Safety Advice for Anglers visiting the Teifi Valley

River and lakes can be dangerous places. This Fact File highlights some of the dangers and suggests how you can minimise the risks to yourself, to others and to the environment.

Personal safety on rivers

  • Every year many strong swimmers lose their lives in spate rivers. The force and the turbulent nature of the current make it difficult to scramble out, especially where the banks are high. Areas where the river flows over bedrock or through narrow gorges are particularly hazardous, and should be approached with great caution - preferably with suitable studded footwear.

  • If you should fall in, use your arms to protect your head. Roll onto your back and kick with your legs towards quiet water. Chest or thigh waders will not pull you under (as is often suggested); indeed, they tend to trap air and add to your natural buoyancy. However, they can increase the weight you have to drag up the bank.

  • Beware of undercut banks. Especially after rain they can fall in on you as you wade beneath them. More often a collapse occurs as you approach the edge of a high bank, when both you and the bank could fall in, perhaps onto another angler. Deep undercuts are especially likely on the outside of bends in the watercourse. Keep well back from the edge when passing these hazards.

  • If  you can't swim then don't wade - even in the shallower stretches of the river. If you must wade then a wading stick can improves your stability. Look out for submerged tree roots or boulders which produce depressions upstream and alongside. (Lamprey redds cut in spring can be hard to spot once coated in algae.)

  • Beware of rapid rises in water level. It may be fine where you are fishing, but raining heavily in the hills. Your path to safety may quickly be cut off.

  • Never wade in coloured water where you cannot see the bottom. A spate can cause gravel to shift so that what was once a safe area becomes a death trap.

  • Only wade a pool at night if you have surveyed it by day. (Never assume that last year's 'recce' is still valid: rivers change!)

  • Should you discover another angler in difficulty out of his depth, first look for something to bridge the gap between you - a piece of driftwood, a landing net handle, even your fishing rod - rather than jump in and risk a double tragedy. (Of course, courageous acts are justified when there is no alternative, provided you are a strong swimmer and, ideally, have had life-saving training.)

Personal safety on lakes

  • Many natural upland lochs, loughs and lakes have areas where the bank is steep and rocky. Choose footwear which offers a secure grip on rocks (leather soled shoes are particularly dangerous, as are studded waders. If fishing over deep water with a high bank, it is sensible to wear a vest or jacket with inbuilt buoyancy.

  • When fishing from a boat, wear a buoyancy aid, and cast and net your fish without standing up. The reduction in noise and your reduced visibility will improve your chances of catching fish. And you rarely need to cast far if you keep low!

  • Cast so that your line is well away from your boat partner or boatman, and encourage them to wear head and eye protection.

  • On large waters, don't take risks: if the weather threatens to turn squally, return to shore.

Safe Use of Fishing Tackle

  • Carbon fishing rods conduct electricity, so do not cast near overhead power lines. It is also wise to put away your fishing rod whenever there is lightning about.

  • Keep a safe distance from other river users when casting, especially with flyfishing tackle. Let other anglers know if you intend passing behind them. Some anglers are hard of hearing, so having called out make sure you get a reply.

  • Use scissors, not your hands, to cut nylon. If your fly, spinner or bait gets snagged and you cannot work it free, break away safely. One way is to wrap the line around a sleeve of your coat to obtain a safe grip.

  • Protect your eyes with sun-glasses, especially in windy conditions. If you get caught up in a tree, turn your back when pulling free, as a breaking line can spring back with great force.

Protection of Wildlife

  • Do not discard nylon by the waterside: it can injure and kill birds and other small creatures. Roll up used nylon and cut it into short lengths before taking it home to burn it. In this way, should you accidentally drop it, there is no risk to wildlife.

  • Never leave baited hooks or flies hanging from trees, because birds or bats could seize them with disastrous consequences. Use a pole, rather than climbing the tree, to recover tackle caught in branches overhanging the water.

  • Don't use lead shot; there are approved substitutes. Even then, never discard used shot by the riverside; take it home.

  • Avoid damaging the river bank, its trees and bushes, and the marginal weed beds; they are home to numerous small creatures.

  • Aquatic weed harbours insect life essential to the health of the river. These insects in turn form a vital part of the food supply for trout as well as juvenile migratory fish. So if wading among weed beds try to avoid breaking the stems.

How you can help

  • If you find a safety hazard such as a damaged foot-bridge, please let the Committee know about it. That way we can get it put right without delay.

  • If you see any person behaving in a way likely to put themselves, other people or the wildlife of the river at risk, warn them of the danger. If they persist, let the club secretary have their name, address and car registration number and give details of the incident. Please do so without delay.