Whenever I read about fly fishing in North America, there’s a little word starts whirring around my brain and all the seductive imagery of pine-clad hillsides and thigh-sized fish can’t stop it.
For all that they’re hardly part and parcel of life in suburban England, I began to worry about bears the moment I watched The Edge. That’s the movie, not the U2 guitarist.
Good news: Sir Anthony Hopkins finally shows that his acting ability extends to more than just pregnant pauses, meaningful stares and sinister vagueness. Give him another 10 years and maybe he’ll show it again.
Bad news: the denouement…
I don’t care that the ‘good guys’ win. I care that they have to go so close to the wire to do so. And the size of that thing: bears are like fat people in elasticated trousers – a whooole lot bigger than you think when fully unleashed.
What really got me worried about them, however, was when I learnt just how fast they can run. Thirty miles an hour?! Are you kidding?! Imagine Norm from Cheers featuring in the Olympic 100 metres medal ceremony and you get a flavour of my horrified disbelief.
As if it’s not enough that they can destroy us within seconds, we don’t even get the sporting chance of putting our less cumbersome physique to good use by outpacing them to the nearest tree. Nature’s not fair.
(Deceptively fast animals in general really irritate me. I’m still bristling from the discovery that your average crocodile can LEAVE ITS NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, for crying out loud and still overhaul homo sapiens – whose velocity is only increased by fear, let’s not forget – in a foot race. This table of relative speeds within the animal kingdom purports to let us know where we stand – or sprint – but to be honest, I don’t know who to trust on this issue any more. Let’s just say I’m not even thinking of taunting a squirrel without a 50 yard head start.)
Long story short: I’m glad of any morsel of reassurance that, should I ever be so lucky as to fish in bear country, my stay will be more than just a twitchy sojourn of clammy-palmed paranoia.
And given fly fisherman Chris Buckley’s status as a senior lawyer of some standing, I’d love to believe his claim that “a very shrill, loud whistle that would just about break your eardrums” is the perfect ursine deterrent.
But let’s think this through.
You’re a hungry bear. All that stands between you and a hot meal is some guy half your size standing with his fingers in his ears and a thumb-sized piece of metal protruding from his mouth.
All right, so Chris Buckley has fished in bear country many times, has encountered grizzlies and reports “that whistle comes in handy”. We must give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
But somewhere out there, I suspect, is a bear whose sense of the ridiculous is more finely honed than that of its peers. What a terrible fate for a man, to be struck only too late by the realisation that he’s trying to stop a bear by whistling at it…