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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) (

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.

Wild Animals:

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.

If you are fishing anywhere in the park, but particularly in the Lamar River and Slough and Soda Butte Creek watersheds, you will most likely encounter bison. Bison are huge. Bulls (and also cows with calves) can often be grumpy and intolerant of people who break park rules and encroach upon their space. This is exacerbated as the rut approaches in late summer and into the fall. When we

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

attack again.

--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) (

Wolves: Gray Wolf - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

Coyotes: Coyote - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

Water Safety

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.

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