How to Choose a Wading Staff for a Woman? 6 Point Checklist

As more women take up fly fishing, the availability of gear specifically designed for women is growing.

But buying the perfect wading staff (also know as a wading pole) is still difficult. We’re not as tall as the many fly fishing men who make this purchase, and there are few manufacturers who make a wading staff for women. This is a case when size matters.

As a woman, the criteria for choosing a wading staff may appear much the same as it is for a man.

However, from my observation, women use their wading staff more than men, and for different reasons.

So as well as length and convenience, women need to consider a few more elements to ensure their wading staff fulfils all the functions needed.

But you might be asking, why you even need a wading staff? And if you do, what else should you consider before you purchase one?

Why do you need wading staff?

Fly fishing often (but not always) requires you to walk in water. This often means one of the first items you might buy is a pair of waders to keep you dry and warm. And a pair of wading boots.

Here's my article on Women's Wading Boots - How to Choose Your Size.)

A wading staff is seldom on the list of essential items for beginner fly anglers and the need for one may not be apparent, so it’s not listed as a priority.

But from my experience, a wading staff is a key piece of fly fishing gear to own.

Crucially, I enjoy my fishing experiences more and it gives me confidence on the water.

Plus, as I developed my experience it meant I could go places I wouldn’t have attempted without a staff.

So, why do you need a wading staff?

It is an essential item of fly fishing gear in some circumstances.

Firstly, when crossing rivers with a strong current, and when you’re wading in water deep enough that the river current and slippery rocks could result in a cold dunking, or worse drowning, if you slip and loose your balance.

But, also a wading staff is also a must if you lack fitness and mobility.

I’ve learned that to enjoy my fishing it helps to maintain strong legs and good balance.

Sadly, we’re not as young and agile as we once were. That makes a wading staff an essential piece of equipment.

A wading staff is like an extra leg when wading.

It means you can always have two contact points with the river bottom as you take your next step.

You are less likely to slip, fall and get wet – or worse, be washed downstream.

What to consider when buying a wading staff?

Does length matter when buying a wading staff?

Yes, length is the most critical aspect of selecting a wading staff.

The staff needs to be long enough to test the depth of the water as you wade, and also to cope with unexpected deeper holes in the river while wading.

But at the same time, since I use my wading pole for navigating shallower pools, it must also not be so long that it will trip me up. I need to be able to manage the pole with ease.

Lastly, I use my wading staff off the water much like a trekking pole.

As an older angler with osteoarthritis in my knees, I use the wading pole for traversing the riverbanks. It is such a blessing.

Here's my take on the Best Way to Attach a Wading Staff When Fly Fishing.

Does weight matter when buying a wading staff?

I like all my fly fishing gear to be as light as possible while still being fit for purpose. That goes for my waders, boots, rod and reel, vest and backpack.

That means I want a lightweight wading pole.

A day walking up the river to find trout takes enough of my energy, without carrying extra weight that adds no value to my fishing experience.

A good lightweight wading staff will be made from a light material such as aluminium or carbon fibre.

Does convenience matter when choosing a wading staff?

Recently, I’ve graduated from using an old trekking pole, to a wading pole designed for shorter people (i.e. women).

(Thanks for based here in New Zealand who responded to my feedback about the first wading pole I purchased from them being too long for me to use so I gifted it to my husband.

Speedline have had a shorter wading staff manufactured for those of use less than 5′ 5″ tall. It’s available for purchase here.)

I tested my new pole last week, and it’s a great improvement on my old trekking pole.

Mostly because it is lighter, and importantly I can store it in the holster when not in use.

I still attach it to my wading belt with a large retractable zinger.

This means that if I’m using it, it will retract back onto my belt when I let go of the it, so I always know where it is. Secondly, it won’t float off accidentally.

Lastly, it is designed so that water drains out quickly, saving on weight.

6 point checklist for buying a wading staff

1. Length

Here’s a guide published by one of the wading staff manufacturers.

Your height
Wading Pole minimum length
4′ to 5′  (122-152 cm)41” (105 cm)
5′ to 5’10” (152-178 cm)50” (127 cm)
5’10” to 6’+ (178-183 cm)59” (150 cm)
Here’s a quick guide published by Folstaff

I’m 5′ 3″ (160cm) and my new wading staff is perfect at 45 inches (115 cm).

Leigh with wading staff

As shown in this photo, it is slightly longer than a trekking pole but still ends below my shoulder.

2. It has a holster

It comes with a handy holster that slides onto my wading belt, where it is stored at all times.

This means I never forget my wading pole, as I’m always wearing my wading belt.

While I may not always be wearing my waders as I may be wet wading, I always wear my wading belt.

My wading belt carries all my essential gear – including my net, a waterproof pocket for my phone/camera, water bottle holder and my wading staff.

3 Lightweight

My wading staff is made from anodised aluminium which means it is very light. Some are made from carbon fiber.

Never assume that fishing gear is going to be lightweight. I’ve been caught out before.

Check the specifications when buying online, on ask to handle the item when purchasing from a fishing store.

4 Easy to use

My wading staff is easy to assemble when needed.

The action required to connect the three sections, which are linked by a cable, is simple and effortless.

When I no longer need to use the wading staff, it conveniently breaking down to fit back in the holster on my belt.

5 Suits varied conditions

Does the wading staff have tips for the different wading conditions you will encounter – e.g. mud, rocks and gravel.

6 Durability

Is the wading staff made from durable material that can take a few knocks.

In summary

Buying a wading staff (wading pole) is not compulsory, but once you have taken this step you’ll never go fishing without one again.

Your improved confidence and sense of security means you may even catch more fish.

Check out my Beginners Guide to Wading for more information.