Some of the best fly fishing locations are in fast-moving waters that run over slippery rocks on the river bottom. When it comes to navigating your way through these areas, it’s crucial to have a good quality wading staff to help you maintain your balance.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the things you should consider if you’re looking to purchase one, as well as some of our picks for the best wading staffs in the industry right now.
Best Wading Staff: Quick Picks
The best overall wading staff for fly fishing. Made of durable tubing and easily folds down into a convenient carrying size.
Incredible value that features a floating cork grip handle and comes with its own carrying case.
Best Wading Staff: Full Reviews
There are numerous options to pick from if you’re searching for a solid wading staff to bring along on your fishing trips. Based on the characteristics and priorities that a wading staff should have, we’ve designated the following models as our top selections.
The Simms Wading Staff is an outstanding product that is a must-have item for anglers who commonly fish along swift-moving streams or rivers. It's made of durable aluminum and folds down into four sections, which makes it easy to carry along with the rest of your gear. The Wading Staff comes with a contoured grip handle and weighs just 14 ounces.
- Folding wading staff
- Wrist strap & locking detent button
- Adjustable length from 51 to 56 inches
The Orvis Sure Step is another great product that one could argue as being the best fly fishing staff in the fishing industry. It's one of our favorite foldable wading staffs that is made of aluminum and features a comfortable easy-grip handle, and comes in two length options. The Sure Step comes with a convenient wading belt, as well as a sheath that makes it easy to store with one hand when you need to stop and make a cast.
- Surprisingly light and strong staff
- Neoprene case for easy storage
- Quality folding staff
- Works as a walking stick or hiking staff
The FishPond Lost Trail Wading Staff is another great option that comes with a lower price tag than the Orvis or Simms model. This one easily folds down into three sections and comes with a comfortable cork handle that gives it a more classic look compared to the more common EVA foam handle wading staffs. The Lost Trail Staff features a rubber tip that helps provide more stability when traversing slick rocks while holding a fly rod in your other hand.
- Compatible with most wading belts
- Cork grip
- Made with belt loop
- Locking button secures folding sections
The Hammers Collapsible Wading Staff is a well-made product that's sold at a more affordable price than just about any other fly fishing wading staffs available in today's market. It's a collapsible staff that's made with a bungee cord to ensure that it remains secured and folds down into a convenient 12-inch length. It's made of aluminum alloy tubing and features a carbide steel tip that allows you to use the wading stick in rivers or walking sticks as you hike to your fishing spots.
- Carbide steel tip
- Doubles as hiking pole or wading staff for fly fishing
- Comfortable foam handle
If you're not worried about the additional cost of a fly fishing wading staff, the Folstaf wading staff is one of our top choices. This is one of the best wading staff models you'll find as it is made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum tubing and comes with a convenient carrying pouch that fits onto any wading belt using a wide belt loop. It folds down into six 10-inch sections and can be quickly opened and set up with one hand.
- Cork grip or camera mount grip
- Carrying pouch fits any wading belt
- Instantly opens when removed from pouch
- Lightweight and compact
The Folding Wading Staff by Creative Angler is a less-expensive fly fishing wading staff that is an outstanding value. This one's folding sticks are compacted into a lightweight neoprene case that's easy to carry and is 55 inches at full length. It features a camera seat mount at the top of the handle and can also double as a walking stick or fly fishing wading staff.
- Easy to set up or fold down
- Folded staff attaches to any wading belt
- One of the most versatile wading staffs
- Fixed length of 55 inches
Wading Staff Buyers’ Guide:
Why Use a Fly Fishing Wading Staff?
If you’re ever fishing in moderately deep water that’s stained or moving fast, you absolutely should have a fly fishing wading staff. Using a wading staff allows you to not only stabilize yourself and move with more confidence but it also makes it possible to probe ahead and get a better sense of the water’s depth before taking a step into it.
Walking is hard enough when moving through swift currents, but turning around is especially risky and often results in fly fishing anglers taking an unwanted plunge into the cold river. If used correctly, a wading staff helps you identify slippery rocks, logs, sudden drop-offs, and other things that might pose a danger.
Do Lure Anglers Need a Wading Staff?
Both fly fishing anglers and those using nymphing rods or ultra-light spinning rods should employ the use of a good wading staff. It’s an additional cost that some anglers might not want to purchase, but a quality wading stick will act as a third leg that goes a long way in making sure you don’t lose your balance in fast-moving waters.
The Different Types of Wading Staffs on the Market
There are three basic types of wading staff options anglers can choose from. These include static wading staffs, collapsible wading staffs, and folding wading staffs. Each of these types of fishing staffs have different advantages, and some are obviously more suitable for anglers depending on their own specific needs.
A static wading staff, or fixed-length staff, is a one-piece stick that is not capable of folding or collapsing. While these will allow you to remain fully confident that it won’t fold or collapse unintentionally, most high-quality folding and collapsible staffs are made so that they will not buckle under your body weight.
Collapsible wading staffs are more popular than static wading staffs as they allow you to quickly and easily retract the stick when you need to. These collapsible staffs tend to be almost as trustworthy as a static model and they also sometimes allow users to adjust the length of the staff based on their own height requirements. Collapsible staffs are often a bit heavier than most static or folding staffs.
Folding staffs have become more popular in recent years among fly fishing anglers. They are typically more compact and lightweight than any other type of staff that you might use to fly fish around rivers and streams. Many foldable wading staffs are capable of instantly unfolding once they are removed from their carrying case or pouch, which allows anglers to access and deploy them with one hand in the event that they are needed.
It’s best to avoid cheap wading staffs as they are known to sometimes malfunction, which can be dangerous. If you select one of the models we’ve mentioned in our wading staff reviews, you can be assured that you’re going with one of the best wading staffs money can buy.
How to Choose the Best Wading Staff for You
There are a few important characteristics and features you should look for when searching for a quality wading staff. The overall stability or sturdiness is the most important factor. Be sure to pay attention to the material a staff is made of and purchase one that will support your weight.
Wading staffs are generally made of aluminum, which is lightweight and strong, but you might notice that some brands produce staffs from composite material. You might also find some models that are made of wood, which offers good stability but are slightly heavier than aluminum or composite.
It’s crucial that you pay attention to the length of staff and select one that will be long enough for you if you’re a taller angler. If you’re on the short side, be sure to pick a staff that won’t be too long, as this will make it harder to stabilize yourself in the water.
Some staffs come with their own carrying pouch that can usually be placed on your wading belt. If you have a limited capacity for extra gear, it’s convenient to have a staff that comes with its own case and belt.
Lastly, it’s best to determine the amount of money you’re willing to spend on a wading staff before you start looking for one. This is an important safety tool that every angler should have, and it’s better to have a more budget-friendly staff than to go without one in a fast-moving river.
Final Word on the Best Wading Staffs for Fly Fishing
A quality wading staff isn’t just a handy gear item that will keep you from slipping and sliding across the river bottom. It’s an important safety tool that you should never go without if you’re planning on fishing in remote streams and rivers that have varying depths.
Being able to maintain your balance will also greatly improve your experience on the water and likely lead to tight lines and more fish on your hook.