ZEN Wading

Zen wading involves movement and positioning in the surf with heightened awareness of sensed conditions:

Awareness of these conditions will come naturally as you gain more experience on the water.

Gary C is shown above, wading in nice waters during a July 17, 2003 trip. There is a flats area behind him and he is turned to the South fishing a big productive cut that is flowing diagonally to deeper water. He was wading aggressively and larger waves would periodically hit him.

I usually wade very actively when I'm searching for fish. I search waters wading to the North or to the South while working a promising area. I go deeper and retreat as the swell pattern works through its cycles. At times, I have to retreat at full speed to avoid a larger wave. Sometimes, I have to let the hydraulics of a wave push me back as I maintain balance by bouncing on the sand. In any case, I'm always adjusting position. I usually go deeper to cast. I back-up after hooking-up to land the fish. I work back and forth and in the direction of the side current while retrieving to aid in line control. At times, you can not strip fast enough to maintain contact with your fly and moving back helps. Under low light conditions, I may have back completely out of the water so I can cast to find fish in the shallows.

Knee-to-ankle deep is too deep at times. Examples are shown above and below (Jim T and Jim B during April 2003 trip - with winter swells).

I've heard from a few readers who had bad experiences on their first surf fishing trip. You have so much to think about while fly fishing in the surf. Wading safely takes experience so wade conservatively as you are learning. If you are aware of potential hazards, you will be safer as you gain experience. There are a lot of potential hazards. I've experienced most of them. I did not get knocked down in the 2004 season so I have learned a thing or two. I did get knocked down during an early 2005 trip. It takes a while to get your sea legs back so be extra cautious at the beginning of the season especially with larger and more chaotic winter swells.


Summer and Fall bring smaller surf and easier wading but you should still maintain vigilance to stay dry and safe. I have had easy wading days with gentle surf and low hydraulic forces. I have even caught a lot of fish on these days but this is rare. Water turbulence is usually required to churn up forage and the larger swells usually push more water up on the beach to cause the moving water (river in the surf) that creates great holding water.

I subscribe to premium services at Surfline so I can plan my trips. It has forecasts of wave height, swell period and swell sources and surf cams.

A Zen state involves heightened awareness of every thing including things that you didn't notice before.

Published : September 24, 2005

Questions or Comments Contact: Glenn Yoshimoto
Los Gatos, California

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