You may go your whole angling life without getting wet (falling in) when fishing – but accidents happen and you should have a plan and know what you are going to do if it does. Knowing how to minimize that accident is called planning ahead and possibly saving your life.
All kinds of accidents can happen. The only time I remember being really concerned was early in my angling career when I was fishing the Madison up around Ennis, Montana. I was fishing some fairly shallow swift water and my feet went out from underneath me and I was bouncing down the river feet first. I couldn’t get my feet down in order to get up so I was happy when the water slowed up and I could recover. Good thing I had my wader belt done up tight.
The second time I got wet was when a guided angler managed to fall on me and get me completely wet. No danger there but if the boat was parked in a different spot, I could have been in danger. The phone survived as well – a water proof case was the savior.
So what can you do? Preparation is the key to not panicking and possibly not recovering.
Here are some things to consider:
- Felt soles on the bottom of your wading boots. They prevent a lot of slipping and sliding and help you stay upright.
- Depending on where you live, felt soles may not be legal, so have some cleats available. A slip on pair is ideal. The pair in the photo is made by Patagonia and comes highly praised.
- A wader belt that you fasten (tight). This can not only keep you dry or minimize the wetness if you fall in, but can keep your waders from filling up with wader. Anglers have drowned when their waders fill up with water and they can’t get their feet under them to get up. Usually your feet go downstream first and you can’t stand up. You can turn over (face down) and really get your waders full of water while bouncing down stream or being dragged downstream and under by the current. If you are in a lake, the waders full of water will sink you and unless you can get out of them, you are stuck on the bottom PLUS it is almost impossible to get back in your boat.
- Wear a PFD (personal flotation device). If you fish out of a boat, regulations should require you to actually wear that pfd and not just have it in the boat. Close by isn’t close enough! Choose to wear your life jacket or pfd and make your trip a return trip. In our guiding boats, the boat doesn’t move until everyone has their life jacket on – guides included.
- If you fish from shore, the new pfd jackets are minimal in bulk and shouldn’t interfere with your wading and casting. We have a client who wears one all the time when fishing – safety first.
- If you fish with a child or children, whether on the water or on the shore with them – put an appropriately sized life jacket on them. You may not be fishing but just having a great time at the beach or river, but an accident can happen in the blink of an eye.
- Use a wading staff. A wading staff is like a third leg – when you move, the wading staff helps you maintain your balance in the water. You can probe with it to see the depth of the water before you move and put some weight on it when you move your legs.
- Wear polarized sunglasses when wading. The glare on the surface of the water is cut and you can see what is below. They also help protect your eyes against stray fly lines and flies.
- Lastly – don’t think you are invincible! Especially as we age, we need to take precautions to stay safe. Have a plan B and even a plan C and then enjoy your fishing. Take care.