When I think of fly fishing, my mind often conjures up the iconic image from “A River Runs Through It”: the elegant overhead casting of a dry fly in the middle of a picturesque river. However, upon joining the Santa Cruz club about five years ago, I was surprised to discover that river fishouts had become a rarity. I was told that these outings used to be more common, but as time passed, the interest dwindled, and the club aged. Recently, we’ve experienced an influx of new members, and with their arrival, several new river fishouts have been organized. I’ve just returned from one on the upper Sac, and I’m reminded of the beauty and serenity of wading in a river.
Wading is good for your soul if you have good soles
Imagine my shock when I found the rocks in the upper Sac to be exceptionally slippery. For the past three years, I’ve relied on Vibram-sole wading boots for my angling adventures on rivers like the Stanislaus, Truckee, Putah, Firehole, and San Lorenzo with little trouble. However, during our upper Sac fishout, seven club members, all wearing Vibram-soled boots, took unexpected dips into the river. The following day, I replaced my Vibram soles with felt, and the difference in traction was remarkable. I was taken aback by the discrepancy, especially since fishing gear advertisements and videos often promote rubber soles as the modern choice, portraying felt soles as outdated. While there are places that ban felt soles due to environmental concerns, California isn’t one of them, and we frequently encounter slippery algae and granite here. I strongly urge you to prioritize the best traction boots available when wading. Below is a chart I sourced from Korkers’ website, illustrating the types of soles and their effectiveness on various surfaces.
Remember, traction matters, as does balance
My earliest fly fishing experiences were on streams where I could quickly move along the banks of small mountain creeks. However, the upper Sac fishout was a stark reminder that stream fishing can be more challenging than I recall. It’s not merely a lapse in memory; walking on streams becomes increasingly challenging with age. I’ve attached a graph depicting a simple balance test and its correlation with “perceived age.” As you can see, there’s a notable decline after reaching 40 years of age.
Now, I’m no expert in wade fishing, so if you require detailed information about equipment, you can seek advice from the club via Google Groups or visit a fly fishing shop for proper gear setup. However, here are some safety items I personally use: a wading belt, a wading staff, a whistle, a walkie-talkie, a cell phone, and a fishing partner.
My ultimate advice: don’t wait
This is counsel I’m personally taking to heart. My plan is to embark on more river fishing trips and maintain my physical fitness. Hopefully, I’ll continue to enjoy fishing from a boat or float tube when wading becomes more challenging. And for our younger club members, I encourage you to seize your “River Runs Through It” experience as soon as possible.
Wishing you great fishing adventures this October,
Scott Kitayama President, Santa Cruz Fly Fishing Club
Posted on September 26th, 2023