Why Does The Old Man Want The Fish To Jump The Alaskan Experience

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The Alaskan Experience

“FISH!!”

I screamed, as my seven weight fly rod fell and the line sang a magical “singing in the rain”. It was hard to tell how big the fish was or if it was a rainbow or a big Dolly Varden.

Pulling big catfish along the Kenai River in the rapids doesn’t leave much time to get to know the species.

“If it sticks – we’ll chase it and take it to calmer waters.” Said Allen, who was behind the tillers of our Willie 20 drift boat.

We had just entered the Canyon section of the upper Kenai River and while my three other fishing buddies in the boat had already pulled in some BIG rainbows and Dollies, I had yet to catch what I will call the top “type” of Kenai fish. This meant mocking any trout on any other river in North America, as the eighteen Rainbows and twenty inch Dolly Vardens I had previously caught were not liver cut! It’s just that I watched many twenty-four inch fish caught in the morning and listened to Allen’s comments about how it was the best morning of fly fishing he’s had in the upper Kenai this year. Again, don’t get me wrong – I was catching my share of fish – but this was the fish I was hoping for.

Ziiinnnggg.

I stood in front of the boat, and Allen drove our car down the river.

I held my rod up and swung to hook the fish.

As we were being taken to the bank of the “right river,” we heard some falling from the trees. In my peripheral vision I saw some movement, but my eyes were focused on my shaking nipple. Allen said bluntly that we had a brown bear on our right, like the guy he mentioned seeing a 1957 Chevy.

It’s neat – but nothing to go crazy over. Keep fishing.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I pass within twenty yards of a carnivore—I tend to give them more than a cursory glance. Especially since many of us on board were seeing our first Brown/Grizzly. carry in our lives, and not everyone sees Grizzly when they come to Alaska. Not to mention that any of us can make a midday snack for the bear and the munchies.

Allen, trying to be a fishing guide in Alaska, tries to make this happen like a daily occurrence and make you feel like – “Heck, most of us guides sleep with bears” – but you can tell by his observation. he looked—that he didn’t get to see bears that often.

While Allen lowered the boat’s anchor into a nice back road, I turned my attention to fishing and returned to the task at hand. Pump, back down, pump, back down.

About that time, I began to hear another noise from the bank, and at the same time my fish revealed its rainbow by leaping into the air, I turned to see a bear climbing a tree.

Well, that’s what I love to see from people who eat meat!

I turned back on the fish—and took a double take on the bear.

OH @%$+ THAT WAS GREAT…

…and we’re not talking about the kind that plays in Chicago!!

As quickly as I could get the words “it’s a baby” out of my mouth, the mama bear went into safety. We all heard the brush being dropped like wrestling dummies at Chicago Bears training camp and saw “Mom” face round, shoulders swinging, claws digging in as she shot us to the bank.

We all looked at the same time, and for a moment, my first thought was: “Oh, well, why does this have to happen when I have a nice rainbow? I hope I don’t lose this fish.” Of course, being twenty yards away in a boat—in the water—gives one a sense of security.

A false sense of security.

That bear ascended to heaven as a “super woman”. He got out with his legs flying – not broken at all – he was IN THE WATER.

You have never seen ten witnesses grow like this in your life.

I looked at my fish, I looked at Allen, and I looked at that Grizzly, and I thought to myself; “Well, I have three other anglers in this boat and they all agree with what I have to fish for bears. They are all big and slow and at this point – between me and a bear!!” BUT, we had to move on – I wasn’t sure I could out swim these guys. Plus, I had a rod in my hand, a fish on the line, and a natural fisherman’s instincts- so I didn’t want to lose my trout!! A bear would have chosen me, because he gets a bonus with a fish after wearing “Fisherman ala Gore-Tex”. I guess I shouldn’t have worried too much, after all, Allen wouldn’t want to go back to the lodge without his “guests” –lots of notes!!

Right?

Allen grabbed the anchor line, while the “mother” ran into the water. Meanwhile the rest of us had a “deer in the headlights” look, waiting for instructions from Allen—or the word of God—to tell us what to do.

“I think we’re going to have to fight this fish somewhere.” Allen said, grabbing the oars and pulling us away with Herculean strength.

That is what they call blasphemy. Somewhere of course!

What about Pennsylvania?

Mother had done what she wanted, horrors for the baby, fishermen as white as ghosts, and Brown the bear Peace and quiet returned to the right bank.

JOB DONE!

He turned, and dropped to the shore…

I don’t know if it was the dropping of the anchor that startled her, or the bumping of the boat, or the steering of my Rainbow, but we had just witnessed in our hands – how a Grizzly bear protects her wild cubs.

Great for going NUTS!!

We drifted to “river left”, down another 100 yards, and finally landed a tired 23 inch FAT Rainbow trout. Of course, the fish looked reasonable now that all five of us looked at our brown spots, but after all, it would have made us cry to lose the fish.

We all “five times” each other and had no choice but to look back at the top – to make sure “mother” didn’t get angry. Allen said it was the first time he had seen a brown bear dive like that.

Of course.

Then we sat there and we all gave our stories about how things “went down”. It was great to hear everyone’s reactions and a different kind of “thirty-five second drama”.

We took a photo of the fish – which will forever be known as the “Bear Fish”, and although it wasn’t the biggest fish in the water – it is the one that will be remembered the most.

There was no picture of a bear—since everyone was drawn on a real bear and not in the Kodak era.

When we got back to our lodge, Allen told the story of our Alaskan experience and some of the old guides looked at him “sideways” like he was working on a good fishing story or nickname. Who are you traveling with today? Grizzly Gillette? Allen the Bear Slayer?… Of course there were four witnesses who were willing to back him up and it wasn’t the same as we claimed to have seen “bigfoot” or “aliens”. “for heaven’s sake!!

All in all, I’d say we had a real Alaskan experience that day. The best Kenai Rainbow fly and Dolly Vardens on the fly, falsely sung by Grizzly women and an unforgettable day in an amazing place.

As the years go by -I’m sure the “Bear Fish” will grow, the bear will get closer (maybe even get into the boat!!) and the legend of “Grizzly Gillette” will grow.

But not as tall as that BEAR!!

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