Be the first to add a review!!!

Fly Fishing & Wading Safety 101: Tips To Stay Safe On The Water


Article Categories: Fishing Tips
Article Tags: Fishing | Fishing Tips

The time taken for poor swimmers to drown is equivalent to the time taken to reply to a text message, according to an article published by Red Cross. Fly fishing, unlike the traditional methods of fishing, is in itself an art. With fly fishing, and wading into rivers comes danger. Water is powerful, and it only takes a minor mistake for someone to be in a life threatening situation.

In this article, we are going to discuss wading safety tips to hopefully help keep you and your fishing partners a bit more safe on the water.

Quick Navigation:
Background & Stats On Fishing & Drowning | Key Tips To Stay Safe

A Background On Fishing & Drowning

While fly fishing, having water safety skills is integral for survival when faced with a slip or fall-in-the-water situation. In addition to being water-skilled, knowing what causes unintentional drowning may help to reduce fly fishing accidents. Drowning is the third leading cause of injury death worldwide, and is considered a global health problem. The worldwide problem is a bit different than those fly fishing, but this highlights the power of nature, and its ability to injure or kill.
Most drowning accidents related to fly fishing are preventable. Even when they are not, taking the proper precautions may save your life, someone else’s life, or reduce the risk of injury in case of an incident. We also want to highlight a stat regarding alcohol usage and drowning. According to research, alcohol use is responsible for 70% of drowning cases┬áin adults and adolescents.


While fishing and drinking are often associated with one another, and it may be okay to have a drink or two, know that odds of serious accidents that result in injury or death go up significantly with the consumption of alcohol or other substances.


Wading Safety Tips


Know The Water You Are Entering

Know the water temperatures, know the air temperatures, know if you are below a dam and there is potential for a water release. You should also be aware of flash flood possibilities from rain storms out of sight, but upstream.

Knowing key information about the water system you are in may prevent you from getting in a bad situation. With rain in the forecast, or being downstream of a Dam, it is essential that you can quickly ascend and get out of danger. People lose their lives to this every year.

If water temperatures are cold, which is often the case with trout fishing, there is added danger. Colder water can cause hypothermia quicker, and can make it even more difficult to exit the water in case of an emergency.

Icy conditions also increase the odds of slipping, getting trapped under ice, or having ice hunks floating down river that can take you out. All of this needs to be in an angler’s mind.


Wading Belt & Staff

A wading belt can prevent water from rushing into your waders in case you fall in. This will enable anglers to escape the situation they are in easier. Without a wading belt, water can far easily rush into the waders, potentially making it more difficult to exit the water or get out of a situation. Wading belts should be solid, but it should be easy to release in case it gets caught on anything while floating down stream.

A wading staff, or walking stick can keep you more stable when wading through the water. Realistically, everyone should be utilizing one, but even more so for individuals that need stability walking, or don’t have the ability to easily save themselves in a fall. A staff can prevent a fall or a slip which could save your life or prevent an injury.


Consider Studded Boots

Studded boots can add additional traction on certain surfaces. This additional traction can help anglers stay stable when water flows are strong. This can simply give added stability.


Wade Laterally & Be Hydrodynamic

When wading, don’t face directly into or away from the current. When you do this, you are maximizing your surface area being exposed to the current, increasing the drag and force on your body. Almost always it makes sense to be at some angle to the water to reduce drag and increase your stability.

Watch a video on this subject:


Where a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) – A.K.A. a Life Jacket

Most anglers do not do this, but it could save your life. They even make some pretty cool kayak fishing or angler life jackets that double as vests.


Avoid Deeper Waters & Stronger Currents

Simply put, the less time you spend in the water, the safer you are. We know that wading enables you to get in positions to get more fish. You still should never navigate into a position that puts you in danger. When currents are strong, or water is deep, avoid it when you can.


Water Skills, Swimming & Education


When time is taken to be educated on water safety skills, it does not only help to prevent drowning, but also makes way for safe fly fishing. Before getting into the water, ensure everyone in the team is prepared for any unforeseen eventualities. Check also that everyone is a confident swimmer.


If you are venturing into a river or lake without confident swimming abilities, or training to help save others, the odds of incident go up substantially.


A life jacket may feel cumbersome, especially to skilled and experienced anglers, but wearing it may be the difference between life and death in the event of a slip-in-the-water situation. While many anglers will not invest in a wading life jacket, it may be advised for anyone with a physical disability, or lack of training in the water.


If you do ever end up in the water and you begin being carried down current you need to follow best practices to increase your odds of survival and decrease your odds of injury.



  • Get your feet up of you are floating down stream. Don’t stand straight up and down. Feet down can give you greater risk of getting caught on a rock or tree.
  • Float down the river and use the current to your advantage. It may not be the best thing to swim directly to the shore. You may notice a pool down below that the water slows, in which your objective should be to safely get to that area and exit from there. Fighting the current will cost you energy, and you likely cannot fight the current. Even in light currents.
  • Scan the water below you to know what may cause dangers. Look for rocks, waterfalls, downed trees, or anything that could get you caught or injured.
  • Don’t worry about your gear. Just think about the safest way to exit.
  • Swim towards your destination (which likely may be a ways down stream). Don’t fight the current, but still make strides to reach your safe zone, or area to exit the river.
  • Be patient if you can. Don’t panic, be patient, be smart, and work your way to the safest possible area.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about