When I first started fly fishing, Steve Krajcirovic of Anglers Notch was my mentor. Steve would take me to New York’s Saranac and Pennsylvania's Big Bushkill at Resica Falls. When we walked up to the bank and saw the torrent he wanted to fish, I had second thoughts about this new hobby.
Stevie’s wading style was unique. He used the current instead of fighting it. He bobbed from place to place. Fran Betters of the Adirondack Sports Shop told me “Steve was one of the best fishermen and the best wader he knew”.
On that first trip to the Saranac, Steve would say “Rod, see that boulder in midstream? There’s a brownie in front of it and one behind it. Go get ‘em.” My fishing that first time on the Saranac was more about surviving and keeping up with Steve than it was about catching fish. Every step was an adventure. I never dreamed fishing could be such a workout! But seeing how that man could catch fish, I decided to emulate his style and wading staff.
When I returned home, I dried my flies, (yes I did take a few dives), joined the YMCA to increase my leg strength and began building a wading staff that met Steve’s criteria: chest high, Ash, and able to support all of your weight. I found a shovel handle washed up on the bank of a stream. Wow, a free wading staff! I modified it to meet Steve’s criteria.
Between my new staff and increased leg strength I could actually go fishing with Steve without putting all my fly boxes in plastic bags and packing two sets of clothes.
When I was giving fly fishing lessons, I told my students. Never put anything on the roof of your vehicle, sooner or later you will drive off and forget it. Thirty-five years after making my staff, I was fishing the Hoh River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in torrential rain. I put my staff on the van roof. Yep, I did the unthinkable; I drove off. I never saw my old inanimate friend again.
Time for a new staff!
When I returned to Puyallup the first thing I did was build a new staff. Here’s how.
I bought an Ash shovel handle and recreated my old pal. Ash is relatively lightweight for its strength, known for its resilience, shock resistance, excellent flexibility and shock absorbency. Unlike metal ones that make too much noise, an angler can be stealthy with an ash staff. It supports all my weight. (I’ve had ski poles break or bend when I needed them most). My staff is chest high. Anything shorter isn’t useful in deep water.
I don’t like lanyards attached to the end of the staff. That is where my thumb goes!
I whittled a place for my thumb at the top of the staff, and then drilled a hole down the center of the thumb hole. That hole can be used for a hook with coarse threads that I carry in my vest. If I yield to my tendency to fish for birds, I screw the hook into the staff, reach high up to the offending branch, lower it, and retrieve my fly. About 18” from the end of the staff I drilled a hole straight through and ran a wash line through it. On one end of the rope I loosely tied an overhand knot. On the other end an “S” clasp. I attached the hook to the “D” ring on my vest, threw the staff over my shoulder and adjusted the rope knot until the staff rested behind my back comfortably.
When I don’t need the staff, I throw it over my shoulder. When I do need it, I don’t have to unfold anything. I tried different things on the bottom, crutch tips, chair leg ends etc. None of them were satisfactory so I just left it alone. That staff got me out of some real predicaments. I have a tendency to wade into areas where there is deep water downstream, with current too strong to return upstream. My wading staff has saved my butt on numerous occasions.
ROCKS. They can bed slippery, unstable and treacherous. A third leg is a godsend.
STEALTH. Invaluable when stalking big, wild fish. Your staff allows you to wade quietly with minimal wake,
In Colorado’s Crosho Lake I found my leg up to the thigh in muck. I hadn’t seen another person in days and an innocent situation became a real concern. Had I preceded my step with my staff it wouldn’t have happened but the staff helped me extricate myself!
I’ve danced that jig enough to always carry a staff when I’m alone in the wilderness. I’ve used my staff as a balance beam (rod in one hand. staff in the other), around camp as a fire poker, to suspend a pot over the coals and a ridgepole for an emergency shelter. My staff has a ruler and my name and contact information