Category Archives: Clay Cunningham, Cody, Wyoming

My ‘Go To’ Flies

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

As a twelve-year old in 1948 growing up in Pennsylvania and a beginning fly tier, most of my early flies were poor imitations of the patterns described in an old book given to me. As I recall at that time, my flies were tied with materials I collected from the chickens we killed for the dinner table and various hair and feathers I collected from my trapline and hunting for deer, rabbits, Ruffed Grouse pheasants and squirrel with my father, a coal miner who was a veteran of WWII in the Pacific. My supplies for fly tying were largely poor materials. Those materials combined with my amateur fly tying skills produced flies that were ugly and didn’t float very long, if at all.  So, I started raising Banty roosters. They are smaller and much more aggressive buggers that seemed to know when I was looking to collect their hackles and the fight was on. While Banty rooster hackles were better than the standard hackles found on our chickens or in Herter’s catalog at the time they were nothing like the hackles we have today. more…

Advice for Fishing and Hiking in Bear Country

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

Part of my career with the National Park Service included time as the Yellowstone Madison River sub-district ranger in the 1960s, the East District ranger in the North Cascades from 1970 to 1975, and the superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve from September 1980 until March 1989. During the past 32 years I lived and worked where black and grizzly bears and bison and moose live. This article is what I learned from research, observations of animal behavior, speaking to mauled victims and having been personally charged by a grizzly on three different occasions. I was never mauled by a bear.

Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, North Cascades National Park and all the national parks in Alaska have grizzly bears. Yellowstone, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and both state and national parks in South Dakota have many wild bison. The bears and bison sometimes attack park visitors. Hunters in the areas surrounding parks have also endured attacks by a grizzly. The possibility of a grizzly bear attack is virtually guaranteed if you encounter a sow grizzly with cubs, and many grizzlies outside the park have learned during hunting season that the sound of rifle fire could mean an elk or deer has been shot. The grizzly moves in the direction of the rifle fire because it could find a dead animal or its gut pile to feed upon. more…

Bison and Fly Fishing

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

As a rookie Ranger, right out of twelve weeks of training, I was assigned to Yellowstone for the more practical realistic on-the-job training by experienced rangers. I arrived at my new assignment on December 17, 1967. That winter was spent on boundary ski patrol with one of the best ski rangers in Yellowstone during Montana’s extended elk hunting season.

When the visitor season began, typically May to October, the Chief Ranger assigned me as the Madison Sub-District Ranger. One serious accident I investigated was a 37-year-old man who was attacked by a male bison. He had been trying to get a close-up picture of a bison with one of those throw away cardboard cameras when the bison charged and accurately drove his horn in the man’s rectum. His 12-year-old son said, “Boy, did daddy go high.” His father lived through the incident, and both he and the many witnesses got an education on what not to do when around a 1,400 to 2,000-pound wild bison. more…