The Art of Wading

The Art of WadingBill Krise – Bozeman, MT

Many of us fish from stream banks and wade in when necessary as we move along the bends in search of that perfect spot.  At its core, wading begins as a means of getting from point A to point B when obstacles are present.  But this necessity is, for many, an experience in its own right.  For some, it is the heart and soul of the fly fishing experience entirely.

I myself enjoy wading because at times it gives me the sense that I am truly a part of the environment around me.  What better way to connect with nature than to be fully immersed in it!  Having trekked through streams in the Eastern and Western United States, Alaska, and Asia, I have come to realize just how integral wading is to the sport (and art!) of fly fishing.  But for all its majesty, it is not without its risks.

Everyone cautions, “Wade safely,” but this advice is measured differently by each of us depending on our own individual skills and abilities.  Younger anglers have a tendency to wade into streams without much hesitation.  Some even wade in barefooted!  For others, older anglers in particular, it is prudent to be more discerning.

WadersMany things can happen when wading.  There are large rocks to step over, tree limbs to avoid, stones rolling underfoot, and perhaps even a precarious combination of silt or mud on the river bottom.  Having been spread-eagled over a large rock myself, and even taking a spill in the Firehole on smooth gravel, I have had my share of falls.  I now find it useful to bring along a “wading staff” for extra support in tricky locations.  Even when a slip is preventable, it is always on the horizon of possibility.

In difficult conditions like these, the first (and most important) rule of thumb is to be sure of your footing as you step.  And if you see a foothold in the distance, be sure not to take too long a step, as this can throw off your balance.  For such a seemingly simple task, there is a bit of art and science to wading – and a lot at stake.   So be careful to understand what type of river bottom you are walking on.  Most problems are just a slip away, and one little “whoops” while stumbling around can get you pretty wet!

But for all that could go wrong, remember that wading is the lifeblood of the fly fishing experience.  It is often necessary for finding the perfect fishing pool or that sense of majesty that comes from fishing on “untouched” waters.  This post is not a wading smear campaign in any way.  Instead, it simply offers a bit of precautionary advice that might make your next wading adventure all the richer.  After all, nothing feels better than standing, immersed, in the middle of a natural paradise, rod in hand, searching for that big one.  So get out there and catch the wild river spirit.


  1. C says

    As someone that wade fished 99% of the time I can relate to the article. The risk of getting wet or losing a new pair of sunglasses to the river is worth the micro-adventure of crossing a stream to reach a favorite pool/riffle to fish.

  2. says

    Hope this wasn’t an anti-wading slant…seems like the most at peace I am each year is while wading, both dry and wet…with water flowing around me! Certainly is an art to staying upright, but a necessity to move stealthily into ‘hunting’ mode for the better fish that often shy away from the easy water. Nice job…especially here in the midst of one long winter.

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