July 21, 2016

Wet Wading

Most of the waters that I fish are relatively cold. They run water temperatures of 48-50°F during the summer. Because of this I don't wet wade too often. But sometimes, when the air temperature is higher that 80°F I'll wet wade.

Wet wading has some advantages over dry wading. The obvious first thing is that is cooler, that is, it cools you down. We don't have much humidity here in the Yellowstone ecosystem (in fact, at the time of this writing the relative humidity outside is only 17%) but it can still get hot during the mid-day hours. Wearing waders, even hip waders can get uncomfortable and sweaty, but not as bad as if it was the midwest or eastern portions of the US. Wet wading can be really refreshing in those situations.

Wet wading gear can also be less cumbersome. Not always but usually. The leg protection is generally less bulky and has less drag, making it easier to navigate through fast water.

But wet wading can be cold, and especially in deeper water it can be very uncomfortable. Some leg protection can be of benefit, to aid in a little warmth and provide some protection from underwater hazards.

A recent article on wet wading was published on Tenkara-Fisher. It was entitled Keiryu Wading Gear, but its main focus was on wet wading. It's brief but contains some good information.

Many of the Japanese leg protection items highlighted in the article are too small for my feet, so I had to go a different route. I wear US mens size 12 footwear and Japanese footwear is rarely larger than US size 10.5. So instead of going with Japanese footwear I had to improvise.

For my feet I wear two layers. The inner layer I use Simms wading socks. They are thin but hold the water against my skin which allows it to warm up a little. Over these I wear Patagonia Insulated Neoprene socks. They have a waffle pattern liner that slides easily over the Simms socks.

On my legs I wear Little Presents Wader Gaiters.  These are designed to go over waders and protect them, but they work just fine over quick-dry trousers or next to your skin. I generally pull my trouser legs up above the Wader Gaiters and they keep them from falling down. If you need a little more warmth you can put a pair of neoprene calf compression sleeves on under the Wader Gaiters. These calf sleeves are used by athletes to keep their tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius muscles warm and supported during strenuous exercise. Over the Wader Gaiters I wear a pair of Simms Gravel Guards. I like these better than the "built in" type guards.

Obviously, these wet wading leg gear are for shallow water situations. If you routinely wade in deep water these will not keep you warm. But when it comes to tenkara, it's always best to stay out of the water, or out as much as possible, so as to not scare the fish. With this in mind, wet wading is perfect.

Your own personal preferences for comfort plays a big role how you wade. Wet wading is not better than dry wading and it doesn't make you a better angler, but it can be used to help keep you comfortable. Some people don't like to get wet, so wet wading is likely not for them. Some people live where it is very humid so dry waders are sticky and uncomfortable. You get the point.

Anyway, that's how I do it. Wet or dry it doesn't matter, just get out there and fish. A word of caution though, there are streams here in the west that are part of city watersheds (used for drinking water), and heavy fines apply for those who wet wade. You must wear dry waders in those streams -- so check before you get wet!


  1. I tried wet wading for the first time this past weekend and it was wonderful! I wish I hadn't resisted it for so long.

    You are absolutely correct that the Little Presents Wader Gaiters work nicely over a pair of quick dry pants. I used a pair of Simms neoprene socks without the second layer you had, and without the gravel guards, but it still worked fine.

    Thank you for your report. I might never have tried it otherwise.


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