The morning sun made the drops of water off the fly line look like little diamonds as the cast rolled out to its mark. It was a sight that burns into your memories then stays with you forever. Tall trees bordered the stream that worked its way thru the valley. Mountains rising up on both sides. The perfect spot.
I fished all day working my way only a few miles upstream when I looked around and realized I only had about two hours of good light left.
Time to make camp.
I picked a nice ridge about 20 feet above the river and started setting up camp. I noticed a lot of game trails running near where I had picked but I then again I had noticed tracks all day long and so far only just that of deer. No black bear. I thought I needed to make a note to mark this area and its trails on a map after I got my camp set because it would make for some nice hunting in the fall. After setting the tent and gathering stones I dug a small size fire pit and went about the business of gathering wood.
As the fire started to blaze nicely I just sat and listened to the woods around me. The sounds of the woods at night are different from the day and if you’re still and pay attention you can notice the change when it starts to happen. As the brookies I had kept that day began to sizzle, I added a few cuts of mushroom and carrot and gave it a stir. I was more focused on making sure my coffee was going to be boiled in time for sunset.
By the time I got the pans cleaned from eating the sun was dipping and the smell of coffee was about all I could handle. As I sat drinking the brew leaned back against a tree the sun slowly slipped behind the mountains to the West. I was exhausted from the day but knew if I turned in now, I’d be up hours before daylight. I just leaned back and closed my eyes with the warm mug keeping my hands warm.
Now I don’t know if I had drifted off to sleep but I jumped with a start when on the ridge above me there was a crash like a tree had blown down. The strange thing about that was that there was not a breath of wind. I chalked it up to the jitters I got up to just the fact that I had dozed off, I should have known better. As the woods turned black I kindled up the fire a little higher than normal. Silly I know but that’s what I did.
I have a habit when I go into the backcountry of not carrying a watch, the sun is my watch. So I couldn’t tell you what time it was, several hours after dark for sure. I was just sitting by the fire listening to the wood pop and letting my thoughts roam when again in the direction the tree fell I heard movement. Maybe fifty or sixty yards away. Deer I thought.
I woke a little after daylight and got ready for another day of working my way up the river to its head waters higher in the mountains. At this point it was turning more into a typical Appalachian stream, dropping fast, pools with waterfalls and small short cast to brookies that probably have never seen a human. This areas terrain was not only remote but pretty steep and dangerous at times. Its not a place you would go for a weekend stroll that’s for sure.
Later in the afternoon I was working a pool at the base of maybe a three or four foot fall when I noticed the rhododendrons above me moving like something was crawling thru them. Knowing a deer wouldn’t do that I automatically assumed it must have been my first curious bear so I picked up a small stone and gave a yell and tossed it that direction. A grunt answered back but the plants didn’t move.
“Didn’t expect a rock did you bear?” I chuckled as I said the words. I could picture the bear crouched down trying to figure out where that rock had sailed in from. Comical I thought.
I shifted my position in the pool so that I could keep and eye on that ridge then went back to my task of being bested by a six inch little fish.
As I put the next cast out, I straightened up and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of movement up high. As I looked, my heart jumped into my throat as a rock about the size of a basketball was sailing from the tree line to my pool! When it hit it sounded like someone did a cannon ball and I jumped back. Knowing bears don’t throw rocks I shifted from worried mode to angry, that was some idiot up there that has walked in as far as I have and was messing up my fishing.
“Hey! I thought you was a bear when I tossed that rock!” I yelled up the ridge.
No answer at all.
“Come on!”, I said, “I know you’re there, either move on or answer back!”
Not a sound could be heard.
I decided it was time for a break and sat on the opposite ridge and had a snack while watching for movement. After about thirty minutes I decided to pack my rod up and just put a few miles between me and them before making camp.
As I climbed the ridge to walk it above the River I picked the pace up as best I could considering the steepness of it. I stopped randomly and sat and caught my breath and listened to make sure no-one was moving around me. I never heard a sound; not even animals the rest of the day.
That evening I finally stopped to make camp. Doing my usually to get my tent set and a fire going. Tonight would be no fish however, considering how my fishing had been cut short. It was freeze dried stew and coffee for my gourmet dinner.
As darkness crept in, I sat as usual watching the fire. Distracted by the flames, I started to have this feeling that someone was watching me just outside the light of the fire. Now, anyone that’s camped alone before will tell you they’ve had that feeling. It happens when you let you mind wonder sometimes. This was different. A feeling crept over me, not of fear but more of concern.
I looked around and as you do in the dark I didn’t look straight at an area but more to the side to see if I noticed movement. After about my second scan that’s when I saw someone sitting just out of the light.
“You might as well come on in, I see you sitting there!” I said as I pointed a finger right at them.
“I mean you no harm and I assume you don’t either but if you keep just sitting there like that we might have to turn this into a problem between me and you friend!” I uttered as I slowly started to stand and back away from the fire.
As I stood there, I regretted the threat because just then that dude stood up also. He wasn’t much taller than me but just from the glimpse of him in the dark saying he was stout would be an understatement. All kinds of thoughts flew at me at once, if he does this; I’ll do that kind, of stuff.
As I stood my ground, he stepped forward into the firelight.
He stood there grinning. I stood there in shock. I was looking at my face, just older! That was not even the shock, he looked wild. I mean his hair, clothes if you want to call the furs and cloth he had on clothes, everything about him looked wild. I just stood there trying to get words to form.
As I stammered trying to speak, he just grinned even more and motioned with his hand. I realized he was motioning to someone else but I was still in to much shock to even care. Right after he did this, five more people stepped into the light with him. All of them grinning from ear to ear, like they all just heard a joke and I was the punch line.
“Sit down, John, before you fall down.” he said with a chuckle.
I fell down.
“Who?” I stammered, trying to reason how he knew me.
They all just laughed.
“You know who we are! We’ve tried to talk to you before but you wouldn’t listen so we all voted to come have a sit down with you and see if you’d listen then.” He said as they all gathered around the fire and sat down.
THE REST TO COME!!