Al and the Three Bears

Al wasn’t one to miss quality dry fly action.   It surprised me that he wasn’t in his usual spot, targeting risers.  We were fishing a productive flat of the West Branch of the Delaware and our day was going well.  We enjoyed considerable fishing success and things looked good going into late afternoon.  So, I was perplexed that he disappeared.  Even more surprising, was that he was missing out on a strong hatch of olives.

 Oh well, I figured that he was heeding nature’s call  and taking his leisurely time.  Every few minutes, I kept on glancing upstream and still couldn’t see him.  To be entirely truthful, I can’t confess that I was terribly worried about him.   I was enjoying my own pod of surface happy trout and it was easy to forget his disappearance, while focusing on my fishing.  Half an hour later, he was back and again working fish.  Since he returned and resumed fishing, I didn’t give his disappearance any more thought.

Around 9:30 pm as we unloaded our gear back at the car, Al informed me that he had a story to tell.  He simply said, “The Bears Took My Backpack.”  I heard it correctly the first time, but couldn’t register what he was saying.  So, Al repeated, “The Bears Took My Backpack.”  He commenced to share with me this true angling story.  I’ve condensed the details for length and clarity, but this event occurred on the West Branch of the Delaware River in July of 2015.

Al wears a vest while fishing, but also carries a large, olive backpack from his Army days.  In the backpack he stores spare sunglasses, flies, fly box, water and plenty of food for the day.  Al isn’t seen fishing without his reliable backpack.  He sets it on the bank, near his fishing spot and uses it throughout the day.  

Al was releasing another fish, kneeling down and gently removing the hook.  Startled by a scuffling sound behind him, he noticed a bear cub.  Al’s immediate reaction was to get a picture of the cub so close.  Soon, he realized the cub was zeroing in on his trusty backpack.  Within seconds, the rascally bear cub grabbed Al’s backpack in its’ snout and scampered up the trail, into the cornfields.  Al, loyal and protective to his beloved backpack, followed suit  Rising fish could wait, no impish little bear was going to steal Al’s backpack!

Once up the short trail and into the abutting cornfield, Al promptly noticed that little bear cub had company.  That cub had a sibling, as well as a larger and imposing Mom.  When he began hatching a plan to retrieve his backpack, Mother bear huffed and woofed at him.  This was a distinct warning to Al to keep his distance.  This maternal protection stopped him cold.  Protective Momma Bear caused Al to retreat and watch helplessly as her cub scampered away with his beloved backpack.  So much for a later snack of Jean’s peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwiches!     Al, realizing the folly of pursuing the bears and wasting more precious time to retrieve a backpack, resumed his focus on the river.  Even though the bears may have pulled one over Al, he still managed to fool plenty of fish.

Several times afterwards, we looked for and never found that backpack.  Those snacks and sandwiches must have made a tasty bear treat!  Imagine my surprise next season, when I received a text from a fellow friend aware of Al’s bear encounter.  Greg was walking the edge of a cornfield near the same stretch and said he found an olive backpack, pressed and worn against the ground.  Could it be Al’s?  He retrieved it and through mutual friends, it found it’s way back to Al.  Al lost the items in his backpack, but he finally recovered his backpack.

You never really know what adventures await you on the water.  We fish because we’re hopeful and our glass is half full.  Good luck with the bears and Happy Start of the Trout Season!

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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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