Near Death While Fishing and Lessons Learned

I was wondering if any of the Forum's members have ever had a dangerous situation develop while fishing that might have cost you your life and if any lesson might have been learned. Would you mind sharing this experience so that the rest of us might profit from reading your story? This could be an interesting and informative post.
Well, to make 2 long stories short...
1) I was in the Yakima River 2yrs ago trying to cross a small part of the river, the gravel gave way under my feet and fell flat on my face, but only in about 3 1/2 feet of water, pretty fast though, regained my balance about 40ft below. About 60ft below was a drop off of rapids! Never again!
2) I was on the Green River about 2 years ago and was fishing with a buddy, I broke my fly off on a small tree branch in the middle of the river(75ft wide), the water was slow so I walked out to think I could take it off. Well arm-pit deep in water, I reached for it and then the gravel under my feet AGAIN gave way and I slowly dropped face first into the water. By natural instict I started to panic and choked about a gallon of water, luckily 40ft below me the water went shallow and was able to regain my balance. To this day I swore to never again go into water no higher than thigh high!
I give all glory to God for allowing me to survive and testify the dumb things I've done in the past. I know now to: Use a wading staff of some sort, DO think twice about crossing unfamiliar water, and finally for me not to go anywhere without wearing my SOS PFD!

Peter ><>

"Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men"
Matthew 4:19


Active Member
About two years ago, myself and lil Hen were out on the sky wading some holes. We decided to go up to Thunderbird, the RV park on Ben Howard road, and try to wade the river. So we park and walk up the road a bit and look for a spot to get down to the river. after searching up and down the road, I decide what the heck, and jump the guard-rail on the road. Now let me tell ya, It's steep, slippery, and wet. I should of had a climbing harness and repel road. I start making my way down to the river when I come to a 3-4 ledge that I must navigate to make it to the river. I grab a branch and put one leg over the side. SNAP, branch breaks! I remember that nano-second where I turned to see the broken branch in my hand. the next is all a blur. I did one summersalt followed by a sideways backflip(in waders with backpack)hit some rocks, bounced, did another half flip and landed in about 4 feet of water! All in all, about 20 feet of falling. I landed in the water on my side dazed and confused. Luckily, it was in a little back water pool so I didn't get swept away in the river. I look up at Hen, he says, "dude, are you o.k.?" I stood up and said I think so. He busted out laughing and hit the pavement in histericks. To make things worse, there's 4 or 5 guys already fishing like 20 ft away. They all look at me in amazement and bewilderment. They gave me that, "your a idiot" look with a bit of a laugh. I'm sure they went home to tell there buddies, "You should of been there, I saw some fat kid fall in the river". I hike back up and head for the car. When I get to the car, I see a trail not 2 ft from where we parked. To make things worse(again), there's a rope to ease the decent down to the river.:beathead swear to god, true story. Conclusion: Look before you leap.:smokin YT I forgot one thing, my rod was hanging in a tree.

Matt Burke

Active Member
Back in the 80’s I was stationed in Fort Sill, OK. On rare occasion we did field problems in Arkansas. During one of these exercises, we had just march ordered our position (packed up and ready to move out) and we were waiting for orders to move. My buddy and I knew that hurry up and wait was a long standing tradition in the Army so we went fishing. My buddy, Rick had seen some water just over the hill and off we went hot footing it down the trail. A half mile later we were at the edge of a swampy water hole. It was hot, humid and nasty. Just perfect for Bass or Satin’s backyard. Anyway, Rick had gotten his line fouled and I was doing a balancing act on a log trying to free it. Then we heard our first sergeant scream from the top of the hill, “If you two stupid bastards are down there fishing, I’m going to have your stripes.” I then slipped and fell into a quagmire of the nastiest water I have ever smelled or felt. All this commotion was just to much for a local water moccasin who surely needed to protect his home. Rick yells, “Cottonmouth…run!” It’s funny how water can slow down a human trying to run and speed up a snake trying to kill you. Next thing I know we were up that hill. Rick said later that it looked like an Evenrude outboard at full throttle coming out of the water. Brown foam and spray had covered that snake as I left that water. We almost ran our first sergeant down at the top of that hill. He then commenced to screaming in our faces, complete with spraying spit (which is nearly as deadly as cottonmouth venom). Rick and I worked so hard the rest of that field problem, we both got Army commendation medals.

I fell into the Skykomish on a fairly calm stretch. Waders filled up, I was face down in three feet of water, trying to hold on to my fly rod. Calmly regained my feet. Thought I had ruined my digital camera and cell phone, but they still work. I was scared for a second or two, but not like that day back in Arkansas. The water can be a great place for pleasure. It can also kill. I never ignore that fact.


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell


Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan
Injuries: the biggest blackest and bloodiest bruise I have ever seen on the right cheek of my buttocks, numerous cuts and bruises all over my body esp. on the head, face, legs, arms chest and back. One very bloody gash on my right elbow that excreted large and small rocks as well as an assortment of pine needles for 2 days. And last but not least some crushed nerves and a score of damaged vertebrae between my shoulder blades up through my neck as well as the resulting thoracic outlet syndrome which causes my arms to go numb when I hold them any higher than 90 degrees.

When I was younger I use to drive up to Wallace Falls and fish. I am sure that some of you have been there so you will know the exact spot I am going to tell you about. If you park in the lot at the state park and hike up the trail you will come to a place where you can hear the river. If you leave the trail and take a peek over the edge you'll see the river cascade down a picturesque little falls and then boil into a deep slower moving pool. "Fly water". Ever since I was a little kid in Scouts I have fished this stretch of the river and 9 times out of 10 I would climb down right at that spot I just described. Anyway, so this day I, being over-zealous to try out my brand new bamboo fly rod, went straight for the river. I had on a kind of back pack, a camera bag/fly bag, and a few other accessories. There is a spot at the top of that incline where you have to jump down about three feet to a bit of a ledge and then you hit a bit of a trail that you can get down, if you are half man half mountain goat (which I am, …sometimes).

After securing my newly restored bamboo 5wt between my pearly whites I proceeded to jump/swing to the ledge while holding onto a stump. You can guess that the stump of course gave way and I found myself falling straight over backwards off a nice bit of cliff. I don't know how many times I bounced off which rocks but it was quite a tumble. Those of you who know the spot will agree with me when I say that I fell no more than 30-40 ft. What I do know is that the stopping blow was my head hitting a good sized river rock. Shaken up a bit I tried to see where my precious rod lay (half way up the incline) it was quite a humorous scene. Fly box here, polarized glasses there, my hat hanging from a tree limb... you get the picture. Pretty soon I decide: "I came here to fish so I might as well get to it". That's when I saw the blood. It was all over my right shoe, (old school converse break dancing style, this was way before wader boots). Wondering where the blood was coming from I searched my scalp only to find a few nice cuts but nothing to keep me off the river. My forehead was a bit jacked up but again nothing to be alarmed about. That's when I happen to look at the back of my right hand. Blood was streaming from my right elbow in great pulsating bursts creating a nice fountain which ran so nicely down the back of my right arm, off my fingertips and onto my break dancing shoes. I was pissed! I slowly but quickly collected my things and inspected the teeth marks on my newly finished rod and hit the trail back to the parking lot. Trying so hard not to look like a fisherman that just fell off a phat cliff and busted himself all up. When I hit the parking lot all I could find in my mom's beater little red Toyota corona was some blue masking tape. So I approached a nice hiker lady who was unpacking her Outback and inquired regarding a first aid kit. She fell back a few steps, went white and mumbled something about some gauze. I humbly accepted her offering and proceeded with the coolest giant MacGyver band aid tape job you have ever seen. I was obviously in shock.

Several years back my fishing partner and I were coming back to Seattle from a day on the upper Skagit above Marblemount. It was freezing when we left that morning but it warmed as the day progressed. As we were headed for Darrington from Rockport, a light rain began to fall. There was about a foot of old plowed frozen snow on the road edges and maybe 6" on the shoulders. My buddy was driving and we were in his 1979 Ford 150 with canopy and boat rack. This was just after they had paved the road. We were doing about 55mph and nearing the second bridge across the Sauk when we began to slowly fishtail. My buddy did not put on the brakes and took his foot off the accelarator but the fishtails got bigger and bigger and then we caught an edge. The next thing I knew is we were going over and over and over and over. We landed about 100ft down the road at a angle upright in a snowbank at the tree line. The engine was on fire. I had sore ribs and he had a bump on his head. I said a prayer of thanks and we got out his side. He had a shovel in the back and we put the fire out with snow. The truck was totalled. We found out later that the previous year a family of four died under the same conditions and near the same place. They sand the road now. One rod was fractured but no bones. It was a life changing event for me and I thank God for every moment He has given me since. The road was frozen on that back stretch and that light rain made it a sheet of black ice. Be careful.

While I was living in New Zealand a couple of years ago, I went to stay with a local friend for a weeks worth of fishing.

My friend had a job working as a possum controller, and knew all the local ranch owners in the area. He lived on a farm himself, and one day in the driving rain and wind we took his four wheeler a couple farms down to explore a river that he had been scouting for some time.

After a cup of tea with the local farmer, sixteen gates, and three miles over wet grass later, we reached the edge of the river valley. Parking the four wheeler, we hiked down through the bush onto the flood plain.

According to Hamish, this section river likely had never been fished before, and we scouted with nymphs and both landed a few nice rainbows.

While exploring, we came to a section of the river where it ran straight into a cliff wall and made a 90 degree cut downstream. I was ready to turn back and go upstream, but Hamish didn't hesitate to jump in the water and proceed to bounce across the river to the other side.

I followed behind him, and when I reached the middle of the river, I was on the very tips of my wading boots. I hadn't accounted for the fact that Hamish was a half a foot taller than me! For a split-second, I slipped, lost my footing and barely bounced downstream about four feet before regaining it. On the other side, I stopped for a second to regain my breath, and noticed how close I had come to being smashed up against the cliff at great force!

The lesson learned, don't follow a bloody kiwi blindy across a river!

Last year, while living in Cairns in far northern Australia, my girlfriend and I took a weekend trip up to Cape Tribulation to have a look around. Since we were camped out and had a few days exploring, I had brought along my 3 weight and went out prospecting some of the crystal clear jungle streams.

In this area of Australia, everything will kill you. If the myriad species of poisonous snakes and spiders don't get to you, the crocs will eat you. Saltwater crocs grow huge, and won't hesitate to eat large prey. Everywhere were signs warning you to stay away from the water.

Saltwater crocs are usually not found in the freshwater, and if you find a river that is totally fresh and isn't subject to tidal flow, the only thing you have to worry about is freshwater crocs, which only reach about 9 feet long, but won't eat you.

I found a beautiful section of river and began prospecting with a cork popper. I landed one archer fish and one jungle perch throughout a couple of hours of fishing. In my American naivety, I assumed that it was solely fresh water and I had nothing to worry about. I waded out in the river knee deep and fished.

When we drove out a day later, it was low tide and the section of river I was in was reduced to a trickle! In my horror I realised that I had only been a half a mile from the ocean, and I was fishing in the tidal zone! Lesson learned, don't go in the water, even if you think it's fresh!

However, this didn't seem to bother the Aussies too much. One day while I had a day off work I was driving around around the Machan's Beach area north of Cairns looking for good spots to catch barramundi. I came to a beach area where there was a big sign saying, "Warning: Saltwater crocodiles inhabit this area. Do not swim or wade." Behind the sign were two locals in swimming trunks, standing in waist deep water, fishing. I thought I was crazy! I've attached a photo of the event.



New Member
Alagnak River, last buddy and I were fishing after setting up camp for the night. I began walking to my next casting spot, my feet started to give way, next thing I know I'm headin' down river, screaming! ;) I finally found some ground, but it quickly gave way. By now, I'm about 50 yards from camp, and my buddy is chasin' after me from the bank. Finally, I found some ground that was solid and I pulled out. ;)

Scariest moment I've ever had. For a minute, I thought I was gonna wash up down river as bear food!

- DW


Active Member
Always wear your wading belt!!!

Last year my younger brother, my old man, and myself were fishing a little creek in north Idaho. It was my brothers first adventure in waders. The old man was upriver and out of view. My brother and I were at a section of the creek about 10 yards above a BIG DEEP pool and needed to cross through some swift moving water. As I crossed I got a little nervous myself, and at a good foot shorter than me, I knew my little brother may need some assistance. I just got this gut feeling as I reached the bank that I better lay my rod down and get ready to assist my brother. I waded out several feet back into the creek and yelled back at him to give me the tip of his rod. As he did this he lost the ground underneath him. He was upstream about 5 or so feet from me at this point. As he went under I threw the rod and at the same instance saw him frozen under water with eyes wide open staring into space with no movement what so ever and drifting past me at lightning speed. His waders had filled instantly and were acting as an underwater sail and sandbag at the same time. It is only by the grace of God that I somehow had the strength, swiftness, and agility to reach down several feet underwater and grab hold of his fly vest and proceed to lift him almost completely out of the water and toss him to the shore several feet away. I will never forget the look of his eyes staring back at me with no life in them as he was underwater shooting past me. It sounds like such a hercules fairy tale story but this is exactly how it went down. If I had not been given the ability at that very instance I feel it would have been my brothers last day on this earth. We both give all thanks to God, as without him this story would certainly have a different ending.

~Patrick ><>


Another Flyfisherman
never had any scary experiences fishing, but i jumped a cougar once that had just taken a calf elk in Idaho - face to face, 3 yards away, blood dripping from its I-teeth. It hunkered down and squared off on my skinny rear end that was squatting on a log - my best friend takes off running which only made the cougar that much more serious - we stared at one another eye to eye for about a minute - I was frozen and couldnt do anything. I realized right then and there that I was no longer a high ranking member of the food chain. luckily my swearing and cussing made the cougar give way and it took 4 steps backwards, waving its tail like a house cat that is ready to leap at a shoe lace, turned and walked away. Once I had some ground, the adrenoline took over and jumped off the 8 foot bank of the logging road, on a dead sprint, jumped clean over the road and slammed into the side of my best friends truck - thought i broke my ribs - needless to say - we left shortly after.
Lesson learned, spring time, elk caving ground in a high populous of Cougars in Aspen trees that are thick and about 1o feet tall - DONT GO SLINKIN AROUND WHEN YOU HEAR ELK! Its off subject - but thats the closest I've been. J


Banned or Parked
One of my old favorite streams in BC has only had road access since '91 and is closed to vehicular hunting most of the year. Consequently, every time I fished there I would see at least 3 or 4 extremely curious bears. One particularly sneaky bear managed to sneak up to within about 50 feet of my friend and I before we noticed him. Since it was Canada, all we had for protection was a can of bear mace and the wind was blowing straight into our face. So much for that! As the bear got to within 15-20 feet we realized we'd better do something about it, so we started throwing rocks at the bear. I IN NO WAY CONDONE THIS AS A SMART WAY TO AVOID A BEAR CONFRONTATION! Fortunately for us, it worked. My friend Eric hit the bear square in the ribs with a rock about 6" in diameter and it took off running. We went back to the truck to find paw and nose prints all over it.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
The thrill is not in the kill---But to let them go.

I wasn't near death on this but it gave me a new meaning on life. I was fishing the upper Sauk river, This was in the days before they gated it off. I was wearing a pair of the biggest,udliest,rubber coated waders. No belt around the waist. The water wasn't deep,but I fell any way,down I went and the waders filled up with water. To this day I'm glad that I fell in shallow water,because if I fell in deep water with those waders on I don't think that I would be here today. All I can say about those rubber waders is they made a good pair of boots,because that's all that was left after I cut them up. And ever since that day the deepest water I will wade thru in Thigh deep and some time I even worry about it.

I was born and grew up in England and sea fishing was a way of life there. My uncle and I decided to fish of the south coast off a small island in the mouth of Thames estuary called the Isle of Grain.
We borrowed a small World II life boat from a Sea Scout troop and set off into the water to fish.We were fishing for considerable time, just bobbing on the waves, not catching much of anything, when I noticed that there was water around my feet. It appeared that water was coming through the hull of the lifeboat under the floor gratings.
My uncle started to get concerned and we both lifted a floor grate near where we thought was the leak and sure enough, water was bubbling in around one of the bolts that attached the boat runners to the hull on the starboard side. We had nothing on board to seal such a leak and since the water was getiing higher in the boat we decided to row for the shore.
We then noticed that the tide had started to change and the leak had intensified. More water in the boat.
It became apparent that with more water coming into the boat and with the tide changing we were having difficulty making any progress.
Eventually, we started to lose ground and found ourselves at the mercy of the tide and were being swept into the English Channel in a sinking boat.My uncle believed that the water was not that deep where we were, as the tidal flats of the Thames river were, at low tibe, uncovered for miles when the tide was out.
He suggested that we no longer try to row this boat but to jump over board and try wading to the shore. The fishing rod he used to decide how deep the water was touched botttom at about four and a half feet. At that time we were about a sixty yards from shore.
So we took off our shoes and the poles and lept over the side, expecting the boat to be recovered by someone later and returned. But when we jumped in the water was deeper that I could wade.In fact it was over my head. Now I was being swept to sea. My uncle had the same problem.
Unfortunately our " lifeboat was to far to reach and so there we were.We swam and floated towards the shore and made little progress and the distance we swam was lost in the time we floated.
We strted to get tired and it was apparent to my uncle that he had better help his sisters son and swam over to me to help me keep my head up.The tide was fast and he and I swam for our lives trying to get to the shore. Suddenly, my Uncle felt the bottom and yelled with delight and stood up, only to find tha he sank quickly into the soft mud. He could not get his feet out and began to panic for the both of us.
He grabbed me and lifted me onto his legs bending down low enough to avoid having the water go over his head. There we stayed. Awhile later the water around us receded and we were happy to see it was around my Uncles chest.
The tide rip was slowing and shortly we found ourselves on the mud flates in water that was wading depth, but the mud held us up in every step. We got to shore after slipping, falling in the mud and ended up flat on our faces covered completely in mud.
The boat had gone out a long way but had come to rest on the flats.
Quite a day and no fish.

When I was a kid, about 12, we went to our favortie camping spot on the river in Wyoming. My father and I spent a lot of time on that river..I loved to fish one particular hole of pocket water just off the bank. Although I didn't know how deep it was there always seemed to be cutthroat in that hole..and raging rapids on the other side.

One day I was fishing and had my line fouled..setting my pole down I proceded to untangle my mess..when all of a sudden my pole starts to slide into the of course I dove for it and caught it only to realize that there was noway i could touch bottom..and the water was pretty strong..I threw my pole onto the bank and grabbed for the rocks..hauling myself out of what would have been sure death.

I never told my family about the incident..since I didn't want to lose fishing privledges heh but my father noticed I was all wet and had to of suspected something..I got a speech about river safety out of the deal.