The first and overriding concern is can you swim? If you can’t then I can only recommend that you learn. You will not learn to swim without a coach. Get some coaching and practise regularly. Swimming is actually an enjoyable thing to do in its own right and it might save your life.
If you can’t, and possibly even if you can, then I would recommend wearing a manually inflatable live vest. My issue with a life vest is that you can’t swim properly wearing one and I can see that as being a problem too, because after being submerged in the river, I would like the option to be able to get out of it again as soon as possible!
Confidence plays a huge factor on whether or not you stay upright. The best way to learn how to wade rivers, is not while wearing a heavy fishing vest, carrying a rod, in a cold river, and while wearing waders…
Instead, make time to go wet wading in a summer river. Splosh around and have some fun. The irony is that we only really learn our limitations by failing. I have failed crossings in some really quite spectacular places. When you fail, tuck your knees up and go down river feet first. Rivers can be extremely painful places. Getting washed down a big one will usually hurt.
Some more things. Read the river… always look downstream to see where you will end up and work out an escape route. A wading staff can make a huge difference, they can also trip you up of course, but they have many benefits. I’ve started using them sometimes.
Footwear is everything. Felt was the best. But since that’s not allowed in many places nowadays, use Idogrip soles and studs. I use these:
So my advice, is to get in and enjoy it – and to do so when the conditions are fine to explore getting thoroughly wet. Getting washed down river by mistake is heart in mouth stuff. But you need to keep a cool head. So practise difficult wading when not fishing. If you are in shallow slippery water then bend your knees and keep lower, it’s less distance to fall.
For me the best way to learn to wade rivers was through learning how to cross them. Running at times, using the flow to get across and every once in a while swimming to get there. It’s a learned skill, no question, but if you positively know you can get across, then you will have very much more confidence around the edges of the cast water – and confidence is what you need to learn.
Viking Lars is at the Irish Fly Fair. Hello Charles Jardine!!
I’m back on the boat in Malaysia. Jet lagged to fuck! Lesson tomorrow…