If you panic, you easily may die!

If you panic, you easily may die!

Bernd Ziesche | Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Last week I and another fly fisherman safed a life of an angler drifting down the river Glomma in Norway.

That angler was a french fly fisherman in the age of 72 years. He was fishing 400meters down stream from where I and two of my clients were fishing. He then underestimated the water depth and what can happen, if one steps into a little hole in the ground and due to that increasing the water pressure against one's body significantly. Within seconds he started swimming and paniced! Luckily all that happened in a relatively slow current.

One of his friends was fishing 80 meters upstream from him, while a second friend of him was fishing 80 meters downstream of his position. It took me 5 seconds to realize, that his friends both were underestimating the hole situation or didn't have a clue what to do. I then started running out of the water and far up on the land. There was the best ground (farm land) to run as fast as I could.

While I was running down (don't really know how long it took me), his friend from the upstream position was jelling at him, "to get his feet down". At the same time he slowly started wading downstream following his friend, who first started swimming upstream against the current before changing the direction directly towards the land. The second friend in the downstream position didn't know what to do. He was just watching from the downstream position. No offense from my side here (not even close)!

When I arrived at the position and fighting my way thru some trees and down the bank into the water the upstream positioned friend was close too. We almost arrived within the same second and luckily could just grab the french fly fishermen, his name is Daniel, before he would totally drown. In fact it was just his nose being in the surface at that moment. Daniel was totally exhausted and under schock. He couldn't move anymore. While I was pulling Daniel on land holding his hand I kept telling him, that he is safe now. To be honest I was afraid he may get an heart attack or somethng like that. The water was 13° Celsius, which in my experience is very low, when you totally panic!!!

It took us half an hour to get Daniel back on his feet!
Gladly Daniel is back into proper condition today. All that was lost was his rod and reel and his last two fishing days.

It was the third time I was safing a life of an angler drifting down a river. Also I have made my own experience several times by drifting down rivers myself (usually floating behind a large fish screaming my backing of my reel).

I believe it is very smart to think, rethink and rererthink what to do in such a situation very often. Because it will increase your chance to survive a lot, when you get into such a situation.

I'd like to offer my own 3 guidlines:

1. NEVER EVER start to PANIC!
Yes, that is by far the most difficult thing in such a situation. Especially, if it happens for a first time!

2. DON't try following your instinct to swim back, where you just lost control.
That would be swimming upstream. Believe me: This will put much water in your waders in no time making it impossible to have any control over swimming and you will not manage to swim against the current anyway!
Instead swim 45° downstream. Use the current to help you! If you swim the shortest way to the bank, you still work against the current to some degree. That makes it hard and easily supports you to panic!

3. Let your rod go immediately!
It's about your life not your equipment.

Some thoughts in general:

If you don't know the river, be extra careful and you may want to use a life west.
Don't fish on your own, if you don't know the water.
Having a whistle around your neck might be very smart. This can easily wake up other anglers underestimating your situation!
A belt over your waders allows less water to come in! Daniel had one and I doubt, that without it he would have made it until we just could safe him.
Of course trying the whole szenario together with some friends in a controlled situation is best to help not to panic, when that situation suddenly comes to you!

Please never forget: If one is as exhausted as Daniel was, 30cm of water depth (even without any current) is enough to kill you. You can't breeze under water, can you?!

There are proper reasons, why I always tell my clients, what to do in such a situation. Usually I tell it several times during the week.

Besides all that we had a blast fishing the Glomma and now the Fjord as you may both see in the few pictures below.

Great and safe week to all!

All my best


Last week in pictures...


fly-fishing-glommasmoela flyfishing