Knowing basic first aid is a fly fishing prerequisite. While it will probably never be an event in the X-Games, the sport of fly fishing has some inherent risks, and fly fishermen can sometimes get hurt. Minor things like cuts and blisters happen every day and are easily treated, but the potential for more serious injuries still exists.
The more time an angler spends in the wilderness, the more likely he or she is to eventually get hurt and need some form of first aid. Whether you are dealing with a small cut on a finger or a broken leg, proper first aid needs to be administered quickly. Here are a few quick first aid tips that will help you and your fishing partners stay safe for years to come.
Take a Partner in the Backcountry
We all want solitude while fly fishing. There is something relaxing and peaceful about standing in the water alone, casting to rising trout. There are, however, good and bad places for solo fly fishing. For example, most stretches along the Eagle River through Avon, Edwards, and Eagle are fine places to fish alone. They have safe access and reliable cell phone service. If you are planning on fishing somewhere like the upper Colorado River through Gore Canyon or at a remote lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness, however, you should always bring a partner. Deep canyons and secret backcountry lakes are notorious for their rugged terrain and lack of people. Here, without help, even a small accident could become a serious problem.
Take a First Aid Course
In the backcountry, knowledge is power. The best way to learn life saving wilderness first aid technique is to take a class. Here in the Vail Valley, classes like these are pretty easy to find. Everything from basic CPR to more advanced Wilderness First Responder and OEC classes are offered at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. Sign up for one or more of these courses and pay attention to what they teach. It could save a life someday.
First Aid Kits: List of Recommended Items
As a certified guide, I am required to carry certain tools and necessities in my first aid kit. Everything in my kit has a purpose and has been carefully thought out by the professionals. It does not take up much space, so there is no reason not to have all of the same things in your bag as well.
· Band-aids of assorted sizes (several of each size)
· Triple Antibiotic ointment
· Gauze pads 4 inches square, (several)
· Gauze roll 3 inches wide
· Medical tape, 1 inch wide
· Needle for removing splinters or opening blisters
· Moleskin or Molefoam for treating blisters
· Small bottle of disinfectant soap or Cleansing towelettes
· Razor blade or small folding scissors
· Dental floss
· Triangle bandage
· Super Glue
· Ibuprofen or Tylenol
· Steri-strips or butterfly bandages
· Cell Phone
If you really want to go the extra mile, you may consider packing a Spot PLB in your fishing bag as well, to call for help in a real life or death emergency.
Where to Find These Things
Most of these necessary items came packed inside my small Adventure Medical Kit. If you have the time and want to save a little money you can build your own. Most first aid items can be found at any drug store or supermarket. Once you have everything, separate it out and store it in clear Ziploc bags in a larger dry bag or stuff sack. Make sure that the contents of your medical kit are kept as clean and dry as possible.
The best way to stay safe in the wilderness is to manage risk appropriately. No amount of first aid training will compensate for sound judgment and wise decision making. Is it really worth risking getting hurt by down-climbing that forty foot cliff in flip flops to get to one more twelve inch brown trout? Probably not. Keep your fishing injuries to a minimum and be prepared and educated for when accidents eventually do happen. A well-stocked first aid kit can make a painful blister more bearable and it can also save a life.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer