Sadly, each year there are a few waders who get themselves in bad situations and even a few that die from it. None of us ever want to leave the house to go fishing…and not return. So…this week we are going to discuss wading belts, the use of them and safety involved with wading.
There are only a few mandates in the fly fishing world, but wearing a wading belt has to be one. Just like getting in your car and clicking your safety belt, when you strap on your waders you should also put on at least one wading belt each time…every time. There are a number of different types of wading belts and most waders will come with a wading belt, but just like seat belts or car seats for kids, they are only good if they are worn correctly.
I have worn a Cabela’s wading belt that is also doubles as a stripping basket for a couple of years. I have found that there are a few times while using weighted line that having a stripping basket is a good idea and when you can get a comfortable wading belt and stripping basket all in one…then why not? Cabela’s also has a wading belt that doubles as a back support belt and while I haven’t worn one, I have heard from a few others say they are nice.
Here is the big sticking point…the belt has to be tight, no exceptions. A wading belt won’t do any good if it is loose and allows water to flow into your waders. Let’s get this straight…you are one of two kinds of fly fisherman; you either have fallen in or got wet…or you will! When this happens you need to have the peace of mind to be able to swim a few feet to get your balance or get to a limb, bank, etc…Now I won’t go on and on about how many times I have went in; for me I have had only one real bad incident at Taneycomo a couple years back…my feet were taken out and I went under enough to know that it could have been worse, but my wading belt was tight and I up righted myself with very little water even flowing into my waders. What I can tell you is that each year I often step in too deep and allow a little water to seep into my waders and having the belt on will slow down the movement of icy water to my lower half and that is important as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss a walking or wading staff as well. I will admit that I don’t carry one with me but would also admit that it wouldn’t be a bad idea. A wading staff or “third leg” is a great way to stay safe and dry especially when moving in stained water or fast water. For sure there are models now that fold up and can be carried in a vest or on your hip for quick access. If you are new to the sport or feel like age has crept up on you…then a wading staff is a great idea.
One last idea on wading belts that may sound like over kill but there are a good number of waders that will actually wear two wading belts, one secured around and just above the hips and another worn up under your vest and around the rib cage. The benefit is obvious as it becomes just one more stop gap for water to enter your waders. If you are wading a new or wading a river that is a little more ‘furious’ than normal; then a second belt is and would be a great idea.
What it boils down to is that there is really no amount of safety that is too much. You need to do what it takes to return safely to those that love you. If you are going to make in depth plans for rods, reels, flies, etc….be certain to plan out your safety and that means a wading belt that is worn appropriately.