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To Wade or Not to Wade?

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 Modern mentality is such that anglers think because you can stay in the river all day, then you should! Modern mentality is such that anglers think because you can stay in the river all day, then you should!

‘To wade or not to wade?’ That is the question...as posed by the one and only Alan Roe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prompted by a recent missive from a club member about the evils of pruning I fell to thinking about some of the other deadly mortal sins that anglers create against their environments and here, dear reader, are some of my thoughts.


When I was a young lad growing up on the Fylde coast only two groups of anglers routinely wore waders. There were a couple of reasons for this: the waders of the period were very heavy, bulky, stiff, uncomfortable and seriously expensive. Made of thick, black rubber these things made walking any distance a pure misery and you had to get them a couple of sizes bigger than your feet and pad them out with thick socks (which, if you were a sea angler, had to be white woollen jobs otherwise you risked derision).


The reason given was that it helped to keep your feet warm in cold conditions. Of course this was a complete fallacy when it got cold your feet froze… and I speak here from long and painful experience!


The two groups that I refer to were sea anglers and salmon anglers; it is known that trout anglers also had them but they tended to eschew their use in favour of wellies or, in the case of the chalk stream brigade, brogues!

 


Sea angling in those days was regarded as a fairly thick-eared sort of sport in which blokes, usually of the variety who tended to drag their knuckles on the ground, seemed to be fixated on hurling huge lumps of lead that towed great paternosters as far as possible in the general direction of Ireland.


Waders were a part of the waterproofing uniform of the period, the other major element being the oilskin coat, which was a long garment usually made of some form of heavy PVC and available in either yellow or black. On the beach this uniform tended to keep the angler dry, however the same uniform was also usually to be found on Blackpool’s north and central pier jetties - but in this environment it usually failed miserably as any decent swell used to force the water up through the jetty gratings and so wet sweetbreads were commonly the order of the day!


The other times that waders were worn was when launching boats from the beach which, to be fair, is a legitimate use for them. Sadly all too many sea anglers of the period didn’t take them off once safely in the boat and on the occasions when the boats got into trouble the results were all too tragic. In the 1980s and 90s when I served in the coastguard we were still occasionally getting this sort of outcome.


The other group were the salmon anglers and to most of us this group were fairly remote figures and they didn’t exist in great numbers. They tended to be older, wealthy, red-faced and usually dressed in a uniform Lovat or Tweed. They were frequently regarded as arrogant and totally disinterested in any other fish species, indeed they would have cheerfully seen the rivers denuded of all other fish species in order to make way for the lordly salmon.


There are some wags who might be tempted to remark ‘No change there then!’


So, anglers routinely leaping into the river to fish was, for many years, not really that much of an issue and most of the wading that was done tended to be for the purpose of crossing the river or, occasionally, trying to get to a really difficult trout. Most river anglers only had thigh waders, which cheerfully penalised any wrong move - especially with their rubber or plastic soles which tended to offer as much grip on algae-covered rocks as jelly on a greasy pole...


matching boots offering a bewildering variety of soles to ensure that sir stays as upright as possible... Regrettably however these simpler days have passed and now, within fairly easy reach of most anglers’ pockets, are the modern wading ‘systems’. Gone are the vile rubber and PVC waders of yore in which you sweated or froze and got blisters. No sir - to be a part of today’s fashionable angling set you have to have the new all-singing all-dancing wader system comprising breathable, (usually) chest waders with, of course, matching boots offering a bewildering variety of soles to ensure that sir stays as upright as possible... that is until sir steps into a deep hole in the riverbed and his hat floats off!


If it’s one of the American-inspired baseball caps that are currently polluting the riverside then sir should be left to drown or, if rescued, sir should be summarily tried for treason and shot!


‘Great’ I hear the siren voices say! Breathable, waterproof, cool or warm, lightweight, safe and comfortable waders that you can wear all day, and which allow you to stay in the river as long as you like - ‘how truly wonderful’.


Permit me to disagree.


Sadly along with the development of these wonder waders there has developed a mentality that because you can stay in the river all day then you should do so. Indeed whole angling methods designed to harvest the maximum number of trout have been developed around this new capability, I speak of the Czech nymphing technique and its other illegitimate offspring such as leader to hand and the French leader techniques.


‘It’s very efficient’ preach the acolytes of this new religion - but so is Semtex quoth I!

Apart from the enforced tedium of fishing these methods to my mind they carry with them two abiding sins:


Siltation

Currently, forward thinking people are engaged in campaigns to fence off our river banks to protect them from animals treading them down and thus forcing bankside soil into our rivers, which is a major issue when looking at the concretion of our spawning gravels. I’m sorry but I fail to see the difference between a sheep dipping an elegant hoof and some hefty angler wearing damn great boots joyfully leaping into the water...


Equally, the weight of your usually mildly portly middle aged/elderly angler stomping up and down on the aforementioned gravels nicely compacting all below his feet is hardly going to help matters. This sin is usually compounded by the other sin of absence of said individuals when work parties to try to break and rake the gravels to create spawning habitat are suggested…


Murder and mutilation

A bit strong? No I don’t think so...Consider where most of the river invertebrates spend the bulk of their time? That’ll be on the river bed then - just the place to be when some heavy-hoofed angler decides to come treading all over you and crushing you to death.


Lord only knows what degree of carnage is being caused by unthinking anglers marching over our increasingly scarce invertebrates; in a good day on the river a long distance wader must slaughter thousands, multiply this by the numbers of anglers behaving in a like manner and it is easy to see another potentially significant threat to our river-borne insects which goodness knows already have enough to contend with.


For now insects and their larval forms have an image problem which is currently allowing them to be walked all over...literally!


Consider before you dear reader, joyfully leap into the river with your rod flashing in your hand like the sword of Zorro as you execute your new fancy cast who it is you are treading on; If insects had cute faces and warm, furry bodies that were nice to stroke the animal rights brigade would be howling for blood…yours!


Equally what of your future quarry and its other food. During the winter months up here in the north of England we hear the seasonal whine from worthies in the salmon oriented clubs telling us not to wade as we will disturb the salmon spawning in the redds.  It’s strange how everyone seems to fall silent in this respect when other species are due to spawn but our rivers need the bullheads, loaches, minnows, chub and barbel just as much as the lordly salmon. Clodhopping your way through the eggs of all of these other species with flaming great wading boots is scarcely the way forward in fish conservation.


The future of fishing could well be in your hands…or more accurately be under your damn great feet!

 







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Comments (10 posted):

Paul Boote on 17/05/2013 10:33:58
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Much to be said for your views, Alan. A lot of anglers over the past decade or two, since the arrival of ever and ever more "Wading Systems" - chest-high neoprenes and breathables, stocking -foot and boot-foot, with felt and cleats and other non-slip sole options - seem to have got into a mindset of "I've got the kit and I'm going to use it!", even to the point of deep-wading tiny streams and Southern chalkstreams. Bonkers. As both a gamefisher and a coarsefisher, I can see both sides of the issue, yet I am inclined to agree with you, Alan - a lot less wading and much more responsible wading when you do wade. PS - Over to you, Julie. "Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway, Every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, 'Till you find your dream." Not!
maceo on 17/05/2013 12:29:12
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Definitely NOT to wade. I bought a DVD a while back about the upper Thames and the guy waded in up to his waist right by the bank to cast his waggler in. Absolutely no reason at all to do it. He caught exactly the same fish that I catch fishing from the bank. All that splashing and mud churning must scare the fish, it erodes the bank when they're climbing in and out and it must be a little bit dangerous too, since the banks are high and slippery and there are certainly some deep holes around and who knows what else knocking around on the bottom that you could get caught up in. Absolutely no reason whatsoever as far as I can see to go in the water on a river like the upper Thames.
The bad one on 17/05/2013 14:23:38
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Thought provoking Alan.... for every action there is an ecological reaction.
Phil Adams on 17/05/2013 17:00:16
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Definitely NOT to wade. I bought a DVD a while back about the upper Thames and the guy waded in up to his waist right by the bank to cast his waggler in. Absolutely no reason at all to do it. He caught exactly the same fish that I catch fishing from the bank. . That bleak must be ****** (annoyed) ---------- Post added at 17:00 ---------- Previous post was at 16:44 ---------- Much to be said for your views, Alan. A lot of anglers over the past decade or two, since the arrival of ever and ever more "Wading Systems" - chest-high neoprenes and breathables, stocking -foot and boot-foot, with felt and cleats and other non-slip sole options - seem to have got into a mindset of "I've got the kit and I'm going to use it!", even to the point of deep-wading tiny streams and Southern chalkstreams. Bonkers. As both a gamefisher and a coarsefisher, I can see both sides of the issue, yet I am inclined to agree with you, Alan - a lot less wading and much more responsible wading when you do wade. PS - Over to you, Julie. "Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway, Every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, 'Till you find your dream." Not! I don't get this. Of course if someone has bought an item they will want to use it. Whether this happens to be waders or reels. What difference does it make? honestly? Fishing is fishing. Course, game, sea; it's all the same thing.
Paul Boote on 17/05/2013 18:03:51
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Of course you want to use anything you've just bought, but you should use it sensibly and with care. Just because your new motor has a top speed of 140mph doesn't entitle you to drive it at that speed all the time and anywhere you want. You get Wader Maniacs who routinely will get in up to their nips just to get the most out of their few hundred £s worth of waders, I assure you. Been using chesties for sea-trout and salmon fishing since the mid 1970s, and the things I have seen - people often wading chest-deep into the only deeper water in a run or pool, the very spots (indeed, the only spots) the ruddy fish are lying in, waiting to be fished for and maybe caught. So many kit-heavy, talent- and thought-free idiots...
jacksharp on 17/05/2013 18:40:38
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Only time I would wade is if it offers me an advantage in covering the water/fish or makes casting easier. Spey casting is far easier if you are in the water and the optimum depth for doing it being probably no higher than mid-thigh/bum. Cannot see why I would want to get in when coarse fishing, unless trotting the far channel of a wide river. Don't do much of that nowadays so dry it is!
Paul Boote on 17/05/2013 19:24:17
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One last one on this from me. Think before you wade. Imagine this: A sea-trout river some twenty-five to thirty yards wide, running shallow and fast over gravel for 100 yards or more before reaching a large, right-angle bended pool. You are on the left bank as you look downstream, forty yards above the spot at which the fast run pour its waters chute-like into the pool, all of this chutey pool-neck stuff happening not on your side of the river but on the far, right, bank. Now, you happened to know that the pool below is stacked with fish and will offer you some good sport with the fly as darkness falls, but it is now 8.00pm on an overcast evening, dull but still light. You think of having a bit of fun fishing the run just above the break, where it chutes into the upper pool; you make to wade half-across the river, to fish the run's deeper and faster flow above the pool neck. Big mistake. You get in, begin to wade and "Whoosh!" three big fish bow-wave away across the river just feet from the left bank where you have just got in and are presently standing knee-deep (and about to get deeper). "My God." you think. "Those fish were lying in no more than 18 inches of water running over featureless gravel tight against my bank. Surely any fish running up out of the pool would travel through the faster, rather deeper water on the opposite bank...?" Nope. Not here they don't. The last time I fished this pool, one I know very well, in Wales, I fished in trainers, crouched or kneeling, working a very delicately cast floating line, small tube fly and a palmered bumble on a dropper above it through the forty yards of left bank water above the pool neck. Brace of fish before 9.00pm, before I got my chesties on and began on the pool. The brace? 6.5 and 7.25 pounds. Nice. Think before you wade.
jacksharp on 17/05/2013 21:48:12
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One of the best lessons in not wading was when float-tubing on a wild, upland lake in Mid-Wales. Paddling quietly along, parallel to the shore 15-20yds out, casting in to the shallows with small flies, we managed a steady number of brownies in as little as a few inches of water, right under the backside vegetation, using small terrestrial patterns like Coch Y Bonddu, Heather Fly and Deer-hair Beetle. A wading bank angler would clear the whole area on putting the first foot in and even a non-wading bank angler, sky-lining, would do the same.
scullen on 28/05/2013 07:31:56
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Great article Alan. Another wading phenomenon: why do some anglers wear full neoprene chesties in fine weather when fishing from the solid banks of stillwaters where wading is impossible whilst the rest of us wear comfortable boots or outdoor shoes? Best regards, Stuart.
tigger on 28/05/2013 12:30:01
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I actually bought a set of breathable chest waders last summer....still haven't used em ! I did get them specifically to fish certain swims but due to the high water levels last year I couldn't get to fish those swims even with my chest waders. I do intend to try them out this year if the water levels allow. I must say that for the majority of my fishing is done from the bank or just in the edges as far as my wellies will allow. Regarding the squashing of insects by anglers...mmm, i'm not to sure about that. Maybe in the regularly trodden spots this could be a problem but I really can't see it doing to much damage to the bugs overall. I reckon the real problem is poor water quality and pollution rather than anglers wading...jmo folks.


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