By Rozlynn Orr

There is nothing more memorable than a day spent in the great outdoors fishing, unless of course, you meet with unexpected danger or perilous conditions.  A few simple survival rules will perhaps save your life and lessen your time in danger.  One of the best books you can read or have is an outdoor survival guide.  There are pages that should be committed to your memory and gear that should find a permanent home in your fishing vest.

This guide is only presented to heighten your awareness of possible perilous situations and assist you in acquiring some life saving gear and gadgets for your vest.

Common sense dictates that you should always try and take a buddy with you fishing and be sure and let someone else know your destination and anticipated time of return. Always make a habit of placing a phone call to that person upon your return and also let him or her know that, if there is no call at your specified time of return, to proceed with contacting the authorities. This step alone ensures that someone else knows your plans and you will be missed and subsequently searched for.  Do not go off on fishing expeditions by yourself without someone knowing your plans!

Survival is a state of mind.

You must not panic regardless of the situation in which you find yourself. 

Think S-T-O-P: sit—think—observe—plan.  Remain calm, sit down, think of all options, observe and note your surroundings and make a plan of action.  Assessing the situation will tell you better what to do, such as not sitting around if you’re in the midst of a fire or have a bear on your tail!  Occupying your brain gives it something rational to do and keeps it out of the panic mode.  Be busy assessing your situation and planning your own rescue or recovery.  Remember to take a deep breath, remain positive, think of family and friends and build that determination to see them again.  Suppress any negative thoughts.  Get ahead with your head!

It is always best to carry a small waterproof case minimally filled with band-aids, gauze, hand wipes, disinfectant, antibiotic cream, aspirin, and Benedryl for insect bites. Make sure you know what you have and how to use it. Pack a lightweight Space Blanket and rain poncho for adverse conditions. Always pack a knife.

* Fire – Depending on your degree of emergency, you may find yourself having to spend the night at your favorite fishing hole.  Having a fire will serve many purposes such as warmth, purifying water, cooking food, signaling for help, keeping critters away, and mainly as a source of comfort.  Waterproof matches in a waterproof container or a magnesium fire starter are both recommended and take up very little room.  Know how to use the fire starter and know how to build a fire.  There are plenty of online guides and you can easily practice this on an outing.  Always collect firewood while it is still daylight.  Collect more than you think you’ll need to make it through the night.   By placing your Space Blanket on the back of your shelter and sitting between the blanket and the fire, you can reflect heat to your backside.  Warmth nurtures hope and survival!

* Shelter – Your shelter may take many forms.  Anything thatprotects your body is considered shelter, including your clothes and your hat.Hats are a must in these situations. Always look for a nature made shelter like a cave, grove of trees, anyplace blocking the wind and elements (and that isn’t already occupied by critters). You can make shelters from tree branches, shrubs, etc.Use your Space Blanket to wrap yourself, staying in a ball to keep your core or trunk warm. Do not let yourself get wet. Keep a dry layer of clothes next to your skin. A shelter and the ability to get some sleep will leave you feeling more protected and will contribute to your inner strength.

* Signaling – Attracting someone’s attention is key to being rescued.   Always have a whistle and flashlight with you.  A whistle can be heard much further than shouting.  Old CD’s may be used like a mirror to signal using the sun’s reflection.  Fires are also signaling devices.  Three fires in a triangle are a distress signal.  To make a fire smoke, add moss or leaves.  If you’re expecting an airplane rescue, you can spell out SOS with rocks, tree limbs, your gear or clothes – anything of contrast with the ground.

* Food/Water – Food and water are essential for your survival.  Always carry water with you and water purification tablets in your vest.  Limit your activities in the sun to cut down on water loss or sweating.  Pack energy bars and candy bars or jerky in your vest.  Throw in a few plastic baggies for water or dew collection.  It is said to never gamble and eat berries or mushrooms in the wild for they can result in severe allergic reactions and/or death.  Some say avoid red berries altogether and eat only very small amounts of blue colored berries.  It would be best to carry a field guide if you don’t know your plant.

* Find Your Direction – Carry a GPS and know how to use it!  Your cell phone is also an asset until the batteries run down.  Be sure to switch on the locating device in your phone.  If you find yourself lost in the woods, again it is best to STOP or sit, think, observe, plan.  If you lose a trail, stop and do not wander aimlessly.  It is sometimes possible to retrace your step.  If nightfall is coming, make a fire and shelter.  Don’t stumble around in the dark where you can further injure yourself.  If you’re without a map or compass, you can determine your location by the sun.  The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Most rivers and streams run downhill and usually towards civilization.  You will intersect with a road sooner or later.  Always carry a whistle to signal for help or signal with a fire for help.

While these tips are brief, they are intended to make you contemplate the perils you might possibly face on a fishing trip gone awry.  There are many online tools, magazines, and books that will serve to further your knowledge of basic survival skills.  You are encouraged to hone your skills and make preparations before you’re in the face of danger.  All of these tips can be practiced ahead of time.  And of course, the first aid kit, space blanket, knife, flashlight, whistle, old CD, water purification tabs, energy bars, jerky, and compass should be going in your vest this minute.  Take along your cell phone and GPS unit as you’re leaving your car.

As you put on your vest and moan, you will discover that your vest weighs an additional 4 pounds.  Surely your life is worth that few extra pounds!