National Fisherman

Sunday, July 29, 2007 — It was true — Derrick had gone missing. We sent a couple guys out to look for him, and at the same time we alerted the park ranger, which isn't a bad thing to do when missing somebody in a bear-infested national park.

We hadn't waited too long before we heard Derrick had been located; he was in the custody of the park rangers. He hadn't been eaten by a bear, thank goodness (I guess), but apparently he was observed by a biologist — who a perched in a fir tree observing bears in their natural environment — wielding a large knife as he chased a bear through a stream. Derrick must have been bored with the ride, so he ventured out and violated every rule they taught us in bear school.

As Derrick was processed through the National Park Enforcement Department, we drifted around in Mike's skiff and barbecued a few sockeye salmon we had caught right there on the spot. Derrick was still locked in the interrogation room after we finished our snack. There was an air of mystery surrounding his questioning, but we needed to head back to King Salmon before we were navigating the shallows of Naknek Lake in the dark.

After waiting a full two hours, the rangers finally released their prisoner. When Derrick was safely aboard the skiff, he told us his story. According to Derrick, as we were waiting for the unseen bears to clear the trial, he went off the trail — just to take a piss. He caught sight of the bear and brandished his knife. The bear turned tail and ran, but as the self-designated protector of the group, he chased the beast, selflessly defending the rest, stopping at nothing to be sure the bear would not threaten the others.

The bear escaped before he could kill it, but Derrick was intercepted by the rangers before he made it back to the trail. He couldn't believe they gave him a fine instead of a medal. He got off easy, as far as I can tell; perhaps that fifth of whiskey brought him a cheery disposition that earned leniency from the park rangers.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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