Wader Safety
wadersafetyAuckland Freshwater Anglers Club Inc. RECOMMENDED RULES FOR WADER SAFETY

For Those Who Wish to Avoid Becoming A Statistic. 

        1.  Try not to wade - fish at your feet first. ie. along the banks of the river or lake.

        2.    If you insist on wading - believe that you are going to fall in!

Where ever possible, wade in pairs - four feet are better than two. Also, use a wading stick as your third leg.

        3.    Remember that wading deep results in you starting to float and lose your footing and balance.

Have you ever waded and found that you are bobbing on tip toe? Wear a floatation aid - preferably a self inflating type. It is very hard to blow up an inflatable vest by mouth when you have submerged

        4.    Before entering the water, make sure that your clothing is buttoned up, zipped up, and fully secured.

If you fall in, loose clothing will float up around your head and will impede your chance of survival. Ensure that there is no unnecessary equipment secured to you for the same reason of entanglement. Such equipment should be very easy to jettison or abandon. Quick release clips that are easily accessed and that can be released by feel should be used.

NOTE, that landing nets are particularly good at snaring an under water snag thus trapping you under water.

        5.    Having successfully fallen in, you will get a FRIGHT!!

The water is always colder than you think. So - keep your eyes OPEN and your mouth SHUT. This will prevent you from getting a lung full of water and also allows you to work out which way is up to the surface - very important. As you fall, but before you enter the water, shout, swear, etc, as a warning to other persons nearby so that they will be able to help.

By shouting you expel air. The above step will stop you from sucking in water because if you do, you will start to cough, and you will lose control of the situation, and you will most likely drown, as you will cough out and then suck back in, thus making the situation almost irretrievable.

NOTE that cold water usually causes a person to draw in a sharp breath of air. Don’t do this - hold your breath!

Falling in:-

If any control is possible during entry to the water, try to make a forward “sky-diving pancake” action as this reduces underwater depth and thus less time under the water and also reduces the chances of breaks or sprains due to the natural bending of knees and ankles etc. (To "pancake" means to fall flat, arms outstretched.)

The forward “pancake” allows you to see where you are going, but you can "pancake" in any direction - if you are falling backwards - throw yourself backwards, arms outstretched. Going in feet first or in a dive, results in a much greater depth and time under water. This is particularly dangerous at night. You could tumble under water, causing you to lose direction, not knowing which way is up

Try to hold your breath, you will float to the surface. If you go down feet or head first, you have a much greater chance of hitting the bottom and being injured or snagged in sunken debris. This is the cause of most of the river and river mouth drowning’s.

        6.    DO NOT PANIC as was said in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Panic kills as you do not have control of the immediate situation. If your foot is caught , pull yourself down your waders, hand over hand (head under water if necessary) until you free yourself. In such a situation, you must continue to think clearly despite the difficult situation.

If you are not trapped and you are floating free, RELAX and allow the natural buoyancy of the body and that of the trapped air in your clothing and waders to float you to the surface like a cork. NEVER raise both arms in the air as this raises your centre of gravity and you will sink lower in the water, and you may drown. In tumbling water, the time taken to surface may seem like an eternity but in reality is only a few seconds.

Stretch your arms out sideways from your body and use your hands to stabilize your position and to turn yourself onto your back while rising to the surface. When floating on the surface, assume the foetal position - knees drawn up to your chest, and this will ensure that the warm air that is trapped in your clothing and waders stays there and helps to keep you afloat and warm.

It will also stop you from turning over on to your face. (not a good position as it is difficult to breathe with your face under water.)

7.   Tilt your head back to also aid stability and this also opens your throat to make it easier to breathe.

Use your extended arms and hands to both stabilize your position and to paddle your way back to safety.

       8. In a stream or river, point your feet downstream. Assume the fetal position and use your outstretched arms and hands as paddles.

If you float with your legs straight, you run the risk of straddling an obstruction. This could be painful. You can also see what dangers to avoid. Going backwards when floating, is very dangerous - a blow to the head could be fatal.

       9. Once in control, look for a way out - a shallow area or a beach.

Don’t try to swim against the current in waders. Use the current to get you to safety. It may be quite a distance that you go down the river or out in the lake. Be patient. Slow and sure is the approach.                                                                                        

        10.        Wait until your bottom touches the bottom of the river or lake shore.

Don’t try to stand up as the weight of the water will cause you to fall over again! Roll out of the water and raise your feet to empty water out of the waders.

       11.        You are now cold and wet, and at risk of hypothermia.

Make sure that the head is covered. If you have chocolate or food, eat it.   If you have medication for angina or diabetes, you may need to use it. Draw attention to yourself by shouting or blowing a whistle.


        12.        Make your way back to your vehicle. keep the mind active by singing, telling jokes, or reciting poetry, or shouting.

You may not notice the onset of hypothermia, you may feel ok, but appear drunk to others. Tell any one that you meet what has happened. Do not take off your wet clothing - retain as much clothing as possible to retain body heat. The greatest danger is now due to wind chill!!

        13.  When you arrive at your vehicle, immediately start the engine and turn the heater on FULL HEAT.

Get into the car still fully clad in your waders etc., and wait until the car interior has warmed up. The water in your waders is already warmed by your body and it will reduce further body heat loss. If you have a hot drink or food available, drink or eat it at this stage. DO NOT DRINK ANY ALCOHOL

If there are any bystanders, tell them what has happened and that you may need help - don’t be shy!                                                       

When the car interior has warmed up, get out and change out of your wet clothes and get into your dry spare clothes that you should always have in your car when going wading (or boating). Get back into your warm car and have another hot drink. If you have a cell phone, use it to call for help!

Carefully drive to the nearest place of help:-

               Emergency centre.     Police Station.

               Fire Station.               Doctors Surgery.     

Don’t be shy -ASK FOR HELP. It could save your life!

NOTE:-     If you wish to wear a belt around the outside of the waders to help retain air in the waders and enhance floatation, then this is OK. Tests conducted in the Papatoetoe Centennial Swimming Pools showed that the wearing of such a belt was not necessary. New Zealand Fish and Game have a pamphlet regarding Wader Safety available at no cost.



You have now learned wader survival methods. DO NOT FORGET!!!