April 14th, 2008

There May Be a Test
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

If you're a beginner or an old hand it's time to listen up since the beginning of the summer angling season will soon be upon us. Some of your skills may be rusty, some things you may have forgotten, and some things you may have never learned. Now is your chance for redemption before you find yourself with rod in hand and not a clue as to what or how you should approach a certain situation.


While you may have spent some time in wet rubber pants back at the beginning of your life let's face it; you did not learn to walk on algae overed bowling balls while waist deep in cold running water!

We humans are basically dry land animals, thus wading, except in a mud puddle, is not an activity that is a natural part of our biological makeup. Unlike most mammals we walk on two legs rather than four, and this automatically decreases our stability. Our two legs are rather thick increasing the resistance that we encounter when attempting to push them through a dense substance like water. Water weights 8.3 pounds per gallon, and when it comes rushing at us in its attempt to get to the sea it considers us an obstacle to be pushed aside, knocked over, washed away, or a combination of all of the above. Given the right circumstances it can easily accomplish its desire.

An old fishing guide once passed along this sage advice: "Fish are supposed to be cold and wet, fishermen are supposed to be warm and dry." My experience tells met that any water that is cold enough for wild trout is too cold for a civilized human to be swimming in, especially when encased in rubber pants with feet! Except for the entertainment value that you will afford your friends swimming in waders has very little redeeming social value.

Thus, if you want to avoid being cold and wet and the source of entertainment for your angling buddies I would suggest that you seriously consider the following admonishments.

First, buy waders with felt soles, and when necessary add cleats. Wet rubber is no match for algae covered rocks, and a fall may bruise more than your ego.

Second, buy a wading staff and use it. A wading staff gives you the benefit of an extra leg, and unless you are unusual I would wager that you currently only have two. A tripod is more stable than a bipod, and when wading in running water stability is good.

Third, get a wading belt and cinch it up tight around your middle. If you have ever tried to walk in waders that are full of water you know the value of a wader belt. While you may not always avoid a quick dip while wading a wader belt will keep a lot of that icy cold fluid that weights 8.3 pounds per gallon from filling your waders.

The most important thing is to know your limits. I have been fishing for longer than many of you are old and I have yet to see a fish that was worth taking a risk that might get me wet or cost me my life. If you are uncertain that you can do it safely don't try. By walking away you may live to fish another day.


Buy them and use them.

We all enjoy a warm sunny day, but Old Sol is not necessarily your friend. Given half a chance it will fry your hide; blind your eyes, ruin your trip, and shorten your life. The key is, 'don't make yourself a victim.'

A good hat should shade your eyes, ears and neck. While the traditional wide brimmed cowboy type hat may make you look dashing when the wind comes up it may cause you to go dashing up and down the stream trying to catch the darn thing. If it fits so tightly that it cannot blow off it will be most uncomfortable, and those neat chin straps are great if you like to be chocked. A more practical solution is a baseball type hat with a long bill and some type of addition that covers the neck and ears. My old Norwegian Fishing Hat that I purchased from Orvis over 40 years ago is the best thing that I have ever found, but many of the hats used by salt water anglers offer similar features.

Polarized sunglasses are a must, not just for seeing fish before they see you, but to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun. You only have one pair of eyes, unless you are like my mother who had eyes in the back of her head. Given the reality that you only have two eyes it seems logical that you do what you can to protect them, and a good pair of Polarized sunglasses is just what the doctor ordered.

Long-sleeved shirts and sunscreen go together like cold water and trout. A long-sleeved shirt or blouse, depending on your gender, is essential to protect your arms from the sun. You can roll up the sleeves to get a little sun and then they can be rolled down before your skin turns a bright shade of red. Can't do that with short sleeves.

Sunscreen should be liberally applied to everything that is not covered or that is exposed to reflected sunlight. That includes your face and hands. Even if you are wearing a hat the sun reflecting off the water is still capable of burning your unprotected face. Sunscreen should be waterproof, have the necessary ingredients to protect your skin from UV rays, and be applied liberally and often. If you need motivation to do this consider the fact that skin cancer is one of the most difficult types of cancer to cure, and being diagnosed with cancer can really ruin your day.

One additional item should be lip balm. Lips are subject to sunburn and sunburned lips can really make for a miserable time. Buy some with UV protection and use it liberally.

I hope you took notes because there will be a test, and it will come the next time you head out to your favorite fishing hole. If you come home dry and without a sunburn you should get an A! ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

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