Napa Valley Fishing Report: Warmth, shelter, water key to wilderness survival
The Fishing Report

Napa Valley Fishing Report: Warmth, shelter, water key to wilderness survival


LOST… that word dominated the newly redesigned Field and Stream magazine cover. It flashed in my mind how devastating that could be – to be LOST on this planet. It happens often enough for all of us to get our families ready to get FOUND. All of us are more adventuresome and have more ways to get into the wild where Mother Nature can test us severely. Summer is coming up, and we need to prepare.

No, I’m not going to lead a tutorial on the subject. There are experts who can help you, if you choose. Read that Field and Stream, Vol. 125, No 2. They have been guiding us in the outdoors for 125 years. My uncles Sam, Joe and Edward back in little West Kingston, Rhode Island (population 100) always gave each issue to me as the passed it down.

However, here are some keys to a safe outdoor adventure that I have seen work. Your most needed items when you are lost in the wilderness are warmth, shelter and water; everything else can come after you have these in place. They not only make you feel better physically but also buck up your spirits, getting you ready for the next step in saving yourselves:

  • Tinder to start that fire, even though the surroundings are damp. Simple and easy: grease up a bunch of cotton swabs with Vaseline. Dozens of them will jam right into a small plastic pill bottle. That can jam into your pocket – permanently while you are in the field.
  • Fire lighter. The experts I read say you should always have two, though I feel better with three. Start with a tube of waterproof, strike-anywhere wooden matches. Then a Zippo cigarette lighter. Then a mag striker fire lighting tool.
  • Safe drinking water supply. There are several bottle-size units that purify water you find in the field, making it safe to drink. They are small, quick and proven.
  • A lean-to for warmth and dry. Using found materials, fit a cross bar into forks of two trees. Lay up slanted sticks as close together as possible. Then fill in with branches of leaves or needles. Be sure the opening faces away from the north – or prevailing wind. Alternately, use that light waterproof tarp you had room for in your duffle.
  • Don’t wait! Get the warmth, shelter and water steps done right away. The minute you decide that trying to find a way home that day won’t work, turn to your fire, shelter and water steps fast.
  • How to get home requires some skills and experience. It also needs your dogged determination to do it. My start would be to never go into the wilderness without a field compass on a grid and a map of the area. Those two lifesaving tools are still the best, and much better than hoping your remote location will somehow magically turn up on GPS. It won’t, but your compass and map can help you determine right where you are – step one in getting home. Google “map/compass lessons to find way home” for dozens of resources.
  • Here’s how I learned map reading way back when. I was an ROTC student at Rhode Island State when we all had to spend a summer of military training at Camp A.P. Hill in Virginia. On map reading day, this old, skeptical sergeant gave me the weasel eye as he handed me my map and compass and told me they were going to drop me off in the woods – and I had to get back by myself to the post in time for supper. They blindfolded me and drove me away from the fort—doing 360’s so I couldn’t try to trace our path. I was shoved out of the jeep – in a little wooded vale, alone in the world. I had learned to follow water downhill, look for landmarks, and listen for telltale noises.

Long story short, I followed a little stream down to its juncture with a little river that led me to a hump in the ground. From there I could see a church steeple on the west and a tall black chimney in the north. Triangulating them told me where I was on my map and the direction to the town with the church. Made it back on time for supper. True story.

High Tech Stuff… that works to get you home safely. There are many global medical emergency transportation services that promise to “bring you home” from any place on earth.

More High Tech Stuff… includes “Satellite Messengers” and “Personal Locator Beacons.” These hand-held devices fill in all the holes in your cell phone’s empty spots – when you are 10,000 miles away.

With Graduation Gift Giving… time coming soon, and summer wanderlust on the horizon, promise me you will have a family planning session on “Let’s Be Safe Out There.”

I Wish I Had… some upbeat local fishing news for you, but I don’t. The best I can offer is that your favorite target fish will be big, strong and dumb. Because they haven’t been fished over much, if at all, this spring they will be dumb as hell and ready to bite your baits and lures. Stay tuned.

Local Good News… On Tuesday a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in two lawsuits brought against Trump and his rich old white guys down south by California’s Natural Resources Agency and Environmental Protection Agency and by a half-dozen environmental groups.

The order bars the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation until May 31 from going ahead with expanding the amount of water it pumps from the San Joaquin Delta through the federal Central Valley Project. The suit argued that the exports would cause irreparable harm to species protected by state and federal law.

Thanks to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore The Delta.

Email Bill Ryan at

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