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An accident out in the wilderness - are you prepared?

Ever fallen? An accident in the wilds can be a lot more serious if you don't take the necessary precautions

A gashed knee resulted from falling into a hole in the river bank.
A gashed knee resulted from falling into a hole in the river bank.
An inviting pool, but focus on your footing as well as the rising fish.
An inviting pool, but focus on your footing as well as the rising fish.

Fly fishing, ‘the gentle art’, relaxing, laid-back and safe, or at least this is how we like to think about it. To be fair, for the most part, it certainly is. However, all of us run the danger of becoming too complacent when venturing out and I’d probably be the most guilty of all with the focus directly on the fish, ever scanning for my next target with an almost ‘tunnel vision’ approach.
It goes with the obsession, ever thinking about fishing, always looking to get out there, forever on the hunt for the next adventure be it local or far-flung.  Focus always on the bit when it’s you and the fish.
OK, I’m not suggesting you take your life in your hands every time you venture out, well no more than most other daily walks of life; after all, we generally drive to our fishing destinations and, let’s face it, we all know how dangerous this can be, but everyone simply takes it in their stride. It’s this very familiarity, though, that can lead you into an area of false security: something happens when you least expect it which, on reflection, is also often something that could or should have been avoided and is always a simple mistake.
In angling, these are actually common, I fall in the river a lot when wading, often pushing things a little too far or – more likely – not paying enough attention with my focus squarely on the fish, either watching a rise, or trying to get into position with the nymphs.
In the water is fairly obvious and truth be told, the constant reminder from the current and generally uneven river-bed helps to click your focus back onto that simple thing – watch where you’re putting your feet; check where you are; remember you will need to get out of the river at some point, so focus on how you’re going to do this.  Most importantly for me when in the water is one simple rule: if anything goes wrong then do not panic, accept your soaking, forget about your phone, and your rod, and place yourself at the top of the most important things you need to consider at the moment. That is, concentrate on getting  out safely.
Hugh Falkus has a very old video showing what to do if you fall into running water, the very simple steps to take and things to consider: keep your arms out (stops your head going under); point your feet downstream (protects your head from hitting rocks); let the current take you to the shallows; when safe, lift your legs above your head to let most of the water out your waders, and roll onto all fours before standing to make sure you are balanced correctly (so you don’t simply fall right back in again).
I know there’s a lot of other considerations and factors, but these simple basics have stood me in good stead, but more importantly is one fact: it’s better not to get yourself in this position in the first place. Back to the top of the page – we simply get too familiar and take things for granted.
This season I’ve had a couple of tumbles resulting in a broken rod the first time (but luckily no damage to me), and sadly a smashed knee the second time which certainly put a bit of a shadow over the season’s end (although I did get back out again – against advice – so, yes, you can call me a hypocrite!)
Both falls were caused by simply not looking where I was walking, and both were coming down off a higher bank towards the river whilst focusing on a particular fish. First one, I was trying to rush things a little too much, and the second I was not paying attention to the ground. When in the wilds and amongst overgrown vegetation, you simply need to be fully aware of any vegetation covereing a large hole. OK, simple falls – and we all have them – but luckily both times, I wasn’t alone, as without help I could easily have come off a whole lot worse, especially on fall number two.
You see, I like to head into the wilds, often just me and the dogs and often without consideration on what could happen if it all goes wrong. Simple step Number One: leave details on where you are going, and when likely you’ll be back, easy as that. Don’t rely on a phone signal, especially if you fish in the same places as I do, because there’s not usually one to be had.
Number Two: take a basic first-aid kit (and it might even be worthwhile completing the basic first-aid one-day course).
Number Three: wear safety equipment, life-vests are very light these days and a ‘must have’ if you’re on the water, especially if you fish out the float-tube or on boats, as I often do.
Number Four: carry a compass, map and have the ability to use it if you’re heading into the wilderness.
Number Five: have a change of clothes in the car for warmth after a ‘dunking.’ (It’s far more comfortable for the drive home as well, plus you don’t get so many strange looks when in the chip shop or supermarket picking up those essential ‘apres fish’ items like fish ’n chips and/or beer with wet patches all over your trousers).
So will my latest wee fall mean I approach my fishing differently? Well, I will be a little more careful and not as complacent, but I’ll still head to the same places. Yes I’ll fall over again. Yes, I’ll get wet again. But, yes, I will ensure if it goes wrong others will know where I am. Consider this, I’m out all the time and with all that experience if I can still make a simple mistake, then we all can. So please ensure you’ve taken some basic steps to help should you have a little ‘incident.’

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