Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
May 27th, 2002

The Fishing Dog

By Dennis Dickson

Each year I lead a group of anglers to a lake in the north country, and this trip appeared to begin like any other. Jack and I set up our little tent camp for the six anglers that would be coming in for the next three days. We had brought along Danny to be our cook on the promise he could do some personal fishing, when he wasn't attending to camp duties. We flew putting our camp up, so we could get some fishing in before it got dark. Big mistake.

Danny and Jack were in one boat while I fished from another. We no more had dropped anchor when this really nice lady and her husband troll by.

"Sorry about your camp." She says apologetically.

"Excuse me?" I asked .

"Your camp, you know,...the bear in your camp."

"What bear?...I am sorry, Lady, what are you talking about" I pleaded.

"Wasn't that your camp with all the tents?" She asked. "A bear came in and destroyed everything.

I just went numb.

She continued, "They destroyed the bear..."I'm surprised you didn't hear the shot."

Reality set in. I did hear a shot, and she certainly did not look like she was kidding. I didn't even wait to find out any more details about the lady. I lifted anchor and rowed like crazy for Jack.

"Jack!" I exclaimed. "We've had a bear in camp!"

Jack and I have been together for a long time fishing in places like Alaska, Washington, and B.C. He knew instantly, I wasn't kidding.

At six feet, 190 pounds, son of a construction boss, I can hold my own, and right now I was putting up a wake, rowing for the other side of the lake. Jack is slightly shorter twice as stocky, with big hands and larger biceps. Years of pulling lumber of the green chain. Even though he had Danny at nearly 300 pounds in the front seat, he was matching me rowing, stroke for stroke. I reminded myself never to race Jack on a bet. This went on for about five minutes and then Jack does an amazing thing. He stops rowing, reaches behind him, and starts pulling up the rope. He had forgot to bring up his anchor! I am going to spare you the details. Let's just say, he left me.

When we got to camp, the ranger was still there taking a statement from another camper. A large black bear lay motionless in the back of his pickup.

Apparently, in our haste, we forgot to string up our cooler. The bear wandered into camp and found the food. He must have thought he had found the mother load. He would just grab some yummies from the box, and settle down a short distance away, and eat.

As the officer explained, this nice little old lady in the next camp, saw this bear make a couple trips to the cooler, and while it was off the side chewing away, she walked in to take the cooler away.

"Bad mistake." I moaned.

"Yea, the bear charged her, but she was so frightened, she dropped the cooler, probably saved her life." Ranger said.

I was feeling a little nauseated.

"Oh, I should probably warn you because you are tent camping and all," he continued, " This bear has a mate...meaner than this one. We just haven't been able get it, yet." I swallowed hard.

The next day, the boys roll in. It isn't long before they are all settled in and we are all fishing a chironomid hatch out in the bay a short distance from camp. My group was anchored off around the bay, resembling cheerios on the pond.

There was also an older gentleman trolling around in the bay in his twelve-foot car-topper. In the stern of the boat was a large black lab, sitting up like he was standing guard.

Now every so often, one my students would hook a fish, and every time they did this man would row over and ask what color fly he was using. They would tell him and he and his dog would go back to their fishing. Later that afternoon, the fish switched over to the caddis hatch.

Now caddis are good swimmers, and there is nothing more that these large Kamloops Rainbow trout like to do, than chase these bugs down. Needless to say, these fish don't just hit your fly during this hatch, they crush it!

As far as I know, the man and the dog spent the better part of the day without so much as a nibble, but they never varied. Man rowed, dog watched.

I am not sure why I happened to be watching out that side, but one second the old man's rod tip slaps down, and the next second the rod is headed out the back of the boat. The fella makes a lunge for the fleeting rod but he is going to be way late. I have seen this lost rod scenario before when Wnuff! All of a sudden this black lab just turns his head and snatches that rod quicker than Deon Sanders can intercept a Warren Moon pass. Now the really funny thing is...the dog grabs the rod by the handle and misses the line to which the large rainbow is taking out at an alarming speed. Somewhere out in the lake the rainbow breaks the surface. The old man realizes the fish is still on, and Blacky has the rod all-be-it, bucking and thrashing, in his mouth. He lunges for the rod spilling he and the dog in the back of the boat. It's a tug of war. The dog thinks this is a game and he hasn't had this much fun all day. Man lunges, dog fends, while the fish fights. It was pretty hard to say who was wining, although I think the lab was doing a remarkable job of fighting the fish and the old man. Finally, the fellow gets a headlock on the pooch and pries the slobbery rod from his mouth. Plays and lands the fish. The whole group of us Let out a "HURRAY!" I found I had a whole new respect for Lund boat stability. That boat should have gone over.

That night after dinner, I started thinking about the bear, the one that was still out there. I may have forgotten to tell the anglers. "Why get everyone upset?"

You can't imagine how vulnerable you feel until you realize the only thing between you and a 800 pounds of hungry attitude is a few ounces of ripstop nylon...your tent. I felt like a big Eddy Bauer hotdog.

I will have to admit I didn't sleep much that night, but finally fatigue overtook me when suddenly I was awake. I hear crunch...crunch...sniff... crunch. Man! It is right next to my tent! I lay perfectly still. Don't breathe or nothing! It finally starts to move over a few yards.

I hear a camper door open.

"Get em boy!" The man yells.

The dog yelps and then man screams, "AAAAAAHHHHH!!!"

And then silence. I wait. Nothing.

I am thinking, "Well, he's dead anyway, Right?" "No use being two of us, right?"

I lay frozen in my sleeping bag until dawn. I must have dozed off. When I awoke there was a big ruckus going on in the next camp. I jump out of bed, pulling my sweatpants up as I run out in bare feet.

There is the old man with the entire camp of people gathered around.

He says,"So I hear this noise outside and I am figuring it's the bear. (One of my guys look at me like, "What bear?")

The old man goes on with the story.

"So I get ready to sick my dog Rusty on him, and I wait until its right next to my door. The dog is growling "RRRRR." I fling open the door, the dog lunges...right in the middle of a SKUNK! Skunk sprays the dog, sprays me and the inside of my camper!"

Feeling like the celebrity, he proudly exclaims, "Yea, it looks like its going to take a whole lot of tomato juice this time, Rusty."

By the level of stench that hit my nose, he better find a lake of it. ~ Dennis Dickson

About Dennis

Dennis is a native of the Pacific Northwest, has lived in Arlington, WA, his entire life, except for two year while attending the University of Washington and another two years in Hawaii. Growing up near the North Fork of the Stilly, he has fly fished his entire life.

He graduated with a BS in the college of Fisheries and worked for the next eight years as a fisheries biologist, on the Stillaguamish system. Dennis left this field and began guiding fly fishers full time in the early 80's. After six years of guiding up to 200 days a year, Dennis hit burn out and went back to Fisheries working as a consultant. After two years Dennis realized he missed fishing too much and decided to branch out. He now spends half his time guiding in places like the Sauk, Stilly, Grande Ronde, south east Alaska for steelhead, and Bluewater flyfishing in Mexico. His other half of the year is interspersed with fisheries work, saving spawning streams, and building private lakes throughout the state.

He is married with three kids (two in college) and enjoys working in his community and church, (when he is in town). He likes people and loves fish. Watching anglers catch their first steelhead on a fly is a thrill that never goes away. You can reach Dennis by email at: or on his website:

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