A few weeks ago an Atlantic salmon angler on the Torrent River lost his footing and drowned.
This is a tragedy for the individual, and for an entire family. It also increases sober conversation on chest waders and how to stay safe in our rivers. Most anglers wear a non-stretching belt to help keep water out of the lower part of the chest waders, but ASF’s regional director for Newfoundland Don Ivany has personally experienced what happens if one loses footing on the bottom.
“It was very disorienting as the feet come up because of the air around the legs and feet; it seemed like it is trying to force the head down in the water,” said Don.
Basically, one floats somewhat like a plank and if there are riffle areas, best to be headed feet first downstream while deciding on the next move towards shore and those who have actually experienced chest waders fill with water have two observations:
First, that if one does not have a lot of heavy clothes on, it is quite possible to keep afloat.
Secondly, don’t try to take them off – that is nearly impossible.
Some Atlantic salmon anglers have taken to using the small neck-fitted personal floatation devices. One of these could make a big difference in those first moments after one slips, and before one gains a measure of control in the effort to reach the river’s shore. And don’t forget that if one is wading in a river, a good staff can make all the difference in avoiding the loss of footing in the first place.
One final point from ASF’s Don Ivany:
“Some time ago I was in Labrador, and had on felt-soled waders. We had lunch ashore and the soles dried out completely in the sun and heat that day. After lunch I made a leap out to a rock in the river that was stream-polished smooth. The felt soles can be incredibly slippery when dry, and I skidded and was left holding on to the rock with my fingernails.”
Accidents unfortunately happen at times least expected. If possible, have a friend handy, and reduce chances for a tragic outcome in any way possible.
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