If you are not already a subscriber to Fly Fisherman Magazine, articles like this one in the February issue should convince you to subscribe.
Ralph Cutter wrote a fantastic article called, “The Big Swim – How to Survive Dangerous Circumstances.” After reading it , I knew I had just gained information that might save my life. You should read the entire article, but here’s the summary.
If you wade fish, you have pulled on chest waders and ventured into streams of different sizes, flow and depth. Each time you step off the shore, you take your life in your hands as a casual slip, even in shallow water, can quickly become fatal.
Cutter points out that there are two key items you must have to increase your odds of survival. The most critical is a wading belt with an easy to open buckle with a wading staff being a close second. The problem with not having a belt is that your waders will fill up with water as it rushes into the gap between wader and skin. Cutter points out that the common myth – filled waders pull you under – is not true. Instead, the inflated waders act like a sea anchor and give the flow of the river more of a grab to pull you into trouble. Since the sea anchor effect is the danger, Cutter recommends wearing the wading belt around your chest, not your waist, to reduce the chance of instant inflation and associated strong pull.
He goes on to say that, if you do fall, do not drift downriver feet first as you are taught by Whitewater rafters. All that does is give the sea anchor effect more time to occur as water continues to flow over your back and into the gap. Instead, swim down and across the current as fast as you can to get to shore. Once on shore, raise your legs and drain the water out before attempting to stand. Use your arms to fend off obstacles in the river while swimming instead of waving frantically. A whack on the head is more of a danger and, if you are moving, chances are help is not going to get to you in time anyway. While swimming, keep your feet away from the riverbed where they may become wedged in a rock and position you where the unending, merciless pressure of the river will buckle your legs and force you under water, even in shallow water.
The article provides additional guidance on breathing, helping others who are trapped and negotiating common river obstacles. A fantastic article – buy the magazine and read it.
View the wading safety video here
Obviously, wearing a PFD is a given.
Grab a copy of the magazine and read the article it is worth it!
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Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore