Ah, nature. Mountains, trees, rivers, and, of course, fish. Have you ever noticed that sometimes there are other animals that vie for your attention while you are out fly fishing?
It is true. Surprisingly, it isn’t just a majestic eagle soaring overhead or a regal-looking buck silhouetted against an azure sky. Nor is it always a bear, wolf, or alligator looking to take advantage of a distracted angler.
Every once in a while, or, more often if you are like me, you’ll have seemingly benign wildlife encounters that impact your fishing. I’ve compiled a list of some of the more obnoxious varmints that haunt the same spaces as the fish that we pursue. This isn’t a call for their eradication or even their vilification. It is more of a public service announcement of sorts that there are wild and domesticated animals that might make your day on the water a little bit challenging.
Perhaps you’re a real fan of one of these critters. That is okay; everyone has dysfunction. For the rest of you, take heed:
Spiders: Do I need to explain this one? You’re the first one on the creek, which means that you are the first one who gets to amass miles of spider web on your face and hair as you make your way to the water. Let’s be real: there is no way that there isn’t a spider crawling around somewhere on you after that.
Cattle: Particularly in and around spring creeks, there are cows. Environmental issues aside, large bovines can go from pastorally picturesque to perturbing at the drop of a pie. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a herd of cattle grazing up on a hill. I have personally complained about being nudged by an overzealous juvenile cow while I’m trying to tie on a new fly. Plus, their poo is enormous.
Redwing Blackbirds: What is that delightfully shrill noise? What is that angry, dark flash that keeps flitting about my head? A) It isn’t an oriole. B) It is just being protective of its nest. C) It is still as obnoxious as any feathered creature that has ever been hatched. The redwing blackbird ought to be the mascot of a professional sports team. The logo should be of the type where a bird is given snarling teeth. That would be appropriate.
Bats: Mass emergences of flies are the things of fly fishers’ dreams. If you’ve ever experienced such a thing at twilight, it can be a memorable session of angling. It can also be moderately terrifying if you are at all squeamish about bats. Because you’re going to be a beacon for bugs (especially if you have a headlamp), and every bat on the creek is going to use you as an insect maypole. Oh, and if you hook one by accident? Your fly is not worth a series of rabies stomach-shots.
Beavers & Muskrats: These furry little rapscallions account for three of the fly fisher’s streamside woes: fright, injury, and spooking fish. Beavers can be the size of small black bears. Surprise one, and the resulting splashes will stop your heart. Muskrats will dig and dig and dig for no other reason than to trip you up and twist your ankle. Lastly, as either of these piscivorous rodents swim away from you they’ll put every fish down in that section of stream. I need a new winter hat…
Waterfowl: Small stream angling is all about stealth, position, and presentation. The exact point at which you need to position yourself for such an approach has precisely the same requirements as a goose’s nest. And geese are angry buggers. Speaking of stealth, ducks have the keen sense of taking off as loudly as possible from the hole you are about to fish just to careen down into the hole you’d fish next. I need a new down vest…
Don’t get me wrong: I am an animal lover. I think they’re delicious.
Seriously though, the animus expressed is mostly hyperbole. Although I have made my feelings about fishing with dogs and coming across snakes known in longer formats, happening upon creatures while fly fishing is usually a pleasant surprise.
…when they are at a distance.
And don’t bother me while I’m fishing.
And poop somewhere else.