I’ve spent a fair amount of time in field and stream in my lifetime and a good portion of that has been in solitude. On a very small handful of occasions, I’ve had the sense that I was either being watched or in imminent danger. Mountain lions and black bears were not uncommon in Nevada. I would rehearse in my mind my course of action if I was ambushed by something bigger and hungrier than me.
I can’t remember ever having that same strong sensation while hiking with a buddy.
Last summer, a friend and I were trying our best to find access to the Cle Elum off the beaten path. It was like any gamble: the more you’ve lost, the more you felt like you should hang on a little longer…the glory you’ve been seeking is just around the bend. Things will turn around any minute. We ended up sweaty, scratched up and hardly fishing. We methodically moved through the forest, where young saplings, vines, and thorny berry bushes all enmeshed, fighting for sunlight. Suddenly, we heard a jarring snap behind us, seemingly just outside of our range of view.
A few paces later we heard another definitive snap. Then some movement in the cover behind us. We both glanced at each other with faces of confusion, though I think both of us already had started imagining the worst. I mouthed the words, “what was that?” quieter than a whisper.
Jim looked back at me, eyes widened. “Do you have anything to defend yourself?” he muttered. After a long 30 seconds of both of us doing our best mannequin impression, we moved further into the brush. That’s when we walked over the top of this:
It didn’t settle our nerves. Shortly thereafter, we finally pushed away from the table and retraced our steps back out to the road. Looking down at my watch, I realized this little escapade had robbed us of about 90 minutes of our morning. We gathered our senses and shot out to the Yakima for a quick session, where the river was pumping heavy with rain water. Jim got a hefty 24″ rainbow to the net and I only found a few grabs.
Fishless and waist deep against the banks of the Yakima is far superior to making an unwilling contribution to the bone pile. Am I right?