I used to be a wade fisher. A wade angler. A bankie.

The Voice of a Wade Angler
Fishing a nice riffle on Montana’s Missouri River Fly Fishingare. I get out and wade fish often. The liberty of the boat is the difference. I can get back in and move to another region of the river.

I have been boat fishing for over 15 years so my vision has been skewed. But I hold the bank angler close to my heart. I love the wade fisherman. His mission is different from the boat angler. One narrow focus with very different methods employed to achieve the same goal. Catch trout on the Missouri.

The boat angler can move readily with his floating craft. The wade angler cannot. He is the lone foot soldier. He drives to a spot, gets out, and marches to the fishing location of choice.

Wading boots are important for the wade angler. They are the vehicle. I do like the new SIMMS Vapor Boot. Just me talkin’.

Back to the plight of the bank angler. Let’s review some rules that all bank anglers follow.

The Voice of a Wade Angler

Rules to live by

The farther you walk, the better the fishing? True. 

When you find the kills, do not tell a soul how to get there. True. Certainly not that crafty trout bum at Joe’s Bar. You gotta tell jut one feller, and it is over. Especially if it is a dyno-mite PMD or Trico spot…

The Voice of a Wade Angler
Respect the wade angler and his water. Don’t take the channel. Go around.

Don’t trespass. Trespassers are losers.

Great wade fish spots include an easy walk, without trespassing, a few different types of water including a nymphing shelf and a dry fly flat. Although one or the other will suffice depending on the time of year, or your fly fishing mood. And secretive.

One of the finest qualities of the Missouri River is the vast opportunities to wade fish and access points. It really is a great river for the wade angler. Small gravel and very few spots with dangerous rocks, slippery bowling balls, and rapidly moving waters.

Don’t low-hole your fishing buddy. Or the angler you do not know, yet. Don’t be a dick. Lead by example.

The Voice of a Wade Angler

How Boat Anglers should approach the Wade Angler

One of the worst things to happen to the wade fisherman is to have one of those yahoo’s in drift boats, tubes, pontoon boats, rafts…float in and through his water. That is worst case scenario. I see it all the time. Respect the water of the bank angler. The feller casting into that riffle, he is fishing that riffle. He has walked in and he is actively fishing. Yep, he is thinking to himself…

“Hey bud, open your fucking eyes…I’m right here. I’m fishing here. Please do not run over my water. Hey boat dude, I’m right here.”

Angler in boat after crashing into and getting stuck on the riffle bar that wade angler feller is fishing says something like…

“Havin’ any luck?”


When wade angler says something along the lines of 

“Hey man, I’m kinda fishing this shallow riffle here.”

Boat angler responds with

” I didn’t see you man.”


Nearly daily we encounter situation where we must make a decisions.  All of us, including me, need to give a wide berth for the bank angler. Guides are at fault too. It is generally a recreational boater, rental boat, or those who must not care about the plight of others which there are plenty of out there on the Montana rivers…Commercial outfits need to give these anglers a ton of water. Bottom line. The rest of the population as well. Give the bank angler a wide berth. Give him that riffle he is standing in. Do it. You got a boat and your responsibilty is to use it. Move onwards and learn some new waters if that needs to be the case. Honor the hike-in fisher feller.

And if he is not casting for the moment, it does not mean he is not fishing. Resting the water is a common practice and we need to see that. Keep you eyes open.

The Voice of a Wade Angler

I need to be heard, and seen.

The voice of a Wade Angler
See the fella’s from along way off. Make room for the wade angler

Education is the key. But how do we educate those who do not know or follow the rules of the river? Videos? Blogs? Bars? Educating by example? Yelling at those fellows exhibiting bad river behaviors?

I can tell you from experience that yelling education into folks generally does not win the fight. But I cannot say with any certainty that leading by example is any more effective.

Grassroots is the answer. Along with making an effort at all levels. Acting appropriately and with the other angler in mind has to be the way. Boats have to yield to wade anglers. Wade anglers have to understand that there are behavior standards for the wade angler as well. Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as…

Hey bud, look out for me. I have as much right to fish these waters as you do boat man. I usually don’t fool with you, so give me some slack, respect my water, and back off once in a while.

Who knows, it may come back at you. It may come full circle. You may get some karmic rewards for giving me some space…


Boat Anglers, Respect, Rules, The Voice of a Wade Angler
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  • Leonard Gross
    May 13, 2015 6:42 am

    Excellent post. Timely as well given the low flows this year.

  • Jim Brandley
    May 13, 2015 7:07 am

    I second Leonard’s words.

  • Great post. Just an add on. It would be nice if boat anglers left the side channels to wade anglers especially in low water conditions. Or if they want to fish the channel then beach the boat at the entrance, or bottom end, and explore on foot. I know this means the boater has to ‘walk’ a bit and that might be challenging after getting out of their car and then parking their butt in a boat, but it would be good for them to stretch a bit and get the blood flowing. Nothing worse than fishing a side channel on foot and a parade of boaters come through as it puts the fish down for awhile…fortunately Mo fish rise again if given some undisturbed time….until the next floater shows up.
    In respect to trespassing. i don’t know of any foot angler who in their flycasting career hasn’t at least on one occasion trespassed to reach water that has called out their name…calling them a “loser’ is a bit strong. Of course , it is always best to access any river at angler areas and respect private property…or ask an owner if you can access.

    • Agreed Robert. Trespassers are not inherently losers. But they are breaking the law?! And the quickest way to stop access is by ding the wrong thing.

      Love the side channel comment too! I agree, leave the side channels to the wade fisher or access as you proposed. Well said Robert. Thanks to you fro being a good steward!

  • Great article and keep the education sessions going, esp. With the low water year.

    Bravo for being good stewards of this resource , and reinforcing montana ethics! We live here to avoid crowds and bullshit., like people running over waders with boats …
    Everyone wants a good experience and it’s up to all of us to ensure we give each other space .

  • Robert Divine
    May 13, 2015 5:36 pm

    Great Post –particularly the comment about the side channel—someone is in there–he walked there–you have 25 miles of river, he has 100 yds. you will fish thru his water-park it, walk, enjoy the river.

  • Amos Garrett
    May 15, 2015 11:46 am

    Wonderful post. Bankers in Alberta suffer these slings and arrows all the time–esp. on the Bow. One tip for walk and wade folks– wear a BRIGHT as in LOUD shirt. The fish won’t see you if your casting upstream or across. Note how hard it is to see the angler in the photo in this article. He’s wearing tan, dark and light green clothes. Oh so stealthy but a good way to get run over by a newbie in a Mackenzie. Think RED..HUNTER ORANGE.. CANARY YELLOW.

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