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Are Moose Dangerous?

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My guide Brian (foreground) with moose (background) My guide Brian (foreground) with moose (background)

Intrepid fly angler Simon Cooper faces up to one of the 'cute' animals that could kill him…






Are Moose dangerous?

Quite frankly I had no idea, but the answer apparently is yes. They are rated Canada's most dangerous animal and in continental North America kill more people each year than grizzly bears.  As for the one I met I thought it looked quite cute, which is the wrong thing to think. Google 'Are moose dangerous?' and you will find an article entitled '15 cute animals that will kill you'.

So, on the second day of the Jackson Hole One Fly we were out of the boat hiking up a side stream when I found myself separated from the guide and the other angler as I moved upstream towards the most perfect pool. On the opposite bank, looking fairly benign, was a massive moose with a huge rack, drinking from the pool. Getting into the river I began to wade up slowly to get the best shot at the pool, at which point the moose spotted me, pawing the stones and emitting this guttural cough cum barking sound.

Having spent years dodging cattle that do much the same, only to back off when confronted I must admit I thought nothing of it and blithely got ready to fish until behind me both the guide and my companion angler (keeping a safe distance) started hissing in my direction, gesticulating that I get out of the river mighty fast.

'Really?' I shouted in disbelief.

'Really' they whispered, gesticulating yet more. Reluctantly I edged my way back and we continued upstream giving the moose a mighty wide berth.

Why do I tell you this? Well, naturally I want you to know how intrepid I am but actually it is more of a whinge.

When we got back to the pool an hour later, Mr Moose had vanished and, having caught three fish of moderate size further upstream, I deferred to my companion who proceeded to haul out four big scoring fish. My guide Brian, who I am sure you will agree from the photo looks every bit as scary as the moose, said I'd been 'a real gentlemen'. I, on the other hand, I wish I'd taken my chances with the moose.

I should not complain really; at 20th out of 171 anglers it was one of my best finishes ever in the One Fly and the Fishing Breaks team was 14th of 40 teams. But as with any angler it was a case of what might have been...

Another dry fly victory
We have rules for our One Fly here on the River Test; dry fly or nymph, the latter being strictly of the chalkstream imitative type. Lures are banned. In the US version of the competition, streamers, what you and I would call lures, are permitted in addition to both nymph and dry.

I have fished a streamer on a couple of occasions and it is not an experience I would recommend. Quite frankly it is just damn hard graft. The streamers are big and heavy. You know the sort of thing. A fly that will give you a nasty thwack on the back of the head if you drop the back cast. You truly do have to rip the streamers through the water to imitate a fleeing small fish, scudding through the water as fast as its little fins will carry it. If you have ever watched those fishing shows where the angler jerks a jig back on short spinning rod you will be getting the general idea.

Try doing it for eight solid hours and every bit of you will ache. The first time I used one was when the river was blown out by a landslip, the colour of mushroom soup. I laboured all day without a single take.

The second time my boat mate and fellow competitor was a pro guide who was an ace streamer fisherman, who gave me no choice. The problem is that if one of you fishes a streamer, so must the other. Put a streamer in the water and it kills dead the dry fly option and negates effective nymphing; don't forget I'm in a boat 15 feet long and we cast in unison landing our flies just a few feet apart. Effective it was, but mostly for him. Actually it was more than a little depressing as he out fished me five fish to one every hour of the day.

But streamer fishing is effective and therefore popular. It brings out those big fish who love to eat small fish. As the guide screams "Hit that hog!" as some fish looms up fast from the deep you have to strike as if every cutthroat trout was the re-incarnation of orca. For a gentle chalkstream soul like myself this is the culture shocks of all culture shocks, but hey, it is all part of the adventure.


These are the dries; now imagine the streamers…

I am not going criticise the use of streamers in the Jackson Hole One Fly; it is just another way of fly fishing in Western USA and was on the scene long before I came along. However the Team Skwala took it into their collective heads to only fish a dry fly this year, defying the sceptics to win the competition outright. I don't know whether they did it as a tribute to Frederick Halford, but in the centenary year that marks his death, I am sure the founding father of modern day dry fly fishing would be rightly proud.

For the record I fished a Pheasant Tail Nymph on day one (All hail Frank Sawyer) and a Black Cricket on day two. Full results, more details about the competition and the Jackson Hole Foundation may be found HERE

Flyfishing.co.uk is delighted to bring you Simon’s feature, which was first published in his ‘Fishing Breaks’ Newsletter.

Simon’s company, Fishing Breaks, based in the heart of the River Test Valley, offers some of the finest chalk stream fly fishing available in the UK – and a whole lot more. Check out their website HERE

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