Should you Consider a PFD?
by Tony Jelinek – Fishmaster, Rivers & Streams
Have you seen the commercial on television about water safety and wearing a PFD (personal flotation device or life jacket) when engaging in water sports on the river? I saw it just the other day. One of the shots showed an angler on a river wearing what looked like a combination fishing vest and personal flotation device. And, guess what, he was.
I have never considered wearing a PFD when fishing on the river or from a float tube, and nobody has ever recommended wearing one. We all talk about having the right type of wading boots, using a wading staff, and wearing a wading belt around the waist, but nobody has ever mentioned that I should consider wearing a lifejacket.
According to Discover the Outdoors (http://www.dto.com/fwfishing/safety/water/446), “drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and every year a portion of those accidental deaths are fishermen who drown during a routine day on the water. More than half of all wading fatalities are ‘flush drownings,’ where a person is swept away by the current and cannot keep their head above water. Thirty percent become entrapped and unable to free themselves, while the remaining 10 percent die from head wounds from the resulting fall.”
The website goes on to mention the advantages of wearing a PFD. “Few wading anglers consider wearing life jackets (PFDs), but every angler should. Even strong swimming fishermen can be overwhelmed by powerful currents or impaired by a fall. There are now many life jackets on the market that double as fishing vests. Some of today’s inflatable personal flotation devices (PFDs) will only inflate when needed, leaving the angler with almost no bulk and complete freedom of movement while fishing.”
What are some of your PFD options? Stohlquist makes PFDs primarily designed for kayakers but also makes the Stohlquist Fisherman PFD with all the usual accessories of a fly-fishing vest – multiple tool hangers, multiple pockets for storing tippet, fly boxes, and other accessories. The PFD sells for $130. From Cabela’s and Outcast anglers, along with others, the minimalist self-inflating horse-collar style PFDs are available. These run from about $90 to $180. One of the newer style minimalist PFDs on the market is the Hyde Wingman. At only 1.6 pounds and 0.4 inches thick the vest is intriguing. This PFD is pricier at $225 with a first-time purchase 10% discount. Hyde is also developing hip belt and pouch accessories that would work well for fishing, or you could probably use the traditional hip belt or front pouch assembly. It also is thin enough, where a fishing vest could be worn directly over the Wingman.
Will I be heading out to purchase a PFD? I think it is time to take the step. Depending on the river conditions, a PFD is essential. According to Ralph Cutter, he does not always wear a PFD while wading but assesses the situation before making his choice. In hazardous wading conditions such as in high-volume runoff or wading at night, he wears a PFD. I did recently cruise class II rapids while wearing a PFD and felt in control and safe. I know when sitting in a float tube for a few hours, I have thought about what would happen if I slip into the cold water, and my waders fill with water. I would probably have difficulty staying afloat; so a PFD would be a good idea. Forgo that new rod and get yourself a PFD, because a PFD should be strongly considered and may just save your life.