One aspect of trout fishing we seldom consider is safety.
After reading John Hartsock's account of his own fall and injuries while fishing last year and remembering that my writing colleague Walt Young also told of a fall and injuries he sustained last year while trout fishing, it is a subject we need to give careful thought to.
I know - nobody thinks it will happen to him or her. But when it does, it changes your way of thinking forever. You go out to fish or hunt loaded with gear you don't usually carry and wearing boots of one sort or another that you don't wear at other times of the year. Footing can be really tricky, especially along muddy stream banks or sidehills carpeted with wet leaves. And whatever happens occurs so quickly it takes you unaware and you are down and hurt before you know what happened.
Mirror photo courtesy Shirley Grenoble
When going fishing, it’s a good idea to take a survival pack of supplies just in case.
So it was the day so many years ago that I was the victim of a hunting accident. I had no idea anyone was in the area. While I was standing on my feet, tucking things away in the back of my vest and picking up my gear so I could move on, two men - who were zeroing in on the calling I had been doing - came sneaking in and catching sight of movement in the bushes, decided that was the turkey they had been hearing and opened fire.
Six shots later, I was down and bleeding and not sure just how hurt I was. It is a stunning experience and I was unprepared for such an emergency. I was hunting alone that day, 30 miles from home and no one knew where I was. How foolish of me.
Thankfully, the two men came down and helped me out of the woods. Had they abandoned me there, a couple miles from my vehicle, I do not know just what I would have done.
So immediately after the shooting, I began formulating plans for keeping my self a bit safer in the woods. We all assume the risks that we know could happen if we go outdoors. But there are ways to help lessen the effects if some sort of accident happens.
To start, I don not go afield anymore without someone knowing where I am going and what time they should start worrying if I haven't gotten home. These days, of course, I do not go anywhere, including hunting and fishing, without my cell phone in my pocket. Not tucked somewhere in my gear where it might be difficult to locate should I fall but in a secure pocket, easily reached. I know that there are dead spots in the woods but there are many places where it is easy to get service.
I have made up for myself a small survival kit that I do not go into the woods without. I carry the items in a large-sized ziplock bag. These items are things that would enable me to be comfortable should I have to stay overnight in the woods.
These items include a space blanket, a small candle, waterproof matches and a couple pieces of firestarter, a few Tylenol or other pain pills, some shoelaces for tying the space blanket to a couple of small trees if needed, a couple of Band-Aids, a loud whistle, a couple of snaplight sticks and whatever personal medications you might need. These small items make a lightweight pack that tucks in the back of your vest and will be a great comfort if you have to spend hours waiting for rescue.
We hear every year of archers who fall from treestands with various injuries. Sprained ankles and broken bones are the most common injuries and prevent you from going any farther. A space blanket will help keep you warm and dry.
My deer-hunting buddy was hurt near Canoe Creek one year as he hunted small game - alone. He stepped into a hole and tore all the ligaments loose in his knee but laid there for a few hours, before a couple other hunters came along. After that incident, and my shooting, we decided to buddy up on these hunts for safety's sake. We keep in contact by using the small twoway radios. In fact, because we have different days off from our jobs, he sometimes goes alone to hunt. We have it arranged that he will carry one of the radios with him when he goes out alone. No need to turn it on while he is out there alone. But if he should fall or otherwise get hurt, turn it on then.
When I get home from work and his wife tells me he hasn't come home, I will grab the other radio and since I know where his favorite spots are, I will begin looking for him, using the radio to try to find him.
We always park our vehicles where they will be plainly seen from the road so that anyone looking for either of us would have some idea where to go when they see the car. Just simple things, but by being wise, and understanding that, like it or not, bad stuff can and does sometimes happen out there along the stream or in the forest, we can help ourselves a bit by having some items with us. It will hasten our rescue considerably if someone back home knows where to start looking.