There are few parts of fly fishing that are truly frightening, but the idea of wading sets many anglers on edge. The first time I waded into the Boulder River in Montana taught me about the power of water and that no fish was worth the risk of serious injury.
It’s easy to think that we’re invincible as anglers, but that’s never the case. Thankfully, wading staffs have made a massive difference in keeping anglers safe on the water.
Access to pools and riffles often requires extensive wading. The more we wade, the more risk we take and it’s imperative that we take every precaution possible to stay upright. I’ve fallen only once and the feeling of being pulled down river with no idea how I was going to get ashore was enough to buy a proper staff.
Guide Tip: What do I use and recommend? I carry the Aventik Folding Wading Staff. Heck I have 3 of them. Read more and check out the current prices with this link to Amazon – Aventik Folding Wading Staff.
Different Styles of Staffs
We have several options as fly anglers when it comes to choosing a wading staff that fits our needs and style. Most people want a staff that’s going to be portable enough to fit in the car and in a backpack on our way to the water. We already carry enough as fly anglers, but there are some things we can’t sacrifice on the water!
A foldable fishing staff can be collapsed to around 15 inches long. The beauty of these staffs is that they don’t shrink or lose any backbone because it has to collapse into itself. Yes, they’re a bit wider, but they won’t feel much wider than a rod tube. Slide it into the back of your vest or backpack and you’ll easily be able to transport it.
A fully collapsible wading staff can get quite small and that’s ideal for those needing to fit it into a small space. They’re durable, but since they do have to collapse onto themselves, some of the strength of the staff can get lost!
If you aren’t going to be wading through any extremely powerful water, you’ll find that a collapsible staff can fulfill your needs just fine.
A fixed length staff is going to be the most durable! There are no moving parts that could fail or weaken over time. If you’re a close distance to the water and know you’re going to be moving in and out of bodies of water with fast currents and slippery bottoms, then a fixed length staff is ideal.
These days, the fixed length staffs are quite light and you won’t feel as if you’re lugging around anything too heavy! As long as you don’t mind the lack of portability, you’ll make up for it with the extra strength it provides.
GUIDE TIP: My wife kept asking is it safe to fly fish alone – Learn how to stay safe with this article. Is Fly Fishing Dangerous? and Tips to Stay Safe
Characteristics to Look for in a Wading Staff
As you’re doing your search for a wading staff, there are several things you must consider before your purchase! Since these can be fairly expensive, you want to be sure you’re making the proper choice.
Convenience is the most important thing you should consider when making your purchase. Whether you’re the type to hike several miles through challenging terrain or fish along the river by jumping spots in your vehicle, you need to consider your style.
If you’re the type to leave your car in the morning and return at the end of the day with scratches from the underbrush, then a collapsible or foldable staff would be smart. Also, being able to deploy the wading staff is another underrated feature. As you’re entering the water you have your rod, and you don’t necessarily have a hand to spare in deploying your staff.
Choose one that folds in and out with the use of one hand. Also, if you can find a staff with a storage pouch, that doubles its convenience. As you’re leaving the water and hiking to your next spot, sliding it into the holding pouch is an underrated feature.
For some, these features don’t matter! But it’s necessary to know whether or not they are.
If you’re the type that’s fishing fast water with slippery rocks, then you need to pay close attention to the sturdiness of your wading staff. Sturdiness often depends on the material of the staff you purchase.
An aluminum wading staff is both strong and surprisingly light. Collapsible or foldable wading staffs are often made of aluminum!
Another material you’ll often find with wading staffs is composite. This is another light and durable material, but it’s often quite spendy. If you’re in the market to spend over $100, then give a composite staff a try. They’ll fold and collapse as well. Making an investment into a strong staff is sometimes necessary depending on where you fish!
The final material you’ll find is wood. These are the old fashion wading staffs that are often heavy, but extremely durable. Plus, they have a great vintage look. You’ll see oldschool anglers using wood wading staffs, but if you don’t have to use them, don’t. You can find more efficient staffs that provide similar performance.
Another thing to consider when you’re making a decision on the proper wading staff is the length. If you’re the type that reaches out and wants to know what’s two steps ahead, then choose a longer staff around 59 inches. Also, if you’re over 6 feet tall, then a 59 inch staff would be a good fit.
If you’re around 4 or 5 feet tall, then a 41 inch wading staff would be an ideal option. These are quite short so be sure it’s the right size for you when you’re making your purchase.
There are lengths in the middle for people who fall in between the 5 foot to 5’10” range. These are often around 50 or 51 inches.
GUIDE TIP: Test out your wading staff before you go in the water. Make sure something hasn’t gone wrong in transport.
The weight of a wading staff can be the final deal breaker for anglers. The wood staffs are going to be heavy and bulky to maneuver. An aluminum or composite staff is going to be much lighter and collapse.
Again, the heavier staff might provide you with more confidence so be sure to try them before you make a purchase. If you’re fishing shallower water that’s still slippery, then a composite or aluminum staff should do the trick just fine. Wood staffs can get swept in the current if not handled properly!
How to Use a Staff when Casting and Catching
When you’re fishing, you obviously don’t have any free hands to carry a wading staff. As a result, you should be sure to attach it to your waist to make sure it doesn’t float away when you drop it.
When it comes time to cast or fight a fish, toss your staff downstream so it doesn’t get in your way as you’re maneuvering in the water trying to land a fish. By putting it upstream, it could get tangled in your line or trip you up as you’re walking. Drop downstream and worry about landing the fish or making a perfect cast.
Why Fast Current Requires a Staff
If you’re fishing fast or stained water, you need a staff. You never know what’s under the surface and gaining an idea of what’s ahead of you when you step has the potential to save your life.
It’s challenging to turn around in a current and a wading staff will help you keep your balance.
It can detect laydowns, slick rocks or drop offs in the water. Some anglers may see it as unnecessary or even tacky, but it’s more than worth it! Safety in the water cannot be emphasized enough when you’re fishing.
Make your casts, take your two steps down stream using the wading staff and then reset yourself as your fly gets into position. After a while, you won’t even notice that you’re using a wading staff. It becomes second nature.
GUIDE TIP: Be sure you’re using an elastic belt connection on your wading staff. If you slip or need to reach far out, an elastic strap will give you the freedom to maneuver without having to worry about getting stuck.
Best Staff Selection and Recommendations
There are dozens of staff on the market for anglers. Choosing the best option for you isn’t easy, but the following list should give you a great idea of what would work great for you.
The Best Overall Wading Staff: Simms Wading Staff
The Simms Wading staff is made of aluminum and can fold into four pieces. It only weighs 14 ounces and has a TPR contoured handle that makes it easy to grip as you’re moving throughout the water.
- Includes a locking detent button
- Length can be customized between 51 and 56 inches
- Strong and comfortable handle for a full day on the water
- Stays together when stuck in the mud or between rocks
- Does not come with an elastic band to attach to your waist
- Does not come with a rubber tip for better grip on the bottom of the water
- Handle can feel a bit long so it doesn’t fold up as small as some would like
- Needs two hands to assemble
Best for the Money: Aventik Foldable Wading Staff
The Aventik Foldable Wading Staff is a great multipurpose staff for an extremely affordable price. This aluminum staff breaks down into four sections and has a place to mount a camera or GoPro. It can even double as a hiking pole once you leave the water. This pole is 55 inches!
If you’d like to check out other reviews here’s a link to Amazon – Aventik Foldable Wading Staff
- It’s only $38
- One hand assembly – Big Plus!
- Folds down to a small 12 inches
- Has a four-foot marker to show you may be getting a bit deep
- Comes with pouch and elastic strap for your waist
- Extremely supportive while still being light
- Doesn’t have an adjustable height
- Can disassemble if stuck in mud
All Around Favorite: Orvis Sure Step
Orvis has more than earned a positive reputation in the world of fly fishing. It turns out that their accessories are as quality as their rods! The Sure Step is well-thought out and that’s important for an accessory as vital as this. Orvis made sure the aluminum was lightweight and easy to assemble. Can’t go wrong with this option!
Read more and get the current price at Amazon with this link – Orvis Sure Step Folding Wading Staff
- The grip is high quality and it doesn’t feel as if it will slip
- Can be assembled with one hand
- Has two length options: 51 inches and 59 inches
- Comes with a sheath and elastic belt to attach to your belt loop
- Costs $98
- The tip has been known to fall off on occasion, but Orvis is willing to replace
- The lower parts may separate if you get it stuck in some deeper mud
Classic Made in USA – Folstaf Wading Staff
If American made is your priority, then Folstaf is the company to choose. They make an extremely high-quality wading staff and have a variety of different options on their website. It’s not easy to find a company specifically dedicated to wading staffs, but Folstaf has committed to its vision and continues to produce high quality products.
Folstaf is an American icon, any company that can “stick” around for 50 plus years is an endorsement – Check out Folstaf on Amazon with this link – Folstaf Wading Staff
- You can choose four different lengths with this staff. The lengths range from 41 inches to 59 inches.
- Can fold up and unfold with one hand in an extremely efficient way!
- Has a cork handle so if it does come unattached from its strap, you won’t lose it!
- It’ll fold down to around 10 inches
- Can cost upwards of $160
Pick up a Branch – Wood Wading Staff
Some anglers choose to go a more natural route when it comes to wading staffs. Using a sturdy branch is better than nothing! If you’re fishing near a wooded area, scour the ground and see if you can find a sturdy branch. It’ll keep you upright even though it may not be the most efficient tool. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Cheap and you can usually find a stick.
- Easily broken
Last Cast – Wading Safely
Safety in the water should be a top priority for anglers. Too many stories come out each year of anglers slipping, falling and injuring themselves in the water. Don’t ever feel as if you’re above a wading staff!
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- Best Rod, Reel and Line for Nymph Fishing – All about the equipment to nymph fish.
- How to Tie and Fish a Traditional Nymph Setup – An introduction to rigging up for nymph fishing.
- Nymph Fishing Styles Explained Traditional, Euro and Indicator – An overview of nymph fishing techniques and when to use them.
- Reading the Water for Nymph Fishing – Learn how to recognize the right conditions to fly fish with nymphs.
- A Complete Guide to Stillwater Nymphing – The title says it all, learn how to nymph fish lakes.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels