How To Know Your Fishing Trip Is Over | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A cartoon of a fisherman running from a bear ILLUSTRATION: LORENZO DEL BIANCO

If you're chased by a bear, it may be a good time to head home.

With the lawn freshly cut and a mild-mannered weather forecast, we begin a fishing trip. That glorious time of rhythmic casting, cooperative fish and peaceful contemplation. The proverb, “All good things must come to an end,” dates back to 1374, but deciding when to stop fishing has never been easy.

As a youngster, it didn’t take me long to learn that our fishing trip would wrap up soon after the bait was gone. The longer there were minnows in the bucket for Dad, the longer I would get to fish. I would hold a private fishing tournament of sorts, feverishly casting lures, fishing against the formidable live bait clock.

There are many other factors that can put a sudden end to a fishing trip. A poll of anglers might provide reasons such as having kept a limit, lightning, extremely bored kids threatening mutiny, a sudden cloud of hungry mosquitoes or running low on food.

Extreme anglers might declare, “You’ll have to drag me off the water!” However, darkness ends most of my fishing trips. If the fishing is really good, I may push the low-light envelope a bit. I recall racing down a Colorado mountain trail with my fly rod trying to beat total darkness and almost running into an elk.

I’ve fished until I could no longer feel my frozen fingers and toes. With an approaching thunderstorm, I made a few more casts than I should have. Then I trolled on the way back to the boat ramp. Long after my pregnant wife said she was done fishing.

On the shore of the Clarion River in western Pennsylvania, I learned another factor that could end a fishing trip. It was early spring and the river bank was a mix of mud and ice. Every few steps and I would slip precariously towards the water.

One of my first casts of a swim jig near a promising midstream boulder resulted in a three-pound smallmouth bass. It was a jolting hit and an impressive battle, the fish almost ripped the the rod out of my hand.

After that, I wanted another. So, I continued upstream, casting at submerged boulders, occasionally falling down on the slick bank.

Around the first big bend, I came to a stretch of skunk cabbage that had been grazed. Upon closer inspection, there were bear prints around it. Cool! I snapped a few photos of recent bear evidence and then returned my focus to achieving the next chunky smallmouth. A little further, I spotted more bear prints. I took a few more photos. I made a few more casts.

I continued to work up the stream, slipping and sliding in the mud and ice. Rounding a bend, I spotted the source of the prints. A quarter mile upstream, on the opposite side of the river, a black bear was soaking up the early spring sun.

The bear saw me and bolted for the tree line. Wow! I was stoked to see a bear.

The bear didn’t run into the woods, instead it moved upriver and disappeared around the next bend.

I made a couple more casts, turning my attention to catching another trophy smallmouth. Then I caught a glimpse of something moving.


I looked up to see the bear, now on my side of the river, running towards me at full steam. I couldn’t run, the bank was too slippery. I considered my defenses: a pair of needle nose pliers and a medium-action spinning combo.

Yeah, I was screwed. The bear was closing fast.

So, I snapped a photo. Then another. I kept taking pictures, collecting evidence for whoever discovered my remains.

Just a few yards from impact, the bear stopped and sniffed the air. I slowly slipped back towards the trail. The bear moved off into the trees.

For a split second, I considered making another cast. Then I decided this fishing trip was over.

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