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Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.

A word about Bears
by R.Sumner

                                                I was standing around a fly shop in Montana this spring, buying a fishing license and having a conversation with a couple of the locals when the topic of bears came up.

             This is not the first time that I have been entertained with horror stories of Big Bad Bears. It seems that if you spend enough time in the woods you will have an encounter of the bear kind. These stories always seem to end with the beast being dispatched with a large caliber pistol at ten paces, much like shooting at charging dumpster. No mercy.

            I like these tales of wilderness bear whacking, although I wouldnít bet the house on there validity.  If I decide to share my bear experiences with macho, gun toting, bear slaying mountain men, I prefer to go last as my stories are a little off the wall.

            Although I have run into a few black bear in the lower 48, all my serious bear encounters have been in Alaska with the coastal brown bears, affectionately known as Brownie. For years we would go to Alaska on the 4th of July fishing for King and Red salmon, stay in a Forest Service cabin or camp out in a tent. Great fishing, fabulous food, plenty of laugh therapy and, of course, Brownie. These are the bears you see on Alaska out door TV shows: huge, furry, fat, and ready for a long nap. In July however, Brownie is a scruffy, thinner, summer bear, like a big dog, I mean a really big dog, in need of some big time grooming.

            As part of the gear we always had a weapon in camp, either a .44 magnum or a sawed off pump gun. The funny part is that none of us wanted to pack the extra weight and I, for one, didnít want to be the one to make any shooting decisions. Seems stupid now but you had to be there. Actually I found that a big stinky cigar was the best Bad Bear preventative; bears canít see or hear all that well, but they have a world class snout and they hate the stench of burning plant material.

            My favorite bear- in- the- boonies story began early one wet, miserable morning when I decided I had to get some space between myself and my companions. On this particular trip, I didnít know three of the others before we met up at the airport, then it was too late to change plans.

             Two of these guys were California Clowns, they had smuggled in a huge bag of Maui Wowie and they had enough ordnance to wage small war. The first thing they did in camp was to set up a wire perimeter boundary and attach bells to it. I was stupid enough to ask, what for??

              It seems that when Brownie comes into camp at night they would hear the tinkling of the bells and get up in time to have a gun fight in the pitch dark with the beast.  Luckily, these guys were so cooked every night they could hardly operate the zipper on the tent door. This was not the Alaskan fishing trip I had in mind, the fact is, these guys were starting to get to meÖ..and that is NEVER good.

            So on this nasty, wet morning I decided to walk out the half mile and treat myself to the Forest Service outhouse, anything to get some peace and quiet.  With a heavy heart and my baby wipes I started down the trail, through the dark rainforest, talking to myself.  As I broke into the outhouse clearing with my homicidal thoughts I looked over to my right and there sitting on the trunk of a 1979 blue Monte Carlo was Old Brownie himself.             He turned and gave me a dopy bear grin; we made some long, serious eye contact. I stood in the rain with my baby wipes; no gun, no pepper spray, and no bells. Finally I walked over to the outhouse and shut the door, when I opened it; Brownie had disappeared.  So too had my homicidal thoughts

            I lit a cigar and walked back to camp feeling pretty darn good , that old bear could have killed me easily, but on that particular morning  he decided to let me live. When your life is in the paws of someone or something else, it can make you stop and think about the concept of mercy.

More Trout Bum Articles:
05/01/2015: The wolves will always eat the sheep by R.Sumner
11/17/2014: Red Fish Redux by R.Sumner
08/01/2014: Retirement by R.Sumner
07/02/2013: Custom by Randal Sumner
05/01/2013: Subaru Magic by Randal Sumner
01/19/2012: Ding Ho by RandalSumner
04/06/2011: A Cautionary Tale by Randal Sumner
01/26/2010: Redfish Round-up by Randal Sumner
11/24/2009: Kentucky Don and English Bob by Randal Sumner
06/30/2009: Polar bear hugging by Randal Sumner
01/27/2009: Christmas letters by Randal Sumner
11/25/2008: Trip to Eden by Randal Sumner
08/07/2008: Mime Time by R. Sumner
06/02/2008: fuel vs fishing by R. Sumner
05/01/2008: Long sleeve Hawiian shirt by R.Sumner
02/07/2008: The Empire by R. Sumner
11/29/2007: Troutbum self-help by R. Sumner
09/04/2007: The Perfect Client by Randal Sumner
07/02/2007: High Anxiety by R.Sumner
03/29/2007: Grasshopper by Randal Sumner
01/25/2007: Chinese food by R. Sumner
11/30/2006: Old Whitey by R.Sumner
09/28/2006: Chief Holland USN retired by R. Sumner
07/10/2006: BBQ by R.Sumner
05/30/2006: Cashmere by R. sumner
03/30/2006: Sterling Choices by Randal Sumner
01/26/2006: Tying with Pablo by Randal Sumner
12/01/2005: Brrr by Mark Littleton
11/24/2005: Thanksgiving 2005 by randal Sumner
09/01/2005: Anchors Away by Mark Littleton
07/01/2005: Some kinda fun by Randal Sumner
05/01/2005: The Base Lake by Randal Sumner
04/01/2005: Humble Pie by Mark Littleton
03/01/2005: Dance monkey dance by randal Sumner
01/01/2005: Where are the Instructions? by Randal Sumner
12/01/2004: Das Boat by Mark Littleton
11/01/2004: What me Worry? by Mark Littlton
10/01/2004: Priorities by Mark Littlton
09/01/2004: Falling In by Mark Littleton
08/01/2004: Ice Fishing by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Honey, I flooded the basement by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Elvis Lives by Randal Sumner
06/01/2004: Coyote by Randal Sumner
05/01/2004: Redfish and Capt. Dan by Mark Littleton
04/01/2004: Vested Interest by Randal Sumner
03/01/2004: Are you a Troutbum? by Mark Littleton
12/01/2003: Christmas presents by Mark Littleton
11/01/2003: Oklahoma by Randal Sumner
10/01/2003: Steel heading JuJu by Randal Sumner
09/01/2003: Motor Home by Randal Sumner
08/01/2003: Life is Funny by Mark Littlton
07/01/2003: Deschutes by Mark Littleton
06/01/2003: Class of 2002 by Randal Sumner
05/01/2003: BOAT FISHING by Mark Littlton
04/01/2003: ALASKA, LAND OF THE MIDNIGHTBLUE TARP by Randal Sumner
03/01/2003: MARCH BROWNS by Mark Littleton
02/01/2003: DEEP IN THE HEART OF IDAHO by Randal Sumner
01/01/2003: TOP TEN by Mark Littleton
12/01/2002: SAN MIGUEL by Randal Sumner
11/01/2002: DISNEYLAND by Randal Sumner
10/01/2002: CAMPING by Mark Littleton
09/01/2002: MMMM MAYFLIES by Mark Littleton
08/01/2002: CARNEGIE HALL by Randal Sumner
07/01/2002: CRAWFISH PIE by Randal Sumner
06/01/2002: Sons and Pals by Mark Littleton
03/01/2002: Visitation by Randal Sumner
02/01/2002: Ouch by Mark Littleton
01/01/2002: Death by Randal Sumner
11/01/2001: Leakers by Randal Sumner
09/01/2001: Poser by Randal Sumner
08/01/2001: Snake River Diary by Mark Littleton
08/01/2001: It's Hard by Mark Littleton
07/01/2001: Etiqutte by Randal Sumner
06/01/2001: June by Mark Littleton
05/01/2001: Road Trip to Paradise by Randal Sumner
04/01/2001: What Are They Doing Up There? by Mark Littleton
03/01/2001: Gear by Randal Sumner
02/01/2001: Soft Hackles by Mark Littleton
01/25/2001: Motivation by Randal Sumner
12/28/2000: Winter Fishing by Mark Littleton
11/30/2000: Old Blackie by Randal Sumner