Hazards of Fly Fishing Montana (and elsewhere)

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#1
Background.
After guiding, working, and playing in the outdoors of the Rocky Mountain West and Alaska for many years, I consider myself fortunate to have never had a death in any of my guide trips or camps. We came close once with a guy who had a heart attack and fell off his horse.

Statistics.
I tend to look at statistics with aircraft carrier sized skepticism. And, like everyone else, I know full well the odds of you getting killed in your vehicle on the way to a trout stream is tens of thousands of times greater than getting killed on the trout stream by an animal.

What CDC fatality stats don't ever reveal is how many people were injured by animals or by simply fishing directly or indirectly.

I've had ribs broken, concussions, and other injuries from horses and cows.

FULL DISCLOSURE RE THE COW: My brother and I had a bet we could jump on this heifer and stay on for 8 seconds. She won. I landed badly on a log and got pretty beat up. My brother got a fractured femur. Stupid adolescent boy stunts.

Nitty Gritty.
If you work, play, and are housed in LA, the only animal likely to cause you death or injury is your dog or the other millions of Homo sapiens. Once you put your foot in the stirrup or walk across a field of Angus cows with calves, your chances of injury and even death go up. Way up.

Cows. Cows with calves can get very protective. When cutting calves from their mothers for branding, shots, and ear tagging, I've had cows get really pissed. I've seen cows head bump horses and even 4 wheelers. These are large animals and are normally pretty docile. Cows typically weigh about 1500 pounds. That 4 oz fly rod isn't going to slow them down.

Cows aren't out there chewing their cud and calculating how to launch a bovine spaceship and land on the moo n. But, they still have instincts and you won't outrun them. If you decide to take a short cut across a pasture of cows and calves . . .

Horses. I love horses, but they have tiny brains for their size. Sort of like having a corn flake of a brain but the instincts of Obi Wan Kanobi. They most often run when spooked which can happen when they smell a bear or wolf, or when a Walmart bag flies up in the wind in front of them. If you happen to be in their retreat path, it's going to hurt like hell.

If you are planning a summer trip that involves being around horses, do your homework. Forget everything you've ever seen in movies or TV; those are trick horses trained from birth so that Roy Rogers could jump off the roof of a building onto their backs and then shoot his 7-shot 6-gun at the bad guys. Do that to a trail ride horse and you'll end up making an unscheduled dismount onto your head or back.

I won't try to turn this into an equine lesson. Just do your homework and then go to a equine center, ask them to show you how to approach and conduct yourself, groom and saddle a horse as well as lead and ride the horse.

Bears. If you are in bear country learn how to be food smart and keep a clean camp. Bears have a sense of smell that's just crazy. If you leave a candy bar in your tent, they'll smell it for miles. Learn to be bear safe.

If you are going to carry bear spray, buy two canisters. (Note: you cannot take it on an airplane) Use the first one to practice taking it from the holster, removing the safety, and deploying it. Bear spray works much of the time (not good for high wind, heavy rain, or hard driving snow) but it's not a Talisman; just carrying it is not enough. If you carry it in the back of your vest and believe it will do you any good, you haven't done your homework.

The chances of you getting killed by a bear in the Seattle metro area is zero. Statistically, the chances of you getting killed by a bear in Glacier National Park if you never get out of your car are zero. While still low, getting injured by a bear while fishing or hiking in Montana is a risk you should prepare for.

By the way. If you believe you can outrun a grizzly by running downhill, you've either A) Never seen a grizzly running in the wild. B) Been reading too much drunk posted fake news on Social Media, or C) Got DreamWhip for brains.

Insects. If you are allergic to bees, wasps, etc be damn certain you bring your Epi pen.

Bottom Line. If you are planning on fishing this year and are venturing into areas you're unfamiliar with, spend some of this winter shack nasty time researching hazards in addition to fly patterns and rod/line weights.

Trapper
 

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
#2
Agreed and I'll add:
Including horses in the equation also most generally adds some manner of excitement or misfortune along the way.
Large, bulky, seemingly-tortoise-like bulls can also move like lightning.
Moose encounters can also be exciting, especially when said encounters involve a cow with calf or a young bull feeling his oats. It's best not to crowd either.
Inert canisters are now available for bear spray "practice." And practice you should. Also be keenly aware of wind direction before deploying bear spray.
 
#3
Just watched a heifer delivering a calf at my daughters ranch last week. The calf had to be pulled out with a come-a-long type device which the mother grudgingly accepted but tying to separate her from the baby to inoculate it was something else. A 1400 lb heifer can move pretty fast.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#4
Agreed and I'll add:
Including horses in the equation also most generally adds some manner of excitement or misfortune along the way.
Large, bulky, seemingly-tortoise-like bulls can also move like lightning.
Moose encounters can also be exciting, especially when said encounters involve a cow with calf or a young bull feeling his oats. It's best not to crowd either.
Inert canisters are now available for bear spray "practice." And practice you should. Also be keenly aware of wind direction before deploying bear spray.
Great points, Jim. I forgot about the Swamp Donkies. I would rather deal with a bear than a cow moose with a calf.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#6
Just watched a heifer delivering a calf at my daughters ranch last week. The calf had to be pulled out with a come-a-long type device which the mother grudgingly accepted but tying to separate her from the baby to inoculate it was something else. A 1400 lb heifer can move pretty fast.
Yeah, calf pullers look pretty brutal, but in some cases it will save the life of the cow or in this case heifer and calf.
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
#7
Griz make me nervous. I'm going to be a noisy mofo when I ride my bike in Montana. Bear bells on the bike, and one dangling from me. Bear spray in a handlebar holster. Loudly singing the wrong lyrics to popular songs, off key, in my gravelly voice (Wait! That might just anger the bears and everyone else!...better think that one through some more).
 

GAT

Dumbfounded
#8
I resent cows. I had to feed the bastards when I grew up on a small farm in NEO. Dumb as stumps... and heavy.

I remember when I was a wee lad (see skinny) and was feeding four of the critters grain. One of the cows stepped on my foot and squashed it into the mud/cowshit and wouldn't move. I yelled at the cow, I hit the cow, I cursed the cow and it refused to move its hoof from my trapped foot. Eventually, another cow bumped it to one side so I could remove my foot. Stupid cows.

They'd also rat me out if I was late home from school. They expected to be fed at a specific time each evening and if I didn't show up at that time, they'd scream bloody murder (mooing) at the top of their cow lungs and alert my parents to the fact I was late. Stupid cows.

When it comes to grizzly bear. I made a deal with them long ago... I don't go anywhere near them or even where they might be located and they stay away from me. So far the arrangement works.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#10
My number one negative encounter by far has been mosquitoes, and not just in Montana. Bears, bison, moose, and livestock have never been a problem, a concern, yes, but no problems, and I take reasonable precautions. But no amount of precaution and DEET has yet prevented me from getting mosquito bitten. And sometimes black flies, and once the white sox in AK in September.
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
#11
Back in '81, my cycling partner and I were pedaling through some ranch land on Maui, about halfway between Kaupo store and La Perouse Bay, and I was coasting at high speed on a freshly paved section going down a hill.
At the bottom of the hill, there was a small herd of cattle off to the left, maybe 20 head. My rapid approach must have spooked them, because they suddenly bolted and ran across the road immediately in front of me. The lead animals crossed in front of me, but I suddenly found myself in the middle of the rest of the bolting herd. Fortunately, they were crossing at a 45* angle away from me, so I was able to weave my way around and through them. Almost didn't make it. I was lucky. My riding partner had slowed down behind me and saw it all. She told me that she thought that I was very lucky to have dodged the stampede.
Cows can be dangerous!
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#12
My number one negative encounter by far has been mosquitoes, and not just in Montana. Bears, bison, moose, and livestock have never been a problem, a concern, yes, but no problems, and I take reasonable precautions. But no amount of precaution and DEET has yet prevented me from getting mosquito bitten. And sometimes black flies, and once the white sox in AK in September.
Mosquitos are annoying but my two primary insect nemesis are horse flies and White Sox, aka Black Flies. I call them Demon Diptera. A wide brim hat and a head net is my #1 defense. I've hated DEET since August of 1969.
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
#13
I "liked" your post, Trapper, but actually, I hated reading the bad news. I'm not even sure that I want to head all the way over there just so that I can feel nervous the whole time. If I think about it too much, my plans might change to avoid grizzly country.

The black flies hiking from Holden up to Heart Lake, and then on to Lyman Lake back in July '66 were horrible. You couldn't just brush them away, becasue they'd instantly return and bite you quick! You had to slap 'em hard and kill 'em or maim 'em to keep 'em away. Insect repellant didn't seem to faze 'em. Absolutely a major bummer!
By the time we finally made it to lower Lyman Lake to set up camp, we'd left the black flies behind and traded 'em in for mosquitos. After those biting black flies drawing blood (ouch!), the mosquitoes didn't seem bad, although they were pretty thick. There had been some aggro horse flies pestering us, too.
Cloudy Pass wasn't bad, heading over to Image Lake. Then out via the Suiattle, to meet our ride home.
 

jamma

Active Member
#14
I had never heard the Swamp Donkey moniker before,I like it.Came walking out of the forest at Silver Creek once and had a fisherman ask me"Did you see the moose?" and it scared the crap out of me as I had heard the beasts can be quite testy.
Although any bear should be treated with extreme caution,I have heard experts say grizzlies are not so dangerous because they are the apex predator in the forest and they know it and have nothing to prove.The bear to watch out for is the juvenile black bear as they get their ass kicked by every bear in the forest and are looking to take it out on someone.Stay safe and alert.
 

Old Man

Just an Old Man
#15
I've had my experiences in the woods. Was fishing a well know river in Washington, I was climbing on a log jam to get access to a undercut, to drift my spinner in. I step on a log and it broke. I fell about 3 feet on to a green log that didn't break. I landed on my side with enough force to break the cartilage in my chest. Where your ribs come together is cartilage, and it can be broke. Most painful injury I have ever had.

I couldn't sleep because of it. You can't lay on your side or stomach because it is moving when you do. I had to sleep on my back. Something I wasn't used to. I was driving my buddy's truck one without power steering. I felt my rib cage move in and out. I didn't drive anymore til I healed up.

I've had my share of other things. Like horses. Enough said.
 

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