If you want to fly fish throughout the year, wading for it isn’t a bad idea. It keeps you connected to the force that holds those finned creatures we love to chase and it keeps you in the outdoors outside the “typical” fishing season. A win-win, right?
But, if you’re new to the wading world, have no fear. We have some tips to help you get out there with confidence.
Get the right gear
The primary pieces of gear you’ll need to #wadeforit are waders and wading boots. There are a lot of wader manufacturers out there, so the options can seem endless; from professional level on-the-water multiple weeks per year (i.e., it’s your job) to a casual, more recreational use level (i.e., weekend warrior).
To pick the right gear for your style/level of fishing, ask yourself:
How often do I want to wade fish?
The more days on the water, the more rugged a wader you’ll want to purchase. While a simpler, less-expensive wader would be able to simply keep you dry and warm, it likely won’t have the extra technical features (i.e., reinforced knees) that will help them last longer. If you plan to wade fish a couple times a month, a simple wader made of waterproof materials with a simple waterproofing finish could be just what you need. If you make it to weekend warrior status or daily wading fly fisher, you might be better off with a more robust pair of waders with taped seams, waterproof materials and membranes and other technologies and upgrades.
How technical of a pair of waders do I really need?
Speaking of techy features, the more time on the water, the more rugged and multi-functional feature-loaded (i.e., technical) pair of waders you’ll want to purchase. A “higher level” wader will keep you drier longer and will likely have some nice upgrade features. Often, they will feature higher level waterproofing coating and waterproof materials as well as waterproof pockets, easy on/off waterproof zippers, fleece-lined chest pockets to keep your hands nice and warm, and more.
Boots? Wait, I need special boots?
Yep, that’s right. Waders feature an integrated booty, so a special wading boot is a must. There are a lot of options on the market including boots with felt or rubber soles and uppers made of leather or synthetic materials.
How big is my budget?
Most waders run from under $200 to over $600. It’s a huge span, we know. At Postfly, we like the offerings from Compass 360. From their entry-level, but fully-capable Deadfall to their pro-level Guide Z, these guys have options for every kind of angler, but don’t let us convince you. You can check them out for yourself on our website.
What other gear is out there?
Wading staff: If you don’t have the surest footing, consider using a wading staff. A wading staff is a light, single hiking/trekking pole made for the river. It gives anglers some extra balance while making longer walks through the river and they are usually available in a collapsible version to easily pack away while fishing.
Polarized sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses doesn’t just block the sun, but polarized shades will help cut the glair on the water so underwater obstacles or deeper zones are much easier to see. Logs, rocks, and other debris are all present sub-surface and being able to see them is helpful. Polarized sunglasses also help you see the fish you’re chasing!
Practice in shallow zones
Once you get your gear, don’t rush into the deepest run you can find. Fasten that wading belt and wade into the shallows. Make sure you’re comfortable and have your kit dialed by walking up, down and into the river. Rocks move, feet slip and sandy/muddy sections can give way to sinkholes, so practicing your footing and getting used to your gear is a must. Shallow, shin to thigh deep sections are a great place to practice.
Work your way upstream
Once your kit is dialed, chase those fish! When wading in the river, work your way from run, to hole, to next run moving from downstream to upstream. By working your way upstream, you have the element of surprise. Fish have a very specific field of view and (spoiler alert!) they can’t’ see what’s coming from behind them all that well. Use this to your advantage by wading into a river downstream of where you’ll fish and work your way up.
Go with a friend
Fishing is always more fun with friends – most of the time, anyway. By going with a friend, you have moral support and a hand to pull you up if you tip over and land yourself in the river.
The biggest benefit to wade fishing is increased access to fish. Rather than limiting yourself to a boat or a season, wading gets you into nearly any size rivers any time it’s not frozen. In the end, you’re extending your season and all it takes is a pair of waders and some additional accoutrements. Think about it: while your buddies are waiting for the full thaw to run their boats, you’re wading and (hopefully) landing fish…not a bad way to spend a weekend, in my opinion.
Based in southern Colorado, Ryan is a photographer, outdoorswoman, fish chaser, and proud mama to two wild Outdoors-loving kiddos. When not wrangling little ones or cattle dogs, you’ll find her on the water, on a trail or on the road looking for the next piece of water and (hopefully) high country trout.