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1,505 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
It's an early spring day...there's been some rain in the past few days.

As a matter of's raining a little right now.

I can feel the current ripping along between my legs as I stand hip deep in a riffle in the Neosho River here in Se Kansas...drifting the 1-2" soft shelled crawfish I seined earlier in the day with the help of my 7 year old daughter at a rural intersection culvert.

The fishing has been great! I have 8 really NICE sized Channel cats on my 15' rope stringer I have tied around my waist.

I'm thinking I'll be culling a few off my each successive channel I catch seems to get bigger and bigger.

A few mintes pass...then half an hour...then an hour....still nailing 10 lb average channel cats every few minutes.

The current is beginning to get noticably stronger...but Hey...the fish are biting...and besides...I do know how to swim if need be I tell myself.

Little by little the water level inches upward...almost unnoticable at first...but now there's no denying....

It's time to head for the shore.

Standing flat footed on the slick riverbed has become impossible...and I find myself losing my tenous foothold...and sliding downstream uncontrollably as I near the deeper water.

Normally this section is only chest deep...but now all of a's over my head...and to make things worse...I find that I cannot for the life of me get out of the river channel due to the surging current.

Panic begins to set in as I attempt to stay afloat with a hefty stringer of cats around my waist pulls me does my expensive rod/reel combo I hold in my right hand.

The current is like a tractor attached to my ankles as the cold water tightens my neck muscles...contracting my head my whitened fingertips grip my fishing rod...which i've forgotten about while I attempt to keep my head above the water.

I am nearly paralyzed as the cold water wrenches my neck back...forcing my mouth open as I inhale a mouthfull of gnarly riverwater down the hatch.

I go feet touching down on the 8-10' deep riverbed.

I lurch upward with my head coming above the surface as I take a long gasp of air...mixed with more riverwater.

I realize that I need to be paddling towards the shore...but
the cold water has nearly paralyzed me as I attempt to paddle one handed thata way.

And to make things worse...those damn devil cats have wrapped the stringer around my feet.

I go back under...once again hitting the bottom...and kicking myself back above the water level to get a gasp of MUCH needed air.

But this time...the current gets the best of me...the river sucks me back under.

Not a violent downward pull...but more like a bear hug by the heavyweight state champ wrestler that pulls me away from the sky...which fades from metallic lead I go back under and get another mouthfull of nasty a$$ river water.

I kick back up for the third time...the thought of three strikes and your're out flashes through my incoherent mind...and I freak out...kicking back up again off the bottom...hitting the surface gasping deeply for another breath.

I repeat this scene 3 more times...kicking myself back up when my feet hit the bottom...buying precious time with every new breath I can manage to obtain.

Fortunately for next experience is still in this my cousin and fishing partner grabs me by my shirt collar...and pulls me towards the shallower water.

I have already forgotten about my rod that I clutch in my I struggle to regain my footing...the stringer still loosely wrapped around both my feet.

He takes the rod from my hand...and swims both of us over to where I could now touch bottom.

He helps me untangle I wade wearily over to the rivers edge...still gripping his arm.

I crawl on my hands and knees in the foot deep eddy...and get myself up onto the mud bank.

I collapse into the mud...gasping for air...still not in control of the panic I experienced only seconds previous.

As I lie there...I puke up the rancid river water I had inhaled...and find myself drifting off to sleep on the riverbank as my cousin walks back to the truck to come and get me.

I slept for 30 minutes in the my cousin stood there fishing and watching over me.

The preceding was a true story. I damn near bought the farm and met my maker that spring day back in 1993.

While it was nothing I did that equaled my survival that particular day...I later learned how to avoid such a situation.

1. Stay heads up about the rising water level...even if it's rising only inches an all adds up.

2. Be aware from previous the onset of an emergency situation that if trouble arises...drop the high dollar rod you're's NOT worth your life.

3. Wear a side sheathed knife in order to cut yourself free if need be from that stringer or any other other items you're tangled in...such as an anchor cord or discarded fishing line in the water. Once again...even the biggest stringer is not worth your life.

4. Stay cool and try not to panic...your most valuable weapon in this circumstance is your mind.

5. NEVER wear rubber boots or waders in water where you very well might take a dunk. You might as well have cinder blocks attached to your feet.

6. If you get in over your head...ASSUME THE POSITION...float on your back...feet pointed downstream to avoid any collisions with hard objects that might knock you un-conscious.

7. Time your breathing...take gasps of air at the bottom of a wave trough...rather than the peak...when you are fixing to get pulled back under.

8. Scout for an out...avoid obstacles you could get tangled in...log jams, strainer grates, ect. and actively search for calmer water...such as an eddy or inside river bend.

9. Go with the flow. As the current carries you...paddle with your hands and kick with your feet as you aim towards slower water at the edge. When you get closer...roll onto your stomach and swim upstream at a 45 degree angle...which will take you towards the shore.

In hindsight...I blew it...had that been 20' of water rather than the 10' where I could still kick up to the surface...I panicked...and probably wouldn't be alive today. (Even tho I am a strong swimmer)

Wade fishing is a blast...and I still do it to this day...but ONLY with a brand new outlook on water and current.

The river will teach you RESPECT...but without a calm, cool, and collective may not survive the lesson. :wink:

4,882 Posts
Good story. I got caught in a flash flood while wade fishing too, and it wasn't even raining in the area. No warning, and I was alone. The water went from knee deep in the shallow areas to neck deep before I knew what was happening. I had waded downstream prolly half a mile, and as soon as I noticed the water rising, I headed back up stream. I had tied my stringer off on a gravel bar, and set my bait bucket down, and fished ahead maybe 50 yards. By the time I got to where my stringer was, I could barely keep my feet on the bottom, and the banks were mud, and straight up. I got lucky, and was eventually able to get to a feeder creek, and pull myself up and out before the water went over my head, then had to walk back through neck high stinging nettles. :eek:oooh: I was totally exhausted, and very thankful to be alive. Lost my stringer, and most of my gear. I used to wade fish with minnows and a bobber in that stream all the time. That was the last time. I guess because it was a perfectly sunny day, and the river came up that fast with no warning, it kinda freaked me out. The first sign the water was coming up, was bubbles coming up from the gravel bar. That's strange, I thought. Then my minnow bucket that I had set next to my stringer went floating by...even more strange. :confused2: Then it dawned on me what was happening. Ya gotta pay attention when wading in a stream, good swimmer or not. I didn't go under. My fear would be getting washed into a root wad, or under a log. People have died fishing like this.

1,505 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for sharing that story Matt...there's some great tips in it for spotting the warning signs.

The bucket floating down is pretty

I too have seen the gravel bar "bubble" in the past.

I was like first I was looking quizzically at it....I even wondered aloud to is that??

I also noticed all the bugs getting the hell out of dodge...and heading for higher ground than the gravel bar could provide...hundreds if not thousands of them.

And stinging nettles...ahhh...geeez.

Wish you hadn't have said that.

That reminds me of a time when as 12 year old kids we were swimming at a gravel bar on the Neosho river.

It had recently the banks were muddy...and there was plenty of water flowing in the river.

We Took shovels and dug out a slide going down a nearby particularly steep section of the bank...probably 10-20' high...and wetted it down with river water that we had fetched up to the top of the bank with 5 gal. buckets.

We had a ball swimming all day long...and towards late afternoon... as we were having our ******* fun...a large log came floating by.

Well...our ears perked up...we all looked at each other...apparently having the same brainstorm/bright idea...and decided we were gonna hop on and have a Huck Finn moment.

We rode the huge tree trunk downstream for probably an hour...perhaps oversized river rats...and then it dawned on us....

We still have to WALK back...and we have on NO shoes...and NO shirt.

This is late July...early August...98 degrees in the shade...and we're out in the STICKS man!!! (That means NO roads)

So we abandon ship...swim to the side...and shimmy up the steep bank.

We were smack dab in the middle of indian country...a virtual jungle of inhospitable terrain.

We ended up finding an often used deer we walked barefoot through huge sticker patches...vines...low lying branches...and scrub brush.

It seemed like every plant or limb we encountered along the way had a sticker or itch toxin to offer us as we limped through...including but not limited to a bunch of big ol' patches of stinging nettles...or I should was nearly everywhere that the poison ivy, oak, and sumac was not. :eek:oooh:

And the BUGS. OMG!!! The biting black gnats were the worst...they'd bite your lips...and they'd swell up to the point that it looked like you went 10 rounds with the champ....and lost...BADLY!

Then there were also the deer flies...and tiger striped vampire mosquitos that could literally suck all the blood out of a small animal before it could run 10 feet.

We crossed two feeder creeks...and waded a swamp. (Where we donated about half or better of our blood to the skeeters)

One could reasonably ask..."Why didn't you just cross...and try the other side??"

Oh hell cousin swore up and down that it was even worse...because he had been there before. We took his word for it.

(Come to find out...there was indeed a straight muddy trail with no rocks alongside a series of HUGE cornpatches that went up to only a hundred yards of where our camp was on the opposite side of the river! :angry: :angry:....GRRRRRRRR)

About half cousin (Ya...the same one. I still say it was bad karma) stepped on a LARGE hedge impaled him right in the heel...and then broke off while we tried unsuccessfully to extract it.

We were just trying to help. :roll_eyes:

He started whining about his poor little foot hurting after we had made it all the way back to the 2 mile country road that leads to the trail that takes us back to camp...and said he couldn't go on.

The rest of us took a vote...and decided to leave him there...with the promise of coming back to get him in his dads truck when we made it back to river camp. (lol...ya right!) :smile2:

We forged on...making better time since we didn't have to wait on him limping back behind us crying and whining for us to wait for him.

We all agreed that he was only slowing us down anyhow.

We also wondered how long it was gonna be before he figured out that we weren't coming back for him! (Lmao)

We made it back to camp finally...banged...bruised...scratched...cut...bit dozens of times by several different species of name it.

But the worst thing was those damn stinging nettles wearing shorts with no shirt. YEEE-OwwwCH!!

Although that was the last time I ever got poison ivy or oak...due to the series of 3 steroid shots I got at the doctor for the case of head to toe coverage I had obtained during our "lovely and leisurely" walk we had through the flatwoods. I had to get a tetnus shot as well....Grandma insisted. :sad2:

Was it worth it?? $#%* NO it wasn't worth it. The fun was a one way deal...the trip back sucked! cousin we left on the road. Did we go back for him??

After our arrival...about an hour passed...and his dad asked..."Hey you boys...where's Ray??"

We told him...and he laughed out loud...and said "Dumb A$$es...why didn't you take the service road on the other side of the was all smooth sailing...."

:angry: :angry: :angry: :angry:

He got in his truck to find him hobbling along on the rocky country road about a half mile from where we had left him. FUMING MAD. :smile2:

We all sneered as he drove away to go get Ray...and collectively deducted he MUST be one of those bleeding heart liberals that we're starting to hear about from Walter Cronkite on the evening news...and that he would probably be voting Carter in the upcoming election. :wink:

244 Posts
good advice, one thing i would add is if you get caught in a hydrolic(standing wave) dont try to fight it curl into a ball, it will spit you out if you fight it it will only make it worse, i use to do some whitewater kayaking thats how i know and trust me it works, ive watched people come really close to drowning by fighting it you wont over power the river. its hard to think staight when you think your dying but it may be what saves you.:big_smile:

47 Posts
When i fish a stream I'll put a stick in the bank at the waters edge and look at it from time to time to see if the water has risen. There have been a few times everything seamed normal but a look at the stick showed me the the water had risen 5 ins or more and I hadn't noticed. I lost some tackle and cloths that I left on a bank when the water rose and I was further up stream.

Beware of the sand at the mouth of rivers and streams. I got stuck in that stuff one time and if 3 other people weren't there with me, I wouldn't be here. Its like quick sand

1,311 Posts
That's some pretty good advise in those situations. I have never had to go through that kind of thing before. Not sure if it would help every time but here is a link to what I look at before I go fishing.. It will tell you how much water is coming down the river. Not sure if they have this in every state but here it is a very good tool. It tells you depth and flow volume. It wont help if your out there and 20 miles upriver there is a flash flood but at least you'll know the state of the river before you go.
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