Wader safety training
Image: DOC | DOC


How to keep safe on our rivers. How to prepare and what to do if you do slip and fall into a river. Essential for anyone starting out into trout fishing.

Wherever you go fishing in the Taupō region, keep yourself safe. Do not enter the water if you are at all unsure.

Fishing in rivers in the Taupō region can mean wading into deep water at river mouths, or making river or stream crossings. Losing your footing when wading can be potentially hazardous and anglers can get into situations where injury or even death is a very real outcome.

All anglers should have a healthy respect for water and before heading out should tell someone where they intend to fish and how long they intend to be.

It is not always necessary to wade in order to fish successfully. If you are unsure about your wading ability, and you lack confidence in the water, don't wade! Look for suitable pools to fish that can be reached from the riverbank or by using thigh waders to go into the water to knee-depth. Linking arms with a fellow angler to cross a river will give you added stability, but you should proceed with caution.

However, wading is often required to reach some of the best pools and lies, so read these simple tips to help wade safely.

Before entering the water

Consider what are you wearing

  • Wear a wading belt. These can be bought from sports stores and are reasonably priced. Wearing a wading belt tightly around your midriff or chest helps to prevent water entering the lower half of waders and assists you to float.
  • Waders should fit properly – the correct shoe size, not too long or short in the leg and the correct size around the torso.
  • You need warm clothing to decrease the chance of exposure / hypothermia if completely wet. Fast drying polypropylene, polar fleece or merino wool thermals are recommended under waders during the winter.
  • Wearing a jacket over waders also limits water entry.
  • Take a wading stick. This could be as simple as a piece of wood found alongside the river, or a metal pole with a grip handle similar to a ski pole. Wading sticks provide stability when held upstream during river crossings.
  • Wear polaroid glasses as they cut the glare and allow you to see obstacles below the water.
  • Purpose-built fishing vests may have a ripcord which when pulled in an emergency, inflate the jacket to assist buoyancy.

Where are you going to fish?

  • Familiarise yourself with the surrounding area.
  • What is the speed and depth of the water in the area?
  • Can you safely wade there?
  • What is the safest entry point?
  • Can you cross back if necessary?
  • Look at what is below the surface where you choose to enter. Identify downstream hazards such as trees, rocks, rapids, waterfalls. If you fall in and float downstream will you end up in a gentle pool or a rocky rapid?
  • Where is the nearest exit point if you get into trouble?
  • When you exit, what are you then going to do? What is your rescue / emergency plan?

What to look for

  • Sand on the bottom indicates areas of low water velocity and provides good footing.
  • Large cobbles can provide good footing if scoured clean but will be treacherous if covered in algae.
  • If the water is too deep you are likely to begin to float and lose your footing.
  • Avoid crossing where you cannot see the bottom.

When crossing

  • It is best to cross diagonally downstream in shallow riffles.
  • Keep your body side-on to the current to brace yourself and reduce water pressure.

What to do if you fall into a river

  • Stay calm.
  • Roll over onto your back.
  • Keep your feet downstream of your body.
  • Keep your toes out of the water.
  • Use your arms in a manner that holds you in this position.
  • Use your arms in a sculling motion and kick your feet to propel yourself towards the edge.
  • Focus on an exit point.
  • Avoid being swept into obstructions like trees where you risk being pinned underwater.
  • Go with the flow until you find a suitable place to get out.

Wading at stream and river mouths or the lake edge

  • Look at the area you will be wading into during daylight hours before attempting to wade at night. Push a tall stick into the sand where you would like to wade to during the day, so that when it is dark it will give you guidance.
  • Be aware that river and stream mouths can change very quickly and can be soft and boggy when silt has been washed down after heavy rain.
  • Check with local anglers to find out if there is a steep drop-off. Or prod the sand with a stick during the day to find the drop-off. Note that drop-offs at river mouths can be very soft and if you stand right on the edge, it will just give way.
  • Always wear a wading belt.
  • If you go over the drop-off don't try to swim back against the current. Instead, adopt the position shown and scull yourself to the side of the current so you can then reach the beach.
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