Have you Flipped?

So I start this thread with the best of intentions - safety.

With the exception of a flip drill I did on a pontoon course on the Chilliwack River (with a whitewater rafting instructor) this past September, I have yet to flip my pontoon boat in a real world application. I'm not looking to flip my boat necessarily, but I want to hear from you if you, or your buddies have.

Winter steelhead season is upon us. I'm sure some of you guys have drifts planned for Winter/Spring Steelhead on some of your local rivers. I'm curious what YOU learned from the flip? What did it change i your approach from a safety stand point? Did you make radical changes or just buy a few other safety items? Were you up sh*t creek when you flipped?


Active Member
My only flips have been while whitewater boating. Things I've learned:
Have a flip line handy, you are your own best rescuer.
Two minutes in 45 degree water is debilitating, even with a drysuit on.
Don't panic and swim hard back to your boat.
Boating with others makes a rescue that much easier.
What I learned from flipping on the Gold many years ago. Neoprene waders are buoyant and quite easy to swim in. If they fit fairly tight they also let very little water in (I was dry until I stood up on the shore). When winter boating I seldom wear anything but my neoprene's.

Josh P

Active Member
Also a common misconception that breathable waders will sink you. FALSE. Breathable waders when swamped are neutrally buoyant. As long as you dont panic you should stay on top. Neoprene will give you a positive buoyant though, and like onefish says its pretty hard to get water in your waders especially breathable because they tend to cling to your body. I encourage everyone to jump in the water in their waders on a hot summer day. Try it first with a PFD, then with just a wading belt, then with just waders. You will find not much water gets in and its good to know how it feels so you can react with confidence that you are not going to sink. Ive flipped my boat plenty of times running whitewater but its amazing how much more cautious I am when I have 5k worth of gear on deck ;) Shit does happen but if you flip fishing you are probably unprepared, inexperienced, or dont give 2 shits. Just my 2 shits... I mean cents ;)

Josh P

Active Member
Typically if I am going to run something that I don't know and think there is a possibility of flipping I will scout, shuttle all the gear below the rapid, rig to flip, put on the PFD then run it. Sometimes that's what it takes to find good water that people are too scared to run, but I would only do that when hypodermic conditions don't exist.


Active Member
Yes I have flipped, raft, kayak, and canoes, and nearly a drift boat, but I tend to be on rivers with significant whitewater. That being said, a snag on class I can easily flip a boat, from a 1 man pantoon to a 18' drift boat. Boats flip amazingly fast once started.

A few pieces of advice:

No matter your skill or experience, if you spend enough time on the water you will eventually flip a boat or you will need to assist somone who has flipped. It maybe 30 or 40 years down the road, but it will happen.

You need to know how to self rescue your person, rescue your boat, and rescue others. This cannot be learned on the internet.

You need to always be prepared to enter the water when you are on the water. Always were a PFD and appropriate clothing for the weather and water temp. Always ask your self every time you get in the boat, am I prepared to swim today. If the answer is no, you are simply rolling the dice.

Safe boating.

I got plans for a custom rod tube for my spey rods (yes I can make something but….). There is a company that makes custom rod tubes with zippers that the local tackle store deals with. I was gonna get one made up that I would strap to the frame of my pontoon boat on top of one of the toons. It would be long enough and have space for a reel, with a zippered cover so that all I would have to do is break my 4 piece 13 or 15 foot spey rod in half (7.5 feet long), shove it in, and zip it up so I don't have to worry about something happening to it if I ever flipped. But it wouldn't be so broken down that it'd be a pain in the arse to put in and take out between runs, etc. while drifting.
During my time in the coast guard I have pulled my fair share of people out of the water. Its important to be prepared for the situation before it happens- no matter how safe you are on the water. Will your gear float? can you right your vessel if its upside down? are you able to egress the water while in your waders? what will you do if your in a hypothermic state when you make it out?

Plan for the worst, give somebody a float plan- and if it changes MAKE THEM AWARE OF YOUR NEW INTENTIONS.

It never hurts bringing a self inflating PFD, just in-case....


Active Member
Also a common misconception that breathable waders will sink you. FALSE.
You are looking at this from the stand point of the material properties of waders themselves, but
technically speaking, the water that fills them does not change the buoyancy of your body which is negative, for most of us. Since waders make it more difficult to swim and maintain positive buoyancy, it can be argued that wearing waders lessens one's ability to remain buoyant. This is especially true if waders full of water catch a downward current (ie. pour over, recirculation, etc) and pull a potential victim to the bottom.

As you said wearing a life jacked (and a wading belt) keeps waders from filling up with water and billowing out like a sail in the current. An easy way to address the potential risk of waders full of water.

I have flipped my 10ft pontoon for practice and righting it was made relatively simple with the addition of bungee flip lines that run along the bottom of each side of the frame. This thread details their construction and use:



Active Member
I flipped one January, hit a sweeper , reason not as important as what then happened. I was pinned against the sweeper and the only route out was under to shore, twice. I had an inflatable life jacket on(manual)and it was why I survived. If it had been a standard or automatic I wouldn’t have been able to go under and would have been snagged by the sweeper. There wasn’t enough time to shed a standard life jacket.
My waders didn’t fill until I stood up. Learned to drop the top before standing up after that. Doesn’t completely eliminate any water but greatly reduces it.


Active Member
Colorado guy here. Really like your forum and hope you don't mind my chiming in.

My buddy flipped his boat on the Green in Utah a few years ago. I was able to row over and get him to shore. Fortunately you're required to wear a pfd on the Green, so he had his on. Things I learned from the experience:

1. Good to have a buddy nearby to help out.
2. Don't carry an anchor on a river. His deployed and anchored the boat in the deep hole behind the rock he flipped on rather than letting him kick it to shore. If no-one had been there to get him out, he would have had to leave the boat and swim to get to shore.
3. He had his rod tethered on a long piece of parachute cord and was pleased that he didn't lose it. I kept wondering what would have happened if he had got tangled in it.
4. Since his boat was anchored in the deep middle of the river, I rowed back out to retrieve it. Fourth thing I learned is have a knife on board.
5. He was wet and really chilled. I had an extra fleece jacket in my dry bag that helped a lot.

Didn't quiz him about the shrinkage issue, so I don't know.


Latest posts