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In the fall of l991, during the first part of November, I was fishing on The West Fork of The Little Big Horn River. We had gone up to the ranch to move our horses to their winter pasture East of Sheridan and I had taken some extra time to do some fishing. I like to fish the West Fork on occasion, as it is very scenic and solitary. I was the only one who was interested in fishing as the weather although clear was rather cold and the snow was just starting to melt. The West Fork starts high in the Big Horn Mountains and flows into The Little Big Horn River just before in goes into Montana. This stream flows from a very steep, deep canyon and in order to fish it you have to follow a game trail that continuously crosses the stream.
My plan was to fish up to the “Gold Hole” and then walk back out of the canyon. The “Gold Hole” is a name given to a deep pool that is about seven crossings up from our guest cabin. A former owner of the ranch named this hole many years ago. The story is that some prospectors wanted to SCUBA dive into this hole to see if it might contain any gold. They said the only thing they found was a very deep pool, no gold, hence the name.
On November 7th, after fishing up to the “Gold Hole”, I saw a set of Mountain Lion tracks that had been made since I had gone upstream. This cat must have gone right by me as I was fishing. I was fortunate to have my camera with me and took the following picture, using my rod and reel as a reference. The reel is a Lamson #1 and measures 2.75 inches across.
I continued to follow these tracks all the way back to the ranch, they went right out of the canyon and down the road past the cabin where my friends and I were staying. These tracks continued on through our property, right past the barn. and headed North into Montana.
A few days later, on November 10th, as I made my way upstream I came upon some tracks made by a good-sized bear. I was not totally surprised to see these tracks as I have often seen bear on the ranch itself. I even surprised one that was standing in the open doorway of our guest cabin one day. I made sure to have my camera along, and took another picture. I used my sunglasses as a reference for scale; these glasses measure 5.75 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep.
                                           This is a large bear print.
I continued to fish, heading upstream toward my destination, keeping a look out for my unwanted companion. I never did catch sight of the bear, as there is a lot of brush and heavy growth all along the stream. I caught a few fish at my destination, took another picture and headed back to the ranch. .
                              The “Gold Hole” on The West Fork
When fishing wild, remote areas and you think you are alone maybe you are wrong! I would not have had proof if there was no snow on the ground and I didn’t have a camera along.
Jim Dean
                                                                November 2000


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