Wildlife Encounters

Wildlife Encounters

Bears, Bones, Bugs, Beavers, Beasts

  • By: John Gierach
  • Photography by: Jeff Edvalds
  • , Barry Beck
  • , Cathy Beck
  • and Jim Klug
Grizzly Angler

You naturally think of bears first. Whether they’re seen from a safe distance or they’re uncomfortably close, you have a visceral response. “That thing could kill me,” is how you’d verbalize it, although the emotion itself predates language.

Bones are a record of mortality. There’s always some forensic curiosity, but except in the case of obvious predator kills, the cause of death is usually a mystery. The inescapable conclusion is that life is hard, and few animals in the wild die peacefully of old age.

Trout fishers can’t help but view bugs from a tactical perspective: Are the fish eating them and, if so, do I have a pattern that will pass? Beetles make good search patterns for the simple reason that, as naturalist David Quammen said, “One out of every four living things on the planet is a beetle.”

Beavers are either “nature’s little engineers,” as my third-grade teacher said, or giant aquatic rats. They can fell mature trees with their teeth (even a Kodiak bear can’t do that) and produce beautiful trout habitat on otherwise marginal creeks. Cartoon depictions notwithstanding, they’re not especially cute.

Beasts: Mountain lions, rattlers and moccasins, sharks and gators. They’re all part of the scent and texture of wildness. Fishing wouldn’t be the same without them.