Saturday Shoutout / Bear Necessities 

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Photo via Orvis News

Photo via Orvis News

Summer fishing season brings anglers and bears together and not always for the best.

Bears are a fact of life for fly anglers. Trout country is often bear country and a smart angler will be prepared for a run-in. Most bear encounters which end in an attack happen in close quarters. Bears have poor eye sight and are surprisingly easy to sneak up on. They are also surprisingly quiet and just as often sneak up on you. Most anglers who encounter bears say something like, “I just turned around and there he was.

Luckily most encounters end peacefully. One day, Kent and I were fishing from a gravel bar for a good forty-five minutes. Two other anglers stopped across the river for a while and watched us. We bumped into them later that day and one of them said,

“You boy’s are pretty bold. I can’t believe you just kept fishing with that bear.”

We never even noticed that a bear had wandered onto the gravel bar behind us and was apparently there for some time. We were so focused on fishing that we missed it. Most bears are that generous but once in a while you run into a bad one. Often an adolescent male or sometimes an injured or elderly bear will challenge or even charge a human.

The best way to protect yourself is with bear spray. Statistically spray far out performs a gun in a bear attack. If you carry bear spray you should know how to use it. Below is a link to a great post on the topic from Orvis News. There’s a video too. It’s a little cheesy but has a lot of great information. Have a look at both and stay safe out there.


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “Saturday Shoutout / Bear Necessities 

  1. Bears can show up in unexpected places. A couple weeks ago I was fishing with my granddaughter in a spring creek on a working cattle ranch in Montana. A female grizzly and her cubs wandered about 20 yards upwind of us behind a small bluff. When they crested the small hill, my granddaughter fortunately saw them and alerted me. I was watching her flies, not the terrain around us, and it could have been even more challenging if my granddaughter was not alert. She told me she was really scared. I told her to put down her rod and walk away with me. We had 60 yards and a metal gate to climb over to get to the car. I was really proud of her because she overcame her fear and remained calm enough to walk and climb carefully rather than running. I went back later with my son and bear spray to get the rods. No sign of the bears then. I had no clue we could encounter grizzlies on that water and neither did the owners, who said they could not recall ever seening a grizzly in that area. From then on, bear spray became a mandatory accessory for me in Montana.

  2. Up here (Alaska) bears are simply a fact of life, if you’re a fisherman. If you fish streams with salmon running, you’re gonna see bears; it’s that simple. I’ve read and watched the videos regarding bear spray and after carrying both, I’m strictly a (large bore) pistol carrier now. Simply because when you get down to it, I have more faith in a 44 mag than a spray can. I’m a firm believer that wild animals can sense a person’s attitude and a confident attitude won’t deter all bears, but it can’t hurt in a lot of cases. (Same thing as a bully not picking a fight because he thinks that you think that you can/will kick his ass.) I’m not sure what the shelf life is on a spray can, but I would start to wonder about it after the 3rd or 4th season. I KNOW what is going to happen if I have to draw the 44, though.

  3. 16+ years of guiding in Alaska and 4 in Kamchatka and my accumulated experiences there would tell you not to put too much stock in the “bears have poor eyesight” bit. Another bear “fact” to be wary about is the “can’t run downhill” blurb.

  4. Up here (Yukon) they’re also a fact of life. When you’re fishing, when you’re out walking the dog, even in the woods behind the schoolyard. For the last couple years, I’ve been carrying a small marine air horn. It’s a small can of compressed air with a horn attachment. The smallest size, about 4 inches long and an inch in diameter, fits in my top fly vest pocket. It was very handy a month ago, coming back into camp after a day on the river. I was squatting down trying to figure out how my table got knocked over, and a bear steps out of the woods 20 feet away. Like a curious dog, he was coming right for me. I stood up and pressed the button of my air horn still conveniently in my top pocket, gave him a little toot. He jumped. I gave a sustained 3-second blast, and he ran down the hill and across the stream and over the ridge on the other side. I was clued into the air horn by bear researchers in Alaska. For 15 years, they worked with guns, bearspray and bangers close at hand. Five years ago they started carrying these air horns and said they’d never had to resort to anything else since.

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