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TIS THE SEASON
Well, summer is here, the streams are low and clear, the trout are rising and the time has come to break out the gear and spend some quality time on your favorite water. However, it's also a good time to review some safety tips before you head out to your favorite fishing hole. Summer is a great time but not without its hazards. In our haste to enjoy the good times we often overlook some obvious safety issues until it's too late.
First, remember that nature has no compassion. That lovely trout stream with its algae covered rocks that are so essential for a good crop of bugs that trout like to eat will send you sprawling; making you real wet but potentially breaking your arm, bruising your hip or splitting your skull. If you are careless it will drown you or give you a bad case of hypothermia. Learn to respect it or it will hurt you bad.
Secondly, we all love the bright blue skies and abundant sunshine that summer brings after several long months of bone chilling cold. However, like the lyrics of a John Denver song, "Sunshine on your shoulders may make you happy," but too much sunshine can turn you a bright shade of red. I'm not one to harp on the dangers of skin cancer but I do know that sunburn can turn an otherwise fun fishing trip into a case of the miseries. And its' not just the direct sun that is your nemesis but the sun reflected off the water. Wear a hat, wear sunscreen, use lip balm on your lips or even purchase a buff or a sun hood. I like to wear fingerless sun gloves to protect the backs of my hands. Don't be macho, wear sun protection.
Thirdly, warm weather, sunshine, water – they are all perfect conditions for blood sucking insects. Mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, no-see-ums – the rogue's gallery of biting bugs just waiting to pierce your lily white hide and suck up your blood. Then there are the ticks and chiggers that lurk in the grass just waiting for the unsuspecting angler to come their way. Get some repellent, buy a bug jacket, get a head net or be prepared to become a blood donor. You might even catch some really nasty disease if one of these insect phlebotomists decides to draw a sample of your blood.
Last but certainly not least is the weather. Every year more people are struck and killed by lightning. According to the National Weather Service 49 people are killed by lightning every year in the United States and hundreds more are severely injured. As of this date 2 people have been killed this year by lightning while fishing. If you are waving around a long graphite stick while standing in or floating on water you make a great lightning rod. Keep an eye on the sky, check the weather forecast for your area before you venture out, and don't try to take shelter under trees. If you are caught in the open lay your rod flat on the ground, get away from trees and fences [lightning can travel through the wire], crouch down and balance on the balls of your feet. This reduces your profile and your contact with the ground.
Another increasingly common weather occurrence is hail. Hail larger that pea size can really do a number on your body. If you find yourself out in the open during a hail storm if at all possible get under something substantial – a fallen tree, your overturned boat, an undercut bank – anything that will deflect the force of the hail stones. Especially try to cover your head and the back of your neck. If you have ever seen what hail can do to a motor vehicle or the roof and siding on a house you can imagine what it can do to your exposed body. My late wife and I spent a rather frightening 10 minutes or so in our trailer during a hail storm and when it was finished all three of our roof vents were shattered, the awning had two or three holes and the siding on the windward side of the trailer was pockmarked like someone had beat it with a ballpeen hammer. The ground was covered with hail the size of a half dollar and it had been propelled by 50 to 60 mile per hour winds. I'm glad we were inside the trailer and not out on the lake in our canoe.
The weather can also stir up dangerous winds. I'm not just talking about tornadoes and hurricanes but winds created by thunderstorms and fast moving weather fronts can turn a very pleasant day into a disaster in a matter of minutes. Years ago winds from a passing thunderstorm rolled my boat down a gravel bar like it was a dry leaf. Fortunately no one was in the boat at the time but it was real hard on the fly rods and other gear that was in the boat when it flipped. On more than one occasion I have witnessed a placid lake turn into a wave tossed nightmare in a matter of minutes.
I spent twenty plus years as a volunteer fireman and I always reminded my fellow firefighters, "Don't make yourself a victim." Likewise, those of us that enjoy the outdoors should always be aware that we can easily fall victim to one of the many hazards that exist outdoors if we fail to be aware of the dangers.