Wading Staffs: A Northern California Fly Fishing Guide’s Review

James and Jeff wading deepFly Fishing Guides in the Mount Shasta area have some of the most challenging wading on the planet.  Rivers including the Pit, McCloud and Upper Sacramento are located in canyons with steep gradients creating strong currents which combined with bowling ball sized slippery rocks offer a great testing ground for waders, boots and wading staffs.

Ron Hart’s Riverstalker is a local favorite for Mt. Shasta area guides.  Hart’s staff is inexpensive, sturdy, relatively quiet and very durable but does not collapse. Ron is also a great guy, a superb guide and it feels good to support him. I own a couple of his staffs.

I am a big fan of collapsible staffs and have used and broken nearly every staff imaginable including several Folstaffs, two Riverstalkers and a few ski poles as well! Most collapsable staffs such as the Folstaffs suffer from an elastic cord that comes apart at the most inopportune times and the pieces can stick together and be a bleep to take apart. Ski or trekking poles collapse but even at their shortest are still a bit too long for my taste and hang awkwardly from their attachment.

Since they were introduced I have switched to the Simms Staff. It is a clever design that replaces the faulty elastic cords with a cable that locks the staff together so that it works like a ski pole when locked but folds into three or four sections (depending which length you buy) and slips into a neoprene sleeve on your wading belt. The sections fit together well and come apart easily. A well designed cable retractor attaches to the handle to prevent loss while wading as well.

The first few years durability was an issue but Simms replaced broken ones under their warranty.  The four current ones I have used in my guiding business for the last few years have worn well. I have several hundred days of hard use on my current staff. The only disadvantages to these staffs are that they are metal so are noisy along with being pricey, though I believe they are a great value, particularly considering the expense of medical visits these days ;>).


  1. Joe Eberle
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Craig. I’ve often thought about getting one of the Sims staffs but have always been put off by the price tag. However you make a good point: they are much less expensive than a trip to the hospital.

    I still use an old ski pole and found that covering the metal tip with a small piece of fuel line hose really helps to reduce the noise. When it wears down I just replace it. Give it a try.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show at the end of this month.

  2. Posted February 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I have had little luck keeping anything attached to the bottom of metail wading staffs for any length of time. I’ll get a week or two usually, never close to a season, though I have to admit I haven’t tried fuel line. Do you glue it on or just use the elasticity to keep it in place?

  3. Joe Eberle
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I use Gorilla Glue. I do have to periodically cut off the old hose and replace it with a new piece, because it does wear down. I’ve no idea how long it would last you, since you fish much more than I do.

  4. Posted February 11, 2010 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll give it a try Joe.

  5. Posted February 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Man… I LOVE Hart’s wading staff. Saved me more than one swim and probably more than one near death experience. I really dislike the staffs that collapse. I like the solid staffs. I know I can put my full weight on the thing without it snapping and I know it won’t come apart in the middle of the river.

    I don’t mind it when I see folks not using staffs. Just means I’m going to get to some water they can’t access. Fine by me!

  6. Posted February 12, 2010 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your experience with Hart’s staffs. They are incredible tools and I love the organic heft which provides a load of confidence on those dicey McCloud crossings in early season. Like I said this staff is the overwhelming choice of guides in the area. I do not know anyone who does not own one. I do on occasion prefer to holster my staff and the Simms staff stores exceptionally well in the neoprene holster that comes with it. It is also much easier for me to convince clients to bring one along for our day together. With a cable rather than elastic cord running through the tubing which locks the sections in place I have had no problems with the staffs breaking or coming apart. But again they are noisy and pricey.

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