Salmon River Wading Safety
By Jock Monteith 20th July 2021
There's much more to successful salmon fishing wading techniques than just pulling a pair of chest waders on and charging into the river. Just because a pair of chest waders goes all the way up to your chest there are many logical good reasons why a salmon angler should never consider doing the same.
Don't Become Buoyant While Wading
None of the current chest wader manufacturers advise what your buoyancy percentage levels are while in at mid thigh to mid chest which to my mind is just down right negligent on the grounds of fisher safety. All salmon anglers should be aware that the deeper they wade the less weight they carry which means they can be fairly easily bowled over by the current when wading deep if they are not very careful.
Wear A Life Jacket & Eye Protection While Salmon Fishing
In addition to this I often see salmon fishers who are out wading deep in the river who have no life jackets on. This is completely unnecessary and crazy and sadly most salmon fishing seasons bring at least one unnecessary fatality due to this stupidity. All salmon beats in Scotland should have a 'mandatory' approach to the use of lifejackets as when a life is lost there is no getting it back. Someone recently made a comment that I was too OTT on basic eye protection and the mandatory wearing of an automatic lifejacket and it's this type of brainless stupidity that causes occasional unnecessary injury or death in this sport.
A Stealthy Salmon Pool Approach
Stealth while approaching a salmon pool and when entering the river are key salmon fishing components as salmon are very aware of unnatural movements. The salmon's lateral line will pick up any vibrations or water disturbance at great distance so don't just power walk up the gravel riverbank of the pool you're about to fish but instead walk slowly and keep well back from the riverbank until you reach your starting position. The first thing a salmon should ever be aware of is your salmon fly and nothing else if you're looking for success in this pursuit.
Start Salmon Fishing With Thoughtfulness
When you get to your starting position don't do what most anglers do by wading straight in creating a big bow wave before pulling all their fly line off the reel and starting with one huge big 'blitzkrieg' cast. Stand back at ankle or shin depth and start with a short line extending the length of the line by a yard between each cast until you have the length of line suitable for that specific pool application before you slowly start wading out (if you even have to) and then down through the pool. That is the technically correct way to commence fishing at the neck of any salmon pool so don't let eagerness get the better of you as a quick salmon may be waiting 'close in' there for you that you'd otherwise have missed!
Wade The Salmon River With Small Careful Steps
Small carefully placed and weight tested steps are the best and safest steps to take especially if you're not familiar with the pool you're wading through. While wading at any depth your feet become your hands so often you're virtually feeling your way down along the riverbed. If you reach any large stones never step over them as there will always be a deep pocket on the downstream side of all stones so always wade around the inside edge when you encounter them. A minimum of 3 feet or 3 small steps between each cast has brought me the most success when fishing so try the same tactic if you're struggling to catch salmon.
Use A Wading Stick While Salmon Fishing
When wading through salmon pools that have a very rocky riverbed it is useful to carry a wading stick to test the depth and contours areas you're wading into and to give you an extra point of contact for stability. All wading sticks should have a heavy duty and secure rubber grommet over their ends so as not to alert the entire salmon population that there's a 'tap dancing' salmon angler approaching! In light gravel easily waded pools a wading stick can be a nuisance but its always a good idea to have one with you on all salmon fishing trips just in case needed.
Polarised Salmon Fishing Glasses
A good pair of polaroids can be your best friend on any salmon river for various reasons and primarily for sensible eye protection. While wading through a pool polaroids will also give you a greater sense of confidence as they'll usually allow you to see where you're wading so always have them with you. Often a good pair of polaroid sunglasses will allow you to spot salmon lying in the pools of a river and especially in the gin clear water of the beautiful Scottish salmon rivers.