Safety During The YFFVP
Updated: Nov 25, 2022
This document is for general informational purposes only. It is the
responsibility of each fly fishing volunteer to be aware of, and follow, all
park laws and safety procedures for visiting and fishing in Yellowstone.
All of this information will be found on the official Yellowstone National
Park web site: Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
You should also acquire the free Yellowstone National Park informational literature when you enter the park. Read it, and ALWAYS follow the described
regulations and guidance within it.
Proximity Regulations--Yellowstone National Park mandates that you
must remain at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from
most other wildlife including bison, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose,
coyotes and pronghorn. When possible, it’s a good idea to stay even
further away than that. Anglers do not always realize that this
responsibility falls solely on them. Sometimes, animals approach you.
When they do, you must move to maintain proper safe distance. This
also means that you shouldn’t try to “push” an animal from a spot in
which you’d like to fish by walking directly towards it, trying to make it move.
It’s easy to see why you should stay away from a bear that’s bigger than you are. But any wild animal can become dangerous if it’s cornered, tending to its
young, or turning aggressive before and during its mating season. Fish
are the only park animals we want to be close enough to touch.
Bison--Yellowstone National Park anglers are usually aware of the
dangers associated with bears. But many do not know that bison have
caused more harm to humans in the park than any other animal.
encounter bison, we will give them a wide berth. Sometimes the herds
are so numerous that we’ll have to navigate far around them to reach the
water we are fishing. If you are fishing near bison, you should be
constantly mindful about the safest way to avoid them in conjunction
with park rules. Bison can appear at any time. If bison come ambling
down a bank near where you are fishing, you need to move and give
them the widest berth possible. This is always the case, no matter how
many fish you are catching.
Bears and Bear Spray--Anglers seem to be in one of two camps when it
comes to the park’s bears: those who want to see one and those who are
terrified of them. Bears, particularly grizzlies, are special and their
presence in the park is a big part of what makes the park so unique. You
don’t need to have constant bear-fear while we’re fishing. Statistics say
that the most dangerous part of a Yellowstone fishing trip is driving to
get there. But you do need to be bear aware.
Below are some tips about fishing in bear country, and how we’ll react as
a team if we see one:
--Always scan the area around you, expecting to see a bear. It’s sometimes
easy to get lost in the fishing and amazing scenery and forget where you
are. Bears in the park can appear at any time.
--Keep your bear spray accessible. Most anglers choose to wear theirs
either on their wading belt or on the belt for their wet wading
pants. Never keep your spray in a zippered pack where you may not
have enough time to reach it.
--Make noise while you fish. Talk, sing, occasionally yell ahead. Be
especially careful in areas with thick brush or near heavily riffled or rapid
water that can muffle sounds.
--If you spot a bear in the distance (more than 100 yards away), the first
thing to do is alert the YFFVP coordinator and the other members of our fishing party. We will then come together as a group to decide if we need
to leave the area or how else to proceed.
--If you see a bear closer than 100 yards, or one that’s approaching you or
another angler, pull out your bear spray and remove its safety. Speak in a firm
but calm voice (do not yell) to let everyone know that a bear is close.
NEVER run. Walk slowly away from the bear and towards the other
anglers in our group while trying not to turn your back to the bear.
--If you are charged by a bear and it comes within 60 feet of you, you will
need to disperse your bear spray. Here’s how to do that according to the
National Park Service:
1. Remove the safety clip
2. Aim slightly down and adjust for crosswind
3. Begin spraying when the charging bear is 30-60 feet (10-20 yards) away
4. Spray at the charging bear so that the bear must pass through a cloud of
5. Keep spraying until the bear changes direction
6. If the bear continues to charge, spray into its face
7. Leave the area promptly
8. Reacting to a bear attack (from the National Park Service)
--If a bear charges you after a surprise encounter, stay still and stand
your ground. Most of the time, the bear is likely to break off the charge or
veer away. If you run, you’re likely to trigger a chase response from the bear. If you have bear spray, this is the time to use it. Start spraying the charging
bear when it is about 60 feet away or less.
--If the bear continues to charge, it’s important not to drop to the ground and
“play dead” until the bear makes contact, or the second before the bear
makes contact. Drop to the ground; keep your pack on to protect your back.
Lie on your stomach and clasp your hands over the back of your neck with
your elbows protecting the sides of your face. Remain still and stay silent to
convince the bear that you are not a threat.
--After the bear leaves, wait several minutes before moving. Listen and look
around cautiously before you get up to make certain the bear is no longer
nearby. If the bear is gone, get up and walk (don’t run) out of the area.
Remember, a sow grizzly needs time to gather up her cubs which may have
climbed trees or hidden in nearby brush. If you get up too soon, she may
--During a surprise encounter where the bear is reacting defensively, you
should not fight back. Fighting back will only prolong the attack and will
likely result in more serious injuries. Since 1970, people who played dead
when attacked by a bear during a surprise encounter in Yellowstone received
only minor injuries 75% of the time. However, those that fought back during
surprise encounters received very severe injuries 80% of the time.
Other predators in the park can also be dangerous, particularly cougars
(aka mountain lions, which are rare in the park), wolves, and to a lesser
extent, coyotes. There are links on the National Park Service's website, detailing
the best ways to deal with an encounter from one of these animals.
Cougars: Cougar - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Wolves: Gray Wolf - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Coyotes: Coyote - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Many of the park’s trout waters are comprised of small cobbles and gravel
which make them easy to wade. But there can be river sections, or even
entire rivers such as the Yellowstone, that contain large, slippery rocks. If
you’re an unsteady wader or someone who just wants to wade as safely as
possible, it may be best to add studs to your non-felt bottomed wading boots
for enhanced traction. A wading staff can also be a great benefit. The force
of moving water can surprise anglers with its ability to push them. Never
wade in water that’s too fast or deep for your comfort or skill level. And
remember, just because one angler is able to quickly wade or cross a
waterway, doesn’t mean that everyone in your group can do that. Always
err on the side of caution and safety.
1. Weather can change quickly and drastically in the park. Some July mornings, the air temperature may be in the 30s at sunrise, but by the afternoon, it’s in the 80s. It’s usually best to have layers you can easily add or remove.
2. The sun is particularly intense at park altitudes. You can sunburn quickly
without using a high SPF sunscreen. Make sure you remember to apply
it to the tops of your ears and the back of your hands; anglers often forget to do that. Reapply sunscreen as needed throughout the day. Buffs for your head and neck or hooded fishing shirts with built-in SPF protection also work well. Sun
gloves to protect the backs of your hands are a good idea. The intense
sun combined with low humidity can also quickly cause anglers to
become dehydrated. Make sure you bring water with you, and drink it
often throughout the day.
3. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the park. They can often appear
quickly without warning. If we get caught in a thunderstorm with intense
lightening, get out of the water. Place your graphite fly rod on the
ground and move away from it. Make sure other anglers in the group
avoid your rod for safety reasons but also so they don’t break it by
stepping on it. Take cover, low to the ground, until the storm passes.
Avoid standing beneath large trees.
Things That Can Bite, Sting, or Prick
1. Biting bugs in the park, horseflies, mosquitoes, and others can vary in
intensity from non-existent to extremely unpleasant. The best way to
deal with them is to keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
That’s why many anglers choose to not wear shorts while wet wading in the park. Light weight, quick-dry pants help keep the bugs off your legs. The same
clothing options that help protect you from the sun—buffs, light weight
long sleeve shirts, and sun gloves—will also help keep the bugs off you.
Some anglers opt to use bug repellants that contains DEET. But DEET will eat fly lines and may deteriorate any plastic items in which it comes in contact, so it’s use is not advised.
2. You may also encounter bees and wasps in the park. If you’re allergic to
them, make sure you bring your Epi-pen with you; it may be a long
distance from where we’re fishing to your car.
3. Be careful where you sit or place your hands along the stream banks.
Anglers occasionally sit on prickly pear cactus or grab thistles
while climbing up a stream bank. These things will not kill you, but for a
few minutes, you may wish they had.