Taking an Unwanted Swim
Updated: Mar 11
Over the years I have had 4 people fall out of the boat. One of them can be attributed to my lack of maneuvering the drift boat, the rest I can happily pass the blame to the angler. Fortunately, everyone was wearing their life-jacket, and no one was hurt in these events.
The first swim was caused by a shallow rock, hidden just under the surface. I had dropped the oars and was reaching into the cooler to grab the clients a drink. The boat managed to turn sideways and picked up a little speed. We hit the rock in the dead center of the boat - ejecting the client standing up front like Superman. The water was deep enough to absorb his belly flop without any harm. My drift boat was left with a permanent reminder of the event.
On a day that was more like babysitting than guiding flyfishing, a group of 40 year-olds were pretending to be 20 year-olds again and had proceeded to put down 30 or so beers on the voyage. Just after lunch we were pulled over, stopped on anchor, chatting away with the other boat in the group. The inebriated client in the front of the boat decided to stand up, and instantly fell backwards, back-flipping into the river. We all got a solid laugh on his behalf!
A really nice couple were floating with me on their first drift boat trip. The wife was fishing in the front of the boat, and when she hooked up on her first fish of the day, she started walking backwards ( just like she was beaching the fish on shore). At the time I had a very low sided boat (pictured). She hit the edge of the boat and back-flipped like a scuba diver into the drink! When she popped up I grabbed her fly rod and handed it to her husband. Since she was a small lady, I was able to quickly yank her back into the boat. She did not and the fish.
I was guiding a grandfather / grandson pair in the Spring. The grandfather was about 85 years old and weighed in excess of 300 lbs. He was in the back of the boat and when we got to Dripping Springs Rapid I didn't notice that he was still standing up. When we hit the first set of waves, he lost his balance and reached for the knee brace. The knee brace that he was positioned in was removable and when he pulled up on it instead of leaning into it, he proceeded to launch himself and the brace into the river. When he popped up I could see the fear of death in his eyes. He was in fast water and floating down the middle of the river. I hastily rowed over to him and had him grab onto the side of the boat. Once I got the boat to shore I tried to yank him aboard, as I wanted him out of the cold river ASAP. I ripped his pants and after a couple tries realized that I could not get him in. I was about to move him to a better spot where he could stand up, when another guide that had watched the entire event jumped into my boat and helped me get him to safety. After about 20 minutes of letting our adrenaline calm down, we proceeded to float the rest of the A Section. I am pretty sure that the knee brace is still on the bottom of the river.
I have not lost anyone from the boat in 10+ years and I am knocking on wood as I type this.