When he fights fish it looks like a dance and it is very apparent that his world revolves around opportunities to lose himself in moments like this. He consistently catches fish year round, adapting to the conditions that surround him, and to the fish he is targeting. The energy he emits is contagious. It spreads through a huge smile and roaring bursts of laughter that can be heard down the entire riverbank. Some call this man Shawn, to me he is Brown Bear. A man who stands tall, sleeps on riverbanks and goes to great lengths to catch fish. His giant roar can be heard by all when fish are kept illegally or when someone thinks it is a good idea to poke the bear.
The first time I watched Brown Bear fish I decided I wanted to learn from him. He had fun, caught big beautiful fish, sang, laughed, fished ethically, and helped keep some sense of order in a crazy fishing hole. I am not sure if he knew I actually listened to the pointers he gave me when we fished together, after looking back on the past I think he knew how much I truly listened to what he had to say.
One summer evening we were fishing one of my favorite fishing holes, Brown Bear was teaching me about the structure of the hole. He showed me ways to get into different drifts to work the structure and the rest of the hole. As he was explaining this to me and while he was mid-sentence his bobber hit the water and just kept going down. Fish on! Brown Bear let out a huge laugh and brought in a big beautiful chinook. The next day I worked that structure hard and got a fish. I still work that structure when I fish that hole and regularly hook fish there and think of my mentor’s words of wisdom.
After becoming friends with the fisherman I looked up to while I was learning to fish for chinook, things have changed some, I still look up to him but I do not want to fish just like him. He has taught me many things that have allowed me to fish like myself. The words of encouragement, laughter, subtle pokes that drive me to push myself harder, and his willingness to teach me have helped me become the angler I am today.
Over the years I have come to think of Brown Bear as family. His strength, passion for fishing, sense of humor, and kindness are all qualities I think every mentor should have. I consider myself lucky as I am a better person and angler than I was before becoming friends with Brown Bear.
The people we look up to all deserve thanks for the goodness they bring to our lives. Being a friend and a mentor is not an easy job and I would like to say thank you Brown Bear for being both of these to me. I would not be the person I am today without your influence in my life.