With each passing year, shore anglers driven to pursue the extraordinary are being forced into ever-decreasing circles. As numbers and sizes of our favourite species nosedive, so the effort needed to pick out that special one becomes more extreme and many may feel increasingly compelled to take on the most remote marks and the most perilous conditions to have a genuine chance of finally connecting with the fish of their dreams. How often, though, do you see a shore angler in a life jacket?
Of all types of shore angling, it is undoubtedly the rock angler who is most at risk. A lofty vantage point, a thick swell rolling in from the deeps and a hefty specimen languishing in the heaving white water at the base of the rocks just out of reach – this kind of situation is typical of the critical moments where a life could so easily be lost. Yet this is the bread and butter of my and many other anglers’ fishing and our safety depends on our ability to make smart judgment calls in such challenging predicaments.
Until recently, my safety game revolved mainly around a good pair of studded boots and the odd rope here and there, but sometime in late November, my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas and without thinking I replied, ‘A lifejacket’. My choice was undoubtedly influenced by one or two things that had happened throughout the course of my fishing year – nothing that dramatic but incidents that reminded me of how vulnerable I was on the rocks, particularly as I do so much of my fishing on my own.
I think it’s important to stress that I am under no illusion that simply wearing a lifejacket is going to automatically save my life if I were to end up in the water, and I’m certainly not taking any more risks now that I’m equipped with one. The crucial thing to me is that a lifejacket can only improve my odds of survival if something unexpected was to happen and, importantly, makes it more likely that I will be rescued or recovered as quickly as possible.
I have worn my lifejacket on all of my sessions out on the rocks so far this year, finding it comfortable and of no hindrance to me when going about the many processes of fishing. Suffice it to say that with a variety of lifejackets available to suit all tastes and budgets, there is little reason not to go down this route if you are looking to take every reasonable measure you can to ensure your safety whilst fishing.