Water can be scary, while the unknown can be worse. Itís best to be prepared so you may be safe and enjoy yourself at the same time.
Moving water is nothing to play around with. Things can go bad fast and not knowing what to do can cost you, or someone with you, their life. In this case, knowledge is power and can make all the difference. If you donít know for sure what you are getting into, I highly recommend asking someone who does. Not knowing what can go wrong on a float trip and still heading out is one of the most dangerous situations you can place yourself in. Once all the safety measures have been accounted for, you may then start thinking about fishing. Fishing the river can be fun, dangerous, and frustrating all at the same time on a float. For this reason, seeking out information from someone with some experience is your best bet.
I really donít fear being killed by a wild animal, although I spend a lot of my time in the woods, even with bears around. On the other hand, I fear the river because I know itís inherently more dangerous. I typically carry a gun for protection while afield, but water has many more dangers that need be accounted for. To start with, I recommend that everyone wear a floatation vest every time on the water. Iím not speaking of when you go to the lake for a swim, but any time boats are involved. The boat can be what keeps you alive, but it can also be what takes your life, if not prepared. Almost any boat you take down the river can be capsized. While flat bottom and larger V-hull styles are pretty stable, kayaks and canoes can be pretty tippy, especially with current and when in or under water obstacles are added. In the event of a roll over, you can be pinned under the boat, knocked out by it, or lose your ride home, which I have heard of happening. Cold water, even on warm days, can cause you to be hypothermic, which can impair or even prevent you from proceeding.
Now that you have a life vest in hand, letís proceed to the water. Just kidding, thatís only the first step. The problem is, most people who donít float typically only take this one safety precaution and think nothing of comfort level. A throw rope is also super important if someone needs to be pulled from the water. As for safety, a phone that is protected from being soaked is also at the top of the list. In the event of an emergency, an ambulance or rescuers can be contacted for an extraction or a trip to the emergency room. Many places along the river are close enough to houses or roads that you may be able to walk a short distance to be met at, in case of an accident.
Now itís on to other necessary items that can make or break your trip if you forget them. If you are fishing, one of the first things you need to think about is removing an imbedded hook from yourself if you happen to be snagged. There are two methods I recommend and neither will feel too good, but will still enable you to make it off the water without too much suffering.
The first is using flush cuts and or needle-nose pliers to remove one. If the hook has gone in past the barb, you either have to use the pliers to turn the hook in your skin and push the point through past the barb, or use the line removal technique. With the tool technique, use the flush cuts to clip the sharp parts off the hook, so you may easily back it out of your skin. The line method works good if done right but can hurt like heck if you mess up. First, cut your line so the hook is free of obstructions that could hinder removal. Then, use a two-foot length of line and put a loop in it. Place the loop around the shank of the hook and get it as close to the barb as possible. While pushing the eye of the hook firmly to your skin, give the line a heavy tug and the hook should pop out pretty painlessly. If the eye isnít held securely, the hook will be pulled deeper into the skin or cause much more pain, as it is basically tearing its way out. Getting hooked is part of fishing, but while on a float it can cause some serious issues, as paddling is nearly impossible with a fat hook lodged in your hand. I recommend you be ready to remove a hook before packing a rod.
Other gear I highly recommend is sunscreen, bug spray, a lighter or waterproof matches, along with lots of food and water. The water can be cold so if you dump you may need to light a fire to dry and warm yourself. Bugs, sun, food and water are pretty self-explanatory.
Itís pretty rare for someone to be featured two weeks in a row, but Scott Babbitt did what was needed in order to be mentioned again. He got ahold of me to ask some questions before he headed out for a Chenango River float this past Sunday.
He was taking my most common run, which takes you from the high school to the Halfway House bridge. Iím glad he asked because there is a majorly dangerous spot on that run. After you pass the sewage treatment spillway, there is a fork in the river. The passage to the left is completely blocked by fallen trees and must be avoided. This year the channel on the right is floatable and you must stay as far right as possible, but if the water drops much more, you will have to portage over the gravel bar like last year and re-enter at the furthest most point. The rest of the float is relatively safe from there.
I guess safety ate up this whole column, so I will have to do a follow up column on river fishing techniques.
Good wishes and be prepared to prevent paranoia.