Where Do Fly Fishermen Stand In The Water?

Pull-on your chest waders and start to get comfortable in the water before you cast your line. When trout fly fishing, anglers need to be standing at the optimum position to catch trout. This often means moving from the shallows to deeper water - no matter the body of water. Anglers have to suit up and stand in the right place to stay steady while they cast their line. 

Where Do Fly Fisherman Stand in Water

Suit Up To Stand in the Water Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is more active then sitting on a riverbank and waiting for a bite. Fly fisherman move cautiously outside fish holding and feeding grounds, but sometimes this involves suiting up and showing up in the water. Investing in a  pair of waders is often the first step for fly fishers, and you must always dress for the weather. Standing in the water in waders with the hot sun beating down can be too warm, and if you don't plan to wade right out into deeper water, you may not need anything more than a sturdy pair of boots.

Couple in waders

Waders aren't designed to be shoeless, but you can get lightweight ones that are good for hot days or rubber sets for the insulation you need for colder weather. Waders and boots keep fly fishers safe in the water, and the right boots allow for added grip, which is precisely what you need to avoid falling over. Anglers need to be comfortable and safe before they even step foot in the water, which comes with the right equipment.

Large Trout Caught

As long as the soles of your shoes in rocky rivers are felt material, or they have studs/cleats on them, you'll find standing in the water to be a more comfortable experience. The deeper you go, the more you need support! Fly fishing anglers often bring a wading staff with them when they are heading into a body of water, as it offers a third point of support - valuable when the water is deep. It's the best tool you could use as you move into deeper water areas to catch, as it makes the difference between staying dry and falling into the water.

Man Catching Large Trout

Anglers who are anxious about wading will also feel better about going from shallow to deep water, as they have the added support. Another piece of valuable equipment is a wading belt. These are mandatory when you are suited up in waders, as you will find that the water is flowing slower into the boots of your waders. This makes getting back out of the water far easier. One of the best hacks that fly fishing anglers can have is to remain as horizontal as possible as they move out of the water.

Man Fishing in Water

Choosing The Right Waders for Fly Fishing in the Water

Choosing waders for your fly fishing trip is crucial if you want to stand in the right place in the water. Cold-water fly fishing requires a heavier material, but you want to choose a breathable fabric, too. The more comfortable you are, the longer you'll stay in the water. Most waders are polyester or synthetic to let your skin breathe. 

The weight is significant, too. Too much weight from the waders and you will risk daily fatigue. You'll need a lighter material so that you can walk for longer in the stronger currents and more dense waters. Waders should feel like a second skin, and you can enjoy fly fishing for longer. Lighter weight materials will also be a better idea in hotter weather!

Large Steel Head

Did you know that there are two types of waders? Stocking foot and boot foot.  Both of these styles also come in multiple materials such as synthetic or neoprene.

Boot foot waders feel like rubber rain boots, you won't have a tight fit around the ankles. Stocking boot offers stability when wading on rockier grounds in faster streams because you need an additional wader boot to go over these.  This gives you endless options on external boots that fit your needs.

There are three heights for waders, and the one you buy will determine whether you are sticking to the shallows or heading into the deeper end of the river. You can get waist height waders, hip height waders, and chest height waders. The best to get is chest height, as they cover them all and are designed like overalls. You can then head to higher waters, and they're much warmer in acclimate weather.  Trout fly fishing sometimes means wading into deeper water so getting the chest height waders will help.

Man Fly Fishing

Where To Stand in the Water when Fly Fishing

Exploring the right body of water for fly trout fishing means knowing where the fish will hide. Fish are smart and will avoid being caught by staying as far below the surface as possible. The only time anglers will see fish is when they come up to the surface to feed. Understanding the patterns of behavior in rainbow trout before you head to the water will help, as will know all about the water patterns or feeding lanes.

A good pair of fly fishing boots will ensure that you are steady in the water, especially if you move into waist-deep water. It would help if you only waded deeper where you need to and always checked the weather before going into the water. Your research about the body of water in which you are fly fishing will ensure that you know the dangers and any sudden dips in the water bank. Fishing in pairs will help if you get into any trouble, but always let people know where you are planning to fish - just in case.

Watch The Weather When Fly Fishing

Fly fishing may be one of the most exhilarating hobbies out there, even on the coldest of days. When you are fishing on a cold, wet day, you may find the water rougher and more treacherous to stand-in. Wading in deeper water is not the smartest idea if the water is rough, but you can judge where the best place to stand will be in these conditions. Winter and autumn fly fishing is often more of a challenge if you have never done it so start when you feel comfortable with the weather and go from there.

Spring weather is not too hot, not too cold, the water is often slower - making for a more pleasant catch - and standing in deeper water is steadier as a result. No matter the weather, though, going slow into the water is vital if you don't want to slip or spook the trout.  Being careful while you are wading is one thing, but you need to evaluate the conditions, whether you are heading to a new body of water or not. Your movements have to be slow and controlled, so you don't fall - it's why we talked about wading belts earlier!

Weather patterns for Fly Fishing

How should you stand in the water?

Standing with a wide stance will help you to stand firm in any body of water. You can lower your center of gravity, and you need to flex your knees so that you stay ready to brace yourself if the water flow is stronger than you expect. As you move deeper into the river or lake, you keep your knees flexed so that you can slide your feet more easily. One tip: never cross your feet if you want to stay upright. It'll feel awkward, but it'll help you to avoid flailing in cold water!

With your feet wide apart, you will avoid slipping over or shifting your center of balance. Wading experience will build over time, so until you're more confident in the shallower water, it'll be better not to move to deeper areas. Fly fishing can be a balancing act, especially if you're in more challenging conditions. You have to adjust your feet' position, which is why you must master the slide to move your foot along instead of taking a step.

The placement of your foot will make a difference to your foothold, and it's essential to be able to wade safely in the water. If you are moving into deeper river water, then using cobbles and boulders as a foothold will make a massive difference to your stability. Think about how you can secure your foot in between rocks, and you'll know what to feel for. Evaluating your foot placement is a must if you want to avoid slipping from your foothold. It takes practice in a range of different bodies of water, but once you've got it, you'll be able to fly fish with the best fly fishing kits around.

Go Low & With The Flow When Standing in Water Fly Fishing

While you are finding your footing in water, you should go low to start with. If you can feel the low places, you can slide your feet into a position between the rocks and see where you’re going. Once you master this in shallow water, you’ll feel more confident when you cannot see your feet in deeper water. Stepping sideways in water that is less than knee-deep will mean you can walk somewhat normally, but you need to modify your stance without crossing your feet as you step.

As you move deeper, never commit to a moving foot until you know you can stand on it without sliding. It’s easy to move back towards shore when you do this, and you can cover more water this way. Wading back to shore, then walking along the bank before moving into the water again, is a must.

Man Fly Fishing

When you cross a stream, it's always easier to move at an angle and go with the water flow. Finding the balance between shallow water with a faster current and deep water with a slow-moving current is essential - but either can be an issue if you're new to it! Always test the current as you move with a wading staff. You can then learn which water you are more comfortable to fly fish in. When you want to fish upstream, go with the flower current before you move! 

Drifthook Fly Fishing Systems - Best Fly Fishing FLies

In some cases, when you fly fish, you may have to move against the current to get back to the shore. If you do this, you should be careful not to wade down a gravel bar if it’s above deeper water. You could end up finding out the hard way that the current on the way back is too hard to move against. Water above your knees can be challenging to wade against, so always be very careful when the water is pushing against your legs. 

To better balance, move sideways or forward. You can see better, and baking up can make you catch your heels - which can lead to a big splash. Backing up is necessary in some cases, so if you need to back up out of deeper water, feel behind you with your lead foot. Any slip can be hazardous.

Safety on Different Surfaces when Standing in Water Fly Fishing

When you are fly fishing, you need to choose the bottom you wade on. Rivers, streams, and lakes all have different “flooring,” and sand and gravel are usually the most secure bottoms to wade on. Cobble surfaces are far harder to wade on as the surface isn’t steady. It’s more irregular, and the cobbles can be algae-covered. There’s zero friction, which makes it hard for you to get your grip as you wade. Boulders are also harder to navigate, so before you start moving through the water, know the ground you’re walking on. 

Some water bodies have taller rocks than you find on a pebbly beach, and these can both trip you up and give you a break from the current if it's too fast. Recognizing the ground, you're walking on will help you choose where the best places to fly fish are. You can move more aggressively in the water when you know the bottom is right. Muddy bottoms are another treacherous option, even though they seem safe.

The mud being packed together can look like a flat surface to move on, but firm mud is slippery. You may not trip over with a flat mud bottom, but you can get stuck, and it can be challenging to climb out of the stream or river. In the slower water currents, mud can accumulate, and the logs and sticks left behind can be the tipping point. You’ll also find it harder to see in muddy waters, as the silt that you kick up floats to the surface.

While you may not be in the Flintstones era, you still may find that bedrock is the worst type of base to wade on when you're fly fishing. The rocks may be smooth and polished, but they become slippery, which's worse than any other bottom. Trout fly fishing becomes more difficult if you're slipping all over the place. Even with sidestepping, you can slip over as your food skates outwards, and you lose your balance.

Large Trout

Safety First When Standing in Water Fly Fishing

Moving in water isn't always easy, and it's often tempting to fish from the top of a boulder in the middle of a river or stream. Getting back down is an issue, though, so before you climb up anything, make sure that you see a way back down again. Always have an escape plan in water - before you enter the river or stream.

 The conditions of the water and the weather matter when fly fishing, and if you want to know where fly fishermen stand in the water, you need to assess the conditions around you before you go. For example, if you can't swim well, you need a floatation device to keep you company in the water. You can buy the best fly fishing kits, and these should include inflatable suspenders or vests. If not, you can buy some in whitewater gear stores. Your safety has to be a priority.

Whether you are casting in the shallows or the depths of the slow current in the river, you need to add your fly fishing flies to your line when you are on dry land. This will prevent you from losing them in the water before you've even got them to the trout. You could find that you end up losing your flies before you get into deeper water, and that'll be a problem. You'll have to wade back to the shore, and that can be a pain if you want to avoid slipping over.

Man fishing on boulders

About the Author

Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.

By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.

When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.


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