The evening sun's colours
were disappearing from the mountain peaks across the lake as we settled into our comfortable log cabin to play a round of cards while reflecting on the day's fishing. A close friend of mine visiting from Florida, who on past occasions had gone moose hunting in BC when he was living here several years ago, said... "All it would take to make this fishing trip complete, would be to see some moose... even one."
Little did we know what adventure lay before us!
The next morning I woke early around 5:30. I slipped quietly out of my warm down bag and descended the ladder from the loft; the air in the cabin was cool and fresh. Looking out the window, I noticed the lake was calm, its surface glassy smooth with warming rays of the morning sun cascading into the bay in front of our cabin. 'Perfect time to slip out and fish for a couple of hours before breakfast,' I thought. My two companions, Bob and Ken, were still asleep... a full day of fishing from the day before was keeping them deep in dreams ...dreams of battling wild trout in Davidson Lake - a remote, fly-in lake near BC's Tweedsmuir Park.
I put on a fresh pot of coffee then turned to look out over the lake to the reeds nearby on the southwest side of a small bay on which the cabin was built. As I studied the shoreline, some movement caught my eye. To my surprise, a cow moose and young calf were standing near a break in the pine forest. They must have come to the lake for a drink and to nibble on the fresh green shoots of new grass growing on small half-submerged islands along the edge of the bay.
I mused... 'Should I wake up Ken, my Floridian friend, or not; after all, it's only 5:40, maybe it is too early.' I decided to wake him anyways, as this may be the only moose to be seen on this trip and it would be a shame for him not to see these two quietly enjoying their peace on the lake.
I softly shook his shoulder and whispered..."Do you still want to see your BC moose? There's a cow with her calf standing near the reeds." With that, Ken and Bob rustled from their sleep, crawled out of the warmth of their bags and shuffled to the window to catch a glimpse of the two moose. We all stood quietly, enjoying the scene before us. Reality returned as the bubbling of the coffee pot broke our silence, and we all decided what we were going to do. Both of my friends decided to go back to bed, while I readied my rod in anticipation of wetting a line and connecting with a few trout before breakfast.
As I slipped into the canoe and pushed off from the sandy beach, I noticed the moose were still standing near the reeds, their attention now focused on my activity in the canoe. As I had never seen moose in the wild, it crossed my mind to paddle in the direction of the moose as this was a chance to get as close as they would let me. I managed to glide within a 100 feet of where they stood before the cow decided it was time to move off, into the protection of the woods behind. I watched them slowly make their way into the grove of pines and quietly began stripping line off my reel to cast an Alaska Mary Ann towards the reeds.
Several casts later and no interested takes, I decided to move to a spot nearby that had produced good fish the day before. Casting one last time towards the reeds to lay out my line, I placed my rod in a secure position in the canoe and quietly dipped my paddle, moving away from the reeds. Movement at the water's edge caught my eye... every now and then, something would bob up, then down; a small animal I thought. I continued watching - whatever it was kept making the same repeated movement and I could hear a murmuring sound that kept time with the movement. Curiousity got the better of me so I reeled in and decided to investigate.
As I neared the shore, I was surprised to find another calf moose - this one laying on its side, its nose half submerged in the water. The movement I had been watching was the calf raising its nose to gasp a lungful of air, then relax, its nose again submerging under the water... the murmuring sound the result of the calf exhaling under water.
As I wasn't prepared to get wet, I paddled back to the cabin to put on my waders and enlist the help of Bob and Ken. They were surprised when I recounted what I had found. We all donned our waders and headed back to the reeds. I steadied the boat as my two friends stepped onto the soft grassy island where the stranded calf moose lay, helpless. Its eyes frantically followed the movements of Bob and Ken as they slowly approached the calf. You could tell it was in shock, scared stiff by its first encounter with people.
Ken, the one who had done some moose hunting, cautiously checked the calf for any sign of broken bones, only finding a very stiff rear left leg - perhaps twisted in a fall that had lead to the calf's present plight. We decided it best to move the calf to higher ground as it wasn't going to last much longer where it lay. As Bob and Ken positioned their arms under the calf, its eyes rolled wildly, however, it made no attempt to struggle as it was stiff and weak from laying in the cold lake water. They carefully carried the calf to higher ground in a grove a pines where we dried off the calf using some old dead grass. Bob at one point put his arm around the young calf's neck to comfort it... you can imagine it's not that often that we 'city slickers' would have an opportunity such as this.
With the calf safe in the tall grass, we made our way back to the boat and returned to the cabin... we were all ready for breakfast by this time. After a hearty breakfast, Bob and Ken decided to go fishing, while I sat down at my vise to replenish flies that were lost to hungry rainbows the previous day. Several flies later, I looked up to see Ken paddling back to the cabin with 'our' calf moose in the canoe. He recounted that when he went to check on the calf, it had bolted through the underbrush and had jumped into the lake. Floundering in deep water, the calf had to be rescued once again.
By this time Bob had returned to the cabin to find out what was going on. We brought the calf into the cabin and dried it off with some towels and lay it on the floor in front of the wood stove, which was still warm from our morning's breakfast. Ken and I devised a makeshift 'udder' from a plastic baggie, cut off one corner and partially filled it with warm milk, in an attempt to give the calf some nourishment. It took several gulps after we coaxed it to accept a poor substitute for its mother's milk. It made for quite a scene... three guys from the city trying to comfort this fragile wild creature. We all reflected on what we had just gone through... it was quite an experience!
With the calf now asleep on the floor, I decided to get some shut eye to make up for my early start while Bob and Ken decided to return to fishing. I woke up a couple of hours later to find nobody in the cabin, including the calf, and went outside to see if I could spot Bob and Ken. I couldn't see them as they must have gone to the far end to fish that part of the lake. I donned my waders, readied my gear and slipped into the float tube - this trip was the first time I tried one of these; it was a very relaxing and rewarding experience. I flippered my way past the reeds, back to a favoured spot on the lake. As I rounded the point that hid the far end of the lake from the cabin's view, I noticed Bob and Ken drifting back towards the cabin... one of their rods bent over double as they battled another rainbow.
I decided to cross over to the other side of the lake, pulling off the remainder of my sink-tip line and slowly cruised my 'floating armchair' to the far side. Half way across, a sharp jerk on my rod had me into a nice fish... when I finally landed it, a 16" rainbow had once again been seduced, this time by a pheasant tail nymph. I slipped the fish into my creel and cast out, trying another approach - cast and strip.
By this time, Ken and Bob had made their way over to where I was fishing. I moved closer to find out what happened to the calf moose... Bob recounted how the cow had returned, swimming across the lake to the spot where I had first seen her; the calf standing on the beach in front of our cabin making some strange 'clicking' sounds to its mother - moose talk, I guess. When the cow jumped into the lake and disappeared for a second time, before my two friends returned to fishing, Ken left the calf in the forest nearby in hopes that the cow would return once again to retrieve her offspring. That was the last they had seen of both animals.
Both of my friends noted they had been successful at the far end with several nice trout to show for their day's fishing. With that, we turned back to fishing the small cove we were in and were rewarded by two more sizeable rainbows. Just after the fish had been brought to the boats then released, some movement on the opposite shore caught our eyes... out of the forest stepped the cow moose, into the lake to bypass some obstruction, followed first by one calf, then by a second one - the one we had rescued twice earlier that day.
We all felt good seeing the moose family reunited, vowing we would return to enjoy... Davidson Lake, near Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.