going under...


When I first went fishing it was for the enigmatic sea-trout: some very pleasant summer nights patrolling stretches of the Reidol . Now, if you are new to fishing, especially if it involves relatively deep water wading, at night, trying to put into practice entirely new techniques on unknown waters, it figures that if you are going to get a wader-full, then these are the conditions in which you are likely to take a tumble and thus learn caution.
Well no. I chose to get entirely wet on a bright, sunny day fishing for Grayling on the Dee in December. One second I was doing okay, the next second I was falling forward grasping for something – anything - to break my fall. As it wasn’t there I went in up to my neck. Now, I am aware of the neoprene wet-suit and a very fine invention it is, working on a simple principle that your own body heat will warm the trapped and clinging water and thereby insulate you against further cold. This principle does not work however in neoprene chest waders. For one thing you have gained several pounds, kilos even, of cold water (this is a rough estimate because in the river it doesn’t seem weigh as much, but once you’ve reached the bank and tried to get out this captive water suddenly weighs a lot more, believe me). In addition this water does not conveniently cling to you as a warm layer – it rushes down the entire length of your hot body and collects in your legs.
Where was I? Oh yes: crawling (literally) out of primeval ooze onto dry land (hoping like hell that no-one could see me) so that I could evolve rapidly into the dry(-ish) warmly-prepared fisherman that had entered this stretch of water not seconds ago. Have you seen Falkus in his ‘Salmo the Leaper’? He demonstrates how to empty your waders after a swim. I did that. It wasn’t enough. I had to get them off, squeeze as much water as possible out of my kit, turn out the waders and start again. For information – the wet-suit effect works below waist level after this sort of event; but your top half just has to suffer….
Discussing it with my mate later he thought I had merely found a good spot and decided to stay there, having failed to see me for half an hour. I put this swim down to the presence of large blocks of concrete in the river bed where I was – I had lifted my right leg to move forward, got it snagged, overstepped with my left to compensate and put it into a deep hole beyond the concrete. Hmm…. Oh well, a useful lesson.
A lesson obviously not absorbed because a month later, on another nice sunny winter’s day, I was acting as controller for a candidate in the local area version for the National Fly Fishing Competition. This lad was keen on moving around as much as possible and on one particular beat, where there was no bank, I was in the stream with, but a few yards behind, him. Next thing I know, I’m in up to my neck again. This was not as bad as before – I went in on my right side so the left bit managed to stay dry. But, I still got that cold rush from the armpit to the toes again, just on a smaller scale. I will leave this particular fishing experience to another article. Suffice it to say that the post mortem on the swim was due once again to getting snagged and not being able to pick up my foot once committed to the step forward, so you sort of ‘kneel’ into the water. If the latter is at armpit level you’re in for a swim.
Couple of weeks back my mate and I were out again: same river: different stretch. An unpleasant cold and grey February day. No matter, I’m up for this – I’m using a different rod that is a great improvement over my previous weapon. I’ve got new ‘breathable’-type stockingfoot waders, with new boots (felt and studded) and even gravel guards. I’m wearing much better warm clothing under the waders so all-in-all I’m feeling pretty sorted. Today, we are doing a spot of Czech Nymphing so having tackled up with new specially prepared teams of flies we stomp off to the river. My mate is soon in and on his way. Second cast and he’s onto a fish. Great stuff, this looks promising. I get off the bank and in, literally. I’m up to my right armpit, followed by the cold rush, etc, etc. My mate looks around feeling good about his take and sees me floundering about. He can’t believe it – I’m in for a third time in as many trips, how is this possible???
Haven’t a clue. Really. No idea. All I know is that I spent the rest of the day noticing how cold the water appears to be when you’re in non-neoprene waders and your legs are wet on the inside.
Usefully, I have always packed a change of clothing on these trips ‘just in case’. The fact that ‘just in case’ has become ‘for when I’ve been in’ is neither here nor there – at least I have been able to change when back at the car, so it saves my mate’s upholstery at least.
He says to me something along the lines of “I think that from now on you ought to use a wading stick”. Oh – you mean like the large and heavy one I made last summer that’s propping up a wall in my garage.
Don’t ask me why I didn’t use it before now. No. Please. Don’t go there…