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Wader Safety; the importance of wearing a wader belt
I read an article in the local news paper recently about a man and his friend who were fishing on one of our local streams. One gentleman had traveled to our area from Virginia for a day on the creek with his friend from Morganton, NC. According to the article, one man was fishing downstream a short distance from the other when he heard a yell. Being concerned for his friend's safety, the fellow made his way upstream to see if his friend needed help. However, when he arrived at the location where he expected to find his friend, the fellow was nowhere in sight. Thus, with growing concern for his friend's safety, he made a search of the immediate area but was unable to locate him. So, fearing that his friend may have fallen into the water, he called 911 and reported him missing which initiated a search and rescue operation by local authorities at 2:24 PM. More than two hours later at 4:38 PM., the body of the gentleman from Virginia was recovered from 15 to 20 feet of water. Caldwell County Emergency Services Director Tommy Courtner said that the gentleman was wearing chest waders which apparently filled when he slipped and fell into the icy water, thus weighing him down.
What frustrates me most about this story is that it could easily have been prevented. How you might ask? By the simple act of putting on a wader belt. That's all it would have taken in order for the fellow to have had a fighting chance at swimming out of the creek instead of drowning in it! Now, please understand that I am not suggesting that you only wear waist-height waders instead because I too often wear chest waders on the very same section of the same stream where the fellow drowned. But, being aware of the danger, I always wear a wader belt. While most chest waders come with a wader belt, some may not and thus any nylon belt will serve the purpose which is to prevent water from filling your waders past a certain point. So, although a wader belt will not prevent water from entering the top of your waders, it will prevent or at least drastically slow the advance of water into the section below the belt. Thus, giving you a chance to swim to safety. So, if you have a wader belt then wear it every time you put your waders on and if you don't have one, then visit your local fly shop and purchase one. I may very well save your life.
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