A Cautionary Tale Of Using Waders on Boats


Below are a few notes that I have added to Herbs experience as I know quite a few anglers who fish on boats in waders at the Delta, Lake Otamangakau and also Lake Kuratau and more anglers seem to be fishing on Kayaks on Lake Taupo:

* First note is any waders will fill with water and add weight to you

* If on a boat always wear a lifejacket.

* If on a boat wear waterproof over trousers so if they do fill with water then this will not pool at the base of them or trap air which will keep your feet up.  Sometimes this causes problems to people as the air is trapped in the feet and anglers can't put their feet down.

* Wear solid wading boots to stop the neoprene feet from expanding

* If you are unstable on your feet or not a confident wader in rivers then any waders will fill up with water.  A suggestion is to wear a self inflating lifejacket.

* Use a wading stick or solid stick to help steady yourself if you are not a confident wader in rivers or are unstable on your feet

* If crossing rivers and you are unstable on your feet buddy up with another angler to cross (if the buddy is a confident wader). Hold onto them tightly and put the strongest wader on the upstream side to break the force of the water

* Having a wading jacket over the top of your waders that is "zipped up" has stopped a lot of water entering my waders when I have fallen in. Use the bungy cord at the base of the jacket to tighten around the waist. I have completely submerged and come up and only had a dribble go into my waders.

* Most breathable waders have a bungy cord at the top around the chest - do this up tight to stop the flapping Herb writes about

* Wear a wading belt firmly done up ... not loose

* Wear your wading belt higher up above your waist

* Use studs on wading boots to help with grip on slippery rocks

For more information on wading safely consult the following link



A Timely Wake-Up Call

Herb Spannagl


An unusually windy January offered few opportunities for us West Coasters to venture out wide looking for tuna. Halfway through the month the wind eased for a day but the sea was still heaving with a 3- 4m swell. After checking out the various Oracles my friends and I decided the conditions were manageable to head out into blue water.


We cleared the New Plymouth harbour and for the next three hours covered a lot of sea without finding fish. The westerly kicked in just in time to inflate the sails for the homeward run. When we approached the harbour the tide was in and big waves crashed right over the main breakwater and part of the port entrance, forcing us to circle wide before entering the port. Confident that I was clear of the breakers I had kept the sail up and had left my trolling line out. Suddenly the kayaker on my left yelled: ”Here is a good one”. I quickly looked over my shoulder but it was already too late. Only metres behind me roared a monster wave with a menacing breaking top. Before I could brace its steep face picked up my kayak’s stern at such a steep angle that the bow dug in and the kayak flipped. Luckily I was still hanging onto the paddle when I came up. The kayak was upside down and as I pulled it towards me on the paddle leash I could feel other lines trailing from the kayak. The sail had collapsed, I could feel my rods hanging from their tethers and try as I might I could not flip the kayak the right way up. Worse of all a strong outgoing current was dragging me back towards the breakers.


My two mates who had been slightly ahead realised my predicament and came back to assist. Before we could do anything we had to get further into the port to get clear of the outward current. I hung onto one kayak, while my other mate towed my kayak. In calmer water and with a lot of combined effort we eventually righted my kayak. As we were to discover later it was the amount of water trapped inside the insulated icebox that made the job so difficult. I normally have no trouble getting back onto the kayak but on that occasion I just could not launch myself far enough over the deck. As I repeatedly slipped back I could feel the energy draining from my body. Eventually I made it and as I did I realised why I had had so much trouble. Each leg of my breathable waders contained a lot of water making it very difficult to pull myself up.


I still don’t know how I ended up kneeling in the foot wells and with my kayak tightly wedged between my mates’s kayaks I could not hang my legs over the side to roll back into my seat. When I finally managed to plant my butt the water in my waders spread horizontally making me feel as if I were sitting in a shallow bathtub. It was only after we got to the ramp that I realised just how much water was inside. Before I could stand up I had to lie head down on the ramp to drain my waders. I had worn these waders for a number of years and with a tight wading belt around my waist I had re-entered during several practice sessions without much water getting past the belt. This and some Youtube clips had convinced me that stocking foot waders were safe.


I don’t mind admitting that the whole episode left me a bit rattled. Eventually I calmed down enough to check over the damage. One of the mast bases had broken, there was water in my “waterproof” radio bag yet the “Voyager” was still transmitting messages from the Coast Guard, my Lowrance sounder was still alive, my Olympus

camera was wet but still working and both my rods were there too. Amazingly I had only lost the lure and a fair chunk of my pride. As they say it could have been worse, far worse, actually.

It took me a day or two to debrief this event. I made a list of thirteen contributing

factors, some of which I shall detail below.



My first decision was to ditch the waders and buy a pair of buoyant neoprene kayak pants. Another aid to re-entering is wearing buoyant Crocs type footwear, which with the neoprene pants keep the legs near the surface. I had worn them without using the heel straps and they had simply floated off.


A few days later Martin Rook, who was one of my rescuers did a re-enter exercise in the shallows and to his great surprise found that the submerged sail was no great hindrance when flipping the kayak over. Neither did he have any trouble folding it up beneath the kayak by first releasing the forward bungie. The only problem he identified was that his personal tether was too short to reach the bow.


However, his biggest surprise was his difficulty to flip the kayak over with a half flooded icebox. Following that revelation I resolved that in future I would not secure the icebox, making it easier to dump it in an emergency.


With all the cords and fishing lines hanging from the kayak I exchanged my folding knife I carry inside my PFD for a more accessible divers knife that can be strapped to my leg.


Maybe it is my middle age spread but during my swim my tight fitting PFD floated up leaving me somewhat suspended. I have now built in a crotch strap, which I can tighten keeping the PFD where it should be. The strap does not pinch when I am sitting down.


Learning how water in the icebox impeded righting I had a good look at my hatches making sure they are waterproof. I am happy with the seals on both my forward hatch cover and the centre well lid, which I now keep closed and strapped down at all times.


For a long time one of my pet hates has been the thoughtless protrusions on the gunnels near the seat, such as saddles, brass clips, hooks and buttons as well as some handles, which are perfectly located to catch on a wet suit or PFD during re-entry. Some PFDs have chest straps and pockets that also catch on the above fixtures as the kayaker pulls him or herself over the gunnels. I noticed one of my pocket zip closures was missing and must have got ripped off during my attempts to get back on board. Lets face it re-entry is hard enough without having to try slithering over ill placed obstacles. PFD chest pockets are very handy for all manner of cargo but the downside is that this added bulk also hampers re-entry.


With a sail, paddle and rod leashes there are numerous cords floating around or hanging down in a capsize. What item is attached to which cord can be quite confusing, especially when some cords are tangled with others. One idea is to use different coloured cords for quick identification.

My mishap made me realise how easy it is to become complacent. In a somewhat perverse way I am glad this incident happened because it has forced me to look hard and to look close. When I consider the above list this has been a timely safety wake-

up call. I wonder how many others have confronted an honest personal safety



While I had a hard look at the use of breathable waders for kayak fishing I also remembered that I had only last year “upgraded” from buoyant neoprenes to non-

While I had a hard look at the use of breathable waders for kayak fishing I also remembered that I had only last year “upgraded” from buoyant neoprenes to non-buoyant breathables for winter fly fishing on the Tongariro.


Years ago we tested neoprenes by jumping into a local river and even when we filled them with water they remained buoyant. This has been born out by a number of unfortunate anglers who have survived floating down several Tongariro rapids. Much has been made of the need to wear a wading belt with breathables to stop water entering. However, my experience has shown that this is an illusion. The wading belt is around one’s waist, which leaves a loose bib that extends right under the armpits ( plenty of breathable waders have a bungy cord at the top of the wader which can be tightened to eliminate most of this looseness - my suggestion is do this up firmly). This bib acts like a funnel if the floater tries to stand up, hang onto a rock or even tries to swim against or across the current. Once water is trapped in the bib current or gravity can force it past the belt into the lower part of the waders. I am sure my repeated attempts to get up onto the kayak funnelled much of the water down my waders.


The realisation that breathables can so easily turn into a death trap has made me doubly cautious when wading over the boulder-strewn bed of the Tongariro. No more crossings where the wading stick starts to vibrate, the knees begin to shake like an old fashioned sewing machine and the inevitable question: “Is this going to be it?”

forces itself on one’s mind. Much as I love the outdoors this little “What if” reflection has been good for me. It is also time well spent for all with a passion for

the Wild.




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