Wading Lakes

     I've been wading in lakes since I started fishing.  In fact, I did it with such regularity that it never occurred to me that other anglers don't do it.  This is never more apparent than during expo season.  I constantly get asked what is involved with my guided shore fishing trips.  When I tell them that will probably do some wading in the Madison Chain of Lakes the looks I get are priceless.  "You wade in the lake" they ask, "Like people do in the Driftless?"  You can watch the light bulb turn on above their heads.  "Same concept" I tell them, "You can access and cover a lot more fishable water than you can standing on the shoreline.  You can access lakes at a boat ramp or public park, then wade out past the docks and fish almost anywhere so long as your feet are wet.  It opens up tons of water for public fishing and here is a short rambling on how to do it.
A little lake Mendota smallmouth.  First fish I caught with my hip waders on.
     My wading career started with a free set of hip waders a buddy gave me.  Then I made the jump that fall to a set of camo neoprene chest waders (think duck hunting).  This past season I finally bought a set of nice breathable chest waders and boots from Orvis of Madison.  They were the first ones to introduce to me the idea of safe wading.  It turns out that you shouldn't just go charging out into the water.  I learned a lot of what not to do while wading the hard way.  If you search a little bit you'll find that the internet is full of great videos about how to wade safely.  I would recommend starting with this one.  It will save me a lot of typing if you actually watch it, so here is the link again.
     Now that you've learned the basics of safe wading let's look at wading in lakes.  The biggest difference between wading in lakes and wading in a river is the lack of noticeable current.  It is much easier to wade in lakes.  However when in a lake you have to be extremely careful of the sudden drop offs.  When I first started exploring lake fronts in my hip waders I often found myself soaked because I rapidly went from 2 feet deep to 10 feet deep.  This is probably the biggest threat you will run into as a lake wader.  In fact it was such a common occurrence that I would wear a PFD for extra insurance.  I've since learned that a simple lake map with depth contours helps a lot.  The only issue with the lake maps was that they are a pain to fold and keep dry when out on the water.  You can probably imagine my excitement when I found the Navionics Boating App.  This app works with the GPS in your smartphone to give you lake depth contours in real time.  So when I'm hip deep exploring new waters I can take a quick look at my iphone and avoid suddenly have to swim in a pair of waders.  This is hands down my favorite app for angling.  It helped me discover that on some lakes I could wade out hundreds of yards and only be waist deep.  It was a real game changer when I learned that I could walk out to the same weed beds that guys were using boats to access.
Releasing large fish is much more fun when you're in the water with them.
     One of the biggest changes consistent lake wading requires is a different mindset from the shoreline or boat bound angler.  You will quickly find that everything you own is soaked unless you change some of your tackle habits.  The first thing that comes to mind is gear storage.  Waterproof tackle trays are a must when wading.  All it takes is a few wet hooks on your lures or flies and some air exposure to begin the rust cycle.  As we all know once hooks start to rust they become much weaker and can even break under pressure.  I prefer to use a variety of the Plano Waterproof Stowaways.  They can be configured in a number of different ways to house all the lures you need when in the water.  If you don't want to spend the money to upgrade your current trays, a nice tip is to remember to open up all the trays and fly boxes when you get back home.  This will allow everything to air dry before you put them away.  Significantly cutting down on the potential for rust.  You'll find that the gear you've spent so much time collecting will last a lot longer.  That means you'll have less gear to replace...so you can save that money to buy more stuff!
Open those trays and boxes to extend the life of your favorite flies and lures.
     Another thing to consider is how you're going to carry everything you need with you.  I prefer a backpack when I'm wading since it allows me to carry all my trays, my rain gear, release tools, and a thermos of coffee.  I you get one that's fishing specific such as the Spiderwire Backpack you can even carry a spare rod or two.  If you don't want the weight of a backpack on your shoulders check out the sling or waist packs that you commonly see the fly anglers using.  They are extremely comfortable to wear all day.  Just make sure that the model you choose will carry the fly boxes and tackle trays you intend to carry.  Some of them are made to hold smaller fly boxes and are not able to accommodate the larger tackle trays associated with lure fisherman.  Finally, if you are using a smartphone for navigation or even for gulp, "Hero Shots" make sure it's in a waterproof case.  More than one of my past clients have lost a nice phone due to water damage.  I use a fancy LifeProof Case, but the ziplock models available at any good paddle shop will work just fine.
Everything you need for a day wading in the water.
     Hopefully this little rambling has given you the information you need to try wading a lake in your area.  Wading in lakes can make for some incredible fishing.  Doesn't matter if it's warm water wet wading, in a cheap set of hip boots, a fancy pair of breathables, or a heavy set of neoprene's.  Wading in lakes will open up angling opportunities you never knew existed.  It combines the best of shore fishing with the water coverage you would normally associate with a boat.
     Do you have any experience wading in lakes?  Maybe you have a few more tips you'd like to share for somebody just starting out?  Drop a comment below or hit me up on any of the social media platforms found on the side bar to the right.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.

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