When a Fly Fisher Encounters a Moose

Many moons ago, I shared a beaver pond with a moose.

I was a teen, fishing near Hoback Junction in Wyoming. A large Brookie darted out from under a rock to take a swipe at my Woolly Worm. Meanwhile, a cow moose watched me from 25 yards away. It was standing in three feet of water on the other side of the small pond.

The moose was dangerously close. But I didn’t panic for three reasons. First, I was so intent on hooking the Brookie (I eventually did) that the potential danger did not register. Second, I knew that the pool created by the beaver dam was at least six feet deep. Third, although I was right about the unlikelihood of a moose trying to charge me through a six-feet deep pool, I underestimated the danger like a typical teenage boys do all the time.

However, I have learned to fear the moose I encounter in the outdoors. I have not had any close calls, although a cow moose came within 30 yards of me when I was bow-hunting elk in a wilderness area in Montana. It stared at me for a couple of minutes before I backed away. A year later, a cow moose—and the bull following her—charged my brother while he was quartering a bull elk he shot on a mountainside in that same wilderness area. The pair veered off when they were ten yards away! My healthy fear of moose comes mainly from the accounts I’ve read and stories I’ve heard.

When a fly fisher encounters a moose, there are ways to avoid the danger. And there are ways simply to avoid the encounter in the first place:

Keep your dog home

No hate mail, please.

“Keep your dog at home” is not a hard and fast rule. But if you’re hunting in moose country, think twice about it. At least keep your dog on a leash. Moose may think your dog is a wolf. There’s nothing pretty about your beautiful lab getting sliced by a knife-sharp moose hoof.

Stay Alert

“Duh, Captain Obvious,” you say.

But alertness is critical, especially true in the spring and in the fall. Whether you’re fly fishing in Maine or Montana, stay alert. Cows calve in the spring, so they will be more cranky and protective of their offspring. Bulls are aggressive in September and October during the rut.

The thick streamside vegetation moose inhabit is the right recipe for a close encounter of the wrong kind.

Stay Away

If you see a moose while you’re on the river, stay away. Don’t risk getting close. Admire it from a distance. Conventional wisdom says to stay at least 25 yards away. However, I’d double that. If you see a cow with a calf, then double it again. There’s no reason to risk an encounter.

Back Away

When a fly fisher encounters a moose (because he or she is so focused on next run to fish), the best strategy is to back away slowly from it.

Run Away

If a moose charges, then run. That’s right! Run. This is lousy advice for dealing with a charging bear. But running from a moose will not incite it. Nor will it be tempted to take you apart with its teeth like a grizzly could.

Moose are not carnivous.

Of course, you can’t outrun a moose — unless you can run faster than 30 miles per hour. But running still works for at least two reasons.

First, as Rachel Levin points out in her book, Look Big, a moose will not follow you very far.

Second, you can usually out-maneuver a half-ton animal if you’re running in a forest, dodging trees and boulders. Find a place to hide. A moose simply wants you out of its space.

Encounters a Moose

There are a lot of dangers to consider when you fly fish — lightning, swift current, venomous snakes, and grizzly bears. When a fly fisher encounters a moose, he or she should But don’t forget about moose if your favorite river or stream happens to be in their back yard.

Other articles we’ve done on safety and the outdoors include:

    Summer’s Greatest Danger for Fly Fishers
    Hidden Dangers for Summer Fly Fishers
    5 More Suggestions for Safe Wading