FISHING LINES: Why filling your boots is just too dangerous

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The Independent Online
ANGLERS HAVE this strange belief that the farther out they cast, the more fish they will catch. In some cases, that's correct. Fish often gravitate somewhere quieter when there is bankside disturbance. It's a bit like moving to the other side of a swimming pool when a bunch of teenagers start playing rap music at upwards of 90 decibels in your ear.

But this theory isn't always sound. Much of the time that desire to use up all the line on your reel means that actually you are casting right over the fishes' heads. It's very much a macho thing, as if outcasting everyone else somehow makes you as sexy as Brad Pitt. Mysteriously, women appear to be distinctly unimpressed by this attribute.

It also doesn't make a lot of sense, reminding me of the joke about two Irishmen standing on opposite sides of a river. "How do I get to the other side?" shouts one. "You're already there," shouts the other. If you're on one side of a river or lake, trying to cast to the far side because more fish live there, what would a fisherman on the other bank be doing?

It is strange how anglers are so convinced that an extra few feet of line will turn an empty creel into a full one. You start with your wellies, move on to thigh waders and then, If you are truly serious, you buy a pair of chest waders. It cannot be that long before some enterprising manufacturer creates head-high waders.

I'm also told that certain fetishists find that there is nothing sexier than someone wearing chest-high rubber boots. As my waders are used only for paddling in rivers, I can't really tell you much more about this. But I did get a letter with photographs from a Devon reader two years ago, graphically illustrating this unusual hobby. I rapidly stuffed it in the wastebin in case my wife spotted it. Still, I suppose it could add a certain piquancy to those long winter nights.

All good clean fun, I suppose, but the more common use of such boots has a dangerous side. When you tumble into a lake or river wearing waders, it can be difficult to get back out - especially if the waders start to fill with water. Only last week, a story appeared about someone being drowned while wearing chest-high waders. To my surprise the victim was a woman rather than a man, although it appears from the version I read that she was not actually paddling but had slipped off the bank, which makes you wonder why she was wearing waders anyway.

It's a tragic story. William Hulme of Battersea, south London, had taken his wife on a salmon-fishing trip to Norway. She was fishing on the opposite bank, and he saw her slip into the river. Hulme tried to attract nearby anglers as her chest-high waders filled with water. In a vain attempt to save her, he pulled off his own waders and plunged into the river. Though she was a good swimmer, she had disappeared under the surface by then.

Dr Paul Knapman, the Westminster coroner, recording a verdict of accidental death, said: "As the angling season gets busier, the public and anglers should be aware of the dangers of wearing chest-high waders. For safety, some anglers commonly have a belt tied around their chests. Apparently, some people wear life-jackets as well."

Quite why the public need to be on the alert was not made clear, unless the coroner was referring to the same sort of diversion so vividly explained by Mr X of Devon. The real dangers are that so much water pours in that even a strong swimmer cannot stay afloat - or even of turning turtle and finding your boots admiring the sky and your head looking at the river- bed.

It sounds funny, but it's truly terrifying when it happens. I know, having rescued a friend who went through precisely this experience. Even now, he won't wade in water deeper than his knees. This is not a bad principle (though he still tries to cast his line to the horizon). As he says: "If God meant us to walk in water, he would have given us webbed feet."