Our Actions & Reactions – Part I
December 28, 2007
By A. Sayward Lamb
Many times I have marveled at the actions and reactions of those people who have experienced some outstanding or unusual circumstances while hunting, fishing, hiking, or participating in a multitude of other outdoor activities. Some of these things that I recall have remained indelibly imprinted in my mind for many years, although they seem to have happened only yesterday. I expect that many of you, as well as myself, have been surprised by our own behavior during some of these events. Not only that, but I have been surprised by the actions of several of my companions while we have been on hunting or fishing trips, or traveling together. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.
I believe that you will recall instances where you may have had similar circumstances happen to you, or to someone you know. I believe these phenomena, once we think about them, are more common than we realize. It has been my experience that these events happen most unexpectedly, but again they may be only a memory as simple as a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or even sightings of wildlife, etc. Here are a few of my own recollections.
While on a trip to Alaska, I went fishing for Red salmon with a friend, Roger Twitchell, on the Russian River. We left the campground and walked upstream to a certain fishing hole that often proved productive for us. As it happened, this turned out to be the right move on that particular day. We found the fishing hole contained several salmon that were resting, (also known as a salmon lie), on their way upstream to the spawning area at the outlet of the Russian River Lake.
We both wore waders, and needed them as we crossed over to the other side of the river. Soon, both Roger and I were busy casting our flies. Occasionally one of us would hook onto one of them and have the fun of playing a beautiful Red salmon, which averaged in weight from five to eight pounds apiece. Our daily limit was three fish per person and I can remember how intently I watched the drift of my fishing line and fly, as I repeatedly cast into the swift water that flowed into the large, deep pool. When either of us would catch a salmon, we would take it back across the river to shallow water near shore. There we would attach it to our respective stringers. We weighted down our stringers with a large rock to keep the salmon in the shallow water until we were ready to clean them.
After awhile Roger told me that he had his three salmon, so he was going back to shore and clean the salmon he had caught. (Incidentally, this is a common practice in Alaska, as leaving the entrails in the river provides food for wildlife and also prevents any scent of fish from attracting wildlife into the campsites).
I acknowledged what he told me, and then returned to casting my fly and line, because I still needed one more salmon to limit out. A short while later, I happened to glance behind me and saw Roger, bent over, cleaning one of his salmon. After removing he entrails he tossed them a short distance downstream, near the shoreline. Much to my surprise, on the downstream side, less than twenty-five feet from where Roger was standing, was a huge black bear feasting on the remnants of those innards that Roger was tossing its way!
My first reaction was to warn Roger about how close the bear was to him. When I mentioned this, Roger simply glanced towards the bear and continued cleaning the large salmon that he held in his hands, never moving a step in either direction. As soon as the bear picked up some of the fish innards in its mouth, it would leave the river and take the remnants back into the bushes to eat.
Soon the bear was back looking for more of the morsels. Noticing this action, I said to Roger, “You might want to move out of there, because when you run out of innards that bear will be after that salmon in your hands.”
I’m sure Roger heard me, but he finished cleaning the salmon and remained in place until the bear once more headed back into the bushes with more morsels in its mouth.
With the bear out of the way, Roger moved slowly downstream. I also moved downstream, but stayed out nearer to the middle of the river. Luckily for us that huge black bear remained upstream and did not bother to follow us downstream.
Many times I have wondered how I might have reacted in that same situation. I believe my first instinct would have been to holler loudly, hoping to frighten the bear away from the area. Then, depending on the reaction of the bear, I might have backed off or moved quickly out of the way, trying to get some distance between me and the bear.
In retrospect, I came to realize that Roger’s actions were a much better solution to the problem than mine would have been. Why? Because his deliberate actions did not upset the bear, and in this manner, everything worked out just fine.
If Roger had tried to scare off the bear, who knows what might have happened, not only to Roger, but to me as well. I was no more than seventy-five feet from that huge bear when I first noticed it standing only a few feet from Roger. I have been told many times that you cannot outrun a bear, and taking flight is only asking for trouble. In this case, I know that Roger’s actions were wise and prudent—-and also exciting!
A. Sayward Lamb