First of all, when he fell it was his fault. What I mean by that is, it wasn't caused by a rock that looked stable shifting when stood on or an unexpected slip or trip. He fell because he either wasn't paying attention or decided to do something ridiculous. So hopefully he's learnt a lesson about river safety... and to close his bag properly. The first 3 happened as we were working an area below a sluice, you have to stand on concrete blocks to fish along the front of the dam. It's a good spot, highly oxygenated water stunned prey but also plenty of current breaks created by the blocks. The blocks aren't that big, but each one is plenty big enough to stand on, maybe 750mm square and they're 100-400mm apart. Hopping between them is no problem, you just have to make sure you don't step off the edge while fishing.Which is exactly what he did, by his own admission because he wasn't paying attention. 3 times! The open bag took care of his lure box and gear at that point. Later he decided to cross a riffle, but instead of staying at the top where it was ankle deep he thought he could sut through a narrow, only slightly deeper, but raging chute. Quickly lost his footing and ended up scrabbling around on his hands and knees unable to stand because the gravel kept shifting. Now at this point he was terrified, although there was no real danger and he could have just drifted down into a nice calm pool (there were people paddle boarding in it) and stood up, but he didn't know that. He later told me that he was imagining the scene in deliverance where they find Burt Reynolds' corps all smashed up after being washed down the river. I could barely help him up because I was laughing so hard, knowing he wasn't in any real danger made it absolutley hilarious to watch.
Anyone can fall in a river, I have and I'm sure most people who fish rivers have taken a tumble while wading or at the very least had a near miss. The thing is, I rarely (never?) see people wearing a lifejacket on the river - I don't usually either. We all get told to wear one in boats and it's often compulsory. I've never fallen out of a boat, I don't know anyone who has. OK, you might not be able to stand up if you fall out of a boat or you could be knocked unconsious-both of which can also happen in the river too. So why don't we all wear lifejackets when wading a river? It must be a perception issue, you're standing on the ground so it's "safer" although I think it probably is more dangerous than being seated compfortably in a boat. Admittedly after the initial deployment, a life jacket wouldn't have helped John much with the next few falls. But for the rest of us, especially if we're getting on a bit, it might be worth considering one while wading. You never know.