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Cartoonish Crashes & Wading Safety

I was out last weekend on some new water and took two significant crashes in the rocks. You know, slipping and falling down at the edge of the water into a shape like the rocks around you. The kind where you are looking at your feet in the air beside you before you hit the ground. It’s cartoonish. I’m calling them crashes from now on I think. It’s fitting.

Cartoonish Crashes & Wading Safety - Jason Sparks - Tenkara Angler

When I was younger (or rather more nimble), like many of us, I had what I could describe as “fall control”. That is the ability to either prevent the fall entirely before it fully happens due to quick feet and instant shifting of balance. Or the ability to slow time a bit and have the fall go into “slow motion” so I appeared to be able to protect myself while going down. The old “get your hands out” trick and/or land on your butt. In those days, my flailing body could contort grossly and miraculously put me upright on both feet again. It would conclude with a “that was close”.

I no longer have that level of performance in that skill set. The indestructible young Sailor that would bounce back up and keep going is now forever on R&R. Now I when I bounce it isn’t back up, it’s for a secondary impact. I don’t just get up, I crawl back up. The “that was close” has changed to a “give me a second”.

The two hard spills last weekend put me in an ache all day on Sunday. Yesterday, I took a dump in the Elk River on a large flat rock where I landed on my seat with the secondary impact on my lower back. This was about 15 minutes into the day on the water. I shook it off fine right then knowing it would come back today to get me. Sure enough, my right upper back is tight and sore and my deep breaths are affected. The jarred muscles are not happy.

The sure footed bullish transit through the waters has to change. I need to adopt a new and better way, a safer way. Choosing less adventurous locales is an option that I am sure I’ll be passing on for now. I still enjoy getting out there where most people won’t. So I should be looking to things like felt soled boots all the time, a fine staff to carry along and a environmental cure for rock slime.

What do you do for control and safety on the water? Let’s discuss in the comments…

Originally posted by J. Sparks in the Appalachian Tenkara Anglers Facebook page on August 13, 2015.

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  1. I always use a staff, in fact, feel naked without it. That being said, I have taken a couple spectacular crashes this year that were YouTube worthy and left me sidelined and convalescing. At age 70, I have to remember that I’m not 21 anymore, and that hop to the next rock may be my next crash.

  2. Same as M Garrison — studs and staff…plus small steps generally and an awareness that I shouldn’t put weight on my forward foot if my backfoot and staff are not secure. I really risk a fall anytime I don’t proceed with that awareness. Also…I am learning to say to myself — “Why are you hurrying? Take the time you really need to not fall and the fishing will be good enough.” The funny thing is the experience and results of fishing from that space is better and more successful.

  3. Every year I have to remind myself that I am not the spry rock hopper I used to be. It has become good practice to just slow down and appreciate each step.

  4. 2nd and 3rd the studs and walking stick–don’t leave home or enter the river without them–at 75 a lot more cautious choosing a path up to and up/down streams/rivers–one writer recently said walk like a heron(slowmo & tiny steps)–great image as we see them each day off our float home deck…curious Jason–this article looks like it is 7 years old…how about an update…ha ha…

  5. Spiked wading boots and a Folstaff wading staff. Both; always. Oh, and a back brace. Been waring that since I was 32 or so. I’m 73 now. Wade and fish at least every 2nd to 3rd day – in rivers – from May – Sept.

  6. #1 Canyoneering boots, ideal for the rocky streams I fish. #2 wading staff, duh. #3 move up and down the stream with a rock climbers mentality… look, think, plan, and move one point of contact at a time.

  7. Most, but not all of my disastrous falls are due to mistakes on my part. Being careful and taking less chances is my method. I used to use a wading staff but that really irritates my elbow issues and so I usually avoid it (yay! getting old is fun!). Oh and here’s my biggest tip DO NOT WALK BACKWARD IN THE WATER. This is something I do when landing fish … and it almost always lands me in the drink.

  8. Similar experience this summer. Wading a shallow creek, and it had rained the previous two days depositing a lot of slit on the bottom. I kept thinking to myself that I needed to be careful. Slipped on a slimy rock and landed on my lateral left thigh. It hurt like hell and I was seeing blue flashes. No cell service in that valley either. That’s when I decided to get a wading staff. Long story short, I fabricated one from a X/C pole. .

    1. yeah, my first wading staff–went to local junk store and bought a pair of old aluminum downhill ski poles(they are stouter than XC poles)…cut it to size, put a rubber cane knob on bottom…tied a poly rope on leather hand strap to slip over my head/shoulders when I waded…worked perfect for many years… now have a custom made wooden walking stick (ala Teton Tenkara(Tom Davis) post)…using a new “hoe pole” bought at a local hardware–TT article will show you how to do modify the
      pole into a walking stick…works great…a little heavier but then so am I these days… Ha ha…!

  9. I stumbled across Troutbitten on Spotify driving to fish this past Saturday. Very serious and interesting discussion of all aspects of stream and river (western) fly fishing for trout in Central PA. He has this serious blog discussion of wading ( and then this very thorough video of an effective way to rig your wading staff. He’s a serious tech guy and if you are into that kind of thing it is, based on my fumbling experiences of trying to have my staff handy and useful while in stream, I find the advice right on.

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