Article by Adam Klagsbrun
Fishing small streams with a Tenkara rod takes specific form for some, as the “long rod and short line” approach allows for the less-glamorous casting methods needed to present flies to small targets and in tight quarters when there’s no room to backcast at all.
But beyond presenting a fly, there is an issue at hand that many anglers don’t seem to consider quite as readily… that there’s a better way to present themselves on these streams – one that promotes a more comfortable and versatile approach to crawling around the banks and walking through the water.
There are two main reasons to consider a wet wading setup. The first relates to the reality that you are not going to be stepping in water much higher than your knees in a small stream because you don’t need to.
Second, instead of using your expensive waterproof waders that will get torn, poked with thorns, scuffed on rocks, and generally abused while sweating profusely as you get a real work out navigating the stream; rejoice in the knowledge that you now have shin and knee protection, thorn protection, and will generally just experience less discomfort.
Enter the Japanese-inspired idea of wearing a neoprene gaiter on top of a high neoprene sock. This system has a few advantages over wearing waders and is something you’ll encounter if you fish in Japan.
First off, your body regulates the temperature automatically. It works like a wetsuit. Summary: water soaks through, you get wet. Your body heats up the water between your skin and the neoprene, and you are in the comfort zone.
Additionally, you don’t have to be sweaty in your waders. On a hot day, the cool water keeps you much more comfortable than your waders ever could. On a cold day, your body temperature kicks in and keeps you warm.
Sure, there will be moments when you step into some fast water and the warm water gets displaced. Fear not! Your body will remedy the situation quickly. This system works even when temps are down into the 40’s. It becomes more important for you to bring extra layers when it’s colder out, such as a jacket and insulating layer like a fleece in case the cold water begins to sap heat from your core.
The rest of the outfit consists of quick-drying outdoor pants or ¾ length pants. Roll the legs up to your knee, and in the summer you might want to wear shorts. When it gets cold, use a cooler-weather soft shell hiking pant that has a little more thickness and some wind resistance. I can’t say enough great things about the versatility of the setup. If you’d like to try it out, I’ll include a list of some current options. Wet wading socks can be purchased online or at most fly fishing stores around the country. Use your existing wading boots, or size down if you go for the thinner summer wet wading socks.
Daiwa Neo NG-400 Gaiter – a black, knee-high gaiter with a padded knee and Velcro closure. This gaiter is designed to be used alone, or with a neoprene wading sock (preferable.) It is not wide enough to fit around most waders.
Little Presents Wader Gaiters – These are thicker neoprene, wider circumference and have longer Velcro straps so they are well suited to be used on top of waders – but can also be used alone. If you have extremely skinny legs, these might not be the best option for you, but they work.
Tiemco Foxfire Airista Gaiters & High Socks – These are the ones I’ve been using. They are similar to the Daiwa Neo Gaiters but are a different color and a slightly different cut. They are also not designed to fit over waders, they can be used alone, or with the Airista thigh-high wet wading sock. I highly recommend this combination.
Adam Klagsbrun is an avid lightweight backpacker and angler of all flavors. Originally fishing small streams in the Northeast USA, Adam has relocated to Colorado where he enjoys all that the outdoors have to offer. Find some of his journals at Of Rock & Riffle.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015-16 issue of Tenkara Angler Magazine.
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