Dealing with water rescue, it is valuable to have an easily thrown rope nearby. There are specific items made for this, such as this throw bag with 50 ft. of high visibility MFP rope by Scotty.

How can one prepare for rope rescue in advance, in case it is needed, without having purchased a pre-made throw bag? The specific context I'm asking in is primarily for ice-fishing, secondarily for boating. This is assuming I have plenty of suitable rope and just need to upgrade some of that to a setup for easy access and throwing, whether that's by manufacturing my own throw bag or using specific techniques with rope to be prepared for rescue at a moment's notice.

There are some key features I'm thinking the throw bag rescue rope setup has, and most are replicable. I'm just not sure how to replicate some of the features.

Features making throw bags so valuable:

  1. Conveniently close, but not too intrusively, the rope must be accessible. If oneself or one's peer falls in, a helpful rope will be one that can be quickly thrown to the victim from a rescuer or potentially to a rescuer from a victim.
  2. The rope must be spooled in such a way that it can be thrown a distance without tangling, catching itself, and limiting the distance or precision of the throw.
  3. There must be loops on both end of the rope, one for thrower and one for catcher, to handle the rope and wrap it around arms or other items to safely tow and reel in a victim.
  4. The thrown-end of the rope must have some weight to it to enable a distant and accurate throw, but the weight also should be relatively soft so to avoid any possibly injuries to a victim already in danger.
  5. High visibility of rope is a must, as victims can easily become disoriented and lose track of the direction toward safety. Flotation is not important, and maybe is even not desirable, as the rope may be better off going beneath the surface in case the victim is submerged. A flotation device is not what this throw-bag is for, though if the throw-bag rope could be coupled with a flotation device such as the rescue donuts in boating, all the better.

I have plenty of high visibility rope, 7mm+ thickness. I can manage to tie loops at both ends of the rope and have some guesses at adding a weight to one end that wouldn't knock someone out if it landed on their head.

What I'm mainly uncertain about is how to accomplish 1 and 2 simultaneously - I've only ever had to do one at a time, but to be prepared for sudden rescue situations on ice or boat, it seems both needs to be accomplished to carry a useful rope on your person. Suggestions of loops used in 3 and weights for 4 would also be helpful.

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    I don't agree float is not desirable. Search you tube on throw climbing rope. youtube.com/watch?v=mcHoXpHi5yU
    – paparazzo
    Jan 13, 2017 at 16:00
  • My thinking that floating is not necessarily a good thing for this is that the primary use is ice fishing, in which case, if the victim is on the surface and the rope is in the water, the victim can probably reach the rope. If the victim is beneath the surface, having something highly visible dangling down from the hole they can surface to is precious. On a different note, good point on researching throw ropes - just takes the bag out of the equation and simplifies this equipment question by making it more a technique (knots, coiling, throwing) question. That could serve as an answer
    – cr0
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:09
  • The question was mostly focused on fabrication of a throw bag, but 'do without the bag, just throw rope (and know the coils and knots to facilitate that for a rescue)' could work. The main question is in bold in the OP: How can one prepare for rope rescue in advance, in case it is needed, without having purchased a 'throw bag'?
    – cr0
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:30
  • Got it, I suppose I mean both (I was mainly thinking fabricating a bag because those bags seemed the most suitable) but your video helps me see that the alternative of just having rope to throw well can work. I added clarification
    – cr0
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


A line that sinks would be an deadweight if you had to throw again, and hard to find. The throw bag also gives an obvious floating target and flies well (for a difficult throw with a long line current teaching is to clip on a carabiner as the added weight gives more distance and accuracy).

Throwing a rope to a sunken victim is a recipe for failure especially if there's even the slightest current. A personal flotation device is a good idea if the risk of entering the water unexpectedly is significant.

Current teaching (in white water rescue) is also to avoid loops that could twist round body parts so the bag gives something to grab. You'd only restuff a bag if you had plenty of time - for a rethrow, coiling (actually lap coiling) is recommended.

Throw lines also come in two main types - light, flat ropes designed for ease of throwing, and much stronger, heavier ropes which can be used in other rescue and recovery techniques. A light bag of 15 or 20 metres isn't particularly expensive.

So to improvise, forget the bag and throw a rope. There may be some margin to tying a sealed, empty plastic bottle on the throwing end, but you'd want to practice this in advance - it might be too light as the bag is weighted by the remaining rope and the bottle isn't.

  • Good stuff in this answer. I imagine there are some key differences between ice rescue vs. swift water rescue. For one, what I read about ice rescue suggests rescue rope should have fixed loops at each end. Ex: outdoors.stackexchange.com/a/14630/8443 or cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Fishing/IceFishing/…
    – cr0
    Jan 13, 2017 at 20:19
  • Regarding your last paragraph, and the other outdoors.SE answer I linked to, I wonder: what serves well as a floating weight that can be thrown? A water bottle sealed with some water in it could have some weight and float, but be pretty unwieldy to throw
    – cr0
    Jan 13, 2017 at 20:43
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    @cr0 I had a foam (probably nerf) rocket/stick grenade for pool/kayak games. Not really in the spirit of improvisation though. A 1litre/2 pint milk bottle (en-us: jug?) would have a handle you could tie to. Or a piece of branch a couple of inches thick and 10 long
    – Chris H
    Jan 13, 2017 at 21:13
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    If the other thread is the one I think it is, I do wonder if moving water techniques have moved on leaving other situations in the past. There are throwlines sold for kayaking/canoeing with loops, and we're taught to run a clean line free of snag and entanglement points.
    – Chris H
    Jan 13, 2017 at 21:16

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