Readers Cast


Lew Cramer - June 20, 2011

It's not a good spring for stream fishing in this neck of the woods.  Like a lot of other places around the country, precipitation has been much heavier than normal this winter, and all the streams are blown out. Warnings have been sent through media outlets that the streams are dangerous, and on some, you're on your own if you get on them. There will be no one to affect a rescue if you get into trouble. 

Every year we hear cautions about using PFD's, and common sense warnings about drinking and boating, not overloading, driving sensibly, and generally we're warned about using our heads for something besides hat racks when we navigate lakes and streams. Every year we hear about victims of lapses in judgment that cost lives. There's one on the news today.

Here's a story about one that I was involved with:

My fishing buddy, Errol, and I were in the Island Park area of Southeast Idaho several years ago, trying to get into the fish in one of the many streams in the area. We were given a tip that there were large fish following the Kokanee run into the upper river from the Island Park Reservoir, and that they were taking nymphs just above Coffeepot Rapids. It was later in the afternoon when we arrived at the spot and hiked down into the area. We geared up and started fishing.

Sure enough, the large fish were there in the placid water just above where the river started its plunge into the rapids. I hooked several on bead head nymphs. They would then exit the placid water for the heavy water that marked the beginning of the decent into the rapids. The heaviest leader I had was four pound Maxima, and it wasn't heavy enough the keep them from breaking off. I was trying to figure out a strategy to keep the fish from running into the heavy current when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.

I looked up, and was flabbergasted to see a man and a young girl about 12-14 years old floating toward me in a fiberglass rowboat about 10 feet long.

As they came close, I asked, "You don't plan to take that boat downriver from here, do you?"

 They replied that they were, and that they were told upstream at the campground that it would be all right. I warned them that the river below was very treacherous and that they would do better to try to figure a way to get their boat out from where they were. There was no place to exit the river except to pull the boat back upstream. It was a couple of miles back to the campground. They thanked me, and pulled for the opposite shore, where there was a group of people fishing from the bank. Evidently those people gave them the same advice they were given upstream, because when I looked up again, they were headed into the chute. I just shook my head.

About twenty minutes later, a young lad came hurrying up the river asking frantically if anyone had a rope.

"We pulled a young girl out of the river, but her dad is stranded on a rock in the middle, and we need a rope to pull him out."

The boat was wrapped around a rock, and was trash at that point. Nobody had a rope, so the boy continued his quest along the bank toward some other fishermen.

After a while, as dusk was starting to settle in, we were packing up to hike out. Everyone else had left the river. I glanced up and couldn't believe what I was seeing. Two teen-age boys in an aluminum car topper boat were headed for the rapids. They had evidently gotten the same erroneous advice that the first floaters did. I hollered at them and waved them to shore.
I told them emphatically, "If you float that boat downstream from hear, you're gonna' die!"

I told them about the other incident, and informed them that there wouldn't be anyone left in the canyon to come to their rescue. We were headed out. I don't know what they did, but I didn't see any reports in the news. 

Navigating on water has many more inherent dangers that we don't encounter day by day. Wading in streams is the same. Precautions must be taken if we don't want to wind up wet or worse. Depending on where we wade, it could be much worse. Remote areas, sharp hooks, cold water, and a myriad of other things must be factored in to having a safe outing. Please take that little bit of extra time to think about what you will be doing, and the situations that may be encountered. We don't want to read about you or yours on the board.

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