There is nothing greater than arriving on the banks of the Maumee River before the daylight opens its eyes. Getting to your spot and claiming you length of the fishbowl. Before the sun rises you listen for the female walleye rolling in the current. Your blood races and you know that you can’t cast until it is exactly sunrise. You patiently wait, perhaps in the nook of a fallen tree. As you wait, you are silent. You begin preparing the ultimate Carolina Rig, knowing that the colors you choose have got to be “the one.” We all have the same common anticipation. The head shake of that first Eye!
I remember how long it took me, to gain enough confidence in my knowledge, to go fishing alone. Looking back, that was a lot of time that I wasted, not getting to enjoy the peaceful, serene solitude of communing with nature.
Fishing is my main stress reliever. There is nothing, that a day spent standing in the middle of a river, with a fly rod can’t fix. I never return, with the same heavy residue, that life can sometimes leave on your soul.
Water can be your friend if you understand one thing…It is the boss of you. One sure fired way of walking away from your “serene nature communing” less than relaxed, is getting a wet ass.
Not only can a dunk in the drink ruin your hair, it can also potentially take your life. And I am sorry but there is no fish on the face of this earth worth that price. I recommend having and wearing a floatation vest. With the technology available there is no reason not to have one on. There are automatically inflating life vests on the market now. They lay flat on your skin, instead of the typical bulky vests that are cumbersome to try fishing in. There are automatic vests designed to only inflate when the vests censors become saturated. This eliminates defunct inflates from most minor splashes.
Being prepared can only get you so far. One of the most important things, that I have personally learned, about safety is to NEVER just walk right into ANY body of water. There are a great many factors to the make-up of a river. For instance, you have to take into consideration not only the depth and temperature, but of the terrain of the bottom.
With that being said, you should also be familiar, with how strong of a current the river you intend on fishing has. The current of a river can make or break you, not only getting into the water, but of also getting back out of the water. I looked all over the internet to get the best words to describe what exactly a current is and came across an article written by Norm Minas.
His description was one of the only ones available. Gravity moves water downhill. The steepness of grade determines how fast the current is. There are quite a few things that go along with this though. You have to be aware that objects in the river such as rocks and downed trees and varying gradients, also have a major effect on a river’s current.
Pools are best described as areas where the gradient has decreased, or where there is an obstruction slowing the current. Riffles and runs are what should be associated with faster flowing water.
The best way of initiating your entrance, is to have a walking stick, to stick down into the water, to determine the correct depth. Any tree branch will do if you are fresh out of a walking stick. You will want to put the stick all the way down, into the water, feeling the bottom. You want to feel for what type of river bed you have. There are MANY different types. Some rivers have pea gravel beds, others have mucky or silt covered floors. And yet, others will be algae covered, slimy shale or large rock floors. If your first step is unprepared, it could be very dangerous.
When you’re starting out on your own, I recommend sticking to depths no deeper than your upper calves to your knees. This will give you the most control over your experience. I know for me, the deeper the water, the more buoyant I become.
Now that you have determined that the depth of where you are going to get into the water is sufficient to maintain stability and control the next part is getting in. I am hoping you will look for a place where the water and shore meet, where there is not much of a step down. This is not easy to do, and the best way to locate such areas, is to spend a day doing some good old fashion recon, of the area you plan on fishing.
Start by placing one foot down into the water. Bring your second foot down off of the bank. Keep your feet, at a shoulder width apart, to give yourself balance against the current. (Obviously, if the current is not aggressive, you have a lot more room for error) Begin your journey out into the river by taking one step at a time.
With your lead foot, feel the bottom in front of you before each step. You should look a little like Igor as you step out into the stream, one step at a time, feeling the bottom with your foot as you go. You are using your lead foot to find drop offs in the bottom. These can be quite unexpected and the biggest reason for not just walking out. You are also feeling, to make sure the river bottom does not change from say, a rocky or gravel bottom, to something a little more treacherous, like for instance a mucky or silt covered bottom.
Until you have some experience making your way out into the waters, you should use short steps. I promise you that the river is not going anywhere and you have time to get to where you want to be.
I always try to keep myself sideways in the water. Maintaining your body in this manner removes a LOT of pressure, from the current off of you. Standing face into the current can be fairly dangerous. You are putting a lot of resistance on the waters natural direction, thus affording a bigger opportunity of the water knocking you down. By keeping sideways you offer less of your body to cause that resistance. Oh, and one major thing, that I feel needs to be expressed here, NEVER WALK BACKWARDS!
Next up is, fishing fashion! For the record, the fish may not care what you look like out there, but your potentially sunburned or hypothermic skin does.
In this day and age, there is so much “fishing technology” available, that there is really no reason to ever be in a position, of being sunburned or of becoming a Fisherman Popsicle.
First off there is no excuse for not catching the weather on the local news. You need to know what the high and low temps for the day are going to be, especially, during the times, that you plan on being on or near the water. Most areas have online sites that will provide up to date information as well. Or if all else fails, check out The Weather Channel.
There are many reasons to know what the weather will bring. You need to be prepared for extremes. Many times in the early morning hours, it is damp and much cooler than mid-day. More often than not the temperatures drop in the evenings as well. Dressing appropriately for a wide spectrum of temperatures is the key to staying comfortable while you’re out there. Layers work the best and are the most functional. In the mornings, you definitely want to make sure you’re warmer, but also want to make sure you can cool down, as the temperatures rise. One thing to keep in mind, if you get warm, you can always take clothes off once you are out there…but unless you brought your closet, you’ll pay hell to find more to put on to warm up.
I like starting with a base layer. Under Armor makes very technology advanced clothing. But, it is also quite pricey. There are many manufacturers that offer products similar enough to forego the “name brand.” Bass Pro, Cabelas, Simms, Orvis all offer products designed with us in mind.
From the base layer, I will add items such as turtle necks, polar fleeces, sweat shirts, etc., including a short sleeve shirt. What you put on is dependent on what your weather will be. I even like the zip off pants that are available. Maintain your comfort and you will get the maximum enjoyment in any weather situation.
For extremely cold weather fishing (salmon, steelhead, ice fishing) there are a great many products that will give off heat. “Hothands, Toasty Toes, Socks with battery operated warmers,” just to name a few. I keep a variety pack of the “hothands & toasty toes” in my tackle bag at all times. It is a good thing to be over prepared.
Now that you are dressed properly, let’s take a minute to talk about sun block. USE IT! Not only can the sun cause skin cancer, it can cause aging! We’ve all seen the pictures of old fishermen, with their wrinkled up, weathered faces. These are pictures of carelessness. A little sun block never hurt anyone. If you’re not into applying it to your skin, there are things like shirts, hats, face masks & gloves designed to give you varying levels of SPF protection.
I can assure you that an entire day near the water can be quite painful in the end. If the temperatures are cooler, you may not realize just how much sun you have gotten, until it is too late. I have personally made the mistake of deciding against sunscreen or sun block clothing. The result was first, the pain of the actual blistering sunburn but then, the awful snake skin shedding that went on, for what seemed like an eternity.
The next things that you should be thinking about are waders and boots. I am not an advocate of putting a ton of money into something that I am not sure that I will even continue to enjoy. However, I am also not interested in investing the minimum amount of money only to have to continue to re-invest for the same item repeatedly.
Waders can definitely be one of those things. First of all, you need to determine what types of fishing you will be doing. Will you be an all around, all year fisherman? Will you always only fish in extreme cold? Or, will you only fish in the heat of summer? I personally do all of the above. There is not one season, in North West Ohio, that I am not in or on some body of water fishing.
There are many brands of waders. However, there are very few, that offer superior quality, as well as, exceptional customer service after the sale. To me, after the sale service is almost as important, as the product’s quality. As a consumer, I do not like to hear a company that I have purchased something from, tell me no. I find there is no excuse for not taking care of your customers after they have made a purchase from you.
The technology available today is incredible. The most common materials used to make waders are neoprene & light weight breathable Gore-Tex constructions. Neoprene waders are, in my opinion extremely heavy, cumbersome, and hard to get on and off. However, with that all being said, they are truly the warmest of any material. Neoprene is the same stuff that wet suits are made from. Most neoprene waders are going to be 3.5 mm or greater. The higher the number of Millimeters (mm) the thicker the neoprene is, thus the warmer they will keep you. If you are truly a cold weather fisherman then these may suit you the best.
Light weight, breathable Gore-Tex constructed waders are just that. This style of wader is made to be a whole lot roomier, allowing for a lot more layers of clothing offering maximum comfort. They will weigh a whole lot less, be a whole lot more pliable and be a lot easier to get on and off.
Any of you that have tried to get a pair of neoprene waders on or off know exactly what I mean about what a struggle it can be to get out of them quickly. There is nothing worse than a sudden and eminent bathroom break needed and you can’t get your waders off.
I will not even comment on rubber waders, except to say, I stay away from them. Unless, of course, if you are picking up hip boots. These are typically made out of rubber.
The next thing regarding waders, that I would like to express my personal opinion on, is the question of boot foot or stocking foot. I do not like boot foot waders. While they may keep things more simplistic, I feel they are fairly dangerous in their own right.
A boot foot chest wader is just what it sounds like. It is a pair of waders that come up over your chest and have a muck boot attached. There is no water flow through this style of boot. I recommend a neoprene sock over your wader sock. The neoprene sock will give you an insulated buffer between your socks and the rubber boots. This type of wader is definitely easier to put on, however, if you happen to step into the muck and try to pull your foot out of it. Chances are your entire foot is going to come out of the boot. This can definitely be a problem and a dangerous one at that. Besides all of that, they offer absolutely NO ankle support.
Stocking foot, chest waders, are waders that come up over your chest, but have a neoprene stocking foot attached. With this style of wader, and the one that I most frequently recommend, you will also purchase a pair of wader boots. This style of wader has offered me the most comfort in all of the years that I have been fishing. I wear them in all seasons with the exception of Ice Fishing. The extra roominess allows me to really bundle up and stay truly warm.
The boots purchased to wear with this style, offer great ankle support and a variety of bottoms. There are felt, lug, Eco and studded soles on most wader boots. Wader boots are designed to allow water to flow through them. I have for the most part stuck with the felt soles. They however, do not do well in muddy conditions and can become quite slippery.
The newest technology is the Eco sole. They were designed to give you more traction on the algae covered rocks and to get fishermen away from using felt soled boots. It is believed that the felt soles track too many bad micro-organisms between bodies of water.
The lug soles are quite slippery as they are made out of rubber. They do not offer much traction. You can purchase boots with the studs already placed or you can purchase a container of studs and attach them to just about any wader boot. I would not recommend attaching them to a boot foot wader though.
Wader pants are also available. These only go up to your waist and secure like a pair of pants. With this style, you are truly limited to the water depths you will be able to fish.
Whether you opt for neoprene or light weight breathable waders, chest or wader pants, make certain you have a wader belt. Make sure that it is secure and fits snuggly around your waist too. The wader belts are designed to prevent an immediate wader fill up if you happen to take a spill. It slows down the amount of water entering the waders. The wader belt is an excellent safety tool. Use it!
I do hope that you have found this informative enough to stop back by for the next part of this article series. I will tell you all of the gear that you need to be successful during the Maumee River Walleye Run this year and every year. I will give you some professional tips on casting, retrieving & color selection.