To be perfectly honest I feel a little embarrassed and also a bit bloody stupid with how damn easy it is to wear a lifejacket for my fishing - embarrassed because I have avoided the issue for so many years now, and bloody stupid for not having been wearing one. I am not here to tell you what you as an angler need to be doing, but I would urge you to at least try and see one of these modern lifejackets and understand just how easy they are to wear - but if you are anything like me then you might need to remember how you actually wear one………..
I’m sure we all have our own ways of getting geared up to go fishing - if I am fishing relatively local to me then I put my waders and boots on at home and jump in the car with my rod on the Vac-Racs, and if I am going to be driving a bit further then I will tend to chuck waders and boots into a plastic box and put them in the boot. What I am saying here is that my waders and boots go on first - I am a typical bloke in that this is how I do things and that’s the way it is. Are we not creatures of habit?
So I’ve got my waders and wading boots on. Depending on the weather and/or how far I’ve got to walk, I either put a jacket on (the consistently excellent Vision Kust wading jacket) or fold it up and put it in my waterproof rucksack (this HPA one here). The important part for me now is that I almost automatically put my lure bag on - it goes on the outside or top of whatever my final layer is if that makes sense. I have tried and tried but I still can’t find a better way to carry my lures AND have them easily to hand to change over if needs be while I am actually fishing than this simple HPA bag here - and for a few years now I have used it in conjunction with a shoulder strap and waist belt and it’s as light and easy and efficient to wear as I can ever imagine a way to carry and access my lures could be.
And then I put my HPA rucksack on and head off fishing - nine times out of ten I’m going to put my rucksack down on a rock or sandbank or whatever when I am actually fishing, but the thing I am getting at here is that I am so used to my lure carrying bag or system if you like being the last thing I put on or indeed take off to get the waders down and have a pee. Or at least it was the last thing I put on until I started wearing a lifejacket…………
A few times now I have got out of my car, geared up to go fishing, and because I am a bloke and therefore I am a creature of habit I have found myself putting my lure bag shoulder strap over the top of my lifejacket, before realising that in fact I have done things wrong and I need to go back a step. Think about things here - an auto-inflate lifejacket needs a completely unimpeded path if you like to automatically inflate if you get washed in, so if you put anything over the top of it (like my shoulder strap), you are kinda negating how the lifejacket needs to work. It’s only habit that has made me gear up the wrong way a few times, so by making sure to wear a lifejacket most of the time now I guess I am starting to change my habits.
What I need to remember to do now then is to get myself geared up with HPA lure bag (and shoulder strap) and/or wading jacket, and then put my lifejacket on last. Very importantly here as well - if for some reason I need to carry my rucksack whilst I am actually fishing (deep wading or something like that) then as with making sure the shoulder strap on my lure back is UNDER my lifejacket, I must also make sure the strap that goes across the top of your chest on a rucksack is also put UNDER the lifejacket. Sure, it’s a tad fiddly to do, but I rarely carry my rucksack while I am actually fishing, and even if I do, does a tad fiddly bother me for one second if my lifejacket might one day save my life?
OK, so you’re dealing with an extra implement if you like here, but it’s merely a matter of changing your habits slightly if you want to wear a lifejacket for your own shore fishing. I have seen various “discussions” back and forth online about those slingbag style bags that some anglers like to use for carrying their lures, but unless I am mistaken they simply don’t work with a lifejacket. The whole point of a lifejacket is that it needs to be fixed in place across your top half, with that very important crotch strap properly secured as well - so whilst you can perfectly easily wear your slingbag underneath your lifejacket like I do with my HPA bag/shoulder strap arrangement, obviously you can’t then “sling” your slingbag around to your front if you are wearing a lifejacket.
So what do you do? Well it’s up to you here, but I would proffer the simple but unavoidable fact that a slingbag isn’t going to save your life whereas a lifejacket could well do so. If you want to wear a lifejacket and you currently use a slingbag (and I personally can’t get on with them at all so I am fine here), then I am going to suggest that you find a different way to carry your lures. Is this a bit of a pain? Maybe, but again, what’s more important here? A way of carrying your lures, or correctly wearing a lifejacket? Pretty damn simple if you ask me.
I can’t get away from the fact that a lifejacket is another thing to remember, but over time I am going to assume that taking it with me and putting it on last will become as natural as taking my lures and lure bag with me. Sure, a lifejacket is another thing to have to take off if you need to have a pee and you’re wearing waders, so to this extent I am absolutely loving this pair of zip front chest waders I am currently wearing. As with my HPA lure bag, I have tried my best to find a pair of lightweight, breathable chest waders that work as well for me or offer better value for money than the outstanding Vision Ikon ones - but I can’t. They are bloody brilliant, indeed I got about a year and a half of hard saltwater use from my first pair before anything went wrong with them.
And I am currently trying a pair of the Vision Ikon Zip (front) waders - so far, so good, and as much as a zip down your front is handy anyway, crumbs is it a godsend when you are wearing a lifejacket. I can keep everything on (lure bag, wading jacket and lifejacket) and easily go for a pee because I’ve got that long zip in the front of the waders. Sure it’s more awkward than if you were wearing a pair of budgie smugglers, but hey ho, it’s more than doable and it’s a whole heap easier than having to take a load of stuff off to get at what you need to get at.
I am still alternating between the two very lightweight and easy to wear lifejackets that have been kindly loaned to me - the Spinlock Deckvest Lite and the Crewsaver Crewfit 165 Sport. In due course I will review them both as such, bearing in mind that they will be reviews based mainly on how they are to wear and put on etc., because in January we will get the chance to spend a day with the RNLI up at Poole and properly test a lot of stuff out in their training tank. You all have a good weekend. Loving the Ashes as ever and loving the fact that we turned the Aussies over in the rugby last weekend.
Oh, and I forgot to put this up the other day - I am over the moon to get the front cover of the new issue of Sea Angler magazine with a shot of a night lure caught double figure bass. That was some fish for Steve and I love the fact that Sea Anger picked this photo out for the cover.