Bats: Catch-and-Release

Bats: Catch-and-Release

Plus, an all-around rod selection; and choosing wader styles

  • By: Paul Guernsey
  • and Buzz Bryson
Your "night fishing" feature in the April issue has me scared of the dark-or at least of the bats that inhabit it. I never before imagined that it was possible to hook a bat. Your article suggested that this happens all the time-but disturbingly, it gave no advice about what to do should such a horrible event happen to me. Help me out here; I like night fishing, but don't want to have to quit to avoid contracting rabies.

Take a deep breath. Calm down. Repeat after us: Bats are peaceful, gentle creatures of the night that eat only insects such as mosquitoes and avoid human contact whenever possible.

Still not relaxed? Well, we really can't blame you, since they do have sharp teeth and hooking one while night fishing is a real possibility. However, we consulted our resident bat authority, FR&R Conservation editor Ted Williams-he also writes for Audubon Magazine, and he's been known to erect a bat house or two in his yard-and Ted assures us that catching a bat isn't as terrible as our overactive imaginations might lead us to believe.

First off, says Ted, while some bats do carry rabies, an individual bat is no more likely than any other wild animal to have the disease. In addition, a rabid bat is a sick bat, and sick bats don't usually feed. This means that any bat that's dining actively on the evening hatch probably is not a rabid one.

Secondly, if you do hook a bat, it'll probably be a snag in the tail or some part of the body other than the mouth. "You'd have to be an awfully good fly tier to get a bat to actually eat your fly," Ted jokes.

As for releasing a hooked bat-and you should release it unharmed if you can-the main thing to remember is to avoid touching it with your bare hands. (This goes for any wild animal, incidentally.) Instead, gently wrap the creature in your jacket or shirt to immobilize it, then carefully remove the hook with your forceps. (Score yet another advantage for barbless hooks!) Once the hook is out, get away and allow the creature to make its escape.

And, if you do somehow get bitten by a bat, don't panic: You will not die or even get sick because, as a person of good sense, you will promptly visit your doctor's office or the local emergency room where, as a precaution, you will receive effective-and these days, not-too-terribly-painful-treatment to prevent the development of rabies.

In addition, if you happen to have the carcass of the bat, with its head intact, they'll be able to test its brain tissue for rabies as a further way of putting your mind at ease.

By the way, Ted's advice to immobilize the creature, then remove the hook, can serve to help you release almost any creature that's not a fish and that you did not intend to catch. The list includes swallows, ducks, seabirds and large dragonflies. -P.G.

I travel a lot, and would like to get a set of travel rods that would cover me for trout, panfish and even saltwater, excepting big tarpon and the like. What is the minimum I can get by with?

Leaving out the big fish as you indicated, I would be hard-pressed to think of a situation I couldn't cover with a set that included 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-weight rods. The 4-weight is great for trout and panfish. The 6-weight is good for chucking larger nymphs and streamers, for panfish and medium-size bass, and for light saltwater use. The 8-weight is a universal rod, doing service on ponds and lakes, larger streams, bays and ocean flats. And the 10-weight will handle some pretty good-size fish, including some of those tarpon!

A benefit of skipping only one line weight between rods is that adjacent sizes can overlap duties quite a bit. And you can mix and match your fly lines, as well. More specifically, if you're really in a pinch, you can under- or over-line your rods by as much as two line weights. For instance, an 8-weight line will overpower a 6-weight rod, but will still be castable on most rods. And that 8-weight line, with a bit of added punch on your part, will also work well enough to use on the 10-weight rod.

For the absolute maximum versatility in your travel set-up, I would diversify your line selection. Mix in floaters, intermediates and different-density sinking lines, and you'll find you can cover a lot more water, particularly in that "third dimension" where most of the fish are! -B.B.

What are the pros and cons of stockingfoot vs. bootfoot waders?

Generally, stockingfoot waders provide the most comfort, especially if you'll be walking long distances. And, not only will choosing lace-up boots for the stockingfoots allow you to find the best-fitting and most comfortable pair, but you'll be able to switch boots to match your hiking or wading conditions-smooth felt soles to studded or non-slip rubber soles, for instance. In addition, the lacing feature will allow you to loosen or tighten the boots as needed to optimize comfort, and to use a variety of socks. With few exceptions (the Orvis Tailwaters XT and the Chota Tellico Shoal models being a couple), bootfoot waders don't have lacing systems, and you have to "use what you brung."

However, bootfoots do allow you to slip into and out of them a lot more easily than stockingfoots with separate, lace-up boots. This easy access is especially useful when you're hopping in and out of a driftboat on a hot day, since it allows you to quickly peel off your waders to avoid cooking yourself when you're in the boat, and then to put them right back on again when you're about to descend into an ice-cold tailwater.

Bootfoots are also a good choice for anglers who have trouble bending over to lace boots, since they can be slipped right on with a tug. -B.B.

Got questions about anything under the fly-fishing sun? Write to Ask FR&R, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843, or e-mail us at [email protected].