The day has finally arrived. It is early spring and the weather is finally in your favor. You are all caught up in your work, or at least as far as you won't feel guilty taking a day off to hit the stream. You have all the flies you need and that new rod you received for Christmas. Like an over excited kids, you even have a hard time sleeping the night before. But the day has arrived. You are headed out to you favorite water for the first time this year to see if the big one is still where he was last fall. You have your waders and boots all set out, the reel has new line and you even remembered to pick up some new leaders from the local fly shop. In short everything you need for a great day on the water. Or do you have everything? How about any first aide supplies (even Band-Aids), water, rain gear, light jacket, flashlight, or (dare I say) a cell phone? Believe it or not some or all of these items are just as important on your outings as the flies you throw at the fish.
Many outdoorsman and women do not give much thought to any of the above items when they head out, other than to make certain they DON'T take some of them. After all our forefathers and mothers got along just fine without a GPS unit didn’t they? The nice thing is that in most situations you do not need much more than your rod, reel and flies to have a great time outdoors. However, if you are heading out during the spring (March, April, May) and fall (September, October, November) months you should think twice about fishing safety. During the winter months most people automatically think about safety, for obvious reasons. In the summer months it is not as big of an issue (for most inland waters -Great Lakes excluded) because it is already warm. During the spring and fall months the weather can change very rapidly (in just a few minutes in some cases).
I like to break down fishing safety into two main areas. The first is preparedness and the second is common sense. Neither out weighs the other since they are so closely tied. You have to use some common sense when preparing your outing and by preparing you are exercising common sense. However, let's take a look at each of these areas.
Webster’s dictionary states preparedness means “the quality or state of being prepared”. This would imply having some sort of preconceived idea about an upcoming event and taking steps to get ready for the event. I our case we are trying to get ready for some sort of “bad” thing that might happen. In order to get prepared we have to think about what kinds of bad things might happen. Here is where that common sense thing comes in. If you are going fishing in Ohio you probably do not need to be prepared in case you run into a Grizzly. Similarly, if you are fishing on the flats in the Florida keys, making certain you have enough layers to stay warm in case the weather dips below freezing is probably not a big concern. However, sunburns, windburns, UV protection, first aide, outer gear, nutrition/dehydration are all concerns wherever you are fishing. So preparedness means to think about what could go wrong on your forthcoming outing and try to minimize the effects of the bad event. Always take some sunscreen, bug goop, a minor first aide kit (Band-Aids, asprin/advil, ace bandage (even a bandana), anti-biotic ointment), distress whistle, water proof matches, and a small mirror. Most of these things can be put together and fit into a zip-lock sandwich bag. Taking (or at least taking and leaving in the car) rain gear, a light fleece jacket, and some water is also usually a good idea. Keep in mind different times of the year require more or less thought and preparedness of these items. Some questions to consider might be;
- Are there poisonous animals you might run into and what can you do if bitten?
- What is the likely hood of a dramatic weather change, flash flood, or major drop in temperature?
- How far away from other people will you be and what happens if you break a leg?
- How do you get help if you need it?
- Will you need nutrition and liquids while outside?
During the spring and fall some of these questions might have more impact. Again, use common sense when thinking about what safety concerns you should have on our outing.
Now let's look at common sense. This is a tuff thing to pin point because what may seem logical and a real concern to one person might not to another. In getting prepared for an outing (and any bad things you might think of) it can be very easy to get carried away and try to take everything you can think of for every situation you think of. The only problem is you will not have any room left for your fishing gear. So common sense would dictate that you may not need you rain gear or light jacket if you are fishing a small pond 50 feet from you car (as long as you don't lock you keys in your car). However, if you are wading all day long in the middle of summer and it is supposed to get in the 90 degree range, common sense you say take extra water and sunscreen and possible outer wear to protect you skin even more (hat, bandana, buff, gloves, etc…). Common sense would scream bug goop if you were evening fishing on the local stream or pond in the middle of summer. Common sense should also tell you that the rapids you routinely wade across in average to lower water during the season might not be wade able (or at least deserve caution) during the spring (i.e. lots of rain). Some other common sense things to consider while preparing or fishing might be;
- Notifying someone you know about where and when you will be out and when you should return.
- Check the local stream conditions and weather before you go if you are going to be out long or if you have to travel far to get to your water.
- Take GPS unit and/or map if hiking any distance to your destination.
- Take an emergency notification device (like a Spot Satelite Messenger).
- Take a cell phone with you (you would be surprised where you can get reception).
Everyone has read or heard stories of simple fishing trips ending in disaster. Since we all spend many hours doing things other than fishing we need to make certain our much anticipated outing does not end up being another one of those stories. With a little common sense and preparedness you can stack the cards in your favor that your trip won't end up a disaster. Remember, it is only fishing and not worth risking you life for. Even if your outing is canceled, you will still be around for the next one. Just remember to take a charged cell phone with you!