Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
May 28th, 2007

Please Bear With Me

As we sat around the campfire at Lowell, Id. Fish-In, Grizzley Wulff (Dan) told us about meeting a black bear up on the Selway earlier that day. Which reminded me of the following.

Please Bear With Me!

One of the pleasures a man gets from fly fishing is the feeling of being alone with the elements. It is a tonic for the soul that no pharmacy in the world can duplicate. I was a little over a mile up a spring creek off the beaten path in an area that sees only a few humans each year.

That feeling of perfect solitude you get standing by a clear mountain stream early in the morning filled my heart to the brim. No hurry up or deadlines to meet, problems of the past week disappeared like smoke in the morning air. There is no-one to measure up to or impress. I am feeling giddy with the sense of the perfect calmness only solitude can bring.

That is the place and the moment I was in. A slight chill from the mist rising off the cool waters of the creek caressed my face. The whole days fishing lay before me.

Balancing on my hands and knees, I peered into the clear depths of the small creek trying to make out which of gods creatures the fish were snacking on this fine morning. I turn over a rock to study the little wriggling beasts. Here a Caddis larva is creepy crawling its way slowly across the rock face scowling at me for disturbing his nap. Another unidentified crawly thingybobber with a multitude of legs zips under the next rock before I can decide its ancestry. A small pollywog wogs his way from under the rock as I lift it up, then is immediately caught up in the faster water caused by the sudden removal of his rocky shelter. I feel a helpless pang of regret as Poor Mr. Wog is quickly swept into the main current. Tumbling end over end like a little black marble He disappears downstream. I watch to see if he becomes a meal for a marauding brookie. I'm not quite quick enough to determine his fate. I hope the little guy makes it. Feeling a little sad at having caused Mr. Wog to vanish into the cruelty of the current, I cut short further destruction of his old home, deciding instead to just put on a fly that will probably work.

My inspection of the stream over prematurely, I tie on what I probably was going to use anyway. A #14 Pheasant tail nymph will get them biting nicely I figure as it tie it on the light tippet.

The reality is, I have no idea just exactly what I am doing there watching the bugs. I just like to watch all the little buggies doing their little buggy things. Someday I hope I will gain enough knowledge to make intelligent decisions depending on the hatch, but so far I'm just guessing. Still it is an enjoyable pastime.

Having decided that the trout's first meal of the day will be pheasant tail under glass, I study the water for fish tracks. Over there is a promising rock with a sure fire looking eddy just behind it. That is surely "The spot" a regular fishy restaurant. The Burger King of Troutdom I say to myself. Gourmet brook trout from all over the world probably travel untold miles through countless dangers just to lay in that very spot for a buggy breakfast. I am really stoked. Full of expectation I begin my cast which resembles I have been told a shutter door banging back and forth in a hurricane. Someday I will cast like Joan or Lefty for now I just need to cast to that rock.

I make the necessary 25 foot cast over to whatever monster Brook trout lay hidden in the shadow of said rock. I manage a perfect cast. (You didn't believe that did you? Perfect cast my aunt fanny! For reality check see the comment about shutter door.) The fly landing just upstream from the target. I make a mighty upstream mend of the line to facilitate the perfect drift. The line snakes back toward me finishing up about a half way to the target zone. Oops got to work on my mend. No matter, I yank the line mightily up into the air once more ripping the fly from the water with a loud suurrrrllluuuupp and ever so gently drop it back into the perfect spot again. Less might and a little more finesse this time and viola the mend somehow works ok. The fly, unseen below the surface, drifts down and around the rock, a quick flip of the rod tip and the line slides easily over the rock. Perfect! The meal is on the table, the strike is near, I am certain. I am tense with anticipation ready to slam the hook hard into the jaw of my monsterous prize.

I was, totally in the moment, everything going along according to plan, when for some unexplained reason I get this uneasy cold chill that sends shivers down the back of my neck. I have the feeling someone or something is watching me. I glance nervously over my shoulder, but there is nothing in sight. I am brought sharply back to reality as the loud Spullunk of a really big fish sounds over the rush of the water. Damm! I catch a only a fleeting glimpse of silver and gold and feel a tiny tug on the line. The rod tip briefly dips, I yank way too hard, too late, nothing! Crap I missed em! The line flies straight back toward me to lie in a curly mess around my feet. I turn and stare hard at the trees and bushes behind me. Did something move? I reel in, still half looking over my shoulder unable to shake that strange feeling, I stop reeling in only when a gnarl of line grabs my finger. Looking down, at the reel. Man what a mess. The line is tangled in a complex birdsnest. Where is Alexander the Great when you need him? Feeling a little foolish, I pull line out till I'm past the mess, shake the tangles free, then reel it in neatly onto the reel. Ok so I didn't need Alexanders help after all. Damm you lost probably the biggest fish of the day, nay the biggest fish of the year just because the boogie man scared you. I think to myself. What a dim bulb! (dear reader you don't have to agree.)

My solitude has been disturbed and I can't shake this uneasy feeling so I head downstream to try for a better spot. I keep a nervous lookout behind me as I scramble over the rocks heading downstream but don't spot anything. I still can't quite shake the feeling that I am not alone anymore here in the narrow creek canyon. SKaarawwKK !! SkwarrKK !! I jump, lose my footing briefly and nearly lose my breakfast as a kingfisher scolds me loudly and rudely as it flashes by on its way up the creek. "You dumb Jerk," I yell at it, embarrassed at being frightened by such a small creature. Heart pounding in my chest, I take a couple of deep breaths to calm down a bit. Stupid bird.

Continuing down the creek, I arrive at another promising looking spot that looks very fishy. I am just about to cast when the loud Craaack ! of a tree branch just behind and off to my right nearly scares the liver out of me. I spin round and there he is. My pursuer is a black bear only fifty feet away from me standing at the edge of the trees staring at me. My heart begins pounding in my chest and I'm filled with an adrenalin rush of pure fear. First that dumb bird and now this idiot bear. It had just scared the hell out of me. Mixed in with the instant fright of seeing a bear that close is a small twinge of anger at its very rudeness. How dare a bear invade my privacy.

I have lived in bear country all my life. Slept out in the open with just a thin canvas tent between me and the elements. I have met a few bears in my time. I had never before been frightened by one. Mostly they went their way and I went mine... It seemed like a good arrangement.

This one was a bit different. This bear, had deliberately followed me. No dear reader I won't lie and tell you it was a gigantic bear with blood dripping from its fangs and claws or that it bared its teeth at me in rage. In fact it was a rather small bear as black bears go.

I judged it to be about a two year old. It was probably on its own for the first time in its young life. I stared at it. It stared at me. I reached slowly for the knife at my belt to use for protection. The thought of me fighting a bear to the death like some latter day Davey Crockett struck me as quite funny. "Killed him a bar, when he was only three," flashed thru my head. I thought to myself what the heck I'll just charge the dammed thing and hurl myself on its back. I guess I was still high on adrenalin from the shock of turning around to see this wild creature so close. The situation now struck me as being incredibly funny. I stifled a laugh. The bear snorts a low snort. I couldn't help it I know it is a stupid thing to do but I giggled. A high pitched 5 year old girlish giggle.

The bear takes two steps away in seemingly retreat, perhaps sensing a temporary madness from this strange looking beast in front of it. I laugh out loud, emboldened by its retreat. The bear spins round, stands up on its hind legs and growls at me.

It's funny how quickly funny can vanish when your opponent just doesn't get the humor in it. I had made the dammed thing mad. Not the wisest thing to do I think. This was funny no longer. I backed away from the bear. Keep eye contact I think, no wait, maybe you aren't supposed to look it in the eye. Geeze I don't know.

I have to report that I was dammed lucky at that point not to have ruined a perfectly good pair of underwear.

Then unbelievably I do what is one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I even startle myself by suddenly yelling at this wild beast "Hey you!" I yell, "BUGGER OFF!" a voice inside my head says, what? are you completely nuts? Another little voice warns me that if I do that again I am going to have wet undershorts.

Bear looks startled, like it was a bit shocked that an interloper in its domain could be so rude. For my part, I can't quite believe that yell actually came from me. The bear snorts. I back slowly away, trying not to trip and fall or it will be game over. I do not want to be brunch for a bruin. As I make my way backwards, rod pointed in the direction of the bear, the hook snags a branch, unwilling to drop my rod and reel in case I do live through this and will need them again, I hold the line tightly continuing to back away, the line tightens until with a loud SNAP! The tippet breaks the branch which swings thru the air towards the bear. Frightened the bear jumps about two feet straight up into the air then runs a short distance away in the opposite direction. "Hah! Scared ya! " I yell out with glee. I have a brief moment of triumph here during which I actually think about going to get the fly back out of the bush where it is stuck.

Really I wasn't on drugs I just wasn't thinking right, I just wanted that fly back. I guess I was running on pure stupidity and adrenalin not a good combination at the best of times.

Now readers here's a valuable tip for you. If you learn nothing else from my tale learn this:

When confronted with a wild animal. Please realize even if it does turn out to be baby bear. It is a mistake to ridicule it!

They don't like it! "Hah I scared Ya!" apparently is such a ridicule. Trust me on this one, He didn't like it! Big time he didn't like it.

The bear having absolutely no sense of humor growled menacingly at me and just stood there.

You don't have to hit me with a brick. (No matter how much fun it would be.)

I know mad when I see mad. He was not happy all the way up to mad and beyond mad to somewhere around really really mad.

I began backing up again to where I got about two or three hundred feet away from the bear. I am just starting to congratulate myself for losing him for good this time. starting to feel quite smug about it all. Then he started after me again!

Damm! Stupid bear! It 's still over a half mile to the truck. Now I remember the rifle I left hidden behind the back seat. Normally I always carry a rifle in bear country but in my hurry to get fishing I had left it behind. If I can get to the truck then the tables will turn. Ya! I'll give Mr. Bear a taste of my 30/30, big ole Winchester welcome. Bag myself a big ole bear make myself a big ole bearskin rug. Yep. Pretty big talk for someone with his tail clamped tightly between his legs.

Thoughts are now racing thru my head in a mad jumble, Don't for Pete's sake tease it anymore cause now he's mad at you, don't run I tell myself, a part of me desperately wants to run, worst thing you can do is run says the little voice in my head. Yell at it, or play dead, no don't yell he doesn't like yell, remember what happened when you told it to bugger off? Gawd what a dummy. If I get past the narrows first I'll be all right. The lake is there and the truck is there.

At this point dear readers I have to confess that I made some promises to God that I will have trouble keeping if he would just shoo the black demon away from me.

It's going to be a tough sell to St. Peter at the gates trying to explain why I may not have exactly lived up to my desperate prayers of that morning. I continued making my way along the slippery rocks and boulders. I'd stop every once in a while, yell softly at the bear. It would stop. I'd continue, It would follow, I'd yell, it would stop, seemed to be working as it was not gaining on me. I was getting near the canyon narrows. If I could get there before the bear I could dive in and swim. Can bears swim? Well not as good as me Hah! A sane moment intrudes, Oh sure you'll swim really really well in your hip waders dummy. Ok! So no swimming then.

At last I am near the narrows. Deep water of the dam is now beside me. If I can get my waders off I can still leap off the rocks and swim to safety. Now the thing with waders, even hip waders is they don't just slip off easily. You have to sit down and worry them off. No way I wanted to sit down with the bear that close. If I could get them off I'd have a better chance. I get a brilliant idea. Well it seemed brilliant at the time. Later on, well not so brilliant.

I again ease my knife out of its sheath. I bend a little at the knees reaching for the boot tops. I pierce the wader just above the boot then I saw frantically away till I have severed the boot from the rest of the wader then slit it up toward the belt until thankfully it falls to the ground. Why I didn't immediately do the same to the other wader I will never know. I didn't so get off my case. Oops sorry, got a little carried away there.

Then I get the bright idea to inflate my life vest. Why on earth would any sane person do that you ask? Did you somehow miss the part about me not being quite sane in light of the situation? I have read that the bigger you are the more animals respect and fear you. So I yanked the cord. I sure didn't think that one out fully . The vest inflated with a swoosh. I must have looked quite a sight, like a mummy fresh out of the tomb. One hip wader on the other in ragged tatters. Two bright yellow balloons adorning my chest nearly choking me to death. I'm not making this up, but I swear the bear laughed out loud at this point. Desperately I bend to cut off the other boot top. Great, just flippin great. Hampered now by the inflated vest. I can now barely reach the boot. I have just started to saw at the left wader top when all hell suddenly breaks loose! With a meowing cry the bear erupts from the bushes, heading in my direction. I just have time to think, My God they are fast. He had by this time already covered the ground between us. All this happened about the same amount of time it took me to yell out "MOMMY."

In a flash the little guy was all the way by me and heading for the hills as fast as his legs could carry him.

Did I take a defensive stand and protect myself with my trusty hunting knife? Nope! When the little guy ran for it, I jumped backwards in fear, the knife flung into the rocks 10 feet away. If it hadn't clanked off the rocks I never would have known what happened to it, such was my fear at the time.

Well, I was safe at last and not just a little humbled. I looked nervously around to make sure no one had heard me call for my Mommy as baby bear ran away from me. I thankfully make my way back towards the truck. On the way I finally realize, heck the poor little guy wasn't stalking me, he was trying for the safety beyond the narrow canyon walls the same as I was. Poor little guy finally saw his chance to get by me and made a run for it. He was just as scared as I was. If I had continued fishing instead of backing away in front of him, blocking his escape all the while, he would have just gone on his merry way.

Three fishermen plying their trade in a large pool by the parking lot were greeted by the rather odd sight of an overweight man, his body made even larger by the bright yellow inflated life vest that he wore. All this made even odder still by the shredded hip waders trailing from his right boot top. One of the men called out to me, you ok? You look a little ragged.

Yep, I'm ok, just a little bear trouble, followed by a giggle.

I left that place. ~ Rober Murray (Gnu Bee)


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