Why You Should be Wet Wading More

Easily one of the best things about fly fishing in the summer is wet wading.

Waders have become the unofficial, but bordering on official, uniform of fly fishing. People spend hundreds of dollars getting zippers, camo, and an assortment of other features to make their waders a do-it-all product.

Because waders are essentially a uniform these days, anglers often wear them year-round. This includes the hottest parts of the year, when most people are sweating even in regular long pants.

Instead of continuing to wear your waders all summer because it’s just “what you do” as a fly fisherman, consider ditching them and wet wading when you can!

You get a better connection with your surroundings

One of my main reasons for wet wading when I can is being able to feel more connected to my surroundings. This is both practical and emotional.

On a practical level, being in direct contact with the water and the ground, without massive boots and thick waders, gives you a keener sense while wading. I find that it’s easier to feel different currents and individual rocks while wet wading, and that can be extremely helpful, especially in difficult areas of the river.

On a more emotional note, there’s just something nice about sharing the water directly with the fish you’re chasing. A level of separation exists when you’re in waders. While this is necessary for comfort and safety in the cold, when it’s warm, why not get a little closer to the outdoors?

A man fly fishes from a rocky shore while a dog walks in the water.

Wading is easier

Wading can get tricky in fast or deep water, especially if the rocks are slick. Having bulky waders that weigh you down and make your underwater profile larger doesn’t help at all. In heavy currents, the added baggage from your waders can easily knock you off balance.

Of course, here is where I extol the virtues of wet wading. While wet wading can mean anything from a pair of shorts with bare feet to long pants with boots, odds are that nothing you wear wet wading will be as bulky as waders.

Even in pants, but especially in shorts, you’ll notice how free and nimble you are while wading. This isn’t only enjoyable. It’s also easy. You can move faster and are less likely to fall without the added bulk.

Waders may keep you warmer than wet wading, but that’s only if you don’t fall in and flood them. Might as well just lower the risk of falling anyway and ditch the waders.

Falling isn’t as awful

As much as you’re less likely to fall while wet wading, it’s also not nearly as awful when it does happen.

First of all, you’ll already be wet, so unless you were only wading up to your ankles, you probably won’t get much wetter after a fall. On the same note, since you’re already wet, you probably already put your essentials (camera, phone, keys, wallet, etc.) in a safe place, too. One of the biggest traps of waders is thinking you and your belongings will definitely stay dry. I’ve done more damage to possessions in my waders than I care to say, simply because I assume I won’t fall in and flood myself. If you’re wet wading, you’ve probably found a better home for these items, so falling won’t matter.

In addition to just making you cold and wet, flooding your waders can be dangerous. Falling in a foot of water probably won’t do much, but flood yourself in deep water and you could have trouble staying afloat. Even strong swimmers struggle when competing against full waders. You may have a bad day after falling in while wet wading, but it isn’t likely to be life-threatening.

A woman wet wading while holding a trout and wearing a fishing pack.

You won’t overheat

Since waders are meant to keep you warm, it’s no surprise that this is also the case in the summer. Unfortunately, that’s not usually a good thing when it’s 80 degrees out.

Granted, some rivers flow extremely cold year-round, and may be best fished with waders even on hot days. However, most rivers won’t be frigid when it’s hot out, and even ones that are fairly cold may still feel good if it’s a sunny day.

Generally, waders without any other layers do allow your legs to cool off in the water, but waders on bare legs don’t exactly scream comfort. If it’s hot enough that I’d even avoid putting on thin leggings under my waders, it’s probably hot enough for me to ditch the waders altogether.

A woman kneels along a lake with a fishing net.

You’ll save time

One perk of wet wading that I rarely think of until I actually get to the river is how much time I save.

Choosing a fly and getting rigged up takes a bit, but at least it’s fun. What seems to take even longer and isn’t fun at all is putting waders on (or taking them off afterward, for that matter).

Having a pair of water sandals in the back of the car that you can throw on for a quick fishing session after work will get you both on and off the water faster. Wet wade religiously each summer and you may just get a few extra hours of fishing in.

What’s your favorite reason to wet wade? Let me know in the comments!


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Jenny

    I have been wet wading this summer in sandals or tennis shoes and using some “wader gaitors” I found on a Tenkara fishing website. These are neoprene with a reinforced knee patch that attach behind the leg with hook and loop patches. They are much lighter and much less bulky than full waders and provide just enough insulation to make standing in snow-fed lakes and streams tolerable.

    1. Katie Burgert

      Sounds like a great in-between product for when it’s warm enough to ditch waders but the water is still cold! Maybe I should think about having something like that in the car with me when I go. Occasionally I plan to wet wade and am shocked when I get there and it’s still too cold to handle.

  2. Brian

    I hate getting gravel in my sandals, and it happens. Every. Step. Where are you wet wading?

    1. Katie Burgert

      I wet wade most places I fish during the summer. I must not wade very many places that have gravel because I haven’t had that same issue. Most of the rivers and lakes around here have larger cobble.

  3. Martin

    For me, I always wear my kayak. Martin in Maine.

  4. JB

    As a dedicated set wader, I’ve learned the value of still wearing boots or (better yet) dedicated wading shoes with grippy soles. Tennies don’t cut it on slick rocks!

Leave a Reply