Water Safety Reminder

The more I got into climbing, I knew I would meet some wonderful people in that world. But the harsh reality there was knowing that as that community grew, so would the number of friends who passed away.

Weeks and years would drift by, and so I would wait for that type of news to land. I guess that’s why the news that actually struck reeled me, hard. For me, fishing is the thing to do to relax and unwind, even though we all know it can be hectic, stressful, and painful.

Jon Zukowski took his last step into his favorite river on April 6th, 2022.

While not native to Oregon, Jon never resurfaced after unknowingly stepping off of a shelf when he was walking to retrieve a boat that kicked loose from rising water levels. It took fish and game nearly a month to locate his body in the river.

It’s worth noting that Jon was about as experienced an outdoorsman as they came, all at the young age of 31. Having been a highly successful game bird and deer hunter, fly angler and tier, Jon was in his element when he left us.

I’ve spent far too long debating what went wrong, if there was anyone to blame or if anything else could have happened differently. The easiest answer is that he may have not gone for the boat but he did so as he and the two people he was with would have been stranded on an island. I’ve come to the conclusion that the cold water was a shock on his system, preventing him from reacting in a way we all like to think we could.

Water filling up your waders seems to be something we all know can happen but assume it will never happen to us. I must admit that I’ve been too careless a few too many times and laughed off the close calls. I just hope this can be a simple reminder to keep safety measures in mind.

Make sure that wading belt is tightened up, take your time wading and if you’re fishing below a dam, be ready for things to change quickly. Please remember this during these times of high and cold water.

If you’d like to read more about Jon, click here.

Stay safe out there folks,

J Hardesty

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