Black Bears and White Lies

by Trevor Walker

I remember a hot day in the summer of 85. I was guiding some anglers -lets call them Bill and Bob- on a lake in northern Saskatchewan. We had been pike fishing in the bay below the last rapids of a good grayling river. A big silver spoon, coaxed along near the bottom can draw some big time action here, and although we didn’t land any trophy fish that morning, we’d landed a few fish in the double digits. We kept a nice pike of about 5 lbs and headed in to the shore-lunch site at the base of the rapids. This was a nice spot where the guests could cast for pike right from shore, or move up to the fast water and cast for grayling with a light action rod. Really big fun! While the guests entertained themselves, I filleted the pike and got a fire going. On this particular day, poor Bill was a little…gaseous, as I recall, and between the rumbling belches, suggested we have our fish in a more stomach-friendly package. I suggested we boil the fish and use a bit of fresh lemon, to which my friends quickly consented. A very tasty and quick way to cook fresh pike. Lunch was soon ready and the ravenous anglers, grasping their empty plates, hovered over the fire with eyes wide and big, hungry smiles.

Finally, with full plates, we sat down around the dwindling fire and watched Mother Nature all around us. It’s quite a show, if you slow down long enough to watch. Many don’t, but some have no choice, as Bill and Bob were about to find out. My gaze drifted about 200 meters up river, to the head of the great pool above the rapids. The water was only about a foot deep here and the river was quite wide where it bent. This is where the bear first appeared like a phantom from nowhere, it was surreal. It wasn’t a large bear- a black bear of about 150 lbs- big enough to be a whole lot of trouble. It had caught wind of our lunch and was crossing the river to our side. I leapt to me feet and barked out a mouthful of food with the instructions “Mmmpphhhdaberrr!” Bill and Bob stared at me like I was some sort of idiot as I ran around the site, stumbling over rocks and sticks like some sort of after dinner show gone horribly wrong. I spat out the last bit of food and stopped long enough to explain to them that there was a bear coming. It was like throwing a dog into the hen-house. We all ran around, hollering instructions and crashing into each other until we finally got it together and threw the last of our gear into the boat. The bear had already disappeared into the woods on our side of the river and would be here very soon. The fire sizzled and crackled its last sparks as I doused it with a bailer-bucket of water and pushed the boat off. Just then the bear appeared, through the fog of steam and smoke, from the woods at the far edge of the site. Had we taken one minute longer he would have been right on us. We sat in the boat, about 50’ off shore with the motor idling, and ate our lunch while the bear snuffled around the site and poked at the fire pit. We took some pictures and then reluctantly backed away and hung in the current while our bear disappeared into the darkness of the cedars and scrub.

Later, we found out that other guests had seen the bear at the same site. The offending guide, after stern denial, finally confessed to feeding the bear, and the site was officially closed for the rest of the season.

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