Round Up: Safety First… or Second

As I age, a disturbing development is emerging: I take more chances. Why? I want to catch bigger trout. Bigger trout live in nasty, unpredictable places. They hide under ledges, in deep holes, in whitewater, or at the base of waterfalls that are choked with dead trees and snags. Big trouble. And big trouble means big fish.

I find myself doing things Mother warned me about. She’s right, of course, so in deference to her (and in case she’s reading), let’s review the basics.

That first step: Early in my troutin’ career, an old man told me there were two ways of entering the creek: slow and fast. “Slow is best,” he said. He stood behind me, knotting a fly. When I turned, he was laughing. Take good advice when you can get it. Especially as you hike through foxtail grass growing thick and chin-high, hiding the river. That last step, the old man might say, is a doozy.

Wading basics: If you can’t see the bottom, stop walking. There’s an old movie gag from the 1930s: A man steps from the curb into a puddle and vanishes. The same thing can happen in a spring creek. The angler wades ahead, the water is muddied from recent rains, he falls right into an 8-foot-deep hole. It’s hilarious. As long as it’s not you.

Bulls: Some ranchland advice is to avoid bulls. They seem tame. Until they come after you. And don’t assume fences offer protection. Heading for the creek, I asked one farmer’s wife which side of the fence the bull was on. “Any side he wants,” she said.
dogs: Carry Milk Bones. I have yet to face a rancher’s dog that I couldn’t make friends with. And I’m talking about some tough country dogs, brother.

Ticks and ‘skeets: Douse your clothes with permethrin, a potent tick killer. Bug-borne diseases can cause apathy, laziness, and confusion. I better get myself checked.

Bees: If you step on a log and hear a generator fire up in the next valley, run, don’t walk. That’s not a generator in the next valley. That’s bees swarming, which is what they do right before… Well, you’ll find out how fast you can run the quarter-mile.

Gettin’ lost: Cell phones don’t work in remote valleys. This is temporary. Satellites and digital technology will eventually create a safe world. But while we are waiting to be chipped like pets, buy a tracking device and download the app onto your wife’s phone. Trouble will be obvious if she notices that you’ve stopped moving. And remember to turn it off. Otherwise she will know you took that little detour through Plum City. What were you doing in Plum City, anyway?

Saloons: You knew this was coming. Not all taverns are friendly. And just remember how you look to the out-of-work welder nursing his second beer. New truck. Dressed like an Orvis mannequin. Money in your jeans, and a grin on your face. Enter any unfamiliar bar quietly. Don’t play the jukebox. And leave the waitress alone. That’s Bubba’s girl, the dude over there with the really big hands.

In conclusion: I don’t want to talk anyone out of having fun. Especially me. But we can summarize our Safety First advice as follows: Walk carefully, keep your eyes open, and get home early. Of course, these aren’t really rules. More like goals. Happy fishing.

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