Vision Ikon Guiding Stockingfoot waist waders review - around £200 (and I now believe a whole heap safer than chest waders if you end up in the drink)

Let’s get the easy bit out of the way - the regular Vision Ikon chest waders remain my benchmark as regards a combination of value for money together with how well they perform for a good length of time (review here), and to be honest I am seeing the same thing with these (shorter) Vision Ikon waist waders. They just work. They are well cut, the neoprene stocking feet feel just as good as on the chest waders, the material is the same, indeed the more I wear chest waders for my lure fishing, the more I am finding them a complete no-brainer with how they wear like an easy-to-wear pair of looser fitting, lightweight trousers that of course keep you nice and dry if you need to get in the water etc.

Screenshot 2018-08-06 09.14.05.jpg

In the box is an elasticated pair of braces that clip onto these waist waders and adjust as required, but to be perfectly honest I found them a little on the short side and they held the waders a bit too high and tight around the proverbials for my liking. After a few goes with the waders I unclipped the braces and just threaded a waterproof fabric type belt (loads of them on Amazon) through the belt loops and tightened these waist waders up like I would a pair of jeans - and this turns out to be a really important point, but more on that a bit later.

As with any pair of breathable waders, I accept that if i slip over on sharp rocks or catch them on a barbed wire fence that I will most likely tear them, but a few home repairs are pretty easy to do if needs be. As for how breathable these Vision Ikon waist waders are, well it’s always the same for me - if I end up walking and scrabbling around in warmer weather especially then I will end up with some sweat on the inside, but to me that’s an unavoidable fact of wearing waders and I wear clothing underneath my waders that helps to minimise this. I still can’t find better under-wader wear than the Under Armour Cold and Heat Gear compression leggings and tops, and whilst I wasn’t exactly designed to compress, damn it’s comfortable gear to wear, and it’s been that way for me for many years now.

I wear an XL pair of the outstanding Vision Ikon chest waders and I am pleased to report that Vision have continued their excellent sizing and it’s a simple XL that fits me perfectly in their Ikon waist waders. I still can’t believe that it has taken me so long to come around to waist waders for what is turning out to be more and more of my saltwater lure fishing, but that feeling of walking around in what feels like an ultra-comfortable pair of loose fitting lightweight trousers can’t really be beaten if you ask me. For sure I don’t find chest waders remotely hard to wear, but cutting out that top bit of material for the waist waders does feel that bit better again.

 Here's my mate Nick in a pair of waist waders back in 2012 which at the time I thought were a bit pointless because I knew essentially nothing about how chest waders would behave when you end up in the water - never, ever say never in fishing!

Here's my mate Nick in a pair of waist waders back in 2012 which at the time I thought were a bit pointless because I knew essentially nothing about how chest waders would behave when you end up in the water - never, ever say never in fishing!

Okay, so if you are standing close to the water and it’s splashing around then you aren’t quite as well protected from a few splashes as with a pair of higher-wearing chest waders, but with how often many of us are wearing some kind of waterproof jacket or smock plus the need to man the hell up a bit, I don’t see this as a problem, and especially not when combined with all the good stuff that I think waist waders are giving me. I still find a regular need for chest waders - and obviously for deeper wading - but if you are careful then it’s surprising how many gullies you can successfully wade for example in a pair of waist waders. If you really stop and think about it, how often do you really need to wade beyond waist deep anyway?

Anyway, that’s the easy stuff out of the way - I can’t find a single thing that niggles me about these Vision Ikon waist waders except perhaps that I’d like to see what is a pair of waist waders that of course have less material on them than a pair of chest waders sold for a bit less because of this. I am guessing though that waist waders don’t sell as well as chest waders and therefore they are more expensive to make when volume is taken into consideration, but please bear in mind that this is pure speculation on my behalf. These are an outstanding pair of (waist) waders that I am using more and more, but then with how good the Vision Ikon chest waders are I kinda thought these waist waders might be the same.

So now we come to next part of this review - the real reason why I got hold of a pair of waist waders to try out for my fishing, and what I found out last week when we did some more safety related filming with the RNLI up on the north coast of Cornwall. For sure I wanted to see if waist as opposed to chest waders might be a little easier to wear for some of my lure fishing, but my primary reason for wanting to try them was because of how my chest waders filling up with water and not being able to clamber out of the RNLI training pool back in February shocked the living daylights out of me. How would waist waders behave?

So if you end up in the drink and you can get out fairly quickly I am not about to claim that your chest waders are going to prevent you doing so, but if for whatever reason you get washed in and you end up spending more time in the water then there is every chance that your chest waders are going to fill up with water (and without a lifejacket in choppy or rougher water especially I would suggest you most likely aren’t going to be able to spend much time waiting for rescue or trying to get out because you are going to drown). This will not sink you, but again, without a lifejacket you are going to be struggling horribly to keep your airways clear because of how those waders are “floating” you - and if you are able to self-rescue or grab a throw-line that your mate has chucked out to you, then trying to clamber out in full waders is going to depend on a number of things, including how much water you have in them, how cold and tired you are, how physically fit and strong you are, how the rocks are shaped for clambering or climbing out, and so on.

As I have said before, I am perfectly happy (but also alarmed that I knew so little about this) to admit that before February and our time at the RNLI testing tank that I had no idea how potentially dangerous chest waders could be when the shit hits the fan and you could be fighting for your life. By a process of elimination and talking to other anglers I came up with the idea of trying out a pair of waist waders, and last week was the first time I got to go in the water with them on.

(R)D11776.jpg

Please read that blog post from last week to get an idea of the conditions we faced, for we weren’t in any real trouble when actually in the water and the guys wearing chest waders were able to get out of the water. Whilst it’s only a still photograph, I hope that you can see how Mark above is struggling with his movement in a pair of chest waders that have filled up a fair bit with what ends up being a scarily heavy amount of saltwater.

So I went into the water twice - once without a lifejacket, and once with. Both times I was wearing this pair of Vision Ikon waist waders (and really hoping that I didn’t tear them on the rocks when I was trying to get out of the water!) and I wore them exactly as I would for my fishing and I didn’t empty any water out between takes as such. I basically do them up with that fabric belt about as tight as I would a pair of jeans, and no, just in case you were wondering, I don’t wear my jeans around the base of my arse with my boxers showing! I wear them good and regular and not like I’m trying to be all gangsta-street-looking like a tit-with regular people wanting to pull them the hell up…………….

Anyway, so first time around I jumped in without a lifejacket, orientated myself, and swam towards the rocks where the film crew were and scrambled out - all fine, but in reality how realistic would this be if the conditions had been properly rough and dangerous and cold? I then walked back say fifty yards or so, put my lifejacket on, and jumped in again. The auto-inflate Crewsaver Crewfit 180Pro inflated reassuringly quickly and without fuss (review to come) and I am floating in the water about as comfortable as can be. The crew chuck me a handheld radio then a PLB and then a mobile phone to simulate working them when in the water, and then after that Nathaniel chucked me a throw-line, I grabbed it, and then he pulled me into the rocks and I clambered out. 

I reckon I was floating around with my lifejacket and waist waders on for at least ten minutes, plus I had jumped in and got out that first time around, and I was really pleased to find that when I clambered out for the second time that I had very little water in those Vision Ikon waist waders. I reckon the water reached to just below my knees and I was able to do my interview to camera and then walk say fifty yards to where my camera gear was and move around to take some photos of Cronin going in with the floatation suit on. 

So for the time being that’s more than enough proof for me that if the shit hits the fan I want to be wearing a pair of waist waders. I could move around easier in the water, floating around with a lifejacket on felt so reassuring, and far less water getting into the actual waders didn’t half make it so much easier getting out. Even if more water did end up getting in, wearing a pair of waist waders means that they can only fill up to my waist level anyway, and for trying to clamber out when you are potentially tired, cold and bloody terrified, well I’ll take water potentially up to my waist over water say up to the top of my stomach in a pair of chest waders any day of the week.
 

We did some RNLI fishing safety related filming on the north Cornwall coast this week - fascinating difference between swell and those “rough” conditions we had in their training pool

At 8am on Wednesday morning, a bunch of us met at the Padstow lifeboat station and then we headed just down the coast to Porthcothan where the aim was to do a load more shore fishing safety related filming work. Bearing in mind that I had headed out fishing the morning before on the north coast and walked away because it was verging on too dangerous where I was to be there on my own, I was interested to see how things were going to pan out - and especially because I was one of the anglers who was going to be going in the water………….

(R)D11704.jpg

I am not going to try and cover everything from Wednesday in this one blog post, indeed when I was driving home in the evening I was obviously going through how the day went in my head and trying to work out the one thing that stood out the most to me. I can think of a lot of stuff I want to talk to you about - and I will in due course - but it was actually a shore angler called Cronin who went into the sea towards the end of the day in a floatation suit and what this showed that really stood out to me. Mark and I had told him to expect all sorts of problems after how horrible it was for Mark when he did the same thing but in the RNLI pool earlier in the year, as per the video below.

 A lack of chop on the water simply wasn't continually forcing water into Cronin's airways as what was happening to Mark in the video above

A lack of chop on the water simply wasn't continually forcing water into Cronin's airways as what was happening to Mark in the video above

But to be honest Cronin was okay when he was wearing the floatation suit, and on my drive home I was thinking about why Mark was in all kinds of trouble in the RNLI pool whereas here was Cronin out on the open coast and he looked pretty comfortable. Then I got to thinking about the rest of us anglers who went into the sea on Wednesday (with and without lifejackets on, and with a big thanks to Marc, Mark, Jamie and Nathaniel for coming along and helping out) and we weren’t really in much trouble when we were actually in the water - note as well that three of the guys are serious surfers and are extremely proficient and confident in the water.

 Marc is a surfer, he is extremely fit, and he is very confident in the water, but without a lifejacket and in a short space of time he was getting a lot of water washing around and no doubt into his airways

Marc is a surfer, he is extremely fit, and he is very confident in the water, but without a lifejacket and in a short space of time he was getting a lot of water washing around and no doubt into his airways

So what were the conditions like on Wednesday? Well there was a big swell rolling in on the north coast of Cornwall, but if you know Porthcothan and how there’s a bit of protection as you take the coast path south then this is where we were hoping to find some shelter - with the backup of the not very realistic looking Padstow lifeboat slip if needed. Setting up for filming and getting a load of establishing shots and interviews always takes a lot of time, but regardless of that we simply couldn’t go in the water around the HW because the swells surging in would have caused us all kinds of issues trying to get back out onto the rocks. I know we are trying to show what happens if it all goes wrong, but we’ve got the RNLI and a bunch of RNLI lifeguards there making the decision on what is as safe as can be for us - and for a few hours on Weds morning there wasn’t a single person who wanted to “fall” in and then try and get out of that surging water!

 I haven't asked Marc how much easier it was getting washed around at the base of the rocks and trying to get out whilst wearing a lifejacket, but to an observer it was easy to see how much more in control he was, and how little water was washing around his face and airways

I haven't asked Marc how much easier it was getting washed around at the base of the rocks and trying to get out whilst wearing a lifejacket, but to an observer it was easy to see how much more in control he was, and how little water was washing around his face and airways

Which of course throws up a big issue with what we are trying to do - how do you go about showing an angler getting washed in and churned around in a properly raging sea (as it often is when we are out fishing) and then getting them out safely? We are working with the RNLI and they are obviously not going to let anything go wrong and I don’t know of any sane angler who would volunteer to go in the water when it’s raging anyway, so I guess that it shows how much more we should be trying to avoid ending up in the water, and of course wearing a (so damn easy to wear) lifejacket AND having a means of calling for help if you are fishing on your own. If you can’t call for help or at least alert a passerby then help ain’t coming. You so badly don’t want something to go badly wrong in hectic conditions especially, and we can’t show this anyway, but we are trying our best to at least give some ideas on how to give yourself the best chance of surviving if the proverbial does hit the fan.

 As we found out back in February at the RNLI tank, you don't just sink like a stone in a pair of chest waders! But as Mark found out once again, when they start filling up with water it's a lot, lot harder hauling yourself up and out of the water - and bear in mind that our "exits" as such on Wednesday were not tough

As we found out back in February at the RNLI tank, you don't just sink like a stone in a pair of chest waders! But as Mark found out once again, when they start filling up with water it's a lot, lot harder hauling yourself up and out of the water - and bear in mind that our "exits" as such on Wednesday were not tough

So as that tide dropped we were all able to fall/jump into the sea and successfully get out, with and without lifejackets, and to be honest the only real difficulty was a bit of surge from a bit of swell that was still getting into where we were - and that to me is the one thing that really, really stands out from Wednesday. For sure there were some serious waves crashing into the more exposed parts of the north Cornwall coastline, but this was purely a decent swell rolling in - once you were in the (relatively sheltered) water you are going up and down with the swell and it was a bit awkward getting out in some places (I got a hurty on my hand!), but what none of us experienced on Wednesday that the four of us all experienced at the RNLI pool back in February was consistently choppy conditions. This is how I described it: “let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible - and that’s in a controlled talk and the water wasn’t even very cold. I dread to think how bloody horrendous and scary and panic-inducing it is in real life when you get washed clean off the rocks into cold, raging water.”

 I know I keep saying it these days, but it's true - wearing a lifejacket when you are fishing more hectic and or fast current conditions especially is a complete no-brainer, and especially with how inexpensive and unobtrusive they are to wear these days

I know I keep saying it these days, but it's true - wearing a lifejacket when you are fishing more hectic and or fast current conditions especially is a complete no-brainer, and especially with how inexpensive and unobtrusive they are to wear these days

So we had a bit of swell that was lifting us up and down out on the open coast on Wednesday - and there simply is no getting away from how much easier it is to float in the right position (head out of the water and the right way up) when you have got a lifejacket on, indeed at one point I was bobbing around for at least ten minutes without any bother at all - but at no point other than a bit of surge when we were clambering out did any of us experience anything like those “rough conditions” what were of course artificially created in the RNLI pool, and which to me were scarily realistic. I don’t know about you, but I often fish choppy/rough conditions when if I ended up in the water then I would be facing exactly the sort of issues that the wave machine created, and it’s an unavoidable fact that without a lifejacket you are most likely going to be in very serious trouble very quickly. If you can’t keep your airways clear then it’s no good, end of.

(R)D11786.jpg
 That's a 275N lifejacket with the floatation suit

That's a 275N lifejacket with the floatation suit

And I guess that the RNLI pool and its perfectly horrible wave machine showed how dangerous a floatation suit without a lifejacket can be, whereas in non-choppy conditions as we had on Wednesday, Cronin was able to keep himself upright and pretty comfortable. But would I personally be trying to judge conditions and whether I should wear a floatation suit or not? Not a bloody chance, or at least not without a lifejacket, and I wonder if you knew that it is recommended you wear a minimum 275N lifejacket with a floatation suit primarily because of the greater buoyancy required to turn you over the right way if you aren’t able to do so yourself.

 Nathaniel is a surfer, an angler, and also an RNLI lifeguard. He is extremely competent and confident in the water, but now imagine you have been washed in like this in say December and you are on your own and you aren't wearing a lifejacket and you are fighting for your life and you are struggling to keep your airways clear and/or get out of the water. It doesn't bear thinking about. 

Nathaniel is a surfer, an angler, and also an RNLI lifeguard. He is extremely competent and confident in the water, but now imagine you have been washed in like this in say December and you are on your own and you aren't wearing a lifejacket and you are fighting for your life and you are struggling to keep your airways clear and/or get out of the water. It doesn't bear thinking about. 

Anyway, there will be plenty more to come. Thanks as ever to the awesome RNLI, the film crew (short films to come in due course), and those kind anglers who gave up their time to come along and help out. On Wednesday it was the first time I got to go into the sea with a pair of waist waders on as opposed to chest waders. I don’t want to go into what I found out now, but very briefly let me say that I was rather pleased that some of my theories on waist versus chest waders if you end up in the water proved to be true………………..
 

(R)D11795.jpg

Will a floatation suit save your life if you end up in the water? Another video from our RNLI testing day……….

With what I know now and if I had my way then floatation suits would not be allowed to be called floatation suits, indeed I believe that what we know as floatation suits are more commonly called immersion suits outside of our fishing world. I bet loads of you here who come with a bait fishing background have bought floatation suits in the past both to help keep us warm in the winter and also because the very word “floatation” gives us a (false) sense of confidence that if we end up in what will often be a colder winter sea that we will float and survive. I am one of those people, indeed I can distinctly remember my first ever floatation suit which I got on a bit of a deal because it was one size too small and every time I knelt down to bait up it would catch me around the neck and I’d have to hurry up or I started feeling dizzy! Sorry, I digress………….

This is a very short video from that RNLI day we did earlier in the year. When we were up there my RNLI contact asked my mate Mark if he would mind putting a floatation/immersion suit on and jumping in the tank. Note that Mark is an ex-surfer and he is very comfortable around water, but whilst the video here is short and to the point, watching how he ended up struggling so badly to keep his head out of the water and his airways clear wasn’t pleasant. As much as I loved our RNLI training tank day, I don’t mind admitting that I am glad it wasn’t me in that floatation suit.

As with wearing chest waders in choppy water especially, it’s not that you are suddenly going to sink like a stone. No, once again it’s how you float that is so bloody dangerous here, indeed standing next to my RNLI guy as he talked me through every single thing that was happened to Mark right after he jumped into the tank with the floatation suit was on was fascinating albeit in a slightly macabre way as we watched him very quickly start to struggle.

As it says at the end of the video: “Floatation suits should be worn with a lifejacket”, but how many of you know that? I certainly didn’t, and for the life of me I can’t recall a fishing tackle company saying to me that I should we wearing a lifejacket together with the floatation suit when I bought various ones over the years. For sure they can help keep you warm in the winter, but please, please do not for one second trust in a floatation suit to save your life if you aren’t wearing a lifejacket as well. 

I know this video is short, but watch closely at how Mark’s body is lying in the water and how his mid-section is very much below the surface and that extra weight is forcing him to try and keep his head up and his airways clear of water. Now imagine this is you in the middle of a winter’s night in rough cod fishing conditions with a strong run of current. I haven’t worn a floatation suit for many years now, but I am angry at myself for being so trusting in their very name and not having done proper research into them, and I am angry that we are sold these suits under what to me are along the lines of false pretences. Where are the big headlines on the floatation suit adverts that tell us to wear a lifejacket with them?

The second video from our day with the RNLI - waders and trying to climb out

Whilst I have a whack load more to learn about how breathable chest and indeed waist waders behave if you end up in the drink, I am kind of embarrassed at how little I knew about these items of clothing that for me are arguably as important to me as my lure rod and reel and how things go down if the worst was to happen………….

Go and ask fifty anglers what happens if you end up in a choppy to rough sea in pair of breathable chest waders and either you can get away from the rocks with your lifejacket on and await rescue, or else you end up spending a bit of time in the water and for whatever reason need to have a go at self-rescuing or you are clinging onto a throw-rope that your mate has got out to you and now you need to try and clamber up the rocks - and I bet you get fifty different answers based predominantly on what we have heard rather than what we actually know.

So I have a far better idea of what happens now, but not for one second did I head for that RNLI day at their training tank in Poole thinking that it would be the getting out in waders thing that banged home almost as hard as the obvious one which was that wearing a lifejacket quite simply gives you a much better chance at surviving when something goes badly wrong. 

Slipping over in your waders and finding your feet again in shallow water while your mates piss themselves laughing at you is completely different to spending a bit of time in deeper water where you might need to try and clamber up some rocks to get yourself out. When I jumped into that RNLI tank I was wearing a pair of Hodgman breathable chest waders with a wading belt, plus another belt which holds my HPA chest pack in which I carry my lures at my side. Everything was done up fairly tight and exactly as it would be for my fishing - you don’t sink like a stone in your waders, but I can guarantee you that if you end up spending a bit of time in choppy water especially then your waders will fill up with water.

 Come on, be honest, how many of check the depth with our lure rods?!

Come on, be honest, how many of check the depth with our lure rods?!

And don’t let anybody tell you that they won’t. If you are in and out pretty quickly then there may well be only a little bit of water in your waders, but spend more time in the water (which I would argue is more likely to happen with where so many of us fish) and they will start to properly fill up. I hear some anglers saying that a wading belt will stop water getting in, but it won’t - sure, I reckon it slows things down, but it’s not an airtight seal around your waist and you can’t wear the bloody thing too tight anyway otherwise you can’t breathe properly!

I can only give you my findings so far here, but if you are wearing a lifejacket which has obviously inflated then after spending a decent length of time in that tank so that my waders filled up properly then I was floating fine with my airways out of the water. Sure, life would probably be somewhat easier without a pair of waders on, and without a lifejacket and how waders aren’t exactly helping you I would suggest that in choppy water you will be in serious trouble - but with that lifejacket it’s doable.

But what shocked the hell out of me was when one of the RNLI people asked me to now try and climb out of the tank via some cargo style hard netting thing. Granted, it’s not rocks, but it matters not - nope, what really shocked me was how much extra weight those waders now full of water are, and how it’s as good as impossible to clamber out as you can see in the video. Bear in mind that I’ve spent a bit of time in the tank filling up, I wasn’t wearing a lifejacket that time around so I was tiring from trying to keep my airways clear of that horrible choppy water - and I simply didn’t have the strength to climb out. I needed some help to get myself over to the steps and just about clamber out like that. And when did you ever find some steps to get out of the ocean?

 When waist waders won't do!

When waist waders won't do!

I have no idea how much water was actually in my waders, but it was over my wading belt level inside, and if one litre of water weighs one kilogram then I dread to think how much extra weight I was adding to my (not lightweight!) self when trying to clamber out. I now have an HPA dive knife strapped to the belt on my lure bag which I would try and use to cut open my chest waders if the need ever arose, because for a certain amount of my shore based lure fishing I find breathable chest waders to be incredibly useful. I am now trying out a couple of different pairs of breathable waist waders and for a number of situations they are incredibly useful and at some point I hope to be able to test these things out in the tank. My feeling is that they will be somewhat easier to clamber out with, but I can’t prove that yet. You all have a good weekend and I hope this video gets you thinking about things.
 

Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport lifejacket review - well under £100 with the auto inflate option

If shore based anglers are going to wear a lifejacket for some of their fishing - and I include me here - then it’s got to be as light as possible, very comfortable, and not remotely annoying when it’s in place. The other day I reviewed the rather excellent Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket (check here), and I was wearing that exact lifejacket for my fishing the other day on the north coast of Cornwall when the conditions were on the lively side - if you secure it to you correctly (it’s vital that you clip the crotch strap into place), then you simply don’t know you are wearing it.

(R)D432151.jpg

Which of course begs the question why not? Why not wear a simple auto-inflate lifejacket when you’re out fishing if they can be that easy to wear and they could well save your life is something goes wrong? So I’ve got another lifejacket here that I have worn a fair bit and it’s another of those remarkably comfortable and easy to wear ones that I reckon suits us anglers down to the ground - this one is the Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport, and like the Spinlock Deckvest Lite this Crewsaver lifejacket is so lightweight and comfortable that after a few minutes of fishing you simply don’t know you have it on.

(R)D431842.jpg

As I have said before on here, I am late to the game with lifejackets and as such I am on a sort of accelerated learning course with trying to get myself up to speed with how they work, what our options are, and also what it might be worth avoiding. I have a very interesting document here from the RNLI which they have said I can quote from - and I will in due course - because from extensive testing they firmly believe that for a lifejacket to work as it’s meant to when you hit the water, you really should have a crotch strap in place that then stops the rapidly inflating lifejacket blowing up and over your head which could in turn stop the thing keeping you afloat. If you are looking for a lifejacket for your fishing then please avoid buying any that don’t come with a crotch strap. 

Screenshot 2018-04-11 06.06.25.jpg

You don’t need to spend a heap of money on a lifejacket, but again I can’t help but come back to how much the best chance at survival is worth for if and when something goes badly wrong. I went looking around for the prices on this Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport lifejacket and I can find it online for around £70, and as per above you can see that there are various manual and automatic options available. This is a seriously comfortable lifejacket that provides 165N of buoyancy which is in fact above the recommended 150N. What’s not to like? OK, so overall the more expensive Spinlock Deckvest Lite is a tiny bit easier to secure around you with how the straps tighten up, but at best the difference is marginal. Both lifejackets have obviously been properly thought out as serious items of safety gear which are also very easy to put on and very comfortable to wear.

Screenshot 2018-04-11 06.06.02.jpg

And because this rather excellent Crewsaver lifejacket is not very expensive at all, to me it throws up a few options that perhaps answer a few questions I have been asked recently - the auto or manual inflate thing. Whilst it makes most sense that your lifejacket does auto-inflate if you end up in the water very unexpectedly (washed off a rock etc.), I can think of a few estuaries I might fish for example where I can end up over waist high in the water for hours on end, and sometimes that current is absolutely snorting past me. How about wading out into a big surf on your own? I would prefer the option of a manual inflate lifejacket here, for as much as these auto-inflate mechanisms aren’t meant to go off in the rain or if we get splashed by a bit of sea water, if I wade too deep or stumble or get hit in the face by a wave then I don’t want it going off. 

But if I make a mistake and get taken by the current and can’t get back on my feet (and I know what I am like and how I can’t help myself), then I can simply pull the toggle and the lifejacket will now inflate (a manual lifejacket still has a gas canister which inflates it, just that you need to pull the toggle for it to happen). Please note as well that an auto-inflate lifejacket does have an inflation toggle as well in case for whatever reason the auto-inflate mechanism didn’t work - more to come on this, but it’s up to us the lifejacket buyers to get them serviced, and especially when used around saltwater and the potential for metal components to rust. And yes, as I learn about this I will get the details up here, but I believe the RNLI will teach you how to do it yourself if you go along and ask them. I will be doing this and reporting back.

With say the Spinlock Deckvest Lite you can buy a “Manual Conversion Kit” for not very much money and essentially now have two lifejackets in one because you now have two inflate options. But with how cheap this Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport can be found for, to me you could actually buy two versions if you felt the need for the two inflate options. Go for an auto-inflate and a manual and you’re sorted for a bunch of different fishing situations. I now keep one of those waterproof blue Ikea bags in the back of my epic Berlingo with my lifejackets in, but make sure to hang your lifejacket up to properly dry out if it’s sopping wet from the rain etc.

(R)D11609.jpg

I can’t really tell you much more than this about this rather excellent Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport lifejacket, save for like a good lifejacket there are various add ons that you can buy. More to come as I learn more about the add ons that do in fact make a difference if you end up in the water and with how the RNLI might rescue you if things do go badly wrong, so don’t for one second dismiss a light that turns on via contact with the water (do you fish at night?) and spray hood options. 
 

I wonder how much of my lure fishing I could do in a pair of breathable waist waders, and there is a serious reason for trying this

As much as that day we did with the RNLI at their training tank in Poole was principally about wearing auto-inflate lifejackets and finding out how invaluable they can be if something goes wrong, because the four of us were jumping into the tank in the sort of fishing clothing we would wear when we are actually fishing, waders had to come into it. So whilst I can’t get away from how an easy to wear modern lifejacket could one day save my life (which of course is common bloody sense if you really stop and think about it), I am unable to ignore the various questions that wearing waders raised……………

So to those of you here who routinely wear breathable chest waders for your saltwater shore based lure fishing - how much do you know about how our waders behave firstly if you end up in the water, and perhaps more importantly as I found out in the RNLI tank, what about if you need to try and say scramble up some rocks when you’ve been in the water for a while? I got a hell of a shock if that’s any help, and as a result I feel duty-bound to try and find a solution.

 Do we really need chest high waders to fish a mark like this, and what happens if you end up in water like this in a pair of chest waders?

Do we really need chest high waders to fish a mark like this, and what happens if you end up in water like this in a pair of chest waders?

There’s a whole lot to this subject that I will keep coming back to over time, but very basically I need to find an alternative to breathable chest waders for those places I fish where if I ended up in the drink I might need to try and haul myself up and out of the sea. There is the argument as well that for a lot of these types of locations I am not actually wading much if at all and as such I don’t  need a full on pair of chest waders. I wear them because I like what they offer me and I haven’t found anything I prefer wearing - but I can’t get away from some potential issues which have come to light. 

But what are these issues? It’s when you might end up in deeper water and you could have to try and climb up and out if something goes wrong. Whilst wearing a wading belt is important, it’s still not going to actually stop water getting into your waders, and if you end up spending a bit of time in the water and then you get the chance to try and scramble out, do you have any idea how much that water now in your waders weighs? It’s pretty bloody scary, and because you’re now a bit tired and stressed and potentially cold and disorientated, if my brief experiences of the RNLI tank and a full pair of chest waders are anything to go by then I would suggest there’s every chance you won’t be able to clamber out because of that insane amount of extra (water) weight.

 Even when we're wading for our lure fishing, are we often out as deep as we tend to think we might be?

Even when we're wading for our lure fishing, are we often out as deep as we tend to think we might be?

So let’s say that with what I have discovered, I feel comfortable using my breathable chest waders for a certain percentage of my lure fishing (shallow beaches, estuaries, shallow reefs etc.) - what are my options for the other locations? If I stop and think about how much I actually need to wade above say my lower thighs against how potentially dangerous these things are if they fill up with water and you need to try and climb out of the water, well I need to find an alternative for when I don’t actually need what chest waders can give me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and whilst there surely have to be various wetsuit based options (as per many of those Japanese lure fishing videos for example), I don’t like the idea of potentially having to fish with wet feet for hours on end. And no, I am not interested in wet wading either in the UK or Ireland for about 99.99% of the year. I could quite easily go and buy say a ¾ length 3mm wetsuit and wear a pair of neoprene socks and my wading boots, but let’s say I’m fishing a long day or night over in Ireland and I wade out to my knees early on and my feet get wet - call me a wimp, but I simply don’t want wet feet for the next ten hours or so. But as far as I can tell something wetsuit based would of course take away the issue of filling up with water as per the chest waders, so I am trying to explore these options.

I was talking to a friend other day and he said why not try a pair of breathable waist waders. If you go looking you can actually find a few makes of breathable waist waders, and whilst to be honest I have dismissed them in the past because I am so used to chest high waders, with what I have learnt recently I am now really interested in how they could work for me - and of course how not being able to get so much water inside might well give me the ability to clamber out of a scary situation if needs be. 

 The Vision Ikon waist waders

The Vision Ikon waist waders

Please, please note that I don’t know if this is fact, but if by wearing a pair of lightweight, breathable waist waders I can’t now fill up with water beyond my waistline then that’s a hell of a lot less weight to be potentially unable to drag up and out of the water if needs be. I am going to try a pair of the Vision Ikon waist waders out because the Vision Ikon chest waders do so well for me, and safety concerns aside for the moment, I bet you I could actually do a hell of a lot of my lure fishing in a pair of waist and not chest waders. I would imagine that for walking longer distances they would also be a bit more comfortable, and as long as my waterproof jacket comes down over them then I should be just as well protected from rain and spray as with a pair of chest waders. More to come……..

(R)D611406.jpg

Oh, and until I can find a viable solution that I know categorically will work with me rather than against me in an emergency situation, I have decided to strap a rescue knife to the belt on which my HPA Chest Pack lure bag sits. I hope I never need to use this HPA rescue knife, but my thinking is that if I end up in the drink and my chest or indeed waist waders are full up with water and I’ve got a chance to try and clamber up and out of the sea then I could try cutting my waders open to let a load of water out. 

And if you think that this is me doing some unnecessary scaremongering, then please try this - put your chest waders on, turn on your garden hose, and fill yourself up with water to your waist. Now try walking around and stepping up onto a chair a few times - not easy, but doable. Now fill yourself up to say the top of your tummy and try the same walking around and stepping up onto your chair. If you actually do this then you will understand completely where I am coming from with this blog post. So many of us wear waders yet we haven’t got a frigging clue what can happen if we end up in the drink in them……….
 

Here’s the first short film from our fishing safety related day with the RNLI

Well here it is, the first short film to come from that amazing day we spent with the RNLI at their testing tank in Poole. There is so much more to talk about with regards to the whole fishing safety thing, but I wanted to let you see this short film and then in due course I will kinda take it apart a bit and talk about a few specifics that have come out via this video.

Over time there will be a bunch more short films coming out from that day with the RNLI, but the aim here was to give an overall picture of that day and obviously start trying to get the message home how an auto-inflate lifejacket could well end up saving your life. I will leave this video with you, and please, please leave comments below and give me your initial thoughts and opinions and let’s go from there. I am doing a fishing safety related talk for the BASS AGM on Sunday, so I hope to see some of you there. My apologies in advance to those of you who sat through my fishing photography talk at the BASS AGM last year, but it wasn’t my idea to have me back!

And of course it would be remiss of me not to mention that I am obviously hoping that Ireland stumble rather badly on their quest for the Grand Slam tomorrow, but on the other hand with how well Ireland are playing and how badly England are contesting the breakdown especially, I sense a hard to watch couple of hours coming up……………..

(R)D11641.jpg

Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket review - around £100 to £120

Well this is a first, and if you’d have asked me even half way through last year whether I could imagine myself sitting down to write a blog review of a lifejacket I’d have most likely laughed at you - yet here we are. I hope that I am proof enough that leopards can indeed change their spots…….

Before we get going, you need to know a few things - as you might have guessed, I am categorically not an expert on lifejackets, indeed much of my previous experience of wearing them has been having to grab one off a rack and wear one when out on a lake photographing fly fishing. I recall not liking the experience very much because they felt like they were getting in the way and I could feel a bit of bulk around my neck area especially. I had to wear them so I did, but I can’t recall coming away and thinking wow, that was nice and easy.

(R)D431978.jpg

And it’s thanks to my contacts at the RNLI that I have a few different lifejackets here to wear and test and see how I get on with. I have been using this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket for a while now, plus a couple of Crewsaver models (an auto-inflate and a manual-inflate version), and a modified Mullion lifejacket arrived a couple of days ago. As with testing and reviewing any of the gear on this blog, I obviously don’t get paid to do so and I will tell it how it is. I can’t control whether you believe me or not and as ever any thoughts and opinions are mine and mine only, and there’s a part of me that feels somewhat hesitant trying to review such an important, potentially life saving bit of fishing tackle such as a lifejacket. Oh, and yes, me calling a lifejacket an item of fishing tackle is entirely deliberate.

(R)D432008.jpg

OK, so what’s this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket like? And for ease of my typing, I am going to refer to it as the Deckvest Lite for the rest of this review. Well if this is what a modern lifejacket is like then I am all over it - talk about easy to wear, and as much as one of these things could end up saving our lives one day, they sure as shit ain’t got a chance at doing just that if we aren’t wearing one in the first place. If we as anglers are incredibly resistant to this safety related stuff but for whatever reason choose to become a bit more receptive, then it isn’t going to go much further if what we need to wear is a pain in the backside. I for one am not going to yap about wearing lifejackets if I don’t find it easy to wear one myself.

Screenshot 2018-02-23 05.37.48.jpg

And this Deckvest Lite is a breeze to wear. As I said, I don’t have much experience with lifejackets so far, but from the moment I put this thing on I was amazed at just how easy and comfortable it is, indeed my disliking older lifejackets which used to get in my way and bug the hell out of me seems like a distant memory now. My understanding is that this very much engineered to be light and comfortable Deckvest Lite is targeted towards sea users like us. I have grabbed this from the Spinlock website: “This ultra lightweight lifejacket is streamlined for ultimate comfort and agility”, and I have to agree.

 Crumbs!

Crumbs!

When you put this Deckvest Lite on, make sure to put it on top of everything else (as per my blog post here), and then it is absolutely vital that you secure the crotch strap - take it from the back of the lifejacket, down between your legs and up your front, and then clip it into the front of the lifejacket. This is an auto-inflate lifejacket, as in if you end up in the drink then that immersion in the water will set the gas cylinder off which very quickly inflates the actual bladder/floatation part of the lifejacket which is rather cleverly folded away into the actual lifejacket itself that you can see here in the various photos and screenshots. I did jump into the RNLI tank with a Deckvest Lite lifejacket on, and like any auto-inflate lifejacket, it inflates quickly and powerfully, and if you don’t secure that crotch strap then there is every chance it will be forced up and over your head from the power of the gas powered inflation, and this of course then takes away from how a lifejacket works. Unlike a PFD or buoyancy aid, a lifejacket is designed to keep you upright and with your head out of the water - which it can’t do if you haven’t secured that crotch strap and it ends up and over your head.

Screenshot 2018-02-23 05.38.01.jpg

Wear a lifejacket or don’t wear one, it’s entirely up to you, but at least I can tell you here that for the price of a decent spinning reel, an HTO Nebula lure rod, or about thirty DoLive Sticks (5 packets, and as much as I love ‘em, they are not going to even potentially save my life), you can buy this Deckvest Lite lifejacket which is genuinely so damn easy to wear that when I asked my mate Mark how his first experience of wearing a lifejacket for shore fishing was going last year, he had actually forgotten he was wearing it (this has to beg the obvious question - why not wear one?). Do exactly what you want, but one thing you can’t do anymore is argue that a lifejacket is a pain in the butt to wear for shore fishing because it’s so heavy and bulky and constrictive and expensive, not with how easy this Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket is to wear.

Screenshot 2018-02-23 05.10.11.jpg

And if you are thinking that an auto-inflate system might not work for you in certain situations (wading out in an estuary or on the beach perhaps?), then you can buy a Spinlock Manual Conversion Kit. I have one here but I haven’t used it yet, and what it does is essentially block water getting to the gas cylinder to set it off. If you were to end up in the drink then you pull the Manual Activation Handle which is of course part of the lifejacket, but for the most part I would suggest that the auto-inflate way is going to be the most applicable to how many of us fish from rocks etc. You can also buy add on lights and spray hoods (more to come on this). There is also a Deckvest Lite + version which I haven’t seen, but I think it adds a couple of lifting straps.

Screenshot 2018-02-23 05.38.20.jpg

Don’t go worrying about heavy rain or a bit of spray suddenly setting off the auto-inflate mechanism, because they are designed to go off via immersion in the water. This is the info from the Spinlock website: “UML Mk5 Inflator. This is a water sensitive activation system that uses a compressed paper capsule which dissolves when wet which then releases a spring to puncture the CO2 cylinder. The cap is designed so that only water flowing upwards through the unit will cause it to activate. Water, spray and rain running down the jacket will not cause activation.” You can buy replacement cylinders and you do need to keep an eye on them and replace as needs be. When I learn more about this, you will read it on here.  

 This is how an inflated lifejacket is designed to fit around you and keep your head out of the water

This is how an inflated lifejacket is designed to fit around you and keep your head out of the water

The Deckvest Lite I have here provides 170N of buoyancy and weighs a measly 860g - it easily kept me afloat in a choppy RNLI tank with my chest waders on, and I am not exactly wasting away here with my relaxed muscles and a figure that was born to wear tight compression gear! Now you can pretty easily find these Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejackets online, but I am really, really pleased to see that a specialist lure fishing shop and website has taken the plunge so to speak and are now stocking these rather outstanding items of fishing tackle - check out the Lure Heaven website here, and give them a shout if you have any questions. If we as anglers are looking to increase our own fishing safety then we can all help each other by sourcing as much of this safety gear from fishing tackle shops which will then encourage these shops to stock more of it. I would also suggest that if the lifejacket manufacturers start to see anglers buying lifejackets then we stand a better chance of getting this safety gear made even better for our specific needs.

So sad to hear about another angler who died over the weekend whilst fishing the north coast of Cornwall

I have been away on the Isle of Wight for a few days with my family, but I saw the sad news of another angler who was out fishing on the north coast of Cornwall over the weekend at night, somehow ended up in the sea, and sadly died. Another angler who went out night fishing like so many of us do or have done, never for one second expecting anything to go so tragically wrong, and another family torn to pieces with grief.

From the Port Isaac RNLI Facebook page: “Port Isaac RNLI were paged at 12.43am today (Sunday 18th February) to reports of a fisherman in the water to the eastern side of Castle Beach at Tintagel. The casualty had been reported by members of the group he was fishing with. The inshore lifeboat launched at 12.55am and, with sea and weather conditions being fair, arrived on scene at 1.11am along with Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter Rescue 924. By this time the casualty had been in the water for approximately 40 minutes. The lifeboat and helicopter both began a search of the area with the helicopter using its searchlight. On the first sweep of the search pattern, volunteer lifeboat crew member Mark Grills spotted the casualty in the water about 80 feet from the base of the cliff. The casualty was brought on board the boat and volunteer crew administered first aid. The decision was quickly taken to transfer to Rescue 924 which airlifted the casualty to hospital. Owing to poor weather conditions at Newquay, they made their way to Derriford hospital. Sadly the casualty was pronounced dead on arrival. Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this time.”

 I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I thought that a calm and peaceful photo was most relevant today

I know no more than the above, but I do know for a fact that the angler who died was not wearing a lifejacket. Considering that I have successfully spent at least 99.9% of my fishing life studiously avoiding the whole lifejacket thing, I sure as shit am not about to hand out any blame here - fishing on the rocks at any time of day or night is what it is. You spend time by the sea and things can so easily go wrong, and whilst I am not out there bait fishing so much at night like I used to, you know and I know that the angler who so sadly died at the weekend could just as easily have been you or I. Anybody who fishes and believes that it will never happen to them is both deluded and a bloody liar, end of.

I can’t sit here writing this and tell you that if the angler who died had been wearing a lifejacket then they would still be alive this morning, but then I can’t get away from what I have been learning about lifejackets. The angler who went in “with sea and weather conditions being fair” (albeit pretty damn cold) was in the water for “approximately 40 minutes”, and whilst I dread to think how terrifying that was, correctly wearing an auto-inflate lifejacket is going to help buy you more time until you hopefully get rescued. There are never any guarantees and I am assuming that an angler out on the rocks at night in the middle of February knows what they are doing, but it’s the sea and as well as we think we know her, she is mightily unpredictable.

When they are ready I will be able to show you the short films from that tank test day we did with the RNLI, and by no means am I even remotely trying to compare jumping into a not that cold tank with safety divers all around us to that poor angler who ended up in the sea at night in the middle of February and died - but even from our very safe experiences in that tank I can tell you how nasty it is when you’re trying to stay afloat and choppy water keeps trying to flood your airways. I am going to quote from my RNLI day blog post I wrote: “let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible.”

Can you imagine how horrendously scary it was for that poor angler over the weekend, when it’s for real and you are fighting for your life? I try to but I can’t, and to be honest it breaks my bloody heart that another angler has died doing what they love, and another family is broken. I can’t tell you what to do here, but I can say this because it’s my blog and I have done a complete turnaround with regards to my ignoring the bleeding obvious - stop being a macho idiot who reckons it’s never going to happen to them (this was me not long ago at all) and start wearing a lifejacket when you are out on the rocks especially. They don’t cost much but they could end up saving your life. I will be doing some reviews of a few that I have been trying out in due course. They are not expensive and they are so damn easy to wear.

And as I said earlier, this is absolutely nothing to do with me blaming anybody or anything here. I spent many, many years fishing all manner of rocks marks in the middle of the night and in all kinds of conditions, not even knowing anything at all about lifejackets and how they might work for me. I can tell you a bit about lifejackets now because I have been learning plenty about them from some very knowledgeable people, but I wonder how many anglers out there know the first thing about modern, easy to wear lifejackets and how they could save your life? It’s not enough to simply say wear a lifejacket - anglers need to know about them and how much good they can do.

And please, please, please do not for one second rely on a floatation suit. You will see my mate Mark’s experience of wearing one in that RNLI tank in due course, and I can’t believe I used to wear a floatation suit for some of my winter fishing especially, feeling kinda safe in the very mistaken belief that if I ended up in the sea it would save my life. Sure they are nice and warm, but they are categorically not a lifejacket, indeed my understanding is that they are actually meant to be worn together with a lifejacket - but how many floatation suit companies do you see telling you this? I will be writing more about this when the short films are finished from our testing day, but I am mentioning this here because I was alerted to the fact that a ‘fishing expert’ from the Cornish Federation of Sea Anglers said that a floatation suit is as good as a lifejacket on Radio Cornwall I believe, of course referencing back to the tragic events from the weekend.

Yet again I take my hat off to those brave people from the RNLI. Think about that crew who got that angler out of the sea at the weekend in the middle of the night. Think about how it must affect them to deal with death like that. So damn sad for too many people……….

 

Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?

After jumping in the pool a bunch of times this time last week with the RNLI and then drying off and grabbing a bit of late lunch, each of us four had to go into a quiet room where the film crew had set up their camera gear with a bunch of lights. We were then asked a bunch of questions which I guess will be used in the various videos that will be released in due course…………

And if there was one thing I was always going to do throughout last Monday with the RNLI was be completely honest and upfront about the whole fishing safety thing. If I was asked any difficult questions I was not going to shirk away from them because I can see no point in me doing what I am trying to do here if I can’t be honest with myself in the first place. I am guessing that the RNLI and the film crew got together beforehand to plan the shoot and also think about the sort of questions they were going to ask us, and you must bear in mind here that I don’t know what Mark, Ben and Richard were asked when they went in for their interviews and I won’t know what they spoke about until I get to see the videos.

(R)D11634.jpg

Now I am a regular bloke who happens to thrive on being outdoors and around the sea especially. I have never functioned well when people tell me what to do and I guess I was one of those kids who needed to do it and find out rather than say yes and never question the actions and the consequences. I know my own mind, I am pretty black and white, I accept completely that the sort of fishing I live for doing comes with an inherent level of risk, but then so does a lot of fun stuff in life. As a father I passionately believe in the whole kids needing to fall over, bloody their knees and then pick themselves up instead of us rushing in to do so way of living because they need to find so much out for themselves without their parents endlessly fussing over their well being and suffocating their spirit of adventure and discovery and excitement.

And as an angler I am as guilty as most of us here of burying my head in the sand for far too many years and doing exactly what I try and teach my girls not to do. For sure my wife and I encourage them to go for it in life, but if for example they were massively keen on fishing from rocky ledges while the sea raged around them and they had no means of calling for help or floating the right way up for as long as possible if something went badly wrong, would I be a good parent if I wasn’t insisting that they carry and wear the correct safety equipment?

001.JPG

They love their sailing for example, and they belong to a local sailing club. When they head out sailing they must wear buoyancy aids and sailing helmets, and of course the club has safety boats out with them. They would not be allowed out on the water without this simple safety gear. Both girls have been hit in the head with the boom and knocked off the boat or capsized multiple times and so on, but never once have those experiences put them off going sailing. We have never worried for one second about them being out there and I love how they so love doing this sort of fun stuff that of course comes with a degree of risk - but then what doesn’t?

Their dad (me!) heads out there many, many times each year to do what he so loves doing, and for most of his fishing life he has successfully ignored how simple it is to give himself the best possible chance at surviving if something were to go wrong. There are of course many things that an angler can do to stay that bit safer, but I would suggest that above all our supposed knowledge and experience is the simple and unavoidable fact that a simple and not very expensive auto-inflate lifejacket is such a frigging no-brainer for what so many of us love to do I very much expecting the day when my two bright and awesome girls turn the tables on me at supper and ask me the question “Dad, why have you ignored the whole lifejacket thing for so many years?”. They are now asking me if I will be wearing a lifejacket when I head out fishing, but it’s the why wasn’t I for so long that’s coming for sure.

I will be completely honest with them and talk them through my burying my head in the sand for far too long for any number of reasons and the fact that I would not expect them to behave as stupidly as their dad has done for so long. As for the whole boyfriend thing though, well let’s just say that’s not up for discussion! I have a big chainsaw and I know how to use it……………….

The obvious title after our day with the RNLI on Monday is that it was the biggest wake up call of my fishing life - which it was - but it was also a whole lot more

First off I must say a huge thank you to the RNLI and all the people there who were involved in what the four of us did up at their headquarters in Poole. I had a good inkling about how seriously the RNLI were going at this, but on the day I was shocked at the scale of it all. As somebody who loves and uses the sea I have of course always known that the RNLI were the mutts’ nuts, but after Monday and what we will be doing together as regards sport fishing or angling safety, my respect for that organisation has gone through another proverbial roof………..

(R)D11639.jpg

What I am not going to try and do here is cover everything that we found out about waders, different types of waders, calm water, rougher water, not wearing lifejackets, wearing lifejackets, how a high end Japanese lure vest behaves, rucksacks, floatation suits and so on - over time I will start to put plenty of information about all this on here. I am also going to make no apologies for doing so - for far too long I have studiously avoided thinking properly about what might happen if I get washed into the sea and how I might give myself a better chance at being alive when rescue comes. I am not proud of this and we rock and shore anglers especially are mostly far too macho and ignorant and stupid about all this - “it’s never going to happen to us”, but of course it does. I am not trying to change how I go fishing, but sure as night follows day am I adopting and learning about various measures that are designed to help me have the best possible chance of coming back home to my family if something does go wrong when I am out on the rocks especially.

(R)D11587.jpg

We managed to find out what does actually happen when you go in the water wearing waders (holy cow is there some amount of crap speculated about this!), and there are differences depending on the type of waders you are wearing, but to be honest it’s not the going in with waders and staying afloat if you are wearing a lifejacket that’s the biggest problem here - more on this further down the page. Contrary to some crap that I have read and heard, you don’t simply sink like a stone if you’re wearing waders (and yes, I was the first tit to jump in yesterday - in my fishing gear, with waders, but without a lifejacket), and then, as somebody said on my Facebook page: “Your waders fill with air and turn you upside down”. Another load of crap, but this shows how little we know about what happens when you end up in the water in a pair of chest waders. I know a hell of a lot more now, put it that way.

I can’t get away from the simple fact that we were in a great big training pool yesterday which was in fact 18 degrees (they don’t heat it, so by pure luck if you like we weren’t going into much colder water which is of course a whole subject on its own - cold water shock) and we were not worried at all for our own safety because it’s the RNLI and there were safety divers in the pool with us all the time. But we did as much as we could in what was a safe environment while a film crew worked around us and asked us questions on camera all the way through our going in and coming out of the training pool experience yesterday. In due course we will get access to a bunch of videos that will show what happened and I will get those out there.

(R)D11643.jpg

The first time I jumped in I was in my regular fishing gear (breathable waders, wading boots, wading jacket and lure bag as I would normally wear it, plus a lure rod in my right hand) but not wearing a lifejacket, the pool was flat calm, not that cold, and to be honest it was ok - I then hauled myself out, they got the wave machine going, and I jumped in again, with no lifejacket again, and if anything feeling a bit smug that the first time around it went ok. Holy cow it’s a whole different story once there’s a bit of sea……...

And as safe as the environment was yesterday, let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible - and that’s in a controlled talk and the water wasn’t even very cold. I dread to think how bloody horrendous and scary and panic-inducing it is in real life when you get washed clean off the rocks into cold, raging water. I make no pretense and I am sure the video will show it - it was not fun at all.

(R)D11576.jpg

I am not here to tell anybody what to do, but because this is my blog and I have decided to grow the hell up and start actually dealing with the safety issues that so many of us face when we go out fishing, I am going to write about it in the hope that I might in some way get through to a few anglers and/or maybe help some anglers to at least start thinking about all this. I resisted the whole issue for years, and yesterday helped confirm to me that what an idiot I have been. Wear one or don’t wear one, but the unavoidable fact is that wearing a (not very expensive and remarkably easy to wear) lifejacket when you are out shore fishing is one vital part of the end goal that is trying to give you as much time as possible  to survive if you were to end up in the water. It is categorically not a guarantee of survival if you wear a lifejacket, but sure as shit it’s giving you more time. If you want a guarantee of survival then I would suggest you should not be going fishing.

But I must come back to waders - as I alluded to somewhere above, if you are wearing a lifejacket and go in wearing waders, then it’s not actually being in the water in a pair of waders that becomes the main problem. Going into cold, potentially rough water and dealing with the shock and panic of that is far more of a problem, because even when your waders fill up with water you are not suddenly going to sink like a stone - the water in your waders is the same water as that outside of them. Different kinds of waders cause different kinds of issues when you are bobbing around, but there’s another issue here that I don’t ever see being addressed………..

(R)D11617.jpg

Because I expected to see the benefits of wearing a lifejacket as opposed to not wearing one on Monday, and I did, the single thing that scared me the most was how hard it was to get out of that RNLI pool when my waders had filled up. Without a doubt a wading belt done up properly helps to slow the water filling up your waders, but it doesn’t stop it - that is a fact, period. If you went in and managed to somehow get out really fast then if your waders are not too full you should be ok if a bit of climbing up some rocks or whatever is required (and yes, on a beach you would hopefully be able to kind of beach yourself - whale ahoy with me!), but if you’re in the water for a while which then means you are potentially cold and stressed and fast losing your strength because of how hard you are needing to work to keep as much water out of your airways as possible, well let’s say for now that I am seriously having to explore some alternatives to chest waders, or at least finding the best way to cut them the hell open in order to get a load of water out of them.

(R)D11608.jpg

The RNLI put down some kind of cargo scrambling platform to simulate it being hard to get out of the water - the ladders in the corners were doable, but when did you ever see a nice ladder with nice handrails on your fishing spot? It was hard to get my wading boots into the slots on the cargo net thing, but imagine how hard it is with wet, slimy and sharp rocks. The first time I jumped in to try getting out like this and I was in my fishing gear and not wearing a lifejacket - and whilst awkward, it was just about doable. I jumped in, orientated myself because by then I had learnt that you very much want to keep your feet down when wearing waders in any kind of chop, and then I turned for the cargo net, swam as well as I was able, and just about managed to haul myself out. Bear in mind that the water in my waders was only up to my knees and it was difficult enough.

The RNLI asked me to jump straight back in so that I filled up a bit more in my waders and of course I am now a bit tired from the effort involved with getting out a minute or so ago. So I did - I jumped back in and stayed in place as best I could while the choppy conditions chucked me around a bit and my waders began properly filling up and I got that bit more tired from trying to keep that horrible bloody water out of my airways. It might not sound remotely tiring by the way, but it’s frigging scary how fast you expend energy in the water. I then just about managed to make my way to the cargo net.

 Somewhat easier getting out of the water with a nice ladder!

Somewhat easier getting out of the water with a nice ladder!

But try as I might I could not get myself out of the water - from the surface of the water in the pool to dry land was only one metre, but I just could not lift myself and my full waders up that cargo net and out of the pool, and as I subsequently found out after one of the kind safety divers had helped get to the nice and easy to use ladder in the corner of the pool, the effort involved with me trying to get me and my full and by now ridiculously heavy waders out of the pool put my back out a beauty which was rather lovely for the drive home and getting into bed on Monday evening! Talk about a wake up call, and it’s something that I am already starting to look into because so many of us wearing waders and not having a bloody clue about what might really happen is not right at all.

So there you go for the time being. What a fascinating day that has given me cause to think about so much now - my profound thanks to the RNLI and of course the three anglers who gave up their days to come along. Lots, lots more to come…………..

On Monday morning we are heading up to the RNLI training tank in Poole to fling ourselves in and see what happens

All hail the awesome RNLI for arranging what four of us are heading up to Poole to do on Monday, and what stands out for me almost the most here is that the principal thing that the RNLI want to achieve is oh so simple. They aren’t trying to sell fishing tackle, they aren’t trying to promote fishing holidays, and they aren’t concerned with fish stocks - nope, the principal reason that the RNLI are putting on this day for us is to help prevent anglers like you and I from dying if something goes wrong when we are out fishing………….

Kinda simple if you stop and think about it, but from my initial email to the RNLI in September last year to where we are now, if you dial down into the whole angler safety thing then from a shore fishing and then lure fishing point of view especially, one of the main problems we have is that we simply don’t know enough about what does and does not happen if you end up in the water. And that water is usually cold of course.

RNLI_FLAG.png

Go and search on Google for what happens if you fall into even a calm sea when you are wearing a pair of lightweight (breathable) waders for example - good luck. Same with what might happen if you are wearing waders, you’re dressed for fishing, and you are wearing an auto-inflate life jacket. Whatever your attitude towards increased fishing safety is, there is no getting away from how little information there is out there on what happens if something suddenly goes wrong and you end up in what might well be some cold water.

On Monday we are going to work with the RNLI at what sounds like the most incredible training tank up at Poole to try and dispel some myths and work towards some proper information - and this will revolve around the four of us repeatedly jumping into what I gather is a great big frigging cold pool/tank where they can simulate rough conditions and regularly carry out capsize drills on their inshore RIBS and other such joyful, cold water related activities. Everything we do will be filmed and photographed in order to gather media based information which we can then use to put out there via various channels - with this blog obviously being one of those media channels as such.

How many of you here wear lightweight chest waders when you go out fishing but have never actually been off your feet in cold water when you’re wearing them? Do you know what actually happens, and what’s the difference if you have a wading belt on or not? I don’t know for starters, and I really want to find out. I am wearing a lifejacket more and more these days for my shore fishing, but I want to know what it’s like when I go in and it auto-inflates for starters, and I want to know how well it helps me stay afloat the right way up and deal with the potential panic that comes with cold water shock. Thanks to the RNLI for so kindly getting right behind me and my recent interest in increased angler safet. We are going to get the chance to do a lot on Monday, and then have the opportunity to put all that information out there. I dread to think what bringing this day together is costing the RNLI (the tank for the day, camera people, editors, photographer, lighting, safety divers and so on), but as I said, their goal is to save lives and they have got right behind my initial approach to them. Thank you.

images.jpeg

And when it comes to the fishing that so many of us do here - shore based lure fishing that puts us very close to or often actually in the sea - I can’t help but believe that the best way to help more anglers stop for a moment and think about how they might increase their own safety is to be armed with the facts about what does actually happen if you go in. Because Monday is based primarily around shore based lure fishing and so many of us are wearing waders these days, that is how we are going to go at this testing. You can find plenty of lifejacket testing online if you go looking, but to make it properly relevant to us anglers we need to go in the (cold) water dressed as we would be when we are out fishing.

Do any of you here use one of those Japanese style lure vests to carry your lures when you are out fishing, and if so, does it have some form of floatation in it? Do you know how this vest performs if you end up in the sea? Well on Monday we are going to find out. I believe the RNLI also want us to test out wearing a lure bag underneath a lifejacket - as indeed it should be worn so that the inflating of the lifejacket is not impeded - and then jump back in with the lure bag over the lifejacket to see what happens when the inflation is actually impeded. And so on. We’re leaving early on Monday morning to head up to Poole so there won’t be a blog post, but in due course I expect to be able to come back on here and talk about increased angler safety with some proper facts and videos and photos to back it all up and hopefully help in some way to get us resistant bunch of people to stop sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the simple fact that we can very simply and not very expensively improve our chances of being able to go fishing again and not breaking our families’ hearts if something goes wrong……………….