The height of fishing season in the Rocky Mountains, like most locales, falls in the summer. With summer temps comes a disdain for donning the full kit of waders and boots on the water; it’s far to hot out. This is one of the best times to be on the water: wet wading season. When our bigger rivers reach comfortable temps and our backcountry streams and creeks become accessible and drop to fishable levels.
Wet wading season can draw anglers who adhere to a more simple methodology of fly angling: a rod and reel, a spool of tippet, a few flies in a small box, and some good hiking/wading footwear. The “live simply” mindset is ideal when you have to cover a lot of ground with some speed in the high country. Here is a list of some of our absolute favorite pieces of gear that makes wet wading season that much sweeter.
Designed from the ground up at a wet wading specific boot, the Simms Intruder Boot was made for the summer angler. These boots forsake the traditional bulk of standard wading boots that need to accommodate neoprene wader booties and extra socks with a traditional boot fit. With the traditional fit comes a boot far easier to maneuver and hike in. Plus the debris-blocking, integrated neoprene sock keeps your feet warm in even the coldest of spring fed creeks. Can be worn with Simms Guide Wet Wading socks, but we like to go commando style in these.
While some of us like to get out and about in boots for the wet wading season, others prefer to go minimal with Chacos. I am going to make a bold statement: the Fishpond Chaco Native Z2 Sandal is hands down the BEST Chaco available for the fly angler (or anyone who uses these in or around water). These are the only Chaco Sandals on the market being built with Vibram® Megagrip non-marking outsoles for incredible grip on both wet and dry terrain. Not to mention the durable jacquard webbing (with customizable adjustment on the Z/2) and Chaco’s LUVSEAT™ footbed for support and comfort for long days on the water. Run some errands, jump in the truck, hike 3 miles, catch some high country cutthroat, hike back, grab a bite, and hit the bar: all in the same pair of Fishpond Chacos.
Noticing a trend? Feet. If your feet are not happy, your day on the water won’t be so great. The Simms Women’s Riprap Sandal were purpose-built for the woman angler. Once again, perfect for river floats, creek hikes, and the mountain town nightlife; these sandals have a protected toebox for the inevitable rock slip or kick.
No, we don’t have a foot fetish. We just really like keeping our feet happy on the water. The Simms Riprap Sandal and Riprap Shoe offer a good middle ground between boots and sandals. While not as industrious as a boot, they are a lot lighter. These shoes and sandals also offer a little more protection with a toebox than the standard Chaco style sandal. Another benefit of the Riprap Shoe is we have even used them as a good “one shoe” for the trail running and fly fishing enthusiast who likes it when both activities have an opportunity to co-mingle.
The ole standby for wet wading has always been neoprene socks. For the budget minded (or comfort minded), Simms has always had a good selection of neoprene wading socks including Guide Guard Socks, Women’s Guard Socks, and Neoprene Wading Sock (for Women too!). For those that tend to blister easily, a set of Guide Wet Wading Socks worn under your neoprene socks (or Intruder Boots) are invaluable.
With high country wet wading season in full swing, most of the time all you really need is one fly box, some tippet and a few other essentials. The Fishpond San Juan Vertical Chest pack keeps it all ready to grab and go. This pack is the “K.I.S.S.” principle personified. It’s a high speed, low drag kind of thing for the active high country angler.
The Howler Brothers Horizon Hybrid Pants were the sleeper for me. I picked up a pair of these pants for my tarpon trip last year, but they have turned out to be one of the best investments I have made in fly fishing clothing. I have put countless days on the water in these, not to mention a few days of elk hunting in thick scrub oak and thorn patches, and they look just as great as the day I got them. Made of sturdy ripstop nylon, I have found these to be great wet wading pants as they dry quick, protect my legs against the sun and bugs, and shield my sensitive baby skin from poison ivy patches when bushwacking. For those not keen on the idea of wet wading in pants, the Horizon Hybrid configuration also comes in shorts.
Tacky has been making waves in the fly box market the past two years, and for good reason, their boxes are sweet. This past year, they dropped The Tacky Tube. At first, this little device looks weird, maybe even a little “adult novelty”…but after having the Tacky Tube in the shop for a few months, we have come to realize how cool it really is. Load it up with a few of your favorite flies and go, or use it as a fly drying station attached to a lanyard or retractor. One of the neatest features is the drop storage capability with 2 neodymium magnets. Yeah, just drop your fly into the tube at an angle, and it will attach to one of these very powerful magnets with no fear of loss. Small enough to fit in any pocket, this thing could very well re-define your minimal fly box.
For the full day wet wading adventurer, a good backpack is almost mandatory. Along with various fly fishing accoutrements, long days of high country hiking may require a few additional items that very well could save your life (or just make your day on the water a little more pleasant). From extra fly boxes, to lunch, rain gear, extra baselayers, survival kits, or a few brewdogs, a good (and comfortable) backpack is required. Fishpond, Patagonia, and Simms have been putting out some great packs the past few years that are tailor fit to the adventurous fly angler. A few of our favorites:
One pack to rule them all. Patagonia built the Hybrid Pack Vest for anglers willing to go the extra mile (or 10) in search of the sweet spot. This daypack/fishing vest combo is engineered to comfortably carry and organize everything you need on the trail and on the water.
When you need to keep your gear totally dry in the wettest environments.
Simms Waypoints Backpack (Large)
The large Waypoints Backpack is great for anglers who carry a whole lot of gear or even pack light but intend to spend a few days in the backcountry.
This pack is the big daddy for pack-in adventurers at 1831 cubic inches. Can be used as a solid overnight bag.
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack
A completely submersible pack…in case the box canyon you are hiking up gets so tight that you have to swim it!
No this is not a backpack…it is a backpack add-on. The Medicine Bow Chest Pack comes with modular design docks allowing compatibility with Fishpond backpacks: the Black Canyon or Thunderhead Submersible Backpack. Strap to the back for your hike and then to the front when you are ready to fish!
When it comes to wet wading season, sometimes we don’t want to be fumbling with 6 different fly boxes in our pack. It is nice to go light with one pocket sized box that will hold everything we need for a day (or two) on the water. Just throw that box in a shirt pocket and go!
As the name indicates, this box is perfect for a day out on the water. With a strong magnetic pad and 3 foam strips, this box holds everything from small midges, big nymphs, bushy dries, and even moderately sized streamers. If you are looking for the ultimate all-in-one fly box, you should also check out the Cliff Super Day’s Worth.
These fly boxes are some of our absolute favorite fly boxes ever made. They are built well, look sleek (with our logo that is), and don’t cost an arm and a leg. They also have rounded corners that work fantastic for slipping in and out of any pocket. The E-Z Ryder boxes come in multiple configurations including midge (perfect for shirt pockets), medium, and large, with options for slit foam, magnet, or compartment dividers. The E-Z Ryder also comes in a Bug Box configuration that we really like for big hoppers and streamers.
Finally, for those that like to go minimal without a pack (or just like to have all their accessories within easy reach), fly fishing lanyards are the answer. Lanyards have been around for a while, but they are still our favorite way to keep our accessories within reach. The perfect solution for the wet wading angler.