It’s that time of year again when the salmon run and the bears chase after them…..and I chase after the bears!
I went up to my favorite stream to do some salmon videos. I bought a new GoPro and was looking forward to using it. It has a stabilization circuit built in that keeps the frame “steady”! I’ve had problems in the past with the video being too jittery. The surface ripples and the fish bumping into the camera made the video too jittery for me. I built a device (for lack of a better term) I call a “Drift Rig”. I attach the GoPro to it and let it drift downstream through a school of salmon! Once I let it go I have zero control over it. If It wants to turn left but the salmon are to the right,tough luck! So It’s a crap shoot each time I release it at the best of times!
I have learned that the best time to do these videos is during low tide. At high tide the salmon spread out but at low tide they all congregate in the deeper pools. They know instinctively that they are susceptible to predator attacks during low tide. So going during low tide is the best……….. but also the worst! It’s too shallow to get into the stream to begin with! So I usually tie up out front and walk in. I have a canoe hidden in the bush. I grabbed the canoe and paddled upstream. On this occasion It was more like walking upstream as the water level was really low and slow!
I got to that deep pool and sure enough there were several hundred Chum swimming slowly about in it! I got the drift rig set and released it upstream of that school of Chum salmon. The flow was so slow that one run (about a 100 feet) took 20 minutes! When It gets near the end (where it shallows up) I wade out into the stream, grab it and shut it off. I then walk back upstream to repeat! I managed to get in about 7 runs.
So when I let the rig go I basically have to wait 20 minutes. During this time my head is swivelling around like a radar watching out for bears.I am constantly looking around me as a bear could literally pop out anywhere! Sure enough on the third run I see a bear walking downstream towards me. I got my camera ready and waited for it to get close. It was in the shade and I wanted it to walk into the light…but it didn’t. Instead It saw me, crossed the stream and began to walk back upstream.
My camera bag is heavy. I cannot wear it with me when I wade into the stream. It not only would get wet but It also would make me more prone to slip as the added weight throws my balance off. So I placed it halfway between the starting point and the end. That way If I see a bear coming I could get to it quickly……or so I thought?
It was on my 5th run when I realized that doing this was not a good idea. I was chest deep grabbing the rig when I looked over my right shoulder and saw a bear not twenty feet away from my bag and it was slowly walking towards it!
I yelled loudly at it and turned to get out of the water as quickly as possible! I made all sorts of noise splashing about and that sure enough scared off the furry interloper. I decided from that time on I would always wear my bag all the time and only took it off right beside the spot where I went into the stream. Later I thought to myself “that’s all I need is for Yogi to go galloping off with all my equipment”!
So I finished the seventh run and decided to head back downstream. The tide was beginning to rise. I do not like to leave my Zodiac alone as bears can walk over and easily damage it with their claws. So I was anxious to get back to my boat, but the first thing I had to do was put the canoe back into the forest. There is a pathway I’ve made about 100 feet long. It goes through thick bush to a small clearing. This is where I hide my canoe.
I beached the canoe, grabbed the paddles and some other gear and started to walk into the forest……and that’s when I was startled! I ran face to face with a big old bear walking in the other direction! It immediately ran like a bat out of Hell to the base of a tree, grabbed onto the trunk and stared back at me with very wide eyes!
Now remember I had a time element going on, the tide was coming in and I did not want to get cut off from my boat. I also have to get all this gear and the canoe back into the forest or it’s going to go “bye bye” with the outgoing tide!
Which meant I had to walk past this agitated and scared bear! Realizing this,It really pissed me off and I immediately yelled at the bear!
“OH GREAT,YOU JUST HAD TO BE COMING OUT WHEN I WANTED TO GO IN…….FUCKING GREAT”!
Now by this time I realized this bear was more afraid of me than me of it. So I held my breadth and marched forward! Well,that bear shot up that tree like a rocket! It reminded me of “Jack and the Beanstalk”! It went up about twenty feet and just stared down at me. It took me 3 trips to bring everything in and “Jack” was intently watching me go back and forth from on high!
Of course after putting away everything I took some shots of poor old Jack before I left. I apologized, thanked him and left.
Getting back to the boat was ok but the water was already about waist deep. Another half hour and I’d be getting wet!
After getting home I reviewed the footage. The videos were a disaster! I found there was way too much organic debris in the water for beginners and that there was saltwater in the pool! (normally at low tide the stream flushes that deep pool of saltwater)
The saltwater makes the video image fuzzy but the freshwater makes it crystal clear! The stream was flowing so weakly that It couldn’t flush this deep pool of saltwater. So all the salmon are not only fuzzy but hard to see!
The reason I explained this process in detail is to show you “one” my failures. People always say they love my shots but there is a price to pay (in behind the scenes) that you never get to hear about.
Basically, I make mistakes and learn how to do it better! I’ve always said “the person who makes the most mistakes (and learns from them!) will end up with the best shots”
Moral of the story……do not take any salmon videos during a drought!