Fishing Tips for Northern California and Southern Oregon angling
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How to Wade Safely while Fishing

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest
As the temperatures plunge and frost permeates the shores of our rivers, it can only mean our rivers are running high and fast - that’s when accidents can happen. Most of us have tripped on a rock, or waded in too deep and have plunged into a river at one time or another. Nothing ruins a perfectly good fishing trip like flooding your waders full of icy, cold water. Or worse - taking a swim down river that you didn’t expect to do.

Here are some useful tips:

• Use a wading staff or stick — An old ski pole works great or it can be as simple as a stick found alongside the river. You can also purchase wading staffs at your local tackle shops.

• Wear a wading belt — A wading belt wrapped tightly around your chest or waist helps prevent water from getting into the lower half of your waders and will help you float. Most tackles shops carry them and they aren’t expensive.

• Wear properly fitting waders — Your waders should be the correct shoe size and fit properly in the legs and around your mid-section.

• Dress appropriately under your waders — During the winter, fast drying garments such as polar fleece, merino wool thermals or polypropylene work well.

Carry a whistle — Use the whistle to let your friends know where you are and also to call for help.

Lean into the current — Always plant your staff upstream of your body, leaning into the current. If you lose your balance, the current will push you upright and not downstream.

• Keep your body sideways to the current — Facing upstream or downstream exposes you to the full force of the current, making it difficult to keep your balance.

• Shuffle your feet — If the water is above your feet, lift them slightly and shuffle along the bottom, keeping your feet in contact with the bottom, especially in high water. Keep a wide stance.

• Know your limitations — Once the water reaches your knees, wading becomes much more difficult. The deeper you wade into the water, the more buoyant you become and the less traction you have.

• Plan an escape route — Always be aware of hazards and obstacles downstream that you’ll have to avoid if you lose your footing. Think about what you’ll do if you’re swept off your feet, look for eddy’s or snags that can trap or injure you.

• If you fall in — Turn on your back, bend your knees and picture yourself as a drift boat. Your feet are the bow, your head the stern, and your arms are the oars. Put yourself at a 45-degree angle into the current and backstroke towards the shore. Don’t try to stand up until you’re in slow water.

• Don’t die for your gear — If you fall, getting back safely to shore is much easier with two hands. While all of your tackle can be replaced, your life cannot.

• Carry extra clothes — When wading, it’s always a good idea to pack an extra set of dry clothes. If you’ve taken a swim, it’s much easier to get warm wearing a set of dry clothes. Plus, you’ll be able to keep fishing.

“Fishing the North Coast” is on Facebook, so check it out for up-to-date fishing reports and information from all over the North Coast. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing or water recreation in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to Please include your name and hometown.]

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