Down and nearly out on one knee

About this time each year, most New Zealanders are looking forward to a week or three Summer holiday starting at Christmas and sweeping into the New Year.

And about this time every year I write a piece or two about safety – too many New Zealanders die in our great outdoors or on the sea.

Should follow my own advice!

Last weekend I was staying at a fishing camp on the Tauranga-Taupo River south of Taupo in the middle of the North Island. I was alone in the camp.

First day, some very hard fishing in a very low and clear river produced a few fish – so I thought I would head well upstream into the gorge area. Some business delayed my start till around mid-day.

It is probably only an hour and a half walk and wade, if you don’t stop to fish – but it took me nearly 5 hours, with numerous stops to fish to many, and very visible, fish. I was the only angler on the river.

So at around 6 pm I turned round to get ‘home’ before dark at around 8.30 pm.

I had gone only about 100m downstream when a boulder I stood on, rolled under my foot, and I dropped onto one knee, then rolled into the just above knee-deep water. As I stood up I knew instantly something was wrong with that knee, the pain literally bought tears to my eyes.

The, should be, 1.5 hour trip turned into a 4 hour, stop and start, marathon, wet and very cold, and each step in great pain.  The last hour in the jet black, no moon night, meant I was constantly tripping, meaning even more pain.

When I got back to camp I realised I was pretty bloody lucky. If the injury had been only a little worse I would not have been able to make the walk-out – and on the Tauranga-Taupo river there is no cell-phone signal.

Worse still no-one would have known where I was going on the river to fish. More worse still, it was unlikely anyone would be coming to the camp for a couple of days, to notice my absence.

All I needed to do was call someone from the camp, and tell them where I was going, and if they did not get a “Hey, I’m back” call by a certain time, to get search and rescue underway.

It is just so easy to forget  the simple little things, like a quick call to tell some-one where you are going and when you expect to be back – a memory lapse that could cost you a night or more  outdoors with a bad injury. At worst a simple lapse that could end up ruining your family and friends’ holiday, by attending your funeral.

Belt Up When Wading

In your book “Fishing Smarter for Trout”, chapter on Night Fishing , page 125, You mention wearing a tight belt around the outside of your waders. Why? The book that spawned the question : Fishing Smarter for Trout

My First answer:

Wearing a belt round waders helps stop water running into your waders when you first fall in, in a river. If you do get washed away after you fall in the air trapped in the waders will greatly help to keep you afloat. Then you can concentrate on getting and keeping your feet facing downstream, and moving yourself as quickly as possible to shore by moving across the flow, (never try to go up against the flow).

The next question:

Thanks for your reply, it created quite a good discussion and questions at work regarding the use of a belt with waders for safety reasons. We agree with your idea of using a belt if one is wearing PVC type waders. But if the fisherman were wearing the Neoprene type, would he still need to use a belt? I was under the impression that these Neoprene waders float no matter what, possibly a wrong assumption.

Next answer:

Your comments about PVC or Gortex type waders are spot on – you should always wear a belt with these waders. In fact the better quality waders of this type come with a belt built in.
Neoprene does float, but its ability to support the body depends on the amount of clothes the dunkee is wearing. In any event it is not the floatation that is usually the most pressing issue – but safety from getting knocked about on rocks, trees, etc. Waders full of water make movement in the water very difficult indeed. It is imperative that you try and keep your feet pointing downstream, to avoid being hit in the head on rocks, tree trunks, etc. Anything that hinders this is not good. Secondly when you get back to the shallows trying to climb out of the river with waders full of water is very difficult. You can minimise all these problems by wearing a belt.