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  1. Scotland
  2. Border Esk
  3. For beginners

For beginners

Health and safety in Fishing

While fishing on the river or one of its tributaries, there are a considerable number of potential problems which may be encountered. Only so many of these can be anticipated and it is clearly impossible to list every single risk as certain circumstances can be totally unforeseen.

Check with the ghillie or river manager at the beginning of your day's fishing for all known risks at the specific venue. Much of the responsibility for your safety lies with you, so take care, move slowly and above all, use common sense at all times. Below are some of the more common risks associated with fishing and while some may appear obvious, they should be borne in mind at all times.

At the River side

When walking to/from or beside a river, loch, jetty, pontoon or platform, try only to use obvious paths where available. Banks Beware of undercuts in banks especially near deep water. Stone or mud banks and walls are slippery, steep and uneven - move slowly with caution.


Steps can be very slippery. Take extreme caution especially on steep bankings or when entering old stone boathouses. Stiles, Bridges and Fences Always take care when negotiating stiles, crossing bridges and climbing fences, which may be slippery and potentially unsound. Beware of barbed wire. Electric Fences Electric fences which are used for the control of animals and can periodically discharge high voltages. Contact may result in a painful electric shock, or worse.


Take particular care when wading in deep or fast water and on rocky bottoms. It is recommended that you use a wading staff and wading belt at all times, and a life preserver is recommended. Do not enter the water if the river level is very high and be aware of the risk of quickly rising water or flash flooding. Felt-soled waders offer excellent grip on stone or gravel but are very slippery on mud or wet grass.

Falling In Water

Falling in the water may cause drowning. It is recommended a buoyancy aid is worn at all times when on, in or near water. Care should be taken when retrieving a dropped item.

Power lines

Do not fish under or near power lines. Electricity can arc over considerable distances. You are ideally earthed in water to conduct electricity, and carbon fibre rods are excellent conductors of electricity as is a fly line coated in water.


You are perfectly earthed when in water and a carbon fibre rod is an excellent lightning conductor. If you are on a boat you and your rod may well be the highest point around and a prime target for a lightening strike. Wherever you are fishing, put your rods down horizontally somewhere safe and take shelter ideally in a car, building or hut but not under trees.


Always be aware of other people on a bank by avoiding hitting anyone with your back-cast/flies. If you are on a boat, take extra care if you have other occupants whilst casting. A peaked hat is recommended and glasses must be worn when fishing at all times to protect your eyes from hooks. Spectators should always stand behind an angler while casting.



Hooks are sharp and can easily penetrate the skin. Their use brings them into contact with bacteria etc that can be injurious to health. Caution should be used when handling hooks. Rusty hooks should be avoided at all times. Weighted flies cause unpredictable movement of the leader when casting. Extreme caution should be exercised when casting weighted flies to ensure they do not come into contact with you, fellow anglers or members of the public.


Fishing under trees can be unsafe in windy conditions. Beware of falling branches.


Avoid cows with young calves, bulls, rams and farm dogs. Approach the river or lake with caution. Do not touch snakes and do not put any part of your body into burrows, holes, stone walls or other similar openings.


Avoid wasps, hornets nests and beehives and wear insect repellent to reduce the risk of insect bites. Stings and bites must be treated immediately. Check for ticks after returning home. Remove any ticks, swab with alcohol and apply antiseptic cream. Report any unexplained fever or rash around the bite site as soon as possible to your doctor, at risk of Lyme's Disease.

weil's Disease & sewage effluent

Weil's disease is transmitted in rat's urine. Never put wet lines in your mouth or any other items of tackle that has been in the water. Wear waterproof plasters on any cuts or abrasions. Weil's disease symptoms are flu like. Report any unexplained flu like symptom or fever to your doctor. There may also be a risk in some waters from treated sewage effluent.

blue-green Algae

Avoid contact with blue-green algae. If contact is made, wash off immediately and never drink the water. Never let your dog ingest blue-green algae as there is no cure and it is always fatal.

Poisonous plants

Never touch any part of the Giant Hogweed as its sap is caustic and can cause severe burns. Never lick, chew or eat any unidentified plant, berries, fungi or mushrooms.

Boat pontoons

Be aware that pontoons constantly move, and are hence unstable. They are invariably wet and slippery which makes walking on them difficult and possibly unsafe. Maximum caution is needed.


Boats are constantly moving and are unstable when their balance is disturbed. Maximum caution is needed when getting on or off a boat or moving around. Wherever possible avoid standing up in boats and never fish while standing. Be aware other boats can approach you from any angle and may be unpredictable in their direction. If you have a motorised craft, you should always give way to those drifting or under sail. A buoyancy aid should always be worn when fishing from a boat.

Weather Conditions

Weather can change suddenly and cause unforeseen dangerous water conditions. Be constantly aware of changing weather conditions and its potential consequences. Strong winds make casting difficult and potentially dangerous. Avoid sunburn and the potential of sun stroke. Protective clothing, dependent on weather, should be worn.

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