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. The rubber tip can skate on slimy bedrock, the large diameter can be difficult to gain purchase in heavy current and it also floats which can occasionally interfere with line management. Ron is a great guy, a superb local 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 collapsible 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 when stored 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 versions had durability  issues 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 and are a bit pricey, though I believe they are a great value, particularly considering the expense of medical visits these days ;>).

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