Best way to attach a wading staff when fly fishing

As an older female angler, a wading staff is a great safety tool when walking the river or wading. 

A simple but effective way to attach a wading staff to my belt is with a ‘zinger.’ That’s a retractable cord that zings back into place when I let go of the wading staff. Alternatives include using a magnetic net holder, keeping the collapsible wading staff in a hoster, or simply use a cord with a carabiner or d ring at each end. 

As with all things fly fishing, opinions will differ. Here’s my recommended setup using a zinger and I’ll also discuss the other options so you can try it out yourself.

Attaching Your Wading Staff with a Zinger

My preferred option is using a gear keeper wading staff retractor, often called a zinger.

The zinger is attached to my wading belt at my left hip (I hold the fly rod in my right hand.)

When walking or wading, the zinger cord extends up to three feet (one meter), allowing free movement of the pole.

When I drop the pole to cast, the handle of the staff hangs within 4″ (10cm) on my left hip, meaning I can effortlessly reconnect with the handle.

This makes the zinger a great option at an affordable price.

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Here’s the one I use.

I’ve written an complete guide on choosing a wading staff vs trekking pole here.

Attaching wading staff with a paracord or coiled lanyard

Another option is to simply attach the wading staff to your wading belt, vest or wrist using an 18-24″ length of paracord tied to the nylon wrist strap.  

The disadvantage is that it won’t be as handy to your body for easy retrieval. 

That’s where a coiled lanyard like this one may be more convenient. Other alternatives include a piece of elastic cord or bungee cord.

Some anglers toss the pole over their shoulder while casting. I haven’t tried this because I find the zinger works perfectly for me, as the handle of the wading stick is always by my hip.

Attach wading staff with a magnetic net release

Just as you attach your net to your wading west with a net magnet or a coiled lanyard carabiner, you can attach the staff’s handle to your wader belt or fishing vest.

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I have tested this less popular option but found the magnet system trickier to manage.

Reconnecting the magnets isn’t always easy in strong river currents, and I’m often unsure where my pole is when I need it. 

But that’s only my experience, and you may find it works for you, especially if you use the wading pole less often. 

Fun tip 
I drilled several small holes around the lower third of my trekking pole which allows it to fill it with water, sinking the tip and keeping it out of the way. This tactic also allows water to drain out when on dry land.

Keep a folding wading staff in a hoster 

Many foldable wading staffs come with a holster made from neoprene or similar, which attaches to a wading belt.

Collapsible staffs fold down into short lengths of about 1 foot (30 cm) and are only taken out and extended when wading a river.

The benefit is the collapsed staff is that it doesn’t get in your way when not in use. The only problem is that it will need to be set up for every use. 

Some wading poles extend and fit together quickly with one hand, so there is no delay.  But while these are some of the best available, these wading staffs are often the more expensive models.

Easy access and speed are critical if you unexpectedly find yourself in a fast current. You can go from comfortable to very quickly concerned about your safety.

Me, I prefer to have my staff on hand at all times.  

Here's my Essential Guide to Choosing Breathable Waders for Women. 

Why invest in a wading staff when fly fishing?

Wading staffs mitigate the risk of injury or drowning. Many anglers have broken an ankle or had a significant scare from falling in fast water.

A wading staff is a must whether you are on a river with swift currents, deep holes, or slick rocks or simply want more comfort and confidence when fishing.

Plus, a walking staff is a bonus when navigating steep banks.

Even when wet wading in shallow water, my confidence rises with using a wading pole.

Using a wading staff, hiking pole, or even an old ski pole allows you to concentrate on catching fish, not keeping your balance.

Using a wading staff full-time on the river

I use my wading staff like a walking stick whenever I am on the river, walking over boulders, up and down the riverbank, standing in the water or crossing a river. 

Using a wading staff full-time as a third point of contact means I’m safer, have more confidence and tire less.

I chose an aluminum trekking pole with a cork handle as my wading staff. 

That’s because, at only 5′ 1″ (161 cm), the standard wading staff is too tall to be comfortable and safe. 

(As with many fishing accessories, purchasing fly fishing equipment designed for women is challenging.)  

The benefit of using a wading staff full-time

If you have osteoarthritis in your knees or an old ankle injury, you will appreciate the benefit of having an ‘extra leg,’ creating extra points of contact when on the river.

The confidence I gain from the full-time use of a wading staff (or trekking pole) outweighs any minor inconvenience.  

And actually, it is very seldom that the wading staff gets in the way. The staff is pulled away from my body by the river current when not in use.  

(The only time it can get in the way is when I land a fish. That’s because, in my excitement and the effort required to land the trout, I’m less careful. 😅)

Is a lightweight wading staff better?

Yes, every piece of fishing gear you carry when on the river or lake increases the amount of energy expended.

I like lightweight gear, including rods, reels, boots, waders and wading poles.

When walking miles on rocky New Zealand rivers while stalking brown trout, I need any advantage I can gain on the wily fish. 

That includes staying in good shape and keeping my fly fishing gear to a minimum. 

As an older angler, I am careful not to carry additional equipment unless it is going to make my day more successful.

That includes my wading staff.

These are usually made of lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber. (Though some prefer a classic look with a wooden staff.)

Here’s a selection of great aluminum wading staffs which are generally more affordable than a carbon fiber wading staff. 

(Some anglers comment that carbon fiber wading poles are more easily damaged and prone to breaking, but I can find no evidence of this.)

Wading poles usually come with several tips

Wading staffs and trekking poles often come with a carbide steel tip plus an optional rubber cap that fits over the tip.

You will spook fewer fish using the rubber cap on the staff’s tip. Fish have good hearing, and the rubber cap will reduce the noise you make against the rocks.

However, a carbine metal tip provides a better grip on a slippery river bottom.

Sometimes I chose greater security when fly fishing on slippery rocks and rock snot. My safety comes first!

My favorite fishing accessory

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I love this stool which is small and lightweight enough to carry in my fishing vest. It’s a HillSound TR ultra-lightweight tripod stool.
While replacing my leader or flies, or stopping for a snack, I can set up my seat in less than 10 seconds. I give my legs a well-earned 5-minute break, after which I feel much more rested and ready to take on more fishing.