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A Black Wolf, Ava, Madoff and a Grizzly + Sam McGee

A few short years ago, aside from the steelhead fishing while guiding at Damdochax Lodge under the supervision of Hannah Belford some noteworthy incidents occurred.  The experience, probably one of the most physically demanding guiding jobs of its kind was right down my alley although i admit some of it put me to the test.  When the helicopter arrives it lands at the bottom of a steep hill so all of the gear is hand-bombed to the cabins not to close-by.  Most of the week is hiking up or down river which is better than being in a boat all day. During each week i was involved in one or two raft/heli escursions to the Nass or hiking upriver where the heli had dropped off a raft.  It was all good!!

The confluence of the Nass and Damdochax is loaded with bears and they made it clear that, Ava, my German Shorthair Pointer was included on their menu.  On two separate occasions one made a B-line for her.  When they got close Ava and I turned the tide and ran after them.  A bit risky but it worked both times.  I would not recommend it but would do it again!

Then there was the Black Wolf that probably when not in clear view was stalking Ava along the trails.  Finally, it got to be to much and i sent her out by chopper.  It was spooky the wolf would trot towards us as we retreated to safety then disappear but it was, no doubt, nearby every time. Others saw the Black one too always at close range but no encounters.Before supper the first evening new guests arrived several of we employees were in the cookshack when one of them walked in a tone of voice that seemed to expect a repercussion stated:  “my father is Bernie Madoff” .  None of reacted in a way he may have expected to the contrary he was the same as anyone else as far as we were concerned.  He was just Andy!

Even though the Damdo is a very short and narrow river for the most part it is still raftable with portages.  The water levels fluctuate making some wades difficult for a guy like me when the top of your head is only a short distance above the top of your waders. One day Andy and i were hiking upriver a few miles where our deflated raft was awaiting our arrival. It was my practice to always blow my whistle on the many blind bends on the trail but now we were on a long straight stretch and i neglected to do that, which, was a mistake.  Near the end of the stretch the river is only 20 feet from the trail  The drop to the river is very dark because of the black rocks and shade from the trees.  Andy was behind me and let out a blood-curdling yell that could not be duplicated,  As i whirled around the 700 pound griz was within spitting distance warning us by clacking his teeth constantly.  It was his fishing spot and we had violated his space and he was not about to retreat.  Instantly, i began blowing my whistle and he eventually moseyed into the river still clacking his teeth.  Andy said he did not even think about his bear spray and i was relying on the whistle.

The day after Andy’s departure he was scheduled to do a solo motorcycle trip of 10,000 miles which he completed.  It is all included in his diary.  Near the end of the trip he knew his rare form of leukemia was returning.  For most of a year he spent his time in Sloan-Kettering in Seattle keeping what might be the most comprehensive detailed diary ever recorded of a complex medical issue, by a patient.  Not long after his release the disease took his life rather suddenly.Andy was a very talented fisherman and learned to spey very quickly even with my arthritic-flamingo examples.  Andy and his brother owed Abel.  I was gifted one of their custom reels.  Andy had a lovely wife, Catherine and two young children.  I know he cared for them very much.  Andy was my friend.

My tent was right beside the woodshed and I had just gotten to bed when I heard kindling being chopped by Super guide and Super guy Mark McPherson with the aid of his headlamp.  He asked if I was asleep yet: I replied yes hoping he would not ask me to help but instead he wanted to know if I would like to hear the ballad of Sam McGee.  Out of the blue, well black, I guess he began the lengthy poetry. He was good at it and really accented the high points.  It was a highlight of my time there.  Thanks, Mark and also for taking over some of my workload.

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