Fly-fishing Voices

Staying safe and dry

Photo Credit: Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

I’ve written about staying dry and safe in past columns. However, with the record snowpack we’ll have this year I feel the need to nag and remind those that fly fish of some ways to help you stay dry and safe. Unlike how you ignored your parents when they nagged, I want you to pay attention and follow my advice. 

I want to start at ground level, your wading boots. A good pair of properly fitted boots will help keep you upright. Along with a good fit, soles and studs that aren’t worn out will go a long way in helping you have an enjoyable day. A good fit means you haven’t bought a pair of boots at a garage sale that are two sizes too small or large. Your feet will either be cold, or you will step out of them when you least expect it. If you have boots that fit, check the soles and cleats. Both felt and Vibram soles will wear out and get slick with age. I always wear wading boots that have cleats. The cleats give me extra traction. I realize there is some controversy about felt soles and cleats. But those are what make me feel the safest. The type of boots you use is an individual choice, don’t let someone steer you in a direction you aren’t comfortable with.  

Once you feel safe and confident with your boots, check your waders. If they leak, you’ll be cold. If you’re cold, it can be hard to pay attention where you step as your shiver to death. After checking for holes, check the wading belt. For those of you that are new to the sport of fly fishing I want you to remember this statement. There are two types of fly fishers, “those that have fallen, and those that will fall.” A secure and well-fitted belt will keep water from filling your waders when you fall. 

To help prevent a fall or make it harder to step into a deep hole, a wading staff is needed. This is one piece of equipment that I will nag everyone who fly fishes to obtain. I don’t care how young and agile you are, falls happen, a wading staff will help keep you upright and able to fish another day. 

Now, pretend you’ve adhered to my nagging, done the above, and still take a really bad fall. If like me, the SWMBO in your life has made it clear you will not fly fish alone, merely ask your partner for help. On the other hand, if you find yourself in the high country on a steam that no one else is on, you could have a major problem. I follow two rules when SWMBO isn’t aware that I’ve sneaked off by myself. I always have my cell phone with me (on the chance it has coverage), and I wear an Apple watch that has an automatic app to check on me, should I fall. Should I not be able to respond to the inquiry if I’m alright, the app gives a dispatcher my location and help will be on the way.  

Another piece of advice, if you are going to fly fish alone, file a fishing plan. Similar to a flight plan, let someone know where you’ll be and when to expect you home. When you get home call and cancel your fishing plan. If you don’t call, expect someone to come searching for you. 

The last item you should have is a small first aid kit. You can buy kits already made up or build your own. A few Band-Aids and a little antiseptic can make a day looking bad turn into a great day. I realize nagging and finding myself sounding just like your mother is a scary thought. However, sometimes that little voice in the back of your mind can help you have a great and safe day on the water. 

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