Posts Tagged ‘hypothermia


Fully Loaded……..

Winter Preparations: Mind numbing cold…second guessing your pursuit. Wearing layers to the max and still the fingers feel as if a hammer has smacked them and the toes are getting numb. All the personal drive and desire to hook a Steelhead in the cold flows is seriously challenged by nature’s weather offerings. Beginner or seasoned, are you prepared? Change of clothing? Notifications made of where you will be? Emergency plan and communications if you get injured? Have you studied up a bit on hypothermia and recognize the early warning signs? 

Hiking, photography, skiing, snow shoeing, camping, fishing in the Winter, even if in close proximity to your rig, require some forethought to what if’s and the consequences of your decisions. Gear, checklist, notifications where you will be, weather reports, change of clothing, full tank….Semper Paratus!

™ Spey SwittersB-Winter-Two hander-fishing-steelhead-Oregon


Enduring the cold: A State of Mind

Early Season Stillwater SB

Yes, that is a snow squall approaching behind me.

There are few things in life I hate more than being cold. It can almost be debilitating for me regardless of what I am wearing. Believe me, when I say, I have wearing layers down to an art. Yet, I still can ‘suffer’ through events like the soccer game this past weekend. ‘Suffer’? Well I know short of begging a dose of hypothermia, I am not really suffering compared to the real ordeals of life.

But, I find it always interesting how our frame of mind, our perception of the moment can make all the difference at least for awhile…in the cold. I can endure a lot of cold if a fly rod is in my hand. Hours and hours of freezing temps, ice in the guides etc. Change the circumstances and I am mentally wimping out. Frame of mind, focus, strength for what matters in the moment. Recreation or life’s larger struggles.


Frostbite: Wilderness Medical Society

Frostbite: The excellent publications from the Wilderness Medical Society offer advanced information on how to handle maladies related to outdoor activities, and in particular under mountaineering conditions. I believe much of this advice is pertinent to the outdoorsman that plans on heading out into Winter conditions to hunt, fish, photograph, camp, snowmobile etc.


Heat Loss Through Head

I have joked with my family and friends for years through outdoor activities about wearing a warm hat in inclement weather…”Do you know you can lose 75% of your heat through your head?”

Well, of course, some wise ass, smarty pants (WASP) had to do the research to debunk my admonition and my credibility. Here is a small piece re heat loss via the head in different situations. In a worse case scenario of hypothermia, you may want to heed my advice….or theirs.

Here is my daughter, today in Seattle (UW), blatantly taunting me!


Fly Fishing’s Barometer Rising


River's Edge and Frozen Sand (SwittersB) PP

A few days ago, I was fishing in a frustrating combination of events. Now the temps are rising, fronts are coming in and offering up rain, but maybe not too much to blow things out. Warmer temps, more manageable conditions, less stumbling around in a pre-hypothermic state, safer wading…a definite incentive to get out in this window of opportunity. Like much in life, one cannot be left with an outing that was so void of positives re technique and efficiency. A positive imprint with some successes must be created. Without those, frustrated fly fishers fall away. I vowed to use that two hander more, and I too require some successful outings to build upon. Now that I think about it, maybe the barometer is falling…….


Vehicle Survival Kit (How’s Yours?)

I won’t go over the same common sense lists of materials one should have in their vehicle during Winter travel or anytime you venture off the roadways or deep away from others. These two sites provide those lists: Jungle Training & Safety One International.

No doubt you can provide a dependable cache of materials, but here, I wanted to simply remind you to have the equipment updated (batteries), reachable (not buried in back where you won’t reach it once in a ditch) and have it organized for a real life event. Oh, where in the hell is the duct tape and bungee’s on these lists? Re water containers, remember water containers my rupture in extreme cold, so use a container that can suffer the cold extremes. Extra clothing should be with you whenever you go fishing…right? Go under once and you will remember to have a change of clothing.

An additional thing: in extreme cold, ice in the guides, severe winds….all very cool to be out there waving the rod. But, do you really know how you function in these conditions? Do not waste your core body heat while outdoors. Dress with clothing that can handle the cold. Store the cotton hoodie and cheap cotton stocking cap. To start stumbling back toward your rig and feel that desperate, fumbling feeling is unsettling.

Be prepared once back to the rig to find your keys (what are you going to do if you lost them…a spare?), to open your rig up and start the engine and crank up the heat. You will know if you over did it if you stumble/fumble about in a panicked state. If so, assess then what to improve upon. Clothing, location, duration? Or, forgo the deep freeze times?

Hypothermia Signs

Animals & Hypothermia


Hypothermia and Fly Fishing

“A warm hat can help significantly, especially since 50% of body heat is lost through the head.” (COLD)

Conserve Head Heat


Wading for Old Guys (or tired bodies….)

bird wade Rusty One Robinson reserveIf  you are an infrequent fisher or an older more sedentary fly fisher, a self assessment is in order. A few short years ago, a few years short of 60…I recall playing fishing while moving downstream over irregular surfaces and in strong currents at mid thigh. After releasing the fish, I would wade back upstream against the current feeling the force but moving with a strong glide against the flow. 

This past March, I was out with Matt McCrary on a late Spring drift on the Clackamas R. A long Winter of slogging around in the cold waving the two hander should have maintained some degree of fitness, but alas, I found myself stumbling about while wading in water that a few short years ago would not have challenged me. Stumbling about, as if drunk, I realized that in the water or on shore, I was tired and my feet did not seem in sync with my mind. I vowed to improve my hip and leg strength and cursed the sedentary life I have slipped into (behind a desk and/or driving up and down the freeway to one problem or another). 

So, get or stay strong for the currents. Pick your route. Stay high and dry in sub temps…a long slog back to the rig in hypothermic delirium is dangerous. As you fumble to find your keys and manipulate them into the ignition….you are at risk.



Hypothermia (Fly Fishers Often at Risk…Watch Out for Eachother)

Maggies Farm points the way to a good site re outdoor survival skills in cold and cool weather. The info is dated and still critically vital… 

“…many hypothermia victims die each year in the process of being rescued. In “rewarming shock,” the constricted capillaries reopen almost all at once, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. The slightest movement can send a victim’s heart muscle into wild spasms of ventricular fibrillation. In 1980, 16 shipwrecked Danish fishermen were hauled to safety after an hour and a half in the frigid North Sea. They then walked across the deck of the rescue ship, stepped below for a hot drink, and dropped dead, all 16 of them.”

Symptoms to look for:
-Intense shivering; slowing of pace, poor coordination, ability to perform complex tasks.
– Shivering persists, stumbling, thickness of speech, sluggish thinking, feeling of deep cold or numbness.
– Shivering decreases. Disorientation. Stiffening of muscles, jerky movements.
– Exhaustion, hallucinations and inability to get up after rest.

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August 2020

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