Mr Bell was criticised for his actions by the RSPCA
Jeff Bell, of Hallbankgate, drove a tractor and trailer onto ground flooded by the River Eden to rescue 100 ewes.
He feared they would swim for shore and drown, so ignored advice from fire officers, the RSPCA and police and went to the aid of his livestock.
Mr Bell said: “The Environment Agency said the water was at its maximum. I knew they were not going to get washed away but I thought they might try and swim across the river and drown.
“The RSPCA threatened me with prosecution if I tried to reach them and they were frightened into the river"
“I thought it was safe enough to do it.”
He said the sheep were fully recovered after standing for hours knee-deep in water.
A crowd gathered to watch Sunday’s rescue as some of the sheep swam to shore.
John Baillie, Carlisle group manager with Cumbria Fire and Rescue, said Mr Bell had put himself and others at risk as turbulent waters rushed past just metres away.
He added: “Our first priority is human life and we put that above animals. I put water teams into position to rescue Mr Bell if anything went wrong. We just monitored the situation and in the end no one lost their lives.
“My advice to farmers would be if it is going to rain, get animals to higher ground.
“This could very easily have been a tragedy.”