 01:14 PM
Wade into position and then cast. Don't try to wade and cast at the same time.