Help for the unbalanced angler |

Help for the unbalanced angler

Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado

I suspect nothing short of walking on marbles scattered on a wet ice rink simulates the experience of wading across slippery rocks in swift-moving water.The impromptu, back-wrenching and frequently futile acrobatics that anglers perform shortly before they plunge into cold water can be amusing, I suppose, unless its me teetering on the brink of disaster. And besides, falling into a river can actually be dangerous. Chest waders come with a cinch belt for a reason fill em up with water and you might as well be wearing cement overshoes.Anyway, my sense of balance is nearly as undeveloped as my sense of fashion. So plucking my way through fast, calf-deep water that could swiftly turn thigh-deep is always an adventure, just not an enjoyable one, at least not for any companion who might have to fish me out and administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.Im guessing thats why I was recently presented with a wading staff as a gift.The concept is hardly new. Some anglers carry around an old extendable ski pole lashed to their waist. Ive personally grabbed a sturdy, fallen tree limb when the need arose.But, as with all things flyfishing, theres a piece of specially designed gear to meet the need.There are plenty of the models out there. Mines made by Field & Stream and goes for $34.95 at Fryingpan Anglers in Basalt.Its made like those snap-together tent poles so it comes apart in six connected segments that are each close to 10 inches long. Broken apart, it can be tucked into a holster thats worn on a belt. Grab the cork handle and let the segments drop and they all come together by themselves to form a solid, 51-inch stick with a metal, pointed tip.It also comes with a cord that I can tie to something on my person so that, if I happen to fall anyway or otherwise let go of the staff, its not lost to the river.Set inside the handle is a little compass, though when Im using it, the only direction Im concerned about is down. Thats where I dont want to go.The staff is definitely handy in a swift current, or for testing the depth of the water before I wade into a hole of uncertain depth.If I have a complaint, its that it really requires two hands to disassemble, and one is already holding my flyrod. Its also heavy enough that Im aware of it there on my belt, and its tough to jam it back into the faux-leather holster (its a snug fit). I guess theyre small annoyances, if it keeps me upright.Janet Urquharts e-mail address is