It was not a big river, but bigger than a stream. The water was around mid-thigh deep, pouring downstream at a fair clip, over a solid rock bottom, strewn with smallish boulders.
A strong wader would take about five or six strong, surging steps to cross the deep bit with little or no trouble. My fit, 30 something, son went first and made it look easy, so off I went, but not with Jason’s confidence, unfortunately.
About 3 years ago a got a bionic hip and a marvelous piece of engineering it is too – I now have much more flexibility, and no pain – a wonderful piece of machinery. The only side affect is a slight but occasionally noticeable decline in balance when all my weight is on the titanium equipped leg.
I allowed this small factor to become a big factor over several months and my wading prowess had declined rapidly, to the point where I stuttered and fumbled my way, tentatively feeling for good footing while trying to balance on the leg not shuffling. It was of course odds-on that my lack of aggression in tackling the water would lead to my downfall – and fall down I did.
There I was doing my impression of a tightrope walker, sliding my forward leg ahead tentatively ahead, when my anchored leg slid and I sank down on my bum into the water. The river moved me a metre or so downstream, before my feet reconnected with the riverbed, and I lurched to my feet, spraying water hither and thither.
A couple of steps and I was home – and dry!? Jason was preparing to help me back across the river, back to the car and back into dry clothes, but his concern and help was not needed. I was wearing a rain jacket over my waders, and as I fell with my back facing into the current, the water pressure must have pressed on the jacket effectively shutting out the river. So we fished on, and the crossing back over the river proceeded without incident.
On the drive back to our accommodation, Jason gave me a few well-meant observations on my deteriorating wading ability with strong emphasis on my feeble, foot-fumbling. “Wade like you used to, full head of steam and keep going”, he admonished. I made some excuses about age, my tin hip and so on – but with only a little conviction.
The incident and conversation was not forgotten. So, last week I took off by myself for a couple of days of river thrashing, and a really good fishing it was too – spectacular in fact.
But the really good thing about the trip was the fact that I made many river crossings in fast flowing, and deep water, and sometimes both. The excellent thing was I took my son’s advice and strode out with firm resolve, and kept my legs moving at all times. If my feet caught briefly on unseen traps my momentum kept me balanced and moving ahead.
I read somewhere that walking is the process of thrusting your legs forward to stop yourself from falling forward. By maintaining motion and momentum, we maintain our balance. If like me you are pushing your body through the barriers that ageing is imposing seemingly on a daily basis, don’t give in to temerity, meekly doddering about will almost certainly get you wet and cold, and in a worst case scenario, dead. Stride out with purpose and stay dry, and alive.
But, and it is a big but, the chances of you tipping over as you get older does increase almost exponentially. Investing in an unobtrusive, and activated only when you need it, flotation device such as the SoSpender, is a wise and safe move. A wading staff helps enormously too, and should be a must-use device. This is especially true given the less secure footing non-felt soles provide.
One thing that getting older tends to teach us is that being wise before the event is a proven method of avoiding trouble.This knowledge put into practice is even more effective.