Background: Fly rod in hand, John Vanden Bos was 45 minutes into a hike with his wife Lisa October 22, 2016 descending toward the Lamar River, Wyoming in steep, thick terrain when the brown blur came at him.
It was a grizzly bear, unable to hear his approach, in the water munching on the remains of a pronghorn. Upon seeing John and Lisa Vanden Bos, the bruin immediately started coming in hot.
Our story: That bear came out of the river bank 30 feet below us so fast it was like an explosion. It came roaring up the hillside about 25 miles per hour. In a flash he was at the end of my fly rod.
I only had time to think that I’d be a statistic, and that I ought to fall on my stomach so my pack could protect me. I didn’t have time for even that, but was able to raise my arms to protect my face from the impending strike. In doing so, I stopped the grizzly in its tracks at exactly 9 feet away.
How’d I know the exact distance? My fly rod, recall, was in my hand.
I touch his terrible snout with the rod tip. I put it on his nose and yell very loudly, ‘bear!’ and then I flicked the tip in his face.
Time was bought.
My wife, Lisa, immediately behind me along the narrow trail, took advantage of the pause. Seconds into the encounter, she unholstered her bear spray and blasted an orange fiery stream that coursed by my cheek and at the bruin.
The bear was alarmed by the noise and perhaps smelled the spray, but didn’t seem to be significantly affected.
It turned back a few steps toward the Lamar River, but then changed its mind and headed in for another charge. My rod, in the meantime, shot out of my hand, and I reached for my belt to send out a second blast of bear spray.
An expanded orange cloud was now in the air as the grizzly rumbled back for the second charge. This time, the sting of the capsaicin hit the bear.
The adult grizzly, about 550 pounds, took off at a full-blown gallop, passed its water-logged lunch, crossed the river, cleared a hillside and disappeared. The whole encounter took about 15 seconds.
Our assessment: The initial stopping of the bear might have more to it than a fly rod. There’s a false charge element to consider and then there’s two of us not giving ground and not running.
What is crucial in the encounter is the bear spray immediately at hand.
The bear spray did the job. Without the bear spray, we wouldn’t have made it.
Thanks Counter Assault.
Thanks John and Lisa for sharing your story and the pictures of yourselves with the Counter Assault Hats I sent you. – George