A number of years ago I was fly fishing alone along Indian Creek in Montana. My family and I had the opportunity to stay at a friend’s cabin along the creek and we had brought our horses for a week of riding and fishing.
I had left the cabin and went fishing upstream along the trail that leads to the upper meadow. I caught a few fish and was just landing another one when a small bear cub jumped out of the bushes and scrambled up the bank towards the trail.
I heard a growl and looked up to see a large female grizzly on the trail, not 20 feet away. We locked eyes for what seemed like forever. I raised my arms and tried to make myself appear larger, while shouting and kicking my feet in the water. The mother bear just stood there and hissed at me. I had been told to never get between a bear cub and its mother, but there I was, totally vulnerable.
The cub came down the trail to its mother and the mother bear nudged it with her nose. My heart was beating out of my chest and my breathing was short and shallow. Then I heard a dog bark and I looked down the trail to see a golden retriever followed by several people on horseback. The mother bear clawed at the ground and grunted. The cub pressed against her. It was a standoff.
The people on horseback shouted out at the dog to come back to them. The mother bear looked at them and then at me and whorled around and headed up the trail with her cub – away from us all into the woods. Thank goodness I was saved by a faithful dog and some horseback riders. Turns out that the dog was our golden retriever, “Sunnybrook,” and the people were my wife and daughter out for a ride to see how the fly fishing was coming along.
The lesson I learned that day – bears and fly rods don’t mix.