Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

November 13th, 2000

Slip and Slide

There is probably nothing more embarrassing for us as fly anglers than falling into the water, especially if there's an audience. If it's summer time and your life isn't in danger, you will dry out and other than hurt feelings the consequences aren't permanent. In cold weather the stakes get higher. Now wet, cold, and some distance from the vehicle hypothermia can be a factor. I've been through that, and it's not anything I want to repeat. Ever.

We can't protect ourselves from every little thing that could cause us harm, but we can do some common sense things which really do help.

Some years ago when we first fished the salt here, I let a local shop talk me into felt-soled waders. When fishing our estuaries on a low tide there is a coating of guck on all the exposed surfaces. Even rocks! This guck is really slippery - more than ice. Then there may be kelp, which is even slicker. The only way I could walk on the stuff was to sort of shuffle along without picking my feet up. I learned how to do that - BUT - it severely affected my attitude on that days fishing. It wasn't fun!

Gratefully, the waders leaked. Really badly! Back to the manufacturer, except I asked to have the boots replaced with lug soles. Hurrah! I could actually walk on the guck without taking a nose-dive. Those waders sprung severe leaks, I junked them. (That company has gone out of business). I found some good ones that don't leak after several years now (Bare). They also have lug-soled boot feet. Those are neoprene waders.

We do have breathables too, and since those are 'stocking foot,' wading boots as well. The wading boots are not lug-soles. My husband Castwell saw that as a possible problem. But, since breathables are usually warm-weather gear, and the lug soled boots are heavier, we chose the felt-soled boots. Fishing trout streams, with moss or clay certainly can give one the same 'slick' problems we have here on the salt.

What to do?

We found some 'creepers'. These are devices intended to be used over your goulashes for ice conditions. They snap over the toe and heel of goulashes, and work very well! These are not something usually found in fly fishing stores, (not a bad idea 'tho) - we found ours in the Orvis Catalog (Winter Catalog) in the shoe section.

They really do work, and gives us the best of all worlds when wading. We also have another set of 'creepers', these are made from the flat chain-stuff from hardware stores. Castwell made them many years ago, and they do have a tendency to come off in mud.

There is absolutely no guarantee you won't find yourself swimming where you were wading. I've sure done it, and once in a down jacket fishing steelhead in Michigan. I was being real careful and as I neared the bank, must have mentally thought, 'oh good, I made it' or something equally as deadly and let down my guard. Goose-down does soak up a lot of water.

I keep reading the warning to use a belt on your waders, and if the waders are not close-fitting neo's it really is a good idea. I've shipped water over the top of my waders, either by wading too deep, or not backing out of the water when I saw a big wave coming - and I was really surprised at how dry I stayed! One of the advantages of looking like a giant sausage in those tight fitting brown waders. I also took a swim in the salt, (a long story) and again, wasn't all that wet. That wasn't the fault of my waders.

Give some real thought when you buy waders. Where, when, and how will you be using the waders does count. Weigh the choices, and make a decision based on your use, not what some fly shop or slick ad tells you. ~ LadyFisher

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