There is more to crossing a stream than merely getting to the other side.
The trick to wading in fast flowing waters is understanding what you are up against and, above all, keep your balance.
It may sound simple, but there are all sorts of factors that come into play.
Moving water creates pressure, which is exerted against an angler’s legs when attempting to wade across a stream. The pressure increases according to depth. Water also flows at different speeds at different depths, with the fastest flowing just below the water’s surface. These variables in water speed and pressure, combined with slippery algae growing on rocks and gravel below, make for less-than-secure footing when wading a stream.
There is a fair amount of science, both physics and biology, involved in the process crossing a stream – at least in getting across without incident.
Before venturing across the waters, one should take into consideration a number of factors such as current and direction, the amount of water pressure being exerted by the current, water depth and the amount of algae and subaquatic plant life growing on the rocks and gravel on the bottom of the stream, not to mention the angler’s physical height, weight, strength and stamina.
When crossing a stream, keep your legs apart to center your gravity and take short steps, one at a time, feeling the bottom and securing your footing before taking the next step. Choose a diagonal path across and downstream so that you are not fighting the full force of the current.
It is important to remember that water flows faster where a stream is narrower, so the shortest distance is not always best. Never even consider crossing if the water appears too deep and the current too fast, and never, ever even think about crossing an unfamiliar fast, flowing stream by yourself.
Another item of gear one needs to consider is waders. Anglers who routinely spend time fishing moving waters need to consider which type of waders they are most comfortable wearing, and what material they prefer for the soles of their waders. I prefer chest waders, and have felt soles on my boots for the plain and simple reason that felt soles do not slip as much on algae covered rocks.
Waders with rubber-soled boots built into them are downright dangerous in my opinion, and should not even be considered for angling. Neoprene waders are hot and heavy. Gore-Tex waders are much lighter, and are also breathable, while still being water proof. Subsequently, they do not get wet and clammy inside. They may be fairly expensive but, in the long run, they are well worth the extra money.
A good pair of polarized sunglasses which will break the glare on the water’s surface and offer a somewhat better view of the stream bottom.
Which brings me to the final and perhaps most important item to take into consideration when fishing, especially when fishing fast flowing waters: one’s choice of fishing partner.
I have only ever had two fishing partners, my old dog Duff and my friend Cory.
He is younger and considerably stronger than I – factors I became very aware of one day a couple of years back when I found myself up to my hips in one of our favourite steelhead rivers.
I was inching my way across a fairly shallow but particularly fast flowing section of the river, feeling a little insecure, when I noticed Cory move from the upstream to the downstream side of me. He said nothing, but I knew he was positioning himself just in case I slipped.
Like always, he was there for me. I guess that’s what friends/fishing partners do for their friends/fishing partners.