Can I Identify A Fish By How.It.Looks As A Baby The Alaskan Experience

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The Alaskan Experience

“TO PISS!!”

I yelled, as my seven-weight rod tipped and the line played its magical “brind in the rain” tune. It was hard to tell how big the fish was or if it was a Rainbow or a big Dolly Varden.

Hooking a big upper Kenai River trout in fast water doesn’t leave much time for species identification.

“Hold on, we’ll chase him down and land him in calmer water.” said Allen, who was behind the masts of our 20-foot Willie drift boat.

We had just entered the canyon section of the Upper Kenai River, and while my three other buddies fishing with me in the boat had already hooked some BIG Rainbows and Dollies, I had yet to catch what I will call the Upper Kenai Fish “of quality”. This, of course, means insulting every trout in every other river in North America, as the eighteen-inch Rainbows and twenty-inch Dolly Vardens I had already caught were no mincemeat! It’s just that I had seen numerous twenty-four inch fish caught in the morning and heard Allen comment on how this was the best morning of fly fishing he had had on the upper Kenai this year. Again, don’t get me wrong, I was catching my share of fish, but this was the kind of fish I was waiting for.

Ziiiiinnngggg.

I stood up at the front of the boat, and Allen gave chase in our wide-bellied river chase vehicle.

I kept the rod high and reeled to keep a tight line on the fish.

As we drifted to the “right river” bank we heard some crashing into the trees. In my peripheral vision I saw some movement, but I kept my eyes fixed on the tip of my pulsating wand. Allen nonchalantly mentioned that we had a brown bear to our right, the way a man mentions seeing a 1957 Chevy.

It’s neat, but nothing to go crazy about. Keep fishing.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I pass within twenty feet of carnivores eating meat, I like to give them more than a passing glance. Especially since most of us on the boat were seeing our first Brown/Grizzly. bones in our lives, and not everyone sees a Grizzly when they come to Alaska. Not to mention that any of us would make a delicious mid-day snack for a bear with the pica-pica.

Allen, trying to be the consummate Alaska fishing guide, was trying to pass it off as an everyday occurrence and make you feel like, “Hell, most of us guides sleep with bears,” but you could tell by his watching back and forth. apparently he didn’t see bones that often.

As Allen dropped the boat’s anchor in a nice back eddy, I turned to the fish and went back to the task at hand. Pump, coil down, pump, coil down.

Around this time, I began to feel more commotion from the bank, and about the same time my fish revealed its rainbow identity by doing an acrobatic leap into the air, I turned to see a bear clawing him up a tree.

Well, that’s what I like to see from a man eating carnivores!

I turned back to the fish and then did a double take on the bear.

Oh @%$+ IT WAS A CUBE….

… and we’re not talking about the ones playing in Chicago!!

Faster then I could get the words “it’s a cub” out of my mouth, the mama bear went into protective mode. We all heard the brushes falling like they were facing dummies on the Chicago Bears practice field and then we saw “Mames” round face, shoulders hunched, claws digging in as she charged us toward the bank

We all looked at the same time, and for a brief second, my first thought was, “Oh, great, why does this have to happen when I have a nice rainbow? I hope I don’t lose this fish.” Of course, sitting twenty meters away in a boat, on the water, gives a sense of security.

A false sense of security.

That bear took to the sky as a “superwoman”. Paws out and legs flying, without even breaking stride, he was IN THE WATER.

You’ve never seen ten eyeballs this big in your life.

I looked at my fish, I looked at Allen, and I looked at that Grizzly and I thought to myself; “Great, I’ve got three other anglers in this boat and they all match the criteria I had demanded to fish bear country with. They’re all bigger and slower and at this point between me and the bear!!” BUT, if we were to go overboard, I sure wasn’t sure I could out-swim these guys. In addition, he had a rod in his hand, a fish on the line and a natural fisherman’s instinct, not wanting to lose the trout!! The bear would definitely pick me up, because I’d get the bonus of an omelette for dessert after having his “Fisherman ala Gore-Tex” entree. I guess I shouldn’t have been too worried, after all Allen wouldn’t have wanted to go back to the hostel without his ‘guests’, too much paperwork!!

right?

Allen frantically grabbed the anchor rope, as “mama” thrashed in the water. Meanwhile, the rest of us had the “deer in the headlights” look, waiting for Allen’s instructions – or God’s voice – to tell us what to do next.

“I think we’ll fight that fish somewhere else.” said Allen, as he grabbed the oars and pulled us away with Herculean strength.

This is what they call an understatement. In fact, somewhere else!

How about Pennsylvania?

The mother had done what she had wanted, the danger to the missing cubs, the ghostly white fishermen and the brown bear Peace and tranquility were restored on the right bank.

MISSION COMPLETE!

He turned and splashed back onto the shore…

I don’t know if it was the dropping of the anchor that had startled him, or the bump of the boat, or the splash of my rainbow, but we had just witnessed – first hand – how the Grizzly bear protects her cubs in the wild.

Almost going NUTS!!

We drifted to “river left,” downstream about another 100 yards, and finally landed a depleted 23-inch FAT rainbow trout. Of course, the fish seemed like an afterthought as all five of us checked our waders for “brown spots”, but after all that, it would have made us cry to lose this fish.

We all “wandered” and still couldn’t help but look back upstream, just to make sure “mama” wasn’t still mad. Allen said it was the first time he had seen a brown bear jump into the water like that.

really

Then we sat there and we all explained how the scene “went down”. It was great to hear everyone’s reaction and different version of “thirty-five seconds of drama”.

We took a picture of that fish, which will forever be known as the “Bear Fish”, and although it wasn’t the biggest fish in that float, it will certainly be the most remembered.

There was no picture of the bear as everyone was glued to the real bear in the non-Kodak moment.

When we got back to our lodge, Allen told the story of our Alaskan experience and some of the older guides looked at him “sideways” like he was working on a good fish story or nickname. Now I see… ” Who are you hanging out 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 exactly like we had said we saw “bigfoot ” or “aliens”. ” for God’s sake!!

All in all, I would say that we had the true Alaskan experience that day. Beautiful Upper Kenai Rainbow Trout and Dolly Vardens on a fly, false loaded by a Mother Grizzly and an unforgettable day in an amazing landscape.

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

But not as tall as that BEAR!!

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