5 Best Wading Staff – Which To Choose & Why You Need One

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When anglers are looking to stock up on fishing accessories, a wading staff is one that sometimes gets forgotten about, but it is a critical part of every fly angler’s fishing gear and should always be considered an important safety accessory.

 If you spend time fishing moving water, wading safety is a priority. Wading staffs are a simple purchase that can make maneuvering rivers and streams far easier. 

Yes, they can feel a bit clunky to use at first, but a few trips to the river will prove their worth and prevent serious accidents.

In this article, I will cover: 

  • Different Types of Wading Staff
  • How to Use a Staff when Casting and Catching
  • 5 Best Wading Staff 
    • Best Overall: Orvis Sure Step 
    • Best Budget: Aventik Foldable Wading Staff 
    • Most Versatile: Simms Wading Staff
    • Folstaf Wading Staff
    • Hammers Collapsible Wading Staff
  • Wading Staff FAQ

Different Types of Wading Staff

Wading staff
A unique, hand-made staff can be
tailored to your specifications and colors

We have several options as fly anglers when choosing a wading staff that fits our needs and style.

Most people want a staff that will be portable enough to fit in the car and fit inside a backpack on their way to the water. We already carry enough gear as fly anglers, but there are some things we can’t sacrifice on the water! 

Let’s go through the three main types of wading staff in detail:

Folding Staff

A foldable fishing staff can be collapsed to around 15 inches long. The beauty of these staffs is that they don’t shrink or lose any strength because it has to collapse into themselves. Yes, they’re a bit wider but won’t feel much wider than a rod tube. Slide it into the back of your vest or backpack, and you’ll be able to transport it easily. 

Collapsing Staff

A fully collapsible wading staff can get quite small, and that’s ideal for those needing to fit it into a small space. They’re durable, but since they do have to collapse onto themselves, some of the strength of the staff can get lost! 

If you aren’t going to be wading through any extremely powerful water, then you’ll find that a collapsible staff will be your best option. 

Fixed Length Staff

A fixed-length staff is going to be the most durable! There are no moving parts that could fail or weaken over time. If you’re fishing close to the water and know you will be moving in and out of the water with fast currents and slippery bottoms, then a fixed-length staff is ideal. 

The fixed-length options are quite light these days, and you won’t feel like you’re lugging around anything too heavy! As long as you don’t mind the lack of portability, you’ll compensate for it with the extra strength it provides. 

How To Use A Staff When Casting And Catching 

When fishing, you don’t have any free hands to carry a wading staff. As a result, you should attach it to your waist to ensure it doesn’t float away when you drop it. 

When it comes time to cast or fight a fish, always toss your staff downstream so it doesn’t get in your way as you maneuver in the water trying to land a fish. Throwing it upstream or in front of you means it could get tangled in your line or trip you up as you’re walking. Drop it downstream and worry about focusing on landing the fish or making the perfect fly fishing cast

My Best Wading Staff Selection And Recommendations 

There are dozens of wading staff on the market for anglers. Choosing the best option for you isn’t easy, but my following personal recommendations should give you a great idea of what would work great for you. 

Orvis Sure Step – My Best Overall Pick!

Orvis has more than earned a positive reputation in the world of fly fishing. It turns out that their accessories are as quality as their rods! The Sure Step is a well-thought-out design, and that’s important for an accessory as vital as this. Orvis made sure the aluminum was lightweight and easy to assemble. You can’t go wrong with this option! 

This staff has many good positives, including the excellent high-quality grip, which doesn’t feel as if it will slip. It can be assembled with one hand and has two length options available at 51 and 59 inches. The Sure Step also has a sheath and elastic belt to attach to your belt loop, which is included in the price. 

The staff is in the mid-range pricing bracket, but with a great design and built-in quality, it’s an excellent choice, and my overall wading staff picks! 

Simms Wading Staff – My Most Versatile Pick!

The Simms Wading staff is made of aluminum and can fold into four pieces. It only weighs 14 ounces and has a TPR contoured handle that makes it easy to grip as you move through the water. 

Some of the plus sides of this staff include a locking detent button, the length can be customized between 51 and 56 inches, and it stays together when stuck in the mud or between rocks. Many anglers complain that collapsible wading staffs can come apart when stuck in rocks or mud; this feature eliminates this potential. 

There are some features that anglers aren’t overly fond of, as it does not come with an elastic band to attach to your waist. It also does not come with a rubber tip for better grip on the bottom of the water. 

Aventik Foldable Wading Staff – My Best Value For Money Pick!

The Aventik Foldable Wading Staff is a great multipurpose staff for an affordable price. This aluminum staff breaks down into four sections and has a place to mount a GoPro camera! It can even double as a hiking pole once you leave the water. This pole is 55 inches when fully extended! 

Some of the best aspects of this staff are that it’s a really affordable option, it folds down to around 12 inches, and it comes with a pouch and elastic strap for your waist. An added safety feature is that it has a four-foot marker to show you may be getting a bit deep.

One of the only downsides of the staff is that it doesn’t have an adjustable height! 

Folstaf – Classic F34 – My Best Quality Pick! 

If American-made is your priority, then Folstaf is the company to choose. Folstaf has been hand-making wading staffs in New York for over 50 years!

Latest Update: Unfortunately, the company has closed down and no longer offers new purchases but still covers the warranty. If you find a second-hand option available, then consider purchasing it, as they will become more difficult to find in the future.

They make an extremely high-quality wading staff and have various options of lengths and styles. Finding a company specifically dedicated to manufacturing wading staff is difficult, but Folstaf has committed to its vision and continues to produce superior, high-quality products. 

You can choose three different lengths with this staff. The lengths range from 41 inches to 59 inches. The staff can fold up and unfold with one hand extremely efficiently!

It has a nylon lanyard with a keeper bead to clip on your belt. However, if the lanyard fails, its floatation cork handle allows possible retrieval from the water surface. This feature is one of its best selling points, so you will never lose it!

The F34 is the 41″ length option, the F34B is the 50″ length version, and the F34C is the longest at 59″. All three lengths are also available, with a camera mount grip option at the end of the cork handle.

The F34A, weighing in at 15 oz, is a lightweight option. When folded, it’ll collapse to around 10 inches long, making it easy to fit into the leather pouch included in the price.

Yes, this staff is in the high-end range but it is a superb quality option with a great warranty and a very reliable product. 

Hammers Collapsible Wading Staff

Hammers Collapsible Wading Staff is another affordable option. It’s made of aluminum and is only 3/4 inch wide. It’s not overly thick, so you’re not going to feel as if you’re lugging around a massive staff, and you have no place to put it! Plus, it folds down to 12 inches long and has a nylon case that you can easily attach to your pack or to your waders. 

When you’re fishing and not using the staff, there’s a carabineer with a nylon rope to hook onto your wading belt so it doesn’t float downriver. When you’re ready to use it again, grab the rope and bring the staff back to you! Keep in mind, the leash attached to this wading staff is fairly long! Some anglers prefer to cut the line and retie it so it doesn’t float completely downstream and get tangled. 

When it’s fully extended, the staff is just over 52 inches long! For less than half the price of the Orvis Sure Step staff, you’re getting a wonderful product that will last you a long time. 

Wading Staff – Frequently Asked Questions 

Why Does Fast Current Require A Wading Staff?

You will need a staff if you’re fishing fast or in stained water. You never know what’s under the surface, and gaining an idea of what’s ahead of you when you step in has the potential to save your life. 

It’s challenging to turn around in a high current situation, and a wading staff will help you keep your balance. 

It can detect laydowns, slick rocks, or drop-offs in the water. Some anglers may see it as unnecessary or even tacky, but it’s more than worth it! Safety in the water cannot be emphasized enough when you’re fishing. 

Make your casts, take your two steps downstream using the wading staff and then reset yourself as your fly gets into position. After a while, you won’t even notice that you’re using a wading staff. It will become second nature very quickly. 

Check out my in-depth article on how to fly fish in fast-moving rivers: It’s full of tips and know-how on using the right gear, how to cast correctly, and which flies are more prolific.

Why Do I Need A Wading Staff?

A wading staff is an essential accessory when moving across rocky streams and rivers. These slippery boulders and uneven rocks can sometimes take us by surprise. The wading staff will indicate the river bottom terrain and give additional support if you get caught unaware.

How Do I Carry My Wading Staff?

Folding wading staffs are best kept in a holster. You can attach the holster to your wading belt; when you require to utilize it, the spring-loaded action opens without any manual intervention.

How Do I Store My Wading Staff?

Most wading staffs have a wrist strap that can be attached to your wading belt. This ensures it’s always by your side and will not get lost. It’s in an easy-to-retrieve position when you need to use it. 

What Is A Wading Stick?

A wading stick is the same as a wading staff. The stick can prevent any trips or falls whilst fishing your favorite fishing spots by feeling your way over rocks and drop-offs in fast-moving shallow rivers.

Do I Need A Wading Staff Retractor?

Staff retractors are important, and if your wading staff does not include one, you will need to purchase a separate retractor. Ensure you select a universal retractor, as some staff are not always compatible.

Staffing Out

Safety in the water should be a top priority for anglers. Too many stories come out each year of anglers slipping, falling, and injuring themselves in the water. Don’t ever feel as if you’re above a wading staff! 

Research, test some out, and pick up a fly fishing wading staff for your next trip. You’ll never be sorry! 

Check out my in-depth article on wade fishing for beginners, which explains all the required gear and provides great tips on how to wade correctly and keep safe when entering those fast river currents. 

Daniel Mooers