Nice trout. Pre-Bees. PHOTO BY ANDREW CREMATA
The birds and the bees
By ANDREW CREMATA
FOR THE SKAGWAY NEWS
I eagerly worked my way down to the lake by way of a rocky streambed where fireweed seemed to magically grow in between round river stones. The stream was flowing strong enough to create a small riffle where it entered Tagish Lake in the Yukon. Just beyond that were grayling rising to the surface, creating small ripples as they snatched insects from the water’s surface.
The lack of any breeze made the water like glass, and between the ruffles of the feeding frenzy it was possible to watch the grayling pinpoint their prey and rise to attack it. The thought of catching grayling was appealing, but I was hoping for larger fare.
The lake was calmer than I’ve seen it. The only sound permeating the blanket of silence was the quiet murmur of the creek. As I tied a pink Pixie onto my leader, my loyal dog Rufus stared up at me expectantly. Rufus loves fishing, but only if he has a front row seat. After stuffing him securely into the top of my neoprene chest waders, we took our first steps into the water.
It took only three casts before a trout struck the lure.
The fish ran toward the bottom, but I put pressure on it until it turned toward the surface. After catching sight of its position, I started working my way back to shore.
Rufus caught sight of the trout in the shallows, and leaned his cute whiskered face over the brim of my waders for a better look. When the trout’s fight was gone, I dragged it out of the water.
The laker was 25 inches long and thick across its flanks. I stunned it with my fishing club, cut the gills to bleed it and headed right back out in the lake in case it was traveling with friends.
After a few casts from chest-deep water, it suddenly occurred to me that my healthy trout was lying exposed on the shore some fifty feet to my back.
I normally cover fresh catches with pebbles or my fishing backpack to ensure they’re safe from devious eagles who are better at stealing than hunting. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.
Glancing over my shoulder, I confirmed that the trout was still safely where I left it. I resolved to wade back to shore after the next cast to ensure its wellbeing. At that moment, I hooked up a big fish and the thought of my vulnerable laker was pushed aside in the excitement.
My rod tip shook violently, which is usually an indicator of a very large fish. After one hard run, the hook came free. Knowing that monster would still be close, I was eager to get the lure back in the water just in case it was also hungry. I quickly reeled in and cast again.
The lure hit the water and began to sink. When it was about halfway to the bottom, an eagle’s screech pierced the air.
Rufus’ ears perked up, and we both brought our eyes up toward the treetops that lined the shore.
In that moment I could see the trout in my mind’s eye.
I maintained hope that the eagle was preoccupied with something other than my laker, but I started to reel in my lure just in case.
A few hundred yards away, the bald eagle appeared from behind a tall spruce and banked in my direction. It called out again and began its descent. I started reeling frantically while taking careful steps back to shore. My progress was limited by slippery rocks, deep water and the dog in my waders. It was going to be close.
After reaching the shallow water, I turned my eyes upward to get a bead on my trout. Closing in at high speed from the opposite direction was a second hungry raptor, this one a massive golden eagle with its talons outstretched.
My steps turned into a run as I waved my fishing rod in the air and shouted nonsense at the two eagles closing in from opposite directions at high speed.
More concerned with each other than me, the two eagles turned away from one another and made a wide turn for another run at my fish. Back on shore, I took Rufus out of my waders, but urged him to stay by my side lest he become a more appealing target than the trout.
The golden eagle was the first to make a second approach. I scrambled over to the trout, still waving my fishing rod at it and screaming, “Booga booga you stupid eagle! Go and get your own trout! BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!”
I extended my arm to grab it and recoiled when I saw that it was covered in a swarm of bees.
With no time to consider why bees would have any interest in fish, I had to make a split-second choice between eagle talons, stinging bees or running away. My language became more colorful, but I chose to challenge the bees and run the risk of being forced to jump in the lake when they attacked.
I reached out with a thrust of my arm, grabbed the trout and shook it violently to scatter the bees. The golden eagle was coming again at full speed, so I shouted yet again: “BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA! There are BEES here, you stupid eagle! You don’t want to mess with BEES!”
Then I noticed a tourist and his wife videotaping me with their cell phone.
Without any time to worry about my pride, I grabbed my knife, cut out the trout’s guts and threw them into the shallow water about 20 feet away. For some reason, I thought this would draw the attention of the two eagles away from Rufus and the trout.
This act of thoughtless desperation worked, and the golden eagle made a slight turn and started to descend on the trout guts.
From out of nowhere, the bald eagle reappeared from behind a stand of aspen and dive-bombed the golden eagle.
Feathers went flying. Screeching ensued. Rufus started barking at the commotion and the tourists kept on filming.
The two eagles must have had enough, because they were suddenly gone from sight. Bees were scattered on blood-stained river rocks where they appeared to be feeding. In moments, all was still again.
I placed my backpack over the trout to ensure its future security. Rufus stared at me panting, hoping for a fresh fish heart, which is his favorite treat.
When I stood, the tourists were still filming.
“Well, that was kind of crazy,” I said, but they could only manage laughter in response.
The video is likely to go viral sometime next month.