By Brooks Beatty
Fishing from a kayak takes me to some great, un-pressured waters. However, there are times I feel it's best to leave my kayak behind. Now hold on, I'm only talking a few feet behind. There are certain situations when I am better off wading than staying in my kayak. Here are some tips that have helped me catch more fish in shallow, moving-water locations. Before I continue, safety is always the most important thing when on the water; always wear your PFD, even when wading, because a simple slip could lead to a serious injury.
There are certain conditions when wade fishing through shoals and shallow areas is just more productive than staying in my kayak. I generally choose to wade in shallow, swift water that I want to fish thoroughly. This works great when there is no way to anchor, or my anchor is not holding, or if the water is too shallow and I am continually getting stuck. Also, by wading and not banging around on shallow rocks I am considerably less likely to spook fish.
A couple considerations for wading effectively: First, great river shoes are a must. Flip flops, Crocs, and old running shoes won't cut it. As soon as your feet hit the rocks you will look like a deer on a frozen pond. A lot of major water shoe companies such as Sperry and Astral have developed soles that make a significant difference on slippery rocks. No shoe provides traction 100 percent of the time, but without a doubt they are a huge help. These types of shoes also provide ample support and protection from rocks and logs on the river bottom.
Never put all your weight on one foot, especially in transitioning from one rock to another. If you can't easily step down, look for an alternate route. Also, when stepping down off of a large rock, take one hand and put it on the rock you're standing on and use it as a handrail, giving you a second point of contact other than just your leading foot.
I often use my kayak as a crutch or a handrail when wading; this way if I slip, I don't fully submerge. I feel much safer taking unsure steps or moving quicker than normal with it right by my side.
When you reach the spot you want to fish, what do you do with your kayak? There are a couple options; you can simply pull it up on a rock where it won't float away, or you can leash it to yourself. Even if I don't need it, I always have a way to leash my kayak around my waist or clipped to my PFD with a carabiner. This way it just floats three or four feet behind as I walk and catch fish. It's extremely convenient to change rods or get gear out of the kayak.
I've caught some amazing fish that I wouldn't have caught otherwise by getting out of my kayak and wading. It gives me time to make accurate casts, the appropriate retrieval angle, and the ability to be stealthy.