Cold and clinging desperately to an overhanging willow branch, Ormondville man Ian Tong was sure he was going to die after being swept into the Tukituki River on Monday.
The 64-year-old was fishing alone near Waipawa around midday, when he felt the current change. He lost his footing as he turned to get out.
The waders he was wearing filled with water and he was swept down the Waipawa River and then into the Tukituki.
"I was in such a bad state. I was unable to move and had no strength due to being in the water for so long.
"I thought I was going to die.
"At first, I was trying to hold on to an overhanging willow branch, but the current was too strong and I had swallowed too much water, and I just drifted off."
He awoke on a sandbar about 10km down river near Pourere Rd, Omakere, and vomited up a lot of water.
The spot near to where Tong was found. Google Maps
He could see cars going over the road bridge, but no one stopped and he had "just about given up hope" of being found.
"With the last bit of strength I had, I managed to shout as best I could for help, and thank God I was heard by the young man who rescued me. I think he was called Stephen."
The young man dragged Tong to shallower water and caught the attention of a farmer who was driving over the bridge.
The two called emergency services and sat with Tong until the Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter arrived about 1.30pm.
Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust general manager Ian Wilmot said Tong was "very, very hypothermic" and had ingested a fair amount of water.
"We got him out of the wet clothes and warmed [him] up."
Tong was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital for assessment. He was later discharged and sent home.
He said he was "very lucky" and owed his life to the rescue team.
"I'm now home feeling grateful but still a bit uneasy after my near-death experience.
"And all I can say is thank you very much to all who saved my life on Monday."
The spot near Waipawa, was usually a "beautiful area for trout" fishing but Tong said he now knew it was "obviously more dangerous than it looks".
Despite having fished for more than 50 years, he said the experience had taught him "the hard way" it's not safe to fish alone.
"No matter how confident you think you are, you are not."
He said he would never go fishing alone again, and even if it "looked stupid", he would start wearing a life jacket.