The Inching Foot:: A Case of Ignoring Safety

Andrew A. Cox, Associate Newsletter Editor

Many anglers pursing this sport realize that fishing and other outdoor activities have a certain element of danger. Some anglers take great care in anticipating potential sources of danger; others pursue the sport with little foresight and may find themselves in potentially dangerous if not life threatening situations. The angler should take extra precautions when engaging in such activities. It is important to be observant of your surroundings, not take risks, and plan ahead.

I was reminded of the importance of safety many years ago as a young man when I almost drowned while trout fishing in the Chattahoochee River, north of Atlanta, Georgia. During this time period, I was working in the Georgia public schools and had extended time during the summer months to fish on weekdays when waters were less crowded. I was fishing downstream from the Jones Bridge area of the Chattahoochee River, beyond the sound of sirens at Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam warning of water releases from the dam. I neglected to obtain the day’s generation schedule from the Corps of Engineers at Buford Dam.

Though fishing with a friend on this particular trip, he was fishing another section of the Chattahoochee River. Over the course of the day’s fishing, I waded to some small islands and gravel bars located in the middle of the river. Getting to these gravel bars, I had waded across the gentle current of the river’s main channel with water being above my ankle but below the knee. I had laid a small waist tackle bag on the gravel bar while fishing the bar’s riffles. After a period of time, I observed the tackle bag beginning to float downstream. Retrieving the floating bag, I noticed that the river’s current had increased considerably in velocity. I returned to where I had entered the river and attempted to cross the river’s main channel on the Fulton County side. However, by this time, the water was now rapidly rising over my waist. If I had picked up my foot to walk across the main current, I likely would have been swept downstream, filling my waders with extremely cold water. Instead, I slowly inched my foot along through the gravel and small rocks on the river’s bottom to the river’s bank. When finally reaching the bank, the water was up to my chest and rapidly rising towards my shoulders. Over the course of my return crossing of the river, several tackle items were swept away by the torrent that was now the Chattahoochee’s current.

As a result of this frightening experience, I learned many lessons in preparing to fish not only a tail-water river but other types of waters. I began to use a wading belt to prevent water from entering the top of my waders, fishing with a partner, being alert for rising water, and making contacts to determine the water release schedule.

The angler can develop a safety plan and attempt to anticipate potential problems. One can search the internet or make telephone contacts to obtain information regarding generation schedules as well as figuring out when high water would reach the angler’s location on the water.
Having available and programming a cellular telephone with various emergency telephone numbers would be invaluable. Inform others of your fishing location and time schedule as a means to prepare for an emergency situation.

The Atlanta Fly Fishing Club is advocating for Project River Rising. This project along with other advance preparations can be the difference between life and death for the angler.