Loaded Large Fly Box

The Best Fly Boxes For Dry Flies

Because dry flies come in such a variety of sizes and styles, it’s difficult to put your finger on the perfect fly box.

Most mayflies and caddis are defined by hackle. The delicate feather fibers can be deformed if not stored correctly. Foam boxes can be a bit of a problem with certain styles of fly boxes for dry flies. Put simply, any fly with hackle that extends below the shank are difficult to store in foam.

That being said, there are foam boxes designed to accept dries with hackle below the shank. Some of the Cliff and Fulling Mills Boxes utilize strips of slit foam. When a dry is slid into a strip of foam, the hackle has more room to extend due to the open space between the slits. So classic dries like Orange Stimulator and Royal Wulff’s, as well as Stimulators, will travel well in a Cliff or Fulling Mill box.

The best way to carry perpendicularly hackled flies is in a compartment. The Missoulian Angler carries a multitude of compartment fly boxes for dry flies. The Umpqua Bug Lockers, Dewitt, Myran and the Meiho M Series are just a few. The Bug Lockers are polypropylene, come in multiple sizes and are color coded. Dewitt boxes are clear, with metal hinges, and are available in various sizes and compartment configuration. Not sure what the plastic is, but some of our employees have Dewitt boxes that are 40 years old and still working! The Myran 10 series boxes also have a metal hinge for durability, and might be the best box for small dries.

Montana dry flies can run big. Stoneflies and hoppers take up space, and require a big box to handle them. Foam and synthetics have taken over large fly design, and many bigger dries are perfectly suited for foam boxes. The Tacky El Pescador box is a great solution for big bugs, with it’s greater depth. The Fulling Mills Streamer box also doubles well as a big dry fly box, again with good depth for better storage.

When it comes to floating, the Cliff Bugger Box or Boat Box is a great solution for big dries. For smaller dries, the Meiho M Series is a guide favorite. The Meiho’s have removable dividers, allowing the angler to customize compartment size. The M Series comes in 2 depths, making access to smaller flies easier in the shallow box.

Dry flies are the trickiest flies to store correctly. Most anglers use a combination of foam and compartment boxes, keeping classically hackled flies in compartments while storing parachutes and foam flies in foam. There’s no doubt foam boxes provide unrivalled organization. With that organization, it’s easy to see where the holes in your arsenal lie, and make it easy to fill before the next outing.

How To Use Sinking Leaders

The sinking leader for fly fishing is a game changer for the part-time streamer thrower, or for fast water, no indicator nymphing. They save anglers a lot of money in lines and spools, while getting your fly deeper in quickly changing conditions. They are very popular with our customers, but we also get questions about their usage. They can be tricky to cast because they change the action of your fly rod. Here’s a few thoughts and tips for using sinking leaders more effectively.

History and Specifications

Sinking leaders have been around for a while, and truthfully never been a whole lot of fun to cast. Before the advent of today’s sinking leader, intrepid anglers built them from lead core fly line. Talk about a nightmare casting- no taper and lots of weight poorly attached to the fly line. It was chaos, and it took dedication coupled with a fearless attitude when back casting that mess out of the water directly at your head.

Things have changed for the better. The new sinking leaders aren’t perfect, but so much better than it used to be. It starts with the welded loop found on the end of every fly line. Sinking leaders also have a welded loop, and the loop-to-loop connection is one key to better casting. Gone is the mono leader butt that created so many casting issues. A mono leader butt is unable to support the weight of the sinking leader, and the resulting hinge point was almost impossible to cast through. With loop to loop, there’s a small hinge point, but it’s very manageable.

The new sinking leaders are made like a fly line, only with a monofilament core. You can get away with this because the short lengths don’t stretch enough to cause the coating to separate from the core. The new leaders are also tapered, which greatly improves turnover and accuracy.

We STRONGLY recommend tippet rings at the tippet end of a new sinking leader. The 12” of uncoated tippet at the end doesn’t last long when tying surgeon’s knots to new tippet. We recommend using tippet no longer than 2.5’ long, so the fly maintains leader depth. With the short leader length, you change tippet out frequently. A tippet ring extends the life of a sinking leader.

We carry sinking leaders in a variety of lengths and sink rates. It’s like carrying a variety of sink tip lines in a vest pocket. You can tailor your presentations depth with a quick re-rig, and make sure your fly is exactly where you want it. But there are things you need to know when using a sinking leader.

While there is some debate going on, AFTMA fly line standards are still the industry standard. The first 30 feet of a 5 wt line should weigh 140 gr. The first 30 feet of a 6 wt should weigh 160, a 7 weight should weigh 185 gr over the first 30 feet. This is important when using a sinking leader. As an example, a 12’ 3IPS Sinking Leader weighs 46 grains. A 12’ 7IPS Sinking Leader weighs 103 grains. The faster sink rate requires more weight.

When you attach the 3IPS leader, it’s like adding a line and a half to your rod. With the 7IPS leader, it’s like adding 3 line weights to your rod. When using a 5 weight rod with a sinking leader, you’re either casting the equivalent of a 6.5 weight or 8 weight line with it. That has important ramifications for the angler.

Techniques For Sinking Leaders

When starting the back cast, remember you have a lot of extra weight on the end of your line. You’re not going to just be able to flip 40’ of line off the water. You’ll have to strip the sinking leader much closer to the tip before starting to back cast. With less length comes less weight, and the rod handles the lighter weight better.

This is also very important. The sinking leader is completely submerged. When back casting, it’s not like pulling a floating line off the water. There’s so much more pressure brought to bear on a subsurface line than a floating line. To protect the lighter rod, use this method to start the back cast.

Bring the fly line in so the fly is 20-25 feet from your feet. Roll cast the fly to the surface. If the first roll doesn’t get it to the surface, roll again! Once the fly is on the surface, immediately start your back cast. With the fly skimming across the surface, there is much less pressure brought to bear on the rod. The heavier the leader, the more important this is. Rolling the fly to the surface is also a lot safer for the angler, because you have more control over the back cast.

When a fish strikes, make sure the tip of the rod is pointing directly at the fly, and use a strip set to jam the hook home. A strip set uses the left hand pulling back on the fly line- the rod is not involved. It’s critical to have a straight line from left hand to fly (accomplished by pointing the rod tip at the fly) so the strip set connects with the fish.

If you use the tip of the rod to set the hook, you have a good chance of not hooking the fish. With a dry or dry/dropper, on hook set the rod tip bends a bit and then the fly moves. Sinking leaders affect the rod much more. With the additional weight of the leader, coupled with the pressure of complete submersion and a larger fly- the rod bends deeply on the strike. While the rod is bending, the hook isn’t moving rapidly or powerfully, resulting in fewer hook-ups. Using the strip set plants the hook where you want it, when you want it.

4 weights, 5 weights and some 6 weights aren’t really designed to handle sinking tips. When the rod is out of its comfort zone, changes should be made in your casting and hook setting styles. At best, not changing casting and hook set will result in fewer fish. At worst, trying to lift too much weight with a fly rod will shatter it. Better to get the fly closer and do a little more false casting than explode the rod because it can’t handle the load. Better to practice the strip set to make sure you’re hooking the fish that strike.

Sinking leaders are a strong addition to any anglers kit. Light weight and easy to rig, the sinking leader gets anglers deep without the hassle of buying, carrying and changing out spools. The new design makes them much easier to cast, improving accuracy. Conditions are constantly changing on the water. The sinking leader allows you to make the most of the water you’re fishing.

Fall Fly Fishing Clark Fork River

Choosing The Best Fly Rod

I’ve been selling fly rods since 1985. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over that time period. Here’s what I think I’ve learned about helping anglers choose the best fly rod for their casting style.

My opinion doesn’t mean a @#?*>^%$ thing when it comes to your rod choice. I like the rods I like because of the way I cast.

I’ve been teaching fly casting since 1988. Unless your body shape resembles mine (and all gods help you if it does), I’ve learned your cast won’t look the same as mine, no matter how long you practice. The cast works around your body. It’s like batting stances. All those different stances made it to the majors. Batting stances follow fundamental tenets, but vary all over the map, and they’re all pros. Like a batting stance, casting is based around your body’s strengths and weaknesses, which might not be the same as mine.

My casting style comes from body shape, strengths and weaknesses, and practice. It’s not yours, it’s mine. Yours can come close, but won’t be exact. That’s important to know when you go to choose the best fly rod for your casting style.

That’s why my opinion doesn’t mean a thing. Unless you cast the way I do, my rod choices may not be yours.

If you go somewhere to buy a rod and they don’t have try lines, meaning you can’t cast the rod before you buy it, go somewhere where they will let you cast the rod.

I’ve seen it all. How anglers try to figure out how a rod will cast without casting it. Oscillations per minute under pressure. Got that one from Ted Williams. Pressing the rod against the ceiling and judging from the resistance how it will cast. Same as pressing it against the floor. The violent wiggle. The gentle wiggle. The intensely scrutinized, synchronized with the elbow and wrist wiggle. None of it means a damn thing. You have no idea how that rod will cast till you put a line on it. Don’t buy a rod without casting it or there’s no way you’ll get a fly rod that fits.

Never listen to the salesperson if they give you casting advice when buying a fly rod. Yes, the salesperson is trying to help. Yes, what the salesperson says is very likely useful AT THAT MOMENT, but how much are you going to actually retain, how much will you change?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of this. Wanting to help, but really causing more problems. Adding my 2 cents as the customer strays further and further away from choosing the best fly rod for their casting style..

When I teach casting, I have a method and style I ascribe to. If I’m blabbing about it while you’re test casting a rod, it might mean you have issues with your casting. Or, I may have cast the rod you’re looking at and thrown it 90 feet, and you want to know how I did that. Answer to that- I practiced. But whatever I say, whatever I show you, is going to alter your cast at the moment, very likely into a casting style I favor, which will lead you to buy a rod in the casting style I favor. Which may not be your style in the real world. It’s not my rod, it’s your rod. Don’t change your casting style when buying a rod.

If, after you’ve made your rod choice, you ask for advice, I’ll gladly give it. Having seen your style and what you chose for a rod, I’ll give the best advice I can. But not until you’ve made a decision.

So, what do you look for when buying a fly rod? What’s the most important thing to watch to get a fly rod that fits?

THE BACK CAST. SAY IT AGAIN, THE BACK CAST

When I’m selling a rod, the only thing I look at is the back cast. I do that because I know the last time the buyer looked at their back cast was the last time they practiced casting.

When was the last time you practiced casting?

That’s what I thought.

If you’re buying a rod and know enough to cast and compare, then you’re at least an intermediate caster. This is my definition of an intermediate caster. The front cast is basically functional to good, but the back cast looks like the Shadow Casting poster, with swirls of line in all sorts of shapes and designs.

Basically, the back cast is no damn good. And a good back cast is the foundation for a good cast. But people find ways to make that silliness behind them work. If the front cast is landing OK, then it’s all good.

When a potential buyer is comparing rods, I don’t watch the cast, I watch the back cast. Which rod provides the caster with the best shaped back cast? The front is going to be OK- that’s the definition of an intermediate caster. Which rod throws the most natural back cast, which forms the best loop. That’s the rod to choose, the fly rod that casts best on the back cast.

It’s this simple. Since most casters don’t pay attention to their back cast, the rod that throws the best back cast is the rod that naturally fits the casters stroke. I don’t care how far the rod throws, I don’t care which rod the caster prefers, I watch the back cast and recommend the rod that throws the best back cast. That’s the key to getting the best fly rod for your casting style.

That’s the secret. The cats out of the bag. Now, how does a rod shopper avoid the Hawthorne Effect?

That’s also a simple fix. Stretch a little line out, and cast a bit further, or try to cast a shorter……….

Wait, are you wondering what the Hawthorne Effect is? It’s the effect the observer has on the observed. Because now the caster knows their back cast is being analyzed, they will try and change it.

Here’s something else I’ve learned. The lack of attention by most anglers on the back cast has ingrained some pretty interesting habits. Most casters couldn’t break those dubious habits for a $1000 bet. (I’ve done enough teaching to be comfortable in that statement!) All I have to do is change the casting from something comfortable, where a caster can focus on their back cast (Hawthorne Effect) to an uncomfortable cast. So I ask the test caster to add some line, or shorten the line, or turn and cast into the wind. I make them do something a bit uncomfortable.

Boom!

The back cast is right back to where it was when you started casting and didn’t know I was watching. Change focus, add difficulty, and the habits come back. Hawthorne is alleviated!

Test casters look at me, staring behind them, and wonder what I’m doing. I’m watching the part they’re not, and making my assessment. While I have a vested interest in the customer buying a fly rod from me, I don’t have a vested interest in what rod it is. Whether I like it or not is completely irrelevant. It’s not my rod. I’m looking for the rod that fits the casting style of the person casting.

The back cast tells me which rod that is.

Use Technology To Boost Your Casting

As an aside, when the concept of a video camera was new I was teaching casting in New Hampshire. We rented a VCR camera for the Intermediate class, and taped the students. Every single student, over the course of the 3 years we ran the class, was stunned at how crappy their back cast was. How close it came to the ground, how mis-shapen it was, how slowly it moved. Every single student. They didn’t choose the best fly rod for their casting style.

It’s tough to make something good happen in front when you have dog poo behind you.

However, you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s a problem. So get your phone out and have someone video your cast. What’s your final goal? If you were being videoed from just above your head, a watcher couldn’t tell which direction you were casting. Another way to say it- the back cast is a mirror image of the front cast. Click here to find out how to set up the perfect practice area.

When I get a customer whose back cast is a mirror image of the front cast, I just shut up and get different rods as they ask. Or if I see something in their cast, I may recommend a rod they hadn’t thought of. But when the back cast matches the front cast, I don’t really do all that much other than string up rods.

Who knew, when buying a fly rod, that the most important thing to look for is the one thing most anglers pay no attention to. It took a long time to figure

this out, and I stand by this method of rod assessment. It makes for happy customers; it makes it easy to choose the best fly rod for YOUR casting style.

Blackfoot River Montana Salmonfly Hatch

What is the best fly rod length

It’s a thorny question, one that brings out the opinion of anyone asked. When you buy a fly rod, you make a choice. And with the cost of fly rods, it must be a well thought out choice. When deciding on the best fly rod length, here are the things to think about.

The Physics Of Rod Length

The only thing about rod length that can’t change is physics. From a physics standpoint, longer rods mend better and hold more energy- allowing longer casts. Shorter rods fight fish better. Those two statements can’t be refuted. Mending and fish fighting are easy to understand, distance a bit more so.

A longer rod (in the fly fishing industry, that’s over 9’) generates more energy, and casts further. However, that energy needs to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is you. Think about spey rods. They can be 16’ long, and a good spey caster throws 140 feet plus. You need two hands/arms to generate the power to make a rod that long work. Try casting a spey rod with one hand, and if you do, don’t sprain anything. The energy required and the swing weight will tear your wrist up. When we say swing weight, we mean the energy required to maintain position while the front or back cast extends to load the rod.

This holds true for all fly casting- all rod lengths and line weights. A 10’ 9 weight will cast further than a 9’ 9wt, which casts further than an 8’ 9wt. However, energy generation and swing weight multiplies with length, making a 10’ 9wt a beast to cast. Swing weight and energy generation lessen as the line weight lessens, but is still present. All rods need energy and have a swing weight- it gets more pronounced the longer the rod

Manufacturing Fly Rods

Manufacturers tell you a 9’ rod is the best fly rod length. This is based on two premises. Prior to graphite, cane and fiberglass rod makers knew the physics, but the materials made length difficult to achieve. With graphite, longer rods were now a better option. However, ferruling and blank rolling became issues.

In graphite’s infancy, ferrules were terrible. They created flat spots in the action, so rods were two pieces to minimize that affect. A 10 foot rod needed two 5’ pieces, and early graphite rolling machines couldn’t handle that length. The best they could roll consistently were 4.5 foot lengths. You didn’t want crappy ferrules or a curved blank, so manufacturing settled on 9 feet.

The other factor is development. Manufacturers have been working with 9’ rods for 50 years. You can be sure they have that taper DOWN. Spend 50 years refining anything, and it gets pretty darn good. Even with exponentially better ferrules and rolling machines, the tapers developed by the manufacturers still focus on 9’ feet, where the most R&D work has been done.

How Usage Affects Fly Rod Length

But the real measure of best fly rod length is usage. How will the rod be used, where will the rod be used. What do you NEED from your fly rod. Let’s look at this from a trout fishing perspective.

Well, it doesn’t make much sense to use an 11’ rod on a stream 8 feet wide. That’s problematic from the word go. Conversely, it doesn’t make much sense to use 7’ rod on a river 100 yards wide. Neither rod works well in those situations

Small waters fish better with a shorter rod, it’s as simple as that. They’re lighter in hand, more accurate and less fatiguing. When a long cast is 35 feet, a 7’ rod will make the required mends and other presentations. Small waters, for the most part, have smaller fish, and you can throw small streamers with a shorter rod. You can Euronymph with a short rod on small water- not as well as with a longer rod, but it can be done.

Yes, short rods are more accurate. Imagine pressing a door bell. It’s easy with a pencil, more difficult with a 36 inch dowel, harder yet with a 7’ stick and even more so with a 10’ stick. Short equals accurate.

In our minds, the best fly rod length comes down to distance and mending. We have big rivers in Missoula, which require both. We throw big streamers, dry/droppers and massive double nymph rigs, sometimes with lead.

When casting some of that junk, one thing a long rod does that few think of is keeping the fly away from your nose! Just sayin’. . .

How To Choose The Best Fly Rod Length

If we had to make a bold statement, if you fish water 25’ or wider, a 9’ rod or longer is the way to go. That comes with this caveat, in fertile land, where trees grow thick, a 25’ stream can have a covering canopy, or close to it. Short may be a better option in that environ. With that explained, if you fish water without a canopy, get a 9’ or longer rod, even if it’s 15 feet wide. If you can wade the smaller waters, you can use a longer rod. One of the best features of a river is no trees in it to foul up the back cast.

Wow, bet you thought it was going to be more complicated. Nope. Straight physics says a longer rod works better, except for fighting fish. And face it, we’re catching trout. While they get big, and 4-6 weights are considered light tackle fishing, trout are not tarpon or wahoo.  They fight, but with 5X coming in at 5 lb test, you can land trout comparatively quickly. The longer rod is not going to significantly fatigue most anglers when fighting trout, nor overly tire from casting a longer rod all day.

The longer rod mends better, adds distance, and fights the wind better. It’s simple math.  

However, another reason for short rods in fertile land. The longer the rod, the trickier it is to maneuver through the brush. We know a lot of long rodders who break the rod down to two pieces for easier maneuvering. The longer rod helps keep your fly out of the brush when back casting, but does put you closer to the trees. In our experience, there are less trees than bankside brush.

How long is too long for the best fly rod length? Tenkara rods can be13 feet long, but they weigh less and cast shorter distances. Distance equals energy expended. Tenkara rods have swing weight, and need to be maneuvered through brush, but on the whole aren’t fatiguing. A 13’ 5wt is a trout spey rod, with a handle configuration for both hands while casting.  

For those casting, not Euronymphing or Tenkara fishing, we consider 10’ to be as long as you want to go for single handed casting. Above that length, the rod gets unwieldly to handle, and exponentially more fatiguing as the line weight increases. You also lose accuracy, though the more you use a longer rod, the more accurate you become. For dries and smaller nymph rigs, you can also utilize the extra energy from a long rod by dropping down a line weight. We say a 10’ 4 will do everything a 9’ 5wt does, except cast larger streamers. This math holds true for any length/line weight comparison.

When you start thinking about 7 weights and higher, or using sink tips, a 9’ rod has proven to be the best tool for the job. 9’ rods have a manageable swing weight, and the shorter length applies more leverage for heavier/sunken fly lines during pickup. They don’t fight fish as well as a shorter rod, but since heavier lines are thrown longer distances, we accept the more strenuous fight for cast for distance.

When you think of the best fly rod length, think about the waters you fish most often. Factor in the physics of fly fishing, your comfort zone, what’s available from the manufacturer and what feels best in your hand. Don’t immediately discount a 10’ rod or a 7’ rod- both have their place on the water. But we say go longer whenever possible, because the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Missoula Fly Fishing Lessons

Krieger v. Kreh Fly Casting Techniques

There are two schools of fly casting instruction that dominate fly fishing. One method is espoused by Mel Krieger and Joan Wulff. The other is espoused by Lefty Kreh and others. They are quite different in some respects, and very similar in others. It pays to note that world Fly Casting champion Steve Rajeff uses the Krieger/Wulff method of casting.

In the Krieger method of casting, the rod remains close to vertical through the entire cast, only dropping as the cast is delivered. It maintains the 10-2 casting stroke as most efficient. The elbow is mostly stationary during the cast, with only the forearm and wrist moving to propel the fly line. The wrist hinges to deliver energy to the rod, and the concepts of line control remain the same. The line must be extended behind you before starting forward- the line must be extended in front of you before starting a back cast.

The Kreh method of casting differs in these ways. The rod is held at an angle to the body, and the elbow is not stationary. The upper arm, forearm and wrist are all involved in the cast, with a longer motion through the body. During the elongated casting stroke, the wrist hinges from 10-2.

At the Missoulian Angler, we have employees who are proponents of both casting styles. It’s a matter of style, not substance. Each employee has their reasons for using the particular method, and most casts are a combination of both styles. We feel it’s important to know both styles, and then pick and choose the parts you like and work for you!

Most beginners will be shown the Krieger/Wulff method of casting. It has less moving parts (elbow stationary) and is quickly grasped by beginners. The main difficulty lies in the fact you can’t watch the line on your back cast, and you’re doing it all on feel. The Kreh method is not taught as often, due to the relative complexity of the cast. With a moving elbow, more places are introduced where the cast can have problems. Krieger for simplicity, Kreh for comfort.

Wondering how this relates to your casting instruction? If you click here to go to How To Cast If You Spinfish, you’re going to find the method shown is the Krieger/Wulff school of casting. If you click here to go to How To Cast A rod If You’ve Never Held One Before, you will find the Kreh school of casting. We think at some point, you should click on both links, and learn as much about casting as you can!

Missoula Fly Fishing

Smart Wet Wading

When the weather gets hot, a lot of anglers ditch the waders in favor of comfort. It doesn’t matter how breathable waders are, in 90 degree weather, any extra layer adds a lot of warmth. When the waders come off for comfort, you’ll need to have the proper equipment for a full days fishing when wet wading

Ask any Sergeant about the most important piece of equipment they own, and they’ll tell you about footwear. When your feet are sore or blistered, the rest of the day gets that much longer. Being smart about your footwear when wet wading keeps your feet, and therefore your fishing, in shape.

Wet Wading Footwear

The easiest solution for wet waders is to use neoprene booties. Designed to mimic the neoprene sock found on breathable waders, the neoprene booties allow an angler to use their wading boots. Most anglers are comfortable with wading boots, and the thick neoprene sock allows an angler to wear the footwear they already own.

There are a couple of disadvantages to neoprene socks. When worn in a boat, neoprene socks get really hot. Additionally, neoprene socks allow water to enter. When your feet aren’t immersed in the river, the water trapped in the neoprene sock gets very warm. It’s like a petri dish around your feet, and you run the risk of a serious case of athlete’s foot. When you use a neoprene sock, it works better in a wet wading situation, not as much in a boat.

Many of the best guides in Missoula Montana wear sandals when they’re rowing. Keen and Chacos tend to be the favored footwear in a boat. So much cooler, and so much more comfortable.

When you wear sandals, MAKE SURE you put sunscreen on your feet! Crafty anglers apply waterproof sunscreen before putting on the sandals. Rub the sunscreen between your toes, and make sure you get complete coverage. Sunburn on your feet is sneaky. Because you’re getting in and out of the water, your feet feel cool. But the sun is baking them, and like Sarge said, keep your feet in good shape. Sunscreen is critical for comfortable sandal wear for wet wading.

Sandals have other issues as well when wet wading fly fishing. In low gradient rivers, like the Clark Fork and Bitterroot river near Missoula, sandals are easily worn for wet wading. In higher gradient rivers, like Rock Creek and the Blackfoot, sandals can be a bit more problematic. High gradient rivers have very little scree and cobble- most of the rocks lining the bottom are bowling ball sized or larger. Runoff moves the smaller strata, leaving the big rocks.

Most wet wading is controlled, but not all! It only takes once- having your foot slip off the top of a rock, and wedging your sandaled foot between two stones. Wading boots have a rigid toe box, ankle support and padding. When you wedge between rocks wearing sandals, you run a good chance of scraping your foot or jamming a toe. Wedge a wading boot, and the problems are minimized.

Low gradient rivers have their own issues. The cobble and scree that provides easier wading also suspends and enter into the sandal. Sandals without a toe cap are easy to sluice out when you get pebbles between your foot and the sandal. Sandals with a toe cap provide additional protection when wading, but at least once a day you’re going to end up sitting down and rinsing the gravel out. Wearing socks helps a bit with that, but nothing stops scree from getting into a wet wading sandal and rubbing against your feet. Socks also help block the sun and minimize sunburn.

Please, no mid calf black socks with sandals.

Once you feel the freedom of wet wading, it starts to become a habit, and you try to extend the wet wading season. As you do this, remember the first thing you learned as a young adult- warm beer is cheaper than cold beer, and the fastest way to get your beer cold is put it in ice water. When you’re wet wading in colder weather or colder water, the river is pulling the heat out of your body. It’s easy to get a lot colder than you think you are.

Surprisingly, there are advantages. Most of the time, if you find yourself wading waist deep, you’re standing where the fish were before you got there. Cold weather/water wet wading keeps you shallower and spooking fewer fish.

Plan Ahead

But you need to plan ahead. If the day calls for one fleece layer, wear two if you’re wet wading. You need to keep your core warm, and the additional layer(s) will pay dividends over the course of the day.

Make sure to get out of the water once in a while, even if the fishing is good. Depending on how cold the weather is, once you get cold, it’s tough to get warm again. It’s a lot easier to stay warm than get warm again.

Take this from a life long wet wader- after the fishing day is done, moisturize your feet and lower legs. No, we’re not going to recommend a specific lotion- just get one and rub it on. Constant immersion in water drains the skin of moisture, so you need to replenish it.

A down side to wet wading is the wear and tear on your lower body. When you’re wearing waders, you don’t really care about walking through mild brambles and bracken along the river. About 5 hours into a wet wading day, those thorns and prickers really start to hurt. Take a page from New Zealand guides. They wet wade, but wear a pair of running tights under their shorts. The skin tight fabric doesn’t impede water flow like quick dry pants or waders, so there’s less pressure on your legs. It also protects your legs from most of the thorns and plant life along the edge of the stream.

A big upside to wet wading is you can never go in above your waders. When crossing a river, or wading deep, you’re always worried about flooding your waders with water and being damp for the rest of the day. Hey, you’re already wet, so it makes no difference. You never have to feel the trickle of a new leak in your waders, as the water seeps down the back of your leg.

It pays to wear quick drying clothing, including your underwear. Yes, we’re talking about underwear- no snickering. Cotton may be comfortable when dry, but once it’s wet, it get clammy, uncomfortable, binding and can be a bit rashy. If you plan to seriously wet wade, spring for a pair of quick dry undies, it will make the day a lot more comfortable.

Wet wading is a truly freeing experience on the water. So much more comfortable in hot weather, and if you plan correctly, you can wet wade in conditions that might not be perfect. Getting the proper footwear and clothing is imperative for a comfortable experience. Grab your fanny or sling pack and hit the water, you’ll be amazed at how much cooler, comfortable and free you feel on the water.