Wading in Deep and Fast Moving Water

As I’m writing this the Truckee River is flowing over 3000 cfs (cubic feet per second) in downtown Reno. Several feet of snow are still left in the higher elevations. It’s safe to say that this year’s flows will remain at or above average until the Fall/Winter.

With the previous 5 years being some of the worst water years on record it behooves me to write a blog about proper wading practices to those who may not have ever seen the river so healthy.
Typically, we suggest wading in flows around 500cfs and below, but this is more of a personal decision made on your part. If you feel that 500cfs is still too fast then do not wade in. also don’t get ”big fish” blinders and push the envelope of what you feel comfortable wading in.

Your safety is paramount to us.


Fly Fishing can be very dangerous, because of its isolated nature and typically rough terrain.


Boots: These are the source of your physical connection with the river bottom, and the most crucial factor in wading safety. Your boots need to be comfortable, but with a secure fit. Boots should extend up past your ankle. The sole of the boot can be either felt or rubber, but I would suggest driving studs into either material for even more added grip. Check your boots often to ensure the laces are not broken or fraying and that years of use have not left them structurally compromised.

Wading Staff: An essential tool for all angles no matter their age or agility. A wading staff can be used as an anchor point and as a depth testing device. Collapsible staffs with a sheath are the preferred means for carrying and use to keep the staff available when needed and neatly stored when not needed.

A Buddy: While fly fishing is often a solitary pursuit and we understand not wanting to give up the goods to a buddy to bring their buddies but fishing with someone is a great way to have some built in safety. Watching out for each other is easy even as you both do your own thing. Plus you get much better pics and be able to release that great fish quicker with your friend behind the camera!

PFD (Personal Flotation Device): Not just for use in Stillwater and float tube angling. Drawstring inflatable floatation devices can be a good option to have for anglers who are worried about being pulled under if carried away by the water. From inflatable vests to belts there are many options to fit your needs.


So how do we approach water once it becomes wadable?

BODY POSITION: As you wade into water you want to keep your profile as small as possible. This means keeping only one leg pointed up stream always. Turning broadside to the river (facing up or down river) increases the waters force on your body making it harder to push against the water.

SMALL STEPS: Your leg that is now facing up steam is your anchor point. It does not move until your downstream leg moves and finds a place to anchor too. Only lifting one leg at a time testing the ground before you transfer weight will keep you the steadiest. This is a great time to use a wading staff to test the depth of your next foot hold and give you another anchor pint to increase stability.

POWERFUL BASE: Keep your legs slightly bent as you are moving and do not over extend to get t your next foot hold. Bent legs activate more muscles distributing the load better and increasing balance. Once you are at your fishing position keep your legs slightly bent.

BACKING OUT: Once I’ve covered an area and am ready to move on usually I will back out taking small steps to get into slower water where I can turn and walk out of the river. It is very tough to turn and walk out from a fishing spot as it requires you to turn broadside to the river. If you had to turn to get out of the river always turn facing upstream. Pivot from your anchor leg and with small rotating steps turn facing up river. From here you switch anchor legs now moving your previously anchored leg in small steps until your previously downstream leg is now your upstream anchor leg.

We are looking forward to having the Truckee and other area rivers be in the best shape they’ve been in in over a decade. Number of fish will increase and individuals will be bigger and healthier. As always, were are dedicated to giving you the best information that we have, and look forward to helping you be as successful as possible. Be safe and enjoy this wonderful area.

Mike Anderson, Guide/Instructor
Mike Anderson is a guide and instructor at the Reno Fly Shop.  As a native Nevadan he has grown up fishing Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River. Mike spends many days each year at Pyramid Lake fishing, guiding, tying specialty flies and observing this amazing resource he is lucky to call his “backyard”. Call the Reno Fly Shop today to book at trip and experience this world class fishery.

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