Grizzly Fishing Trip
Leaves Anglers Huffing at Yellowstone

by Don Jordan

COOKE CITY, Mont.--

Grizzly bears have always had a special place in Cash Currant's heart and mind.

"I've had my grizzly bear encounter. Don't want another one," said the transplanted Hoosier, looking a bit grizzled himself, as he discussed trip preparations with his fishing partner, another former Hoosier, N.D. Jones.

Long-time fishing partners, they usually make a trout fishing trek to nearby Yellowstone National Park every year. Both graduated from Indiana University back in the 1960s.

Currant bellied his massive form up to the bar at Rick Porter's Hoosier Bar where he makes preparations for most of his outings. His last bear encounter, he said, was in 1995. While fishing the Soda Butte Creek inside Yellowstone National Park, a "grizzly woofed at me from across the creek.

"I never saw it, but I heard it. That was enough for me," continued the sometimes fishing guide, frequent gambler and constant brunophobe.

Jones, a college professor now living in Florida, chuckled at Currant's tale, stroking his distinguished salt-and-pepper beard and twirling his mustache. His eyes twinkled, and he winked at me, then at Porter behind the bar.

"You laugh, Jones," said Currant, indignant that his partner would make light of his bear encounter. "You'll walk right into one some day."

"Cash, the reason you didn't see that bear down on the Stinky Butte last year was because there wasn't any stinking bear. Listen, did your 'bear' sound anything like this?"

Jones leaned back, took a deep breath and uttered a deep, growling sound that might have sounded like a bear: "Grrrrrrr. Woof. Woof....I was your bear Cash."

Currant looked at his friend for an instant, then turned to catch pub proprietor Porter grinning behind the bar. Porter's chuckling broke into guffaws while Jones continued growling.

Currant understood he had been had at once. His face reddened, and he swelled visibly. When he finally spoke, his voice dripped with indignation: "OK, Jones, we'll see what happens when you run into a fucking bear. I don't need this shit in my life!"

Jones countered that he had run into a grizzly already.

"You remember, Cash. I was fishing the Soda Butte four years ago when I rounded a bend in the creek to find a big grizz standing in the middle," explained Jones. "I froze. Luckily I was downwind and it was blowing real hard so the bear couldn't smell me or hear me. He knew something was there, though, because he stood up on his hind legs and sniffed the air for awhile. Then, he dropped down on all fours and headed up Barronette Mountain. I went the other way.

"And, Cash, by the way, he never did 'woof' at me...", Jones added with a snicker, driving the needle deeper.

Currant spun off his bar stool and lumbered toward the door and his pick-up trucking tied up at out front. Their gear was piled in the bed, and Currant dove in for one last check of his stuff, but mainly he was pretending to ignore his tormentors.

The trout fishing trip they had planned for the next few days was to take them deep into grizzly country in the AborakaBeartooth Wilderness Area.

Their plan was to drive to famed Slough Creek inside the park, one of the best cutthroat trout streams in the world, then hike upstream, carrying solo canoes and minimal camping gear, to fish its upper reaches and its headwaters at Lake Abundance. They had hired a local lackey to shuttle the truck to a point near the lake. It would be waiting for them at trip's end.

Their hike would cover about 20 miles one way--up into the mountains and the wilderness where the U.S. Park Service dumps problem grizzlies. Chances were at least decent that they would encounter a grizzly, and that appeared to have them worried. Currant was by far the most worried.

He had armed himself with two the biggest cans of hot pepper spray anyone in Cooke City had ever seen. Each was the size of a coffee thermos and contained enough pepper spray to immobilize a T. rex.

Bells jingled from the truck as Currant busied himself with his gear. Big bear bells dangled from every piece of equipment, and I heard Jones call him "Jingles."

Currant had told his wife, Monti, they would be gone for four days, max. On day five, Monti called the park rangers, and a helicopter was dispatched to look for them.

They found them, and their first stop on the way home was at Hoosiers where I spotted Currant's pick-up parked out front.

"Hey, how'd it go? Catch any fish? See any bears?" queried the affable inn keeper, Porter.

"Sure did. Yep, tell him about the bear, Jones," Currant said. His voice sounded smug.

Jones shook his head and began the story. After hiking past the third meadow on upper Slough Creek, then through the notch in the mountains to Lake Abundance, they finally had a chance to use the boats they had carried so far.

"Well, turns out that when we were about to put our boats in the water, I discovered I forgot to bring my paddle," admitted Jones.

Porter guffawed with Currant who took over the story telling.

"Yeah, Jones carries his canoe 20 miles to fish, then finds out he doesn't have a paddle. Mr. Big Time. Yeah," barked Currant. "And that ain't all, either. Go on Jones. Tell him the whole story."

As Jones explained it, he had to carry his canoe around the lake instead of paddling across it. It not only added miles to his hike, it forced him through bear territory.

"What's that you say, Jones? Bear territory?" Currant needled.

"You tell the story Cash. You're such a damned expert," Jones countered.

"OK," said Currant, not missing a beat as he continued. "Seems as if ole N.D., Mr. Not Afraid of Bears, walked smack into a grizz. Dropped everything he had and started running. Luckily the bear liked his fishing vest, or ole Mr. Bear Expert would be a carcass."

The bear got Jones' vest, broke his fly rod and camped out on his canoe. The canoe was still up there, on the bank at Lake Abundance.

"It'll still be there next year. I ain't goin' back for it with that grizz using it for a lean-to," said Jones.

Did they catch any fish?

"Well, not a one, but I sure got a good story out of it," chuckled Currant.

11/23/96.

-30-

Copyright Jordan Communication 1997 thrugh 2008.

About DJ | Links | Contact | Inside Outdoors | Aviary | Yellowstone NP | Home