Winter River Wading Safety | A Lesson In Simms Layering

We’ve all either received a full dunking or at least had a butt puckering close call wading rivers in winter. And it doesn’t have to be big water like the Tongariro for it to all go wrong. Smaller streams like the Hinemaiaia can carry wall to wall volume and have you off your feet and drifting into a wall of snags in no time.

So no matter where you’re fishing, it pays to keep your wits about you, make smart crossing decisions, and be prepared with the right clothing system just in case the worst happens. And if in doubt, carry a Simms wading staff, these are great tools for river wading and we'd consider a wading staff to be pretty much essential for getting around on the Tongariro. They're light, strong, and pack down nice and small so you barely know they're there until you need it.


A recent day on the water for Manic’s Bryce Helms and Karsten Neben illustrated these points well with Bryce taking an unfortunate dip and not having a thermal base layer on under his waders meant he become very cold, very quickly and was likely to stay that way.

Wading Safety On The Tongariro River

Fortunately for Bryce, Karsten is Manic’s health and safety officer and after he had donned his fluoro vest, applied his helmet, and filled out the appropriate incident paperwork, Karsten was able to loan Bryce a spare set of Simms Core Thermals he had tucked away in a dry bag inside his waterproof Simms Dry Creek Z back pack.

This enabled Bryce to get back to temperature very quickly and avoid hypothermia setting in. And more importantly, get back to fishing.


Karsten always travels with spare gloves, merino socks, beanie and an extra pair of thermals as they they take up next to no space and can really save the day when things turn pear shaped. Having everything in a separate dry bag within a waterproof pack ensures another level of protection.

Karsten also carries a hip flask of scotch just in case, and while we don’t recommend this as a way to warm yourself up (alcohol thins the blood and does the opposite) it’s a great way to settle the nerves once you’re wrapped up and back safely on dry land.

Throw in a packable micro baffle down jacket and you’re set for safe winter wading.


With the day saved the boys got back to the task at hand on a low and clear Tongariro river and got stuck into some euro nymphing. Focusing on the faster water required some more tricky wading but with the levels being so low it wasn’t too dicey and the efforts were rewarded with some fat and healthy browns coming to the net, along with a number of fighting fit rainbows.

Karsten Neben Fly Fishing On The Tongariro River

Tongariro River Brown Trout

The Czech/Euro set up was a Primal Zone 10ft #4 euro rod, Lamson Speedster S 3+, Airflo SLN euro line rigged up with the super strong Trout Hunter 4.5X fluoro and Jig STB Hares Ear, PTB Pearl Perdigon, and Euro Trash Tri Bomb from the Manic range of euro flies.

Where the more standard Taupo fly set was the Scott Centric 9ft #6, Lamson Speedster 5+ and Airflo SuperFlo Power Taper fly line.

The Scott Centric Fly Rod & Waterworks Lamson Speedster S Centric Combo

Bryce Helms From Manic Tackle Project

Rainbow Trout Success On The Tongariro River

Between these two set ups you’ve got upstream fly fishing in Taupo sorted, and with the Centric having more than enough grunt to chuck on an Airflo 40+ or Streamer Max you can happily swing your way back down river.


Back to wading safety. We caught up with the legend that is Garth Oakden from Tongariro River Rafting a while back and he was kind enough to share some of his hard earned wading safety knowledge from his years of experience on the Tongariro River.

He even took a swim for us to illustrate how it’s done, so check the video out, learn some new river crossing techniques, what to do when it all goes wrong, and most importantly have the right gear to keep you warm and dry when it does hit the fan.