Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred

Of Lessons Learned


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

There are more and more people taking up fly fishing here in the south. Fly fishing seems to be gaining popularity. I get a lot of questions of what to buy, what to carry and what to use. One thing about fly fishing, there is a long list of items that can be worn and carried. Some are useful, some offer a safer fishing experience and others are just gadgets. Here are a few things that will make your trip a SAFER one on our rivers.

There are a lot of us who, in the pursuit of panfish and bass, fish in rivers and creeks, and we tend after a while, due to our experiences, to carry a multitude of things for safety reasons. I've seen references to fly fishing as "the quite sport" and a lot of fly fishers do seek solitude when they fish. For those who fish moving waters safety equipment becomes essential, especially when you are alone. Here in central Texas the rivers can be unpredictable and for the lone fly fisher on an unfamiliar river certain items can save your life. Some of the younger people I have fished with usually make some comment to the "stuff" I have. However as we get older we also grow to realize we are mortal. I for one do not "bounce" as well as I did 20 years ago.

There are certain sections of rivers I know extremely well and feel very comfortable moving about and in fishing. However, whenever I fish a new area I spend more time learning the lay of the river and bottom contour than fishing. There are a few lessons I have had to learn the hard way and those will not be repeated! Of those lessons learned, let me share these.

I was fishing a stretch of river where the secondary channel fed back into the main channel. It was about a fifteen-foot drop in elevation and the water here was about five feet deep and extremely fast. I was just to the outside of the main flow casting across the current. I would let the current carry the white woolly bugger down and every time I stripped the line back I was picking up a nice spotted bass. During this time I shifted my weight to my other foot and before I knew it, the boot simply slid out from under me and my leg was caught in the fast current! I was jerked out and into the rapid current. I went down and for a few seconds (seemed like an eternity then) was completely submersed and being hurled down river. Luckily for me the race was not more than about 20 yards and the river quickly slowed and shallowed to where I could stand and walk out.

Trying to save money I had cheap rubber waders with hard rubber soled boots. Our river bottoms in most areas are primarily limestone. Smooth wet limestone is extremely slippery! Easily compared to trying to walk on ice with improper footwear. Now I never go without the felt soles. I still have a pair of hip boots, which are hard rubber soled and knobbed. I really prefer them in the creeks and they are not as hot as full waders. I have learned that artificial turf or indoor/outdoor carpet cut and glued to the soles works very well.

All year long I wear a full fly vest. It's an inflatable vest. It's not the fact that I may step in water over my head, those places are fairly easy to avoid. It's missing a step and being hurled down river in a swift current and trying to keep my head above water. With an inflatable vest I can concentrate more on getting a foot or handhold to get upright and out. It also combines fishing vest and flotation vest all in one for kayaking. Yes, it's a bit warmer than others in the summer, but the Texas heat does not bother me. For those who are more susceptible to heat I do not recommend an inflatable vest. SOSpenders-type device may be more acceptable.

The next item I consider an essential safety item are polarized sunglasses. Our limestone riverbeds have many potholes and cut channels that can really slow down wading. Having the ability to see these prevents fishing holes from becoming swimming holes. I have a fly fishing VHS tape in which the instructor places emphasis on eyewear for protecting your eyes from the fly. True, this is a small part, but even more so for those of us who wade in moving water, the ability to cut through the glare and see the bottom contour is a must. Having the polarized eyewear promotes safer wading and it's a bonus of seeing the fish for sight casting.

There is a huge assortment of polarized glasses out there. From $10 up to whatever you want to spend. There are also a few shades of colors to chose from. If you went by what all the colors/shades were intended for, then we would all be toting several pairs of glasses. I personally prefer the wrap-a-rounds as they cut out the side glare and dark amber, almost brown, for color. I have found over the years that these give me the best presentation on the bottom contour whether it's a dark cloudy day or bright and sunny. Look at the two photos below. Which one would you prefer for wading?

The last thing I'll mention is a wading staff. I used to not have one until one day . . .I was wading in the Llano and this particular stretch was smooth and sandy. I was just above one of the small community lakes where the river fed in. I was happily wading in 6 inch water when suddenly my right foot sank up to my mid-thigh. It was a small pocket of quicksand or something like quicksand. The suction had a firm grip on my right leg. My left foot was still on firm ground so I wasn't worried about being in serious trouble. I was worried as it was my favorite pair of boots! I slowly worked my leg back and forth and got out. If I had a staff and tested the ground ahead as I was wading, I probably would have found the "hole" with the staff, instead of "me."

This is what I wear, maybe not what you need but certainly what I have deemed necessary for me. If you find yourself having shared similar experiences then maybe this will be of benefit to you. None of the things are mandatory, but they sure make fishing in moving water a whole lot nicer and safer. Lastly, I'll leave you with this for thought. Look at the Photo below. How many fish do you see? What kind are they?

How many do you see now?

~ Hillfisher

Archive of Panfish

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice