Wading Basics

Wading Basics
Waders should always carry a hook-extracting device, to facilitate handling of fish intended for release, and to aid in handling other critters which inadvertently become impaled on the hooks!

In order to maximize results when wading, an angler must wear the proper clothing, carry functional tools, and utilize an intelligent plan. Some parts of the setup demand uniformity, while individual preferences profoundly affect other elements. Selecting and wearing the proper clothing provides the first step in designing an effective wading system.

When wading in water warm enough to tolerate without waders, an angler still needs garments which provide protection from the sun and from potentially harmful creatures. The outfit starts with nylon shirts and pants designed specifically for fishing.

The long-sleeved nylon shirt should have pockets on the front. A wet wader should always wear long pants for protection against abundant jellyfish, which usually provide a nuisance in warm water. Long, nylon wading pants provide adequate protection from the stinging tentacles; shorts and swimsuits do not. Wading anglers should also wear other items of clothing at all times.

Atop a wader's head should rest some type of hat. At the least, the cap should have a long brim on the front to help shield the eyes from the sun. Anglers walking around in the water should carry polarized sunglasses to provide further protection for the eyes. I wear my hat and carry my shades in my pocket even when entering the water at the crack of dawn, so I won't have to return to the boat once I need them.

I always plan for some catching when I start fishing and don't want to set up a situation where I need to leave biting fish to get my shades or hat. This habit hints at a more wide-reaching rule--a wading angler should always carry all necessary equipment when walking away from the boat (or other vehicle, if entering the water from shore).

The hat protects the head, the sunglasses shield the eyes, the shirt covers the upper torso and arms, the pants keep critters from stinging the legs, but perhaps more importantly, the boots and ray-guards protect the feet and lower legs from potentially harmful encounters with stingrays.

Ideally, a boot made of tough material worn in conjunction with shin-guards which extend eighteen inches or more up toward the knee provide a barrier which the spike on a ray's tail cannot penetrate. Simms makes some excellent, ankle-high, stingray-proof boots, and ForEverlast makes the best stingray guards I've found. Other products exist which provide maximum protection against strikes from stingrays, too. All wading anglers should wear some type of stingray protection every time they enter the water.

A few further comments on the critical clothing component protecting the feet--boots must fit comfortably not only in the shoe store, but also in the water. Even when wet wading, I always wear a boot at least one size larger than my normal shoe size, so the added pressure of the water won't squeeze my feet and toes uncomfortably.

When worn over waders, boot size becomes even more of an issue. A boot at least two sizes larger than the normal shoe size works best when worn over waders. People looking to cut costs can purchase one pair of boots, two sizes larger than their foot, and wear them year-round. Wearing socks helps oversized boots stay on the foot when wading wet, and the big boots fit well over the waders when cooler weather dictates their use.

The best waders don't leak; they fit comfortably and loosely, and they allow the angler to carry some accessories in their pockets. Lightweight, breathable waders provide durability, flexibility and comfort. With the proper layers of clothing under them, they allow one to stay warm enough on even the coldest days.

On the nippiest occasions, the wading angler will need more than a pair of waders to keep the chill from creeping in and ruining the fishing. In a cold-weather wader's wardrobe, a properly designed jacket provides much needed protection from the wind and waves. The garment must repel water and blunt the chilling effects of the breeze. Anglers should wear it outside the waders, so waves blowing onto their backs and wind-driven rain can't spill into the waders. I regularly see people make the mistake of heading out into cold weather wearing a jacket which won't repel water, or tucking their jacket inside the waders, or both.

A durable, waterproof Gore Tex jacket provides shelter from both water and wind admirably. The best have sleeves which cinch tight around the wrists with Velcro straps, spacious pockets on the front, and a hood which comfortably tightens around the neck and chin. Such a jacket, worn outside the waders, keeps moisture from seeping onto the sleeves of the undergarments. Open-sleeved jackets which allow water in can cause discomfort, especially for those who manage to catch and handle large numbers of fish.

Staying warm means staying dry and preventing heat from escaping through the top of the head. Consequently, a hat plays a critical role in dealing with the cold. I always wear my baseball cap when fishing. In cool weather, it keeps me comfortable. But when temperatures fall below about sixty degrees, I cover the ball cap with a beanie. In the coldest weather, when cold winds brush against the back of the neck, causing discomfort and potential distraction, I raise the hood on my jacket and cinch it tight too.

A comfortable angler tends to have better focus and efficiency. In order to maximize success when wading, one must develop a system for carrying the necessary fishing equipment at all times.

In addition to the most obvious need for a rod and reel, a wader must carry an assortment of other items. Ethical considerations dictate carrying a hook-extracting device of some kind. Intelligently designed pliers serve this function and one other. I prefer aluminum pliers which will extract hooks and cut braided line. Since I use a barrel swivel to attach the braided main line to the leader line, I carry a spare swivel when wading.

I also tote a spool of leader line, medicated lip balm which carries an SPF rating of at least 15, a small rag for use in wiping my shades if they become wet, a camera, and a fifteen-pound Boga Grip. Additionally, I bring along a small selection of extra lures with which to experiment if I can't catch fish on the one I tied on before leaving the boat.

I prefer a clear-plastic Plano tackle box (model 3500) for carrying extra plugs like topwaters and twitchbaits. The box accommodates the largest lures I use, and holds an ample selection, around eight or so.

Anglers must decide how they want to carry all the stuff they need. Perhaps more than any other aspect of wadefishing, this decision relies purely on preferences. I carry my equipment using what I'd describe as a minimalist approach, meaning I've learned over time to eliminate all unnecessary objects.

I wear a small belt for back support and place the sheath carrying my pliers on it. A flexible lanyard tethers the pliers to the sheath. Though high-quality stainless steel makes the Boga Grip amazingly corrosion resistant, I prefer to keep it out of the water as much as possible, so I clip it to my fishing shirt or waders. My waders have large plastic clips perfect for holding the Boga, which clamps onto them and hangs in front of my torso unobtrusively.

The fishing shirts I wear have a small loop riding on the inside edge of one of the front pockets. This loop won't hold the Boga by itself, so I place a zip-tie through the loop to hold the device when I'm not wearing waders. A short length of nylon cord tethers the lip-gripping tool to a stringer float, to prevent it from sinking to the bottom if dropped. On the end of the line protruding from the float, I place a small, brass clip, which I use to attach the Boga to the belt when measuring the length of a fish, or as a way to retain a throat-hooked fish without necessitating the use of a stringer.

I have not mentioned a stringer or other device for keeping fish as something I carry when wading. As a trophy-obsessed angler, I don't want a stringer stretched out around me while I'm attempting to land a monster trout. I've seen far too many fish lost while anglers tried to keep them from becoming tangled in a stringer.

If I carry a stringer, I've learned to keep it coiled up and stored in a jacket pocket or on my belt until needed. I employ a slick stringer with a sharp tip, and impale the tip into the float on my Boga Grip when keeping fish, since I don't wear a belt designed specifically for wading. All good wading belts have a built-in slot to hold a stringer spike. Using the slot saves time and facilitates easy removal of the stringer if a shark or dolphin grabs the fish.

A last word about systems for keeping fish. Some anglers prefer floating nets over stringers for this duty. Shark-infested waters might require such a net for some. I don't like nets like the dough-net, since I find stowing them on board the boat difficult and because they provide a hazard to landing trophy fish. Landing nets create the same problem.

Carrying a landing net large enough to use on trophy trout normally means tethering it to a belt and leaving it floating around on the surface close to the angler, which sets up potential problems when large trout come close to hand. I will continue to fight and land my fish without nets, having lost only a few giant trout up close in my career.

Of course, landing and handling some species of fish, particularly flounder, proves nearly impossible without a net. The invention of the Boga Grip reduced the severity of this problem, one I don't worry much about at all. I'm a net hater, but others can certainly design a highly effective wading system which incorporates the use of a net.

Any efficient system for carrying essential and optional tools includes personalized aspects. Every expert wader adopts and employs strategies built around the specific equipment they find most useful, after considering many alternatives, and also the type of fishing they like most and the priorities dictated by their preferences.