On more than one occasion, I’ve enjoyed watching my podcast partner, Dave, flail as he has started to head downstream at the speed of the river. Okay, I’ve done it too. Fortunately, neither of us has fallen into a deep, rushing section of river.
Several years ago, Duane Dunham, an outstanding fly fisher in Portland, Oregon, shared with me some tips for getting out when you fall into a river:
1. Don’t panic. Easy for me to say while I’m warm and dry. But even if you cannot swim, you can emerge safely from water over your head.
2. Don’t attempt to stand up too quickly. Wait until you are in knee deep water.
3. Never fight the current. Let it take you, but angle toward shore. Otherwise, you’ll get exhausted.
4. If the water is deep, you can take a breath and push off the bottom toward shore. Do this enough times, and you’ll get there.
5. Keep your feet down stream. If you are out of control and headed downstream, this will help you avoid hitting your head on a rock. Stay in a semi-sitting position. This may be the most important tip!
6. Don’t fish dangerous water alone. Okay, that’s not going to help you if you’ve already fallen into a rushing run. But it’s worth the reminder for strong-headed, stubborn fly fishers (which Dave and I can be at times!).
7. Let go of your fly rod. This allows you to use both hands to stroke towards shore. Obviously, this is not the first step you take. It’s for emergency situations. Better to lose your Sage rod than your life.
8. Learn to swim. Remember, though, cold water is extremely shocking to your body. An excellent swimmer will quickly tire, so don’t get cocky and take unnecessary risks. It doesn’t matter than you are an expert in a warm pool or lake.
Here’s one more that I didn’t learn from Duane Dunham:
Don’t laugh at your fly fishing partner when he’s floating down the river. I’m sure Dave would appreciate it if I worked on that one. Seriously, falling into a river is no laughing matter.
Stay safe, my friends!