It remains a simple pleasure.
Back in the day, it was something we did in our “crick” shoes, wearing cutoff blue jeans and cotton t-shirts. Sometimes I still do that.
At other times – if I’m feeling fancy — I might put my feet in something with felt bottoms, and choose shorts made of nylon, polyester or other fast-drying material.
I’m more likely to pack a towel now, too.
The old Mercury I had when I first started fishing on my own was impervious to filth – and reliability, though that’s another story – so I didn’t worry much about plopping down soaking wet on seats made of vinyl so hot it fried your flesh.
Now, with payments still to make, I treat my truck a little better.
But no matter. The attraction is the same.
Wet wading is just a plain fun way to fish.
The cold water that necessitated insulation in spring is gone and won’t be back for a few months yet. Indeed, stepping into the water at this time of year is refreshing, a way to escape the summer heat.
Water levels are typically lower, too, making wandering into the current a little less tricky than before.
And with the crowds having thinned, it’s possible to alternately dance and plow through a river or stream like it’s your own, without having to worry – at least not often – about who’s upstream or down.
The fight seems somehow different, too.
There’s something about the pulse of battling a fish in its own element. A connectivity, perhaps?
Man and bait and fish and water and wind and current, all joined, all one.
A drummer friend once told me the high he got from playing his set. The thrill, he said, came from each of his limbs working independently, playing a different head or cymbal or foot petal, yet together producing one rhythmic sound.
That’s wet wading to me.
The fish might run and you have to go with it, holding the rod and maybe adjusting the drag while also feeling with your feet for rocks and drop-offs and logs and such. Get it close and you have to net it or lip it with one hand while holding the rod high with another and bracing yourself against the water with your legs.
Other types of fishing have their place, to be sure.
I fish from the bank and from boats, as mood and necessity dictate.
I’d much rather float over a black, oozing, mucky bottom than try to walk through it, for example.
Want to lose a show or a boot?
Try stepping into mud so deep you don’t hit solid bottom until you’re at about mid-calf. You’ll get your leg out, but you’re footwear’s probably not coming with it.
And on impoundment and big rivers, of course, there are places you just can’t walk to.
Still, I make time to wet wade each season.
You’ve got to remember to secure your cell phone. The same’s true of your car keys if you have one of those fobs. Wallets are preferable dry, too – you’ll get some odd looks if you hand the convenience store clerk a drenched $20 for gas on the way home.
But stepping into the water is something not to be missed.