Just reading the title of this article, I know what you’re thinking, nothing will happen to me, It’s Fly fishing! That may be true for most of us to a point, but trust me when i say, some of the wildest things happen in the most unusual situations.
As a Fly Fishing Guide for over 2 decades, I have seen my share of the unexpected.
I thought it would be helpful to share with y’all what you can, or should do if something were to happen to you on your adventure or at least give you some food for thought before you head out into the wild unknown.
Also, as a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, nor am I an expert in outdoor survival and I claim not to be… But what I can do is give you my “in the field and on the water” experiences that I have learned from and share that with you, So he we go!
- Before you even decide to drive to the river or your favorite run, make sure you have gas in the car, water to drink and let someone know where you’re going. You don’t need to be exact, but at least which river. This is not only for your safety but in case you need to be found for some other reasons.
- Be prepared for anything. In Colorado, my home sweet home, you never can underestimate the weather, it can change on a dime, from beautiful bluebird skies in the morning to thunder and lightning or even snow in the afternoon. Take warm clothes and good rain-gear. these things takes up little room and pays for itself the first downpour when the fish start rising.
- Make sure you do some research on the water you’re heading to: Such as, Is it a tailwater of freestone river? What’s the water temp? Is the bottom slick or mossy, rocky or silty? What’s the flow? Should I take a staff or have cleats? Do I need waders or can I wet wade? Is it buggy? (not our kind of bugs but the annoying kind)
- Bring a snack always! Trust me, you’re not going home sooner that you think especially if the hatch goin off.
- Have all your paperwork in order. License is up to date, both of them, fishing and drivers.
- Check that you have ALL your gear; waders, boots, vest, bags, nets, boxes, all the things you need or don’t, Just bring it. I have been with clients that refuse to get dressed up at the shop only to find out 10 miles up the river they are missing a boot that fell out in the hotel room when they were bragging about their new “killer pattern”to show their fishing buddies after a couple of beers. It happens. Also alway bring and use your net, period.
- When you are heading to your secret spot, don’t become road blind and just focus on the river and ignore others on the road, you would be surprised how may bicyclist, walkers or animals nearly get hit by fishermen NOT paying attention to the road.
- When you find your water, don’t get upset if someone else is in it. Don’t get territorial, don’t get all angry. If you are a well seasoned angler, find another spot, truthfully, there are fish everywhere if you know where to look.
- When wading through the water, be always cautious and walk flat-footed if possible. The riverbed is inconsistent at best, it can catch your toes of your boots and trip you up, rocks move and slide and are generally unstable. Another thing is branches drift and hit you in the shins, dangerous. You never know, so be respectful of the unknown.
- Never put yourself or others in danger because you want to get to “that killer hole over there” that happens to be across fast or uncertain currents. Trust me, IT IS NOT WORTH IT! I know a guy that took a terrifying A River Runs Through It sweep down the river, out of control, near fatal risk just because of a sipping trout out of his reach that wasn’t “all that”.
- In that same vein, if you do fall in the river, stay calm and in control, try to work towards the bank at all cost. You may get really wet, lose your stuff, break your rod…so what! Stay alive!
- Always keep a pretty good medical/first-aide kit with you. Again, more likely than not, nothing will happen but you do never know. I had a trip with a father and his 11-year-old daughter, it was going really well. We walked to the river through some brush and trees, we waded in the river and dropped a line, perfect, for a while. 20 minutes into our first stop, the young girls hands started to swell up and turn beet red, she was freaking out. I asked the dad if she had any allergies, he didn’t think so but, she obviously did. Luckily we had some Benadryl that the father administered, thank god and the trooper of a girl calmed down, all went beck to normal. It would have been a whole different story otherwise.
- This is going to sound harsh, make sure you only bite off what you can chew. What I mean by that is don’t try do more than you are capable or willing to do. If you are out of shape and a scenic overlook is your idea of a good hike, don’t go into the back country that can cause you injury of a heart-attack! Don’t try to be a hero unless you are prepared to do so. It is “just fishing” but it is also “just hiking” says the guy who climbs a 14er for fun.
- Put anything valuable in a safe place. Despite all of your high-tech gear is waterproof it is not impervious. Remember, there is one big hole in your waders, it’s at the top, think about it.
- Wear sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and always keep your shirt on. Save that for your Bass or cat fishing trip.
- If you hook yourself, what should you do. If its barbless, as it should be, pull it out, dress it and get back fishing. If it is in a vital are aka your eye, seek immediate attention and continuously ask yourself why wasn’t I wearing my sunglasses. If you are hooked with a barbed hook, there are tricks to getting it out. Go on YouTube check it out but I recommend getting your butt to a clinic have it removed then drink a beer.
- Lightning and adverse weather. Get over it, get out of the water with your 9 foot lightning rod, sit in the car, wait it out or head out. Your vacation is not ruined, drive around look for those spots that were packed with anglers and are now empty because there fair weather warriors are all gone, the river is yours!
- Your friend gets hurt: Help them, if they’re fine, suggest they take a break, give them a Snickers bar resume fishing. If they are really hurt, don’t be a dick, get them help and help them create a really good story.
- You get into a tiff with another fisherman: So imagine you’re working a run from the bottom and someone steps in right above you and screws up your entire plan and the run, what are you going to do? This happens a lot, knowingly and by accident. Yes it is rude, are you going to get in a fight over it? Have some choice words then flip then off? Just walk away and mutter under you breath? Well that’s up to you I guess but nothing changes the mood of fishing more than anger. So let it go, most the time, people who do that either don’t realize you’re there of they are newbies and need to be educated about river etiquette, so educate them. Other times they’re just A-holes and will never learn. (fact is, those people usually are fishing hacks, so move to the next hole, within the sight, catch fish while they’re not, all is good in the hood.)
- The fish aren’t eating and you’re frustrated: Get over it, enjoy being outside then try again another time. I have said to my clients for many, many years, “Remember that there are two living things on each end of the line, only one of them is in control”
I know that this blog post may only have scratched the surface of the countless variables that doing an activity like fly fishing that takes place uncontrolled environs, but alway be careful, diligent and aware. It’s very similar to taking a vacation to New York City
Tight Lines as we say,
Guide Glenn Smith