Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To go to great lengths...

I once came face-to-muzzle with a huge black bear while fly fishing a little-known stream for Dolly Varden in the rainforest of southeast Alaska, and I honestly believe my heart stopped beating for a split second.

We were both fishing--I was working upstream and the bruin was wandering downstream. We met on a gravel bar at a bend in the stream, and, for a brief moment, we both stood frozen in place. The bear recovered first and quickly disappeared into the cedars at a quick clip while I exhaled and thanked the fishing fates for helping me keep control of my bodily functions.

Aside from a sketchy encounter or two with some stubborn moose here in eastern Idaho, that's largely the extent of my wild animal encounters while fishing.

So, I read with interest the tale of Tim Smith and his near-death encounter with a Nile crocodile while fishing for the unbelievably impressive Nile perch in Uganda this fall. Fishing, to the truly smitten, tends to take over the soul, and Smith's love affair with angling is palpable--why else venture in the remote African bush rife with man-eating crocs and boat-tipping hippos in search of fish?

I've often prophecied that I and others like me will die with waders on, likely swept away by some swift current we can no longer fight. I wonder if Smith believes he'll eventually succumb to a Nile croc while battling a 300-pound Nile perch from the stern of a fiberglass motorboat...