Using a Wading Staff

A few years ago, I started using a stick when wading across brooks and streams. The first time it was because I had picked up a piece of Maple, gnawed by beavers…

A few years ago, I started using a stick when wading across brooks and streams. The first time it was because I had  picked up a piece of Maple, gnawed by beavers into the perfect shape and length for a walking stick. Having it to hand  anyway I continued to use it as I walked across a freshet-full brook to get to a fishing spot. It made what would have  been a mildly treacherous adventure much less risky.  From then on, when walking into or out of favourite places, I  would scan for a good stick and carry it with me to the fording spots.   After crossing, I would leave the stick there and  continue. Before long there were good, wading sticks stashed at each difficult crossing.

Wading is a big part of my fly-fishing. If you have read much of what I write, you will know that I always apply a few  simple strategies when on the water. Confident wading is often the key to successfully implementing these ideas:

  • First, I try to find places others may not think to try.

  • I will fish from angles and approach lies from directions that are not always conventional.

  • I am always game to walk another mile in an effort to find undisturbed water and so on.

It is simple stuff but cumulative.

Safe wading like any aspect of good fishing involves being aware of a few techniques or ideas that are used together in different combinations to contribute to safety, comfort and success. When wading I may appear bold but only because I am careful.

Here are the things I think about when in the water:

  • I try to avoid wading past the point where I become buoyant because I want to put my weight securely on my forward foot before lifting my rear foot to take another step.  This is critical. Always have one foot well  placed and not slipping before lifting your weight off the other foot to take a step.

  • I wade parallel to the current to reduce drag and usually cross at an angle rather than trying for a straight  line.

Here is the simplest and most important tip I can offer:

  • I never step on something that I can walk around or step over.

That is a good tip for walking in the bush in general not just when wading.

I always use a Wading Staff with a lanyard to keep it from drifting away should I drop it and I wear a belt around my  waders.

The idea of the belt is to slow the rush of water into your boots if you fall. You would be close to neutral buoyancy with your waders full so sinking like a stone is not the big problem. Try getting out of the river with a hundred pounds of  water sloshing around your feet. That is a problem. An immediate benefit of a wading belt is that it minimizes the  discomfort of a little water splashing in over the top here and there.

I will be honest, I did not and do not always follow the common sense rules listed. Heck, I only started using a real  wading staff in the last couple of years yet of all the things I can think of to improve one?s comfort and security in the  woods or on the stream a good walking stick/Wading Staff is hard to beat.


Steve Dobson has been a fly fisherman for thirty years or more and a catch and release advocate for  almost as long.  Through his time on and off the water, he has developed two tools that not a single fly  fisher should be without.

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