Between the water, our own equipment, wild creatures that we encounter, weather, and even other people, we accept some potential for things to go wayward while seeking a tug on the line.

It usually works out fine for us, even when we do encounter some fearful experiences. Some of those experiences are real, but some of them turn out to be just curious occurrences. 

While fishing a mountain trout stream years ago, I felt a very brief few seconds of fear as a small black bear charged me on a narrow path. I was facing the water until I heard panting, and turned around just in time to catch a glimpse and think “so this is where it ends,” before hearing a distant voice yell “Calypso!” and watched the small black bear slam on the brakes just feet away from me.

The bear looked over its shoulder, excitedly wagged its rather long tail, then transformed right before my eyes into a black lab. With another shout of its unfortunate name, the dog looked at me, stood on its hind legs, rested its full weight against my chest with its front paws, and licked my face as if to say “boy, if I was a bear…” then turned and ran back up the narrow trail.

On another mountain trout trip, a friend and I had hiked into a very remote section, then fished mostly solitaire due to the scarcity of access spots along the stream. We kept in touch with two-way radios, and bumped into each other from time to time. No other cars were in the parking area, and we hadn’t seen another soul throughout the day.

After not being in touch with my buddy for a while, I came upon a natural rock bridge with very steep drop offs on both sides. The bridge was narrow, and about 12 feet long. It was wet and green with slime, and a fall from it would result in a complicated rescue operation at best, but more likely a slow death after multiple broken bones and having no one ever find you.

I decided not to cross the bridge, and as soon as I turned around, I was startled to see another man, sloppily dressed, very unkempt, with so much hair on his head and face that I could barely make out his eyes. He was walking toward me fast.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t know there was someone behind…” I began.

His eyes focused on the two-way radio strapped to the harness of my backpack. 

“What’s with the radio?” he asked, finally stopping too close for comfort, his hot, oniony breath invading my personal space on the cramped dirt path.

“It’s just to keep in touch with my buddy who’s fishing nearby,” I said, now clutching my Motorola.

“Humph,” he grunted.

And with that, he pushed past me, his shoulder brushing my chest. He stomped over the bridge, slipping and sliding several times before making it to the other side, then out of sight.

I guess that wasn't exactly scary, but it was definitely weird.

But the most frightened I’ve ever truly been while fishing was on a kayak fishing trip in the Hunting Island Lagoon in South Carolina’s lowcountry. 

We were about two miles from our trucks, and were out of our kayaks and wading on a sandbar. With the tall trees of the island’s maritime forest between us and the storm behind us, we saw only bluebird skies until the storm was overhead. 

The sky darkened quickly, then immediately after a bright white flash, “ka-kracka-doooom-booom-da-da-doom-doooooooom” echoed through the lagoon as a hard rain soaked us before that first clap of thunder ended. And just as quickly, another bright white flash that seemed to energize the sand, water, and sky, followed by the same thunderous crack that made every hair on our necks stand up, despite how soaked they all were.

Thanks to the deep, slippery, quicksand-like pluff mud and banks too steep to climb, we were at a loss for what to do. Even if we made it to shore, did we want to huddle under the tall trees? Were we any better off paddling down the lagoon toward the parking area? 

I still don’t know the right answer, but we paddled hard and fast against the wind and current, hoping that our trucks were just a little bit closer than we thought. And for the next 20 minutes, that same bright white flash followed by the ominous roll of thunder escorted us to the parking area, where we quickly found safety in my friend’s truck.

Luckily, no black bears were standing in the way.

What’s your scariest fishing experience?