Whether it is streams, lakes, or the ocean, sometime, or perhaps every time you go out fishing, it involves wading. It’s either getting your feet wet, or your whole body depending upon the circumstances of where you might be fishing. Careful wading is essential in whatever type of fishing.
I don’t know how many times in my earlier days of trout fishing that I slipped on a rock trying to get to that special spot only to float on downstream getting all cold and wet. Many times if the water is cold enough, it surely might ruin the day or even the fishing trip.
Fishing for shad one time on the Feather River near Gridley I was standing on a loose shifting sand bottom. The sand gave away and I went under into a deep hole. Lucky I had a tight belt around the wader tops which gave me enough floatation to get out of that dilemma. One shad angler that year drowned under the same circumstances. Felt soles or hobnails would not do you any good in that kind of bottom environment. Being wary of the type of bottom terrain is one of the major key ingredients for safe wading.
Let’s say you are fishing for bass in a farm pond or lake shallows where cattails, and the usual vegetation is present. Along with that is more common than not, very sticky mud sediment. This stuff is very hard wading but you want to get your presentation out on the edge of the tule growth where the bass hang out. It also could apply to duck hunters who hide in that type of environment. What can and will happen is your boots or waders get stuck in the slimy mud. It might take you twice the time and effort getting back to solid ground on the return trip. If you have any cardiac problems, this type of wading is not recommended.
Now if you are wading a small trout stream in the high Sierra, you might get by with no wading at all and if you do, the rocky bottoms most times are not too slick. At wide open meadow streams you may only need to wade to get to the other side and the bottoms in these locations are quite safe and gentle on your feet.
Wading rivers like the Truckee, for example, requires careful attention to the bottom and the changing terrain. Big boulders, pockets, and slick rocks are very common. The shoreline granite rocks and big holes in the canyon can present a challenge. Swift currents and runs signal hazardous wading. Many rivers are like the Truckee bottom and they generally present the greatest challenge in wading.
The Provo River in Utah is very much like the Truckee. So is the Upper Sacramento River. Most smaller streams pose no threat to wading, with the exception of Hat Creek. Hat is a rather swift, very cold spring creek until it meets the Rising River in the meadows. Hat Creek can be deceptive. It is narrow and crystal clear but some of the holes are very deep and wading can be unsafe. Then on Hat Creek, and other volcanic streams, there are hidden deep narrow channels that cause the main currents to go from horizontal to deep vertical flows similar to Iron Canyon on the Sacramento River above Red Bluff. These hazards to wading can be identified generally by shallows on each side of a dark narrow channel and is usually caused by ancient volcanic activity.
Many streams in the West have this characteristic.
On the upper Klamath from Salt Caves near the Oregon border to the upper tributaries various locations of volcanic activity are present and can be tricky wading.
On the Williamson River where it is joined by the Sprague River, there are narrow shelves and lava rock extensions protruding out into the middle of the river. Anglers, if they know the exact location of these formations, can wade and fish out in the middle of the river where fishing for large trout is a great challenge providing the angler does not step off either side of these outcroppings.
When it comes to still water wading in lakes, one can generally see where the deeper water begins. If this is not possible, then don’t wade. Instead, cast from the dry shoreline. This might apply too where the fish hang around closer to shore. If the fish are way out beyond casting reach, a float tube or other floating devices might be the answer. If you are fly fishing, one has to consider back cast room and wading out a little too far might create a wading hazard. If you are wearing chest high waders it is a good idea to wear a tight belt around the top of the waders in case you lose your footing and go in the water.
Now days there are great developments in wading attire. Lightweight, tough and flexible are a radically different from the old cumbersome waders of the past. We finally got there but it took a lot of slipping, sliding and dunking getting there. Wading shoes are filling the bill with hob nails to grip the rocks and felt soles combined to prevent falls in hazardous currents. In addition simple wading staffs can be used to further stabilize wading in tricky waters. A simple stripped down ski pole can suffice. Your bucks are well spent on durable wading shoes if they only save you once from falling in a swift current.
Why wade at all? Maybe it is the attachment we have to the water. I know if I get near a stream, it seems I always get my feet wet. It never fails. Perhaps it’s the rush of the water going by on a beautiful river that makes you want to join in with nature and catch a wild trout. Or hook a large bass near the shoreline. Wading is fun and most of the time. And probably the most important thing about wading as to get you in the right casting range to the fish. Enjoy, live, and wade safe.