There are two important things to remember to stay safe. If you get in trouble, don’t panic, and make sure that you have the right stuff. So, what do you need to stay safe?
My List, from the top, with feeling!
- Always wear a hat. A hat with a wide brim will not only help protect you from the Sun’s radiation, but it will also protect you from flying fish hooks. Better to embed a hook in your hat, instead of your scalp or your ears. Speaking of flies and fish hooks, always mash down the barbs. If you do get stuck, barb-less hooks are much easier to remove. Also, during hunting season, wear a hunter-orange hat. It’s much better to spook a few fish, and not accidently get shot.
- Always wear polarized sunglasses, even on cloudy days.Sunglasses protect your eyes from the Sun’s rays, and from flying flies. Polarized lenses not only allow you to see the fish, but they also allow you to see structures and holes on the bottom.
- Always wear sun screen, even on cloudy days.Skin cancer is a constant danger, even on cloudy days, especially when you are surrounded by the reflective surface of the water. The higher the rating the better. Re-apply the stuff, every few hours, too. And don’t forget the back of your neck, and the back of your hands.
- Wear a wading belt.A wading belt is a belt that goes around your mid-section, on the outside of your waders. If you do take a fall, the belt is designed to keep your waders from filling with water. If you fall without one, your waders may fill with water before you can escape, creating a life threatening situation.
- Use a wading staff.A wading staff essentially gives you a “third leg,” that can help you keep your balance in strong current. You can also use it to poke around the bottom, looking for rocks and holes. If you can’t afford one of the fancy collapsible ones, you can make one from a bamboo cross country ski pole. Just cut off the basket, and you have a nice wading staff.
- Wear waders with felt-bottomed boots.Avoid cheap waders with rubber treads on the bottom of the boots. They provide no traction in fast moving water. Felt-bottom boots are much safer, although there is some controversy about whether they spread disease or invasive species. There are newer technologies out there that do provide traction, so avoid cheap, old-fashioned waders. But be careful, if you fish in winter, felt-bottomed boots provide no traction in snow.
- In winter, stay warm.If you fish in winter, hypothermia is a constant danger. Dress in layers. Use the thickest neoprene waders that you can afford. Keep an extra set of dry clothes in your car, just in case you do get wet.
- If there is lightning in the area, get off the water as quickly as possible.Graphite fishing rods conduct electricity. So waving one around in an electrical storm is a very bad idea. And don’t wait for the rain. If you hear thunder, or see lightning, get going.
Remember that you will be spending the most of your day under the sun. You need the sunscreen to prevent sunburn and a hat as well as polarized glasses to prevent permanent vision deterioration. Always wade carefully with the right sole of your boots and move carefully across banks and rivers. It would be good not to wade to any water deeper than your waist.
So, why did I have a much easier time escaping from the Muskegon River?
Well, that time I had the right equipment. I was wearing polarized sun glasses, so I could see where I was going. I used my wading staff to help me keep my balance in the strong current. Fortunately, I didn’t fall, but I was wearing my wading belt, just in case.
And finally, my waders had felt-bottomed boots. I was able to get enough traction, so that I could walk against the current without slipping. And of course, I kept my wits about me; I did not panic.
Fly-fishing is my favorite sport. It’s a lot of fun, but always, you need to stay safe.