Monday, December 18, 2006

New Stuff

Well, I haven't fished much recently. This is because I'm half paying dues and half helping Laura to deal with a childcare crisis that'd cropped up. Laura is about to go back to work, but the daycare with which we had originally signed up made - in our opinion - a very unethical decision & we decided to back out. Yet another complication of having kids, doubled with twins! The paying dues half is the easy part, really. It's actually tough on the heart strings to leave your kids for too long, when they're at this age :).

Anyway, now that the daycare situation is mostly behind us, I look forward to getting a trip or two in before the iron door of Winter shuts up the rivers, and the cold ices up the guides more than I can stand.

Also, I've had a few minutes to update my Blog. First, I fooled around with some old pics & a new poem, and I came up with the entry below. If you don't like poetry, too bad. Second, I've added a slew of links to my Blog. They are all hanging out on the right hand side, ready to be clicked.

Here is a short description of the links I've added. If I've offended anyone with these descriptions, please leave me a comment & I'll make the required corrections!
  • "Ron's Photo Blog", my cousin Ron's site, showcases highly professional pics of his three kids and assorted projects. If you need a wedding photographer, he's it!
  • "November Rains" and "A Screaming Comes Across the Sky" are blogs created by two accomplices from the Sarnia area, who seem to like to visit northern locales for their regular chrome dosage. The blogs are written by Lambton and Trotsky, respectively. Lambton gives very accurate recounts of his trips, whereas Trotsky is very laid-back and novelistic in his approach.
  • "My Life and Fishing in Western NY" is a student in - you guessed it - Western NY, and also an adept fly fisherman. His short, matter-of-fact reports are always appreciated, not to mention the fact that any fan of Grapes is a friend of mine!
  • "Chrome on Chrome" is a beautifully written, poetic and stimulatingly photographic blog. I hope to meet up with it's principal author/contributor "Deju," just to compare notes - but also, hopefully, to fish.
  • "The Itinerant Angler" another photoblog, whose photographs eloquently explain the presence of this Blog among my links.
  • "Musings of a Mad Fisherman" Another author whose writing I thoroughly enjoy, punctuated here and there by a clever, gentle sense of humour. I'm always happy to see new entries on BCM's Blog!
  • "Chasing Silver" Considering I quoted SD a while back, it's rude of me to have delayed the addition of his blog to my list of favourites. Maybe I can make it up to the author with a brewed offering when we finally 'hook up' on one of our local streams.
I hope you enjoy these Blogs as much as I do. If for some unlucky reason I don't post before the big day, have a Merry Christmas everyone!

p.- (and family)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Collage: "Come to me"

Come to me
for I wait
not and your leisure

cannot glean hope
from me that I
will be as you would

mine is the ice and the thaw
and the frozen lake
where the birds huddle
out of reach and mine is
the brawny river waking
to free its ice-bound sinews

all Bounty is mine to give
or repeal; will you take

the wild fish? the vaulting
magnetic scintillating creature
you so desire?
i care not

you are a ghost a
reflection in my face
a spark's flight soon
out of memory

but you will never forget me

you will never forget my
mornings and you will never forget
the fall filled with fire or
my baleful
red sunrise

Come to me then
and follow your gaze
into the deep green
of my eyes

and over lake
scapes beyond the reach
of your touch

for verily I
am within you I am
your beacon
I am your toil and your
resting place and I
am what you seek in
your solitary flight; but
which you will rarely
find and which you
will love
and lose, always.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Poem Written during a long (insignificant) Meeting

by november the
rain has lost all
its sweetness and the
warm leaf-smell of october
is a memory
shed by the wind sighing
a winter's breath over
frozen lips of
bark to trouble
arboreal dreaming

all the world has readied itself to die.
                      and yet
in the river
the pendulum already
has tapped the
glittering portent sleek
steelhead come
from the sea
waiting in cold flows
for something unfathomable
the earth should be made
to move
the unconsuming flame
of sunlight again come
to outlast the moonlight and
that the trees
come to sigh and
weep over the streams
from love-loss for the shining
fish who have gone
back to the
lonely somnolent depths

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fishless in the Living Room

It's a strange luxury to be able to predict with absolute precision how many fish I will catch this weekend. For one thing, it has permitted me to write an entry before-hand, but it also sadly means that the cold beginning of December won't see this average steelheader on any riverside.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I needed to repay the prime female in my life, for some of her patience this fall. As I write this, she's out with the girls, laughing herself silly and anticipating something she hasn't experienced in a long, long time: a late rise from bed tomorrow morning. The boys are blissfully asleep, but I'm just waiting for Isaac's nightly protest over a wet diaper, while I write & prepare formula. I hope it's soon, because my morning won't be looking like the caption, above. It'll be looking like this.

I love them, all three; but I admit to the deep temptation to sample tomorrow's high waters here in the east. And Sunday's clearing flows... And there's an itch at the core of all the bones of my right arm, as though even the marrow is asking "where's the rod? when's the next cast?"

Oh, but "papa" can bide his time. Not just for next weekend, by which point the debt will be paid; but I have two sons. Most likely, they won't be shopping for skirts with mommy at any point in the future.

This is good, I say to myself as I fill the bottles for tomorrow morning's hyena's feast. This is very good indeed (insert evil laugh here).


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

North by South-East

When the float went down, I wasn't looking. I'd been checking out the crowd back on shore, to see if anyone was catching anything. It had only been for a second or two, just a glance over my shoulder, but it was apparently enough time for some creature of the depths to engulf the spawn sac at the end of my line.

I was standing out in Lake Ontario, almost up to my waist, letting my float hitch a ride to the horizon, out on the current of a nearby tributary. When I saw that my float was gone, I thought of setting the hook; too late. The fish did it for me, nearly wrenching the rod, reel and all, from my hand. It gave a few powerful head thrusts, turned and sped straight at me, turned again; so violently that the tippet snapped and the line sagged gently. Fish off!

I was somewhat disappointed, but it was still early, and the experience injected some warmth back into my freezing bones. The lake was almost perfectly still, like a giant mirror beneath the overcast sky. And as I gazed eastward, I could have quoted Forrest Gump: there was no telling where the lake ended and the sky began.
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It was the kind of day, shortly after a rain, where the rivers would all still be up, but the near total absence of wind would provide an opportunity - finally! - for me to try out my favourite technique: float fishing the lake itself, by drifing my offerings out on the long, strong and clear plumes of rivermouths.

I know this is often done on many Georgian Bay tributaries, but fishermen on eastern Lake Ontario seem to tend, rather to make a distinction: float fishing = river; still fishing off bottom = lake. That I often choose to try float fishing = lake, sometimes earns me some derisive looks... But there is nothing much more exciting than seeing your float vanish beneath the lake's surface. Especially in the fall, when the fish are positively electric, have little to no fear and are extremely ravenous. There is never any hesitation to the strike of a steelhead, out in the lake. They hit pitilessly and with deadly precision. And the bend of the rod, following a successful hookup is exhilirating beyond belief.

Not that hooking these beautiful fish in rivers is any less exciting, because rivers offer challenges all their own, but there is (to me, anyway) a certain mystique about incurring the manifestation of such vibrant life, just under a horizon so seemingly endless and often very cold, barren and unforgiving.
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The weekend actually started up north, on a Georgian Bay tributary, where Mike and I took advantage of clearing flows to locate migrating steelhead. That was Saturday, and there was no action at the lake at all, by the time we got there. All the drama took place up the rivers, where the crowds were. But despite the fishing pressure, we both managed a good number of fish, including the specimen below. Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe most exciting battle for me was given by a large 10lb hen who fought me nearly all the way down a long, straight run, turned swiftly up-current, and snapped my line in mid air as she leapt up and away from me. There's no shame in losing a fight like that, and such virtuosity makes one appreciate the fish even more.

I just mentioned that there were crowds, and it was quite true everywhere I went - whether north, or south east from there. It's the sort of thing that happens when news has gotten around, of a couple of good weeks in a row; and it's an unfortunate part of drifting out into the lake, that you really don't have much flexibility if there's someone fishing in the spot where you'd like to be standing.

So, needless to say, despite the extreme availability of fish, I was eventually forced to catch far less than I could have. First of all, I had neglected to adequately insulate my breathables and had to make a shivering dash to the car to get my fleece; and in the meantime two fellows arrived, saw the spot empty and installed themselves. Finders keepers, I guess. If this had been a Monday, for example, I could have gone to get a coffee at Tim Horton's, read the latest news on the Toronto Maple Leafs, filled up the car & chatted with the attendant, and the spot would have been free upon my return - but this was Sunday, on Lake Ontario, not far from Toronto. Oh well. I guess I don't own the lake!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Nevertheless, the quality and power of the fish that I did manage to hook or land, was more than consolation enough. Not only that, but I met up with the fellow I always inevitably find at any one of my favourite rivermouths. We chatted as usual, got to introduce eachother, finally, and he very amicably gave me a chance to get a decent release shot of the fish in the very first caption, at the beginning of this entry.

So, things didn't turn out so badly after all. Now, I need to reward Laura for all her patience in the last few weeks, having had quite a few opportunities to tangle with steelhead while she kept watch over the twins. They're almost 11 months old now... I may not write for a while - or if I do, it will be deplorably philosophical or poetic.



Monday, November 13, 2006

Epic Chrome

I was admittedly trepidacious in the morning, on my drive up north. So far, although I've had some good days, others (like last weekend) were not so good. I can't remember the last time I would have wished for less rain in the fall. But there you have it: so many of my favourite places to fish have had too much water & have been unfishable during my off-times.

So, even though I had it on good authority that there would be fish somewhere, I've had it on good authority all fall that the fish are there; the timing has been that difficult, this year.

I met up with Mike and Andrew, at the motel where they'd stayed the previous evening, and once Andrew got the cobwebs out of his head, we made our choice as to the first river we'd visit. It was some matter of debate, but we were so close to a specific rivermouth - and the weather conditions looked just about perfect - that it was decided that we should at least try it, based on the "well, we're here anyway," principle.

We would not be disappointed.

I chose the point closest to the lake, and I can honestly say that my first ten spawn sacs were either engulfed or crushed on the first or second drift. And these were not your average steelhead: the chromers were in and the fishing was on. These were easily the strongest steelhead I've battled, for their size. On more than one occasion, I thought I had hooked into a fish that was at least in the low teens; my knuckles and fingertips were nearly stripped raw from sudden, long, furious runs - only to discover a fish ranging from 4 to 6lbs, when finally landed.

Andrew and Mike had similar tales to tell (although they caught more fish, they say...) - as did most of the fishermen who joined us on that particular stretch of river. And although my friends had to leave earlier than I did, I stuck around for the sunset. The fishing had slowed to a crawl by then, and the pre-dusk run that I expected didn't really materialise, but I also had the excuse that it was one of those days that you wish would never end. I watched it sail away by the red glow of the setting sun.

All in all, it was a day to remember. And one I will certainly never forget!


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wind and Motion

Only on a salt water sea do the waves get much bigger than what my father and I experienced this Sunday, by the beaten shores of Lake Ontario.

Great, foaming, white-capped giants charged cantankerously the reeling shoreline, crushing it with massively bulldozed sand, pebbles and rocks, wrenching out small islands from the beach, while methodically beating and grinding them into splinters and sediment. Here and there, among the flotsam, we could see all that is now left of the lost stragglers from the September chinook salmon run; bits and pieces of white cartilage, dried skin and leathery cheekplates, looking as though an ogre had chewed them and unceremoniously spit out their remains.

Matching the rage of the lake, the violence of the wind was at times frightful. Rods had often to be held with two hands, and floats sometimes zigged uncontrolably, nearly flying out of the water on sudden gusts that must have exceeded 65kmh. On several occasions my father or I would feel a heavy wallop and we had to quickly brace ourselves, or fall. I read afterwards that power lines were broken in places, that trees were blown over, and even a house-in-progress in Etobicoke was knocked down. I still don't know where my Barbeque cover went. It was a west wind ... Montreal, maybe?

So, what in all that chaos the steelhead might have been doing, whether fleeing to safer depths or actually attempting the perilous search for the obliterated flows of nearby rivermouths, was beyond our ability to guess. My hunch is that most of them would not attempt getting embroiled with 7-8ft waves, risking injury or being beached. Just as most sane people (my father and I notwithstanding) don't venture out long into gale-force winds, steelhead probably don't brave surfs that have the literal ability to pulverise. But some of them do, it seems, and some of them did.

It was an unusual day as, thanks to the abundant rainfall we had on Friday and Saturday, flows which are normally mere trickles looked like decent brooks; and the usual "creeks" bore more resemblance to rivers. The flows we visited ranged from high and clear, to high and slightly less than clear, which is always good, when you're looking for steelhead! All of yesterday's fish were aggressive takers, and most of those who obliged us were in the 1 - 2 lb range, but a few were bigger. I can only assume that the one that actually broke my hook was fairly large, larger I think than this handsome 5lb male. He tamely posed for the photograph, but sprang smartly away as soon as I pointed him back into the water.

At one point, my float went down in a deeper section of the river. I could feel that the fish had weight but it didn't deliver the frenetic activity that usually denotes the first couple of minutes of a steelhead hookup. The fish merely bulled its way to the bottom and shook its head "no no no!" I was suspicious - and maybe you are too; and it was only when I got him up closer to the surface that I could see clearly why there had been so little fight: brown trout!

It's my opinion that we were very lucky to have any fish at all, given the outrageous condition of the Lake. I've often visited rivers under these conditions, and have very rarely been successful. However, more significantly, we were equally lucky to have been present when Lake Ontario was in such a state. I've rarely seen it that animated, and just being witness to such immense power and beauty, and thundering surf, was well worth the trip!


Monday, October 23, 2006


I need a second digital camera, or I need to stockpile Lake Ontario scenery and fishy pics. I've known this for some time, actually, but I've now procrastinated to a point beyond the acceptable.

On both of my latest eastern Lake Ontario outings, I had no camera because Laura "needed" it to photograph the twins, while visiting relatives. So, the caption for this article is really old, and is one of the last remaining "à propos" pics in my online collection.

Speaking of procrastination, two trips have gone by without any update to my blog. So I'm redressing that now, I hope.

I won't go into huge detail, since I was fishing solo and didn't do much out of the ordinary; but, on a last minute decision, I fished the Grand River for the first time, at Caledonia. The water was relatively high and quite dirty, so I had no success - but I will definitely be returning later this fall.

I intended to visit J.C. , when I was in Caledonia. J.C. built the custom rod I won on last Dec 28th. I had him inscribe the greek/roman symbol for twins, right on the blank, because that also happens to be the day my twins were born. What a lucky day! Anyway, I never got a chance to shake J.C.'s hand or thank him in person, because Mike picked up the rod for me last March; and it will have to wait. I assumed (falsely as it turns out) that J.C. had something to do with the bait shop at the Caledonia dam, but nobody there knew him, and I left fairly early on account of the water conditions. Next time!

Then, after my last rant, I did manage to escape the confines of four walls to subject myself to the great waves of Lake Ontario. I braved it for about an hour, at the mouth of one of my favourite tributaries, but managed merely to get wet, cold, annoyed, and thoroughly humbled by the unrelenting nature of the surf. Even though there was hardly a breeze at my house, the Lake had jealously kept its white-capped children in play, and I was thwarted by their unruliness.

Not completely, of course, as river mouths are always a good place to visit in the fall. I was afforded some measure of success, the biggest and most beautiful portion of which weighed about 7 lbs, was brighter than the back side of a Little Cleo spoon, and seemed decked out with a silver corslet damasked with precious gems and mother-of-pearl. I've no picture of it, unfortunately, but the colours are well represented by the caption.

There's also this matter of the "nice beach bonger guy" I keep meeting. I seem to meet him whenever the steelhead are running, whether fall or spring, and it's always the same story. He's usually beach bonging the surf or the river's estuary, we catch sight of eachother and wave, and at some point in the day we have a chat about the conditions: where the fish are, why they're not in yet, how many we've caught so far, etc. I always mean to introduce myself, but I never seem to get around to it. And this time was no different. We left off with "good luck" and "see ya next time," and that was it. He looks like he might be a relation of John Kerr, chief editor of Ontario Out of Doors, but I can't be sure. Maybe we'll clear that up sometime.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What am I DOING???

Isn't this the cat's meow?

The picture in the caption is a gross misrepresentation of what Lake Ontario must look like this morning; still somewhat wavy, but generally windless - and overcast. But since I'm in no position to offer you an updated version, I have to use this very old one from 2004.

Given yesterday's generous dollops of rain, I imagine that several creeks are clearing, right this minute, beckoning fish.


When I walked out of my door a couple of hours ago, I was immediately aware: no wind. F*&^*! WHAT AM I DOING???

Going to work! ...not fishing.

Thinking about it doesn't help, either. But in my opinion, the conditions and time of year are perfect for a little lake-side steelheading - my favourite now, since the fish are always so ultra-fresh, scintillatingly bright and eager to accept offerings. Runs and jumps galore.

What a rotten day to have one's priorities "straight," sipping rancid, paleolithic coffee from a styrofoam cup & watching videos of our EVP's magnanimously thanking us for our "outstanding contributions to this latest initiative in leveraging opportunities for the Business."


Is that a tickle in my throat?

*cough!* *cough!*


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Right up my Alley

Part of me laments the popularity that certain Lake Erie tributaries now enjoy which, even five years ago, were relatively unknown to most great lakes anglers. It means that when I undertake the long drive, I have to ask myself whether or not I'm willing to face a crowd.

Last Monday, I decided that both the conditions & fishing crowds were acceptable, and headed out to one of the tributaries in Lake Erie's famous "Steelhead Alley." Together with John, Mike and Richard, I figured to "crush" some steelhead.

It didn't turn out to be the total victory that we'd hoped for, but all of us got fish nonetheless. I got some nice shots of John fighting a chromer, just before the camera's batteries died; the photographer in Mike once again revealed himself, by snapping this shot of a lovely little hen rainbow; Richard was captured on digital, a little gollum-like, doing the yum-yum unacceptable (if you ask the members of certain forums on the internet); and Mike released what seemed to me the biggest fish of the day, a gorgeous nickel bright hen in the 9-10lbs range.

The story of the day, however, was the beautiful weather and the scarcity of crowds - so there was no lamenting! The morning afforded quite a few good shots, as this one on the right, and the few fishermen we did meet (with one minor exception) were in the same mood we were: happy, sun-warmed & friendly.

As a case in point, near the end of the day, one of the "fly guys" helped me locate fish; which is the only time this has ever happened to me (they are normally aloof when they see the "pinners" coming). Perhaps frustrated by water conditions that were still a little too coloured for presenting flies, this gentleman from Ontario directed my attention to a tail-out where he'd seen fish surface before my arrival. His coaching worked as, after a few drifts in the spot he'd indicated, my float slipped beneath the surface at the urging of a spunky 4lb-er whose eagerness to get back in the water almost cost me the picture...

Now I'm making plans for this weekend. Lots of rain this week. Who knows where the next blog entry will come from?

Not me! Not yet, anyway...


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


While Laura is out getting supplies, I've finished bathing and feeding the twins , and I've put them to bed. Since they are now both counting little sheep, and I've finished a number of my appointed chores (including "brownie point" chores), I've taken time to check out blogs by Joe A. & SD.

Their entries for today, respectively entitled "Why Steelhead?" and "A lull...", are both about the same thing: the odd behaviour of those who chase after a fish (i.e. steelhead) that is more easily catchable during cold-weather periods.

Joe is very poetic and philosophical in his approach, whereas SD represents the physical example: discussing centrepins and planning to go out, after a rain, while recovering from a pneumonia.

When SD talks about going out "pneumonia notwithstanding" he asks why it is that he would do such an apparently crazy thing. But I don't see it as crazy or abnormal at all; in fact Joe gives him an answer of sorts, correctly pointing out the exhilirating unpredictability of the fish and the fishery - which seems like a good reason to me. Because if you really want to catch steelhead, you will seek them and you will do so in the short window of time that is alotted. A "perfect" window is so rare, that given only the capability to stand, not one of us will blame any steelheader for being brave, and driven. One day there is a throng of them, the next they are gone like "La belle Dame sans Merci" in the famous poem. And who knows when that day has truly come, without going out and testing the waters ourselves? We are not omniscient...

So, what can I add? What words of mine can equally describe, for anyone who does not seek this fantastic creature, why we do it or what it's like? I don't know. I have a bunch of poems on the subject, that I've written myself, but I won't bore anybody with any of them here.

But whatever "steelheading" is for anyone else; for me, I guess it's all of these things at once: art, discipline, meditation, prayer and earnest battle. Oh, and fraternity (not excluding any "she," who are rare and exceptional), which includes the odd beer.

I'm thinking about my next trip now, and where it might be, and if I will go alone or with anyone else, and how many, and how beautiful the fish I/we will catch... where's the button on Time? You know... the fast-forward...?

Oh, never mind!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

First Chrome

Somehow, the Steelhead gods must have found it amusing to grant me my wish.

It was uttered thus, at about 10 o'clock on Sunday morning: "This sucks. All I want is one fish. Just one fish."

I can imagine some Loki-type deity responding, Ok... if you'd been just a little more patient, we were going to grant you 10 fish or so from 11 O'clock on... but, since you insist. Fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," insert "Q" here.

I visited three eastern Lake Ontario tributaries, today, each at a different stage with regards to the salmonid fall migration, and each having behaved quite differently to the 5mm of rain we had last night. It stands to reason, then that the larger of the three, and the one most sensitive to precipitation, would be where I ultimately received my gift from the gods.

At the first two tributaries, all I really got were messages from the animal spirits sent by the Steelhead gods themselves. The pensive egret said "valiant average steelheader, nay! cast thy tackle over these waters no longer! eastward lies thy boon!" The three ducks agreed. When I went further eastward, where to my great chagrin the water in the river was too low & the surf in the lake far too high, the two-headed swan said "unimpressive tosser of balsa sticks," (swans are more imperious, and somewhat haughty) "angle thou here if thou wilst. 'Twould amuse me to witness thy futility..." But I thought the egret & the three ducks too sincere to have sent me to this place, so further east I went.

By now, I should just call it "My pier," or to amuse some of my friends, "My peer" - the same place I've written about twice previously. Yes, I arrived at "My peer" (peer, not pier, haha); to witness pandemonium. Large boots were flying out of the water everywhere. Bottom bongers were having a heyday (those who were in fact bottom bonging) and/or uttering growls of dismay whenever the fish got off. Large boils dotted the surface of the water, haphazardly, and every now and then a chinook salmon, variously shaded with mating colours, would fly out and land with a splash.

But here and there, a staccato splash, or boil, would occur. Smaller, quicker, and somehow more timoroulsy voracious than the big lento kabooms of the chinooks. Something was out there, that by its surface activity could be read as being at once actively feeding, and accutely aware of its enormous, dangerous and territorial cousin: there were steelhead off My peer.

Anyhow, I began alternately to drift roe and jigs for them. But either they were too spread out, not yet in enough numbers, being chased around by the boots, or all of the above; because, they didn't seem interested at all. About an hour went by. Finally, feeling quite discouraged with the way things were going, I intoned my little prayer to the Gods. One fish. Just one fish.

Moments later, they complied.

The float hesitated, then zipped downward with such force that it nearly splashed. I knew immediately, upon setting the hook, that it was a steelhead. A chinook, when it's hooked, will usually make a big splash, or shake around a little, decide it's probably in danger, point its nose in one direction and blast its way there. They're like a jumbo jet: big, heavy, lumbering, powerful. A steelhead, on the other hand, is like a Spitfire. Wheeling, diving, climbing, yawing, and just as capable of pulling out a long, wicked run. This one did not disappoint. He shook his head madly when he felt the hook, leapt at least six times, ran twice and even attemped at one point - or so it seemed - to rub the line off on the cement of My peer.

He's the lovely 30-something incher who graces this post, in the caption above. Seconds later, he was back in the water, and I wish him luck in his endeavours and in his romantic pursuits.

The last thing I have to say, in deference to the Steelhead Gods, is that I am happy with my day - though by no means content. When is a steelheader ever content? When fishing. Otherwise, we spend a good chunk of our time planning our adventures, watching the weather and guessing what has been decreed for today, for tomorrow, for the next day...

But I humbly thank the Steelhead gods for my one fish. He is magnificent, and the gift of his apparition made my day!


Monday, September 25, 2006

Fish & Rod

"Yes!" I growl to myself, as I feel a tug at last. It's night and I've been tossing a glow spoon from this pier for over an hour now. Lake Ontario is eerily phosphorous on one side, big waves rolling in dim shore lights; and on the other side of the pier, all is dark and the chop is flattened by the outflow of the swollen river. Behind me, all I hear is the loud, droning wavecrash where the swells are stopped in their interminable march by the unyielding rocks. And, overall, wind.

"Alright!" I finally hooked into something. I can feel the pull... wait. It's too soft. I think I got someone's line. I can see it hanging from my spoon, now; it's shiny new. "Ah, f#*&!" Not a fish. Just fishing line. Jeeze, there's a lot of it! What a mess.

There's another guy on the pier with me. I look to see if this might be his line, but he's casting glow spoons of his own.

What a night! Anyway, I shouldn't leave all this line out there. So, I untangle my spoon from the unwanted line, gently put my rod down & begin to pull it all in, carefully rolling it up with my fore-arms.

Suddenly, there's another tug. What...? There's something at the end of this line. It really is brand new, so... could it be? a fish? I'm here looking for chinook salmon... maybe...? So I keep pulling, and sure enough like a dog on a leash, the fish starts to come in with the line. As I get it closer to the pier, though, the enchantment ends suddenly; and I'm glad I was using my forearms to roll that line in: there's a big splash, a very rough tug and then... nothing. If I'd have been using my naked hands, I'd have been cut for sure.

All this line, and that fish wasn't even hooked by me. And there's more line out there. So I keep pulling. There's pressure again. Another fish? No. It's kind of just a dead weight. Probably an egg sinker rig, or something. There are lots of weeds at the bottom & if you catch a clump of that stuff, it's really heavy. Pull, pull.

Rod. Reel. Holy mackinaw! A freebie!

I am suddenly reminded of the discussion I had with that local fellow, the last time I was here. He'd said something to the effect that "those damn fish pull hard, when they're on. Every once in a while, some idiot leaves his rod there to light a smoke or get a beer, or something, and whamo. Rod's gone. It takes off like a rocket."

So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I've heard of this sort of thing happening before, of course, on piers frequented by intrepid chasers of salmonids, but I never thought I'd be the main character in a similar story!

(Mental note: buy lottery ticket tomorrow.)

The rig, as it turns out, is comprised of a 9ft shimano IM-7 blank & a Daiwa "D-force" 4 ball-bearing spinning reel. It serves as the model in the caption, above, for this blog entry.

Later on, I will finally connect with a couple of our finned friends, landing a bright silver male - who is only just starting to show the first telltale yellow/green stain; 22 lbs or so - and missing the other. The one I will land will give me not one, but two blistering runs; a lot of fun, when fishing in the dark.

At 3:09am, my head will hit the pillow. And it will be a few moments before the hopeful images of bright chrome throngs of october steelhead, conjured by my cold and windy but fruitful night, are extiguished from at least the conscious part of my brain...


Monday, September 18, 2006

A Day at the Pink

To prove that life is full of surprises, I learned last year from Mike's endless internet forays, that the north shore of Georgian Bay has a healthy population of a much ignored species of salmonid in Ontario: pink salmon.

Pink salmon first made their appearance in the great lakes in the mid 1950's, introduced by accident into a tributary close to Thunder Bay. For a very nice synopsis on pinks in Lake Superior, read this article from Wisconsin Sea Grant's "Fish of the Great Lakes."

Because pink salmon are rather diminutive, growing only to about 5lbs at the biggest, they do not excite the imagination of fishermen in general. After all, who wouldn't prefer chasing Chinook salmon, which grow to 30lbs, given the choice? And for most southern Ontario & U.S. anglers, the bigger salmonids such as steelhead, chinook salmon and coho salmon, are by far the most accessible; so why waste the gas on such "minnows"?!

In any case, because my parents live "up north," I have more access to Georgian Bay's north shore than most. And as curious anglers, my father and I made a visit to a local tributary last fall, just before Thanksgiving; only to learn that we were a bit late. There were fish in abundance, but most were dead or dying, and very few were interested in our many offerings.

This year, however, we went much earlier - last Friday, actually - and found the action much more to our liking. The run is not yet in full swing, and many of the fish are still relatively fresh and reasonably game. And although many of the locals don't exactly follow what we southerners would call "proper stream etiquette," there are plenty of fish to go round. And their fight is surprisingly fierce, for such a seemingly small fish.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We didn't count the fish we landed, but it was well in the thirties. The action was sometimes quite furious, as evidenced by the two photos above, where my father hooked into a fish between camera clicks. He seems to be smiling indulgently in the first pic, then the strike comes. In some sections of the river, furthermore, there were so many salmon lining up to ascend the rapids, that snagging them was completely unavoidable; in fact, future visits will be made with barbless hooks.

What did they like? Krokodiles, mostly, silver panther martins and salmon roe drifted under a float. They seemed to like their spawn sacks tied in red or ... you guessed it: pink.

What did we like? the salmon. Fileted & fried in butter, with a light batter of flour, lemon/garlic spice, salt, pepper & parsley.


More images:
My father with a typical male, destined to the frying pan, after landing it.
And I managed to pick some off with the camera as they surfaced.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Krispy Kreme in my Future"

Would you pay this man 4.5$ million per year?

Ok. This being a fishing blog, I will be brief. But I just can't help but comment on this one.

I was so shocked that I almost didn't finish my last blog. There is some serious insanity going on in Long Island!

As some of you may already know, the New York Islanders recently signed goalie Rick Dipietro to a 15 year, 67.5$ million contract. Dipietro is now 25, so this contract will keep him warm til he's 40 in 2021.

The last time a contract this big was awarded in the NHL, the guy's name was "G-r-e-t-z-k-y"... ever heard of that guy?

Ever heard of Dipietro? If I told you he played for the Nashville Predators, would you even know that I was lying? My point is that he is at best a B+ goalie. He is not the equal of present talents such as Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusov or Cam Ward. And, unless you're a hockey fan, you've probably never even heard of those guys. Ken Dryden? Know that one? And not even Dryden, nor even any other goalie, ever had a contract that long. Not even close. And Dipietro will likely never do anything as big as this contract, to get himself into hockey history; he's just not that good!

67.5 divided by 15 is... what...? 4.5$ million. So, basically, by the time Dipietro is replaced- maybe in 6 or 7 years, maybe in 3 - he'll be sitting on the bench or in the press box, laughing his face off into a huge box of Krispy Kreme donuts. 4.5$ million a year to eat donuts. Can you say "Jackpot"? "Laughing all the way to the bank"? "Always fresh at Tim Hortons"!

All I can say is: one team less for the Leafs to worry about in the post season!


Monday, September 11, 2006

Our Cup Runneth Over

Because of my highly successful recovery from Myrmecophobia (fear of ants), I was very excited when Mike called last Friday to suggest re-visiting that local tributary I told you about in my previous post. We set Saturday morning as the date of "destruction." With only marginal rain in the overnight forecast, we were sure of great success.

We got to the river early, before first light, and as the day began to brighten we could see more and more clearly the conditions with which we were cursed; it turns out that Saturday was a very wet date. Very wet and chocolatey-milky, unfortunately. The water was so brown that it was white, in some spots, and I think the only way for the salmon to get around was if they had had the use of periscopes. Some of the storm clouds, which were supposed to have shed only the merest breath of a drizzle of a shaking dog, had had ideas of their own. Namely, I've been fishing long enough to know that the river'd be blown; the rain had been that bad at times, on Friday night. Sigh.

To make matters worse, my time was at a premium on this particular morning. I wanted to get back home by 10am, so I could do some yard work; something about increasing the equity in my share of Laura's good graces, and the back lawn was looking pretty scraggly. I mean, it was a jungle back there! Not that it's so bad to have to do yard work. It's just that when your buddy decides to high-tail it to another river, further east, you can't really keep your honour and high-tail it with him. Especially, when even your own little internal voice is saying "man, that grass looks BAD!"

So Mike managed to salvage his day, by obtaining success elsewhere. I decided to continue my research on float-fishing rivermouths & headed out to the very end of the pier, out into the lake, looking for adequate seams to "sew." However, there was nothing for me but the exclamation point on the mini-disaster that my morning fishing trip had turned into: carp jumping out in the lake. Warm water, not cold.

There are two things of note, otherwise, that I can jot down here. First, in the dark, I did manage to "line" something. If you're not familiar with the term "lining" or "to line fish," it generally refers to the practise of snagging, but is usually done in the mouth. It's called "lining" because the passing fish will get the line caught in its mouth & usually all it takes, then, is a hookset to get the fish on. Anyway, this fish I lined was caught above the float, and it snapped the line once the float had reached the swivel & could no longer glide down any further. Admittedly, this is not very agile, when you're drifting, and my only excuse is that it was still dark at the time & I could not see how much slack I had let out. Mike managed to save the float for me by casting at it repeatedly & hooking into the leader beneath it. Thanks bud!

The second thing of note, and the thankful end to this rather ineffectual blog entry: whether you fish or not, take a walk along Lake Ontario's shore if you can make time for it, in the fall. Scenes like this, and this await you.

Oh yeah. The afternoon was dry enough that I did take care of that back yard. It looks nice, now!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ants in my Pants

As I patiently await October and the first timid upstream forays of my beloved steelhead, I've temporarily turned once again to chinook salmon to cure the "itch." So last Saturday night, I decided to spend a couple of hours in an estuary east of Oshawa, floating marshmallows for "boots."

I have to apologise to Joe Ahmad for diverging in so diametrical a fashion from his latest post, because "lobbing marshmallows" although widely subscribed to as a viable method for catching Chinooks is nothing more than a low-probability exercise in "lining." I can hear all my steelhead buddies laughing at me already, especially because I hear that their outings have all surpassed my own, but to be honest I didn't feel like fighting for a spot on a pier; or going anywhere that would be so busy that one could read fine print by the light of all the glow sticks & glow spoons being whizzed about. I just wanted my own quiet little spot, by a quiet river, quietly on a quiet night...okay?

As it turned out, though, the spot was not as quiet as I had hoped. Several anglers had already had the same notion as I had, and they were hunkered down in most of the best spots. One fellow even had a motion-sensing Coleman lantern, which I thought was a pretty nifty item, and he confirmed for me (alas) that things were pretty slow in this section of the river.

Maybe I'm beating to death the "father of twins" thing; but when you've sufficiently mastered the art of simultaneoulsy (and acrobatically) feeding two babies their formula, fruit & cereal, after bathing them one at a time, while keeping them occupied with a mobile, or baby mozart or whatever, to reward your wife with a well deserved night out (i.e. two against one): there are things about which you just ain't gonna be fussy. Anyway, when the steelhead roll in, "super dad" will see his fussy-o-meter go up. But for Lake Ontario "boots" I won't sweat it. At this point, my fishing motto is "just happy to be here."

Let me describe the rest of the evening, then. I managed, by dint of stomping and crash-banging the tall grass (in the dark), to find a suitable spot from whence to lob my salmony marshy mallows. Upstream from me was a group of silent, jogging-suit adorned locals, s
ilent as tombstones, and downstream from me, with rods like glowing toxic cat-tails, was a pod of verbose russians. I deduced that they were russians by the quick, rapid repetition of "da" whenever somebody's marshmallow encountered the open maw of a passing salmon. Which invariably led to tangles of tolstoyan proportions, seeing as they were all sitting much too close to eachother. The salmon, bless them, have no idea that we call them "boots" and so they remain powerful and, when hooked, frenzied. So, in their frenzy, they tend to ignore the fact that the line that happens to be hooked to them also happens to be entangling itself with all the other lines in the vicinity as they fight; nor, I think, do they care that they are subsequently providing a canadian the opportunity to listen to what must have been some very colourful russian invective.

That night, all the salmon were successful in these attempts to be free. I didn't see a single one landed. Many were hooked, but none of them appeared to think the marshmallows so palatable as to beg for more on shore. "Could yuh help poor salmon with a bituva marshmalluh, eh?"

The ants however, must have thought that they had hit paydirt ... and how. As it turns out, in my anti-social attempt to claim my very own riverfront property, I had stomped my way to Lilliput, as it were. And the little people were all in a tizzy, deciding how best to subdue me. Such a big meal, I must have seemed, that at least the entire kitchen staff of the Queen, as well as some her presonal retinue, was sent to fetch tasty bits of my self to her highness's table. Of course, intent on salmon, and smoking a cigar (for which it was a perfect night, still and damp - I made lots of really nice smoke rings ... JB, it was a monte cristo #3), I thought merely, as I kicked and scratched and rubbed, "what the? ... these mosquito bites really burn !"

I only discovered the culprits of my discomfort when, having arrived at home, I shook all the dying ones out of my pants and into the toilet. I flushed them all of course, because that's not the sort of thing you really want to be bragging about bringing home; a bunch of pants ants. Oops! and that's what I just blogged. Doh!

Maybe "next time" eh?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Sky is Falling!

I hate to say it, but... actually I love to say "I told you so." Sorry!

Last weekend was supposed to be warm and sunny, both days, in southern Ontario. Instead, our cars got a pretty decent wash.

When I was pier fishing, I remember that there was a lot of pessimism among my local interlocutors with regards to the weather: "long range forecast isn't calling for rain for the next two weeks." In salmonid fishing circles, this is bad news because it means river flows won't be high enough or cool enough to entice fish closer or into streams.

But I had read an article in Ontario out of Doors , years and years ago (so I have no idea in which issue it was, or who wrote it) about watching clouds to predict rainfall; and I could have sworn, as I sat listening to that rant about blue Prince Crafts, that a weather change for the "better" was on the way. I had been watching the clouds, and it seemed to me that rain was definitely the forecast. But I'm not the weather channel, so I shut up about it at the time. And yet as it turned out, I was right. Good for me. Here's a cookie, me! Yay!

It's quite simple: if you see cirrus clouds, really high whispy & almost diaphanous clouds, a weather change is imminent. This is because cirrus clouds are moving in ahead of a front. Now, a front can be good or bad, but if the cirrus clouds are followed by altocumulus clouds (see photo caption above), it usually means rain is on the way. I found more confirmation of this at the Physical website, along with other formation combinations that lead to precipitation. It's actually a neat site that explains a lot more about cloud formations, as well as air masses, with links to definitions for most of the cryptic scientific terms it uses.

This is not to say that we should never trust the weather people. It's just more proof that independent observation often yields a truer outlook than anything offered by large associations, and it's always a good idea to keep your own wits about you!


Friday, August 18, 2006

1/2 Day Cashed In

Laura and the twins are spending time with their Grammy and Auntie Colleen, this week, so technically I'm a free man. And since I still had a half day left on my father's day gift, and feeling rather "squeezed" - or maybe it was just missing the activity of tossing a line out - I decided to go pier fishing for chinook salmon last night.

The eternal curse of the occasional fisherman is invariably uttered thus: "you should have been here yesterday" or "the fishing was great all last week." My blessings are elsewhere these days, so I just tip my cap down and keep casting; to not much avail as it turned out last night!

Nonetheless, it was time spent fishing, for which I was deducted nothing more than an evening spent on calm, dark Lake Ontario. The lake was "turning over" which added to the general despondence felt by most of the fishermen on the pier. It means the salmon move out, beyond the reach of our casts, to more comfortably cool waters. Although two had been caught early, with mating colours already quite dark, that would be all we would see for the night.

As if to make things worse, and as a consequence of the lake's shifting, my side of the pier suddenly accumulated quite a mess of algae. What I had orignially taken for the promising boil of a surfacing chinook was, in fact, the bubbling up of large clumps of weeds, created by the wave and current action of the lake against the pier. It did not let up. As this made fishing unpleasant, if not impossible, and as I didn't wish to muscle in on anyone else on the other side, I broke out a cigar, snapped open a can of Warsteiner, and started chatting with one of the locals.

Our conversation covered everything from the fish I missed out on last week, to the bottom structure of the waters around the pier; from fish stocking in the great lakes to stories about poachers in the area & arrests that were made. Ironically, I also learned about the rudeness of "frenchmen" who come to the area to fish from their "sea of blue Prince Crafts." Apparently these rude people will follow too closely behind other trolling fishermen, scaring the fish. I say "Ironic," because I am a francophone, although without the unfortunate drawback of owning a Prince Craft. Tabarnak. But I didn't take offense, because I've experienced this very thing with Mike, in a place where the operator of the blue Prince Craft was definitely francophone. Coincidence, n'est-ce pas?

Also, I learned something quite useful that I didn't know before, related to tossing glow-in-the-dark spoons from piers at night. Always carry a camera flash. Used properly, it "recharges" the glow of your spoon in a fraction of a second, and it will not affect your night sight. Finally, always bring these two senses: humour and awe. The humour I hope was covered already, but of awe: how the lake looks at night, under an overcast sky with nothing solid on which to attach your peripheral vision; you no longer feel your feet, but are floating over the somnambulating waves, like a night bird edging off to flight.

Anyway, I no longer feel squeezed (or stressed)!


Monday, August 07, 2006

Loons & bass

So, for Father's day I got a one-day surcease from the foolish promise I made last May, and I chose to use it not on Steelhead, but on bass fishing in a small lake in the Kawarthas.

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Laura's brother in-law, Steve, and we headed out early Sunday morning, before the twins could wake us up. Unfortunately, we had to be efficient, as Steve had a deadline to make. So as "luck" would have it, the results weren't great.

Other than three or four little bass, nothing serious was landed; although a fair sized largemouth bass (3lbs or so) chose to rest in the shade of my float tube for a few minutes, after deciding that the texas rig it had followed wasn't so appetising after all. It disappeared when, shortly after the wind rose, I had to kick to right myself.

The loons, however, were something else. The picture I have posted here is, unfortunately, not recent. I am forced to appreciate the irony whereby, for this fisherman, this was an opportunity where a camera would have been far more useful a tool, than a blind fishing rod. Quite truly, the lake on which Steve and I found ourselves fishing, was nothing less than an aerodrome for loons.

I didn't count them, but at one time there were at least 9 of them in one quadrant of the lake. There was lots of gesticulating going on, wing-skipping, taking off and landing; as well as it seems diving and fishing. Twice, a loon came close enough that I could have tossed a lure at it with high expectations of hitting it; and one of those times, the bird came so close that I might have touched it with my outstretched rod-tip, if I had tried (or had had the time).

No wonder the bass weren't biting. They were on the lam!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Compliments and Blessings

I recently got a very nice compliment from Joe Ahmad @ , which you can find as a comment on my 2006 Trout Opener blog. He also relates that I'm lucky to have had the chance to spend so much time, recently, fishing with "papa." It's not as though we spent all our time catching fish! On the contrary, as the picture above shows, the fellow under the hat, and amid the jetsam of a lunch stop, is the old man catching a much needed forty winks instead... But Joe's comments started me on a meditation over the events of the last five or six month of my own life, and on the tremendous changes that have occurred which have brought some affirming and sometimes earth-shattering realisations.

On December 28th, at roughly 11am, I was sitting at my desk. I wasn't really working, but talking to Mike, when my second line started to flash. The voice that came over the line was my wife's; "my water just broke!" By 11:30pm that evening, Isaac & Samuel were born.

Never in my most delerious moments had the thought ever attempted to cross my mind, that it would be possible for me to feel that Ferraris going 0 to 60 in 6 seconds (or whatever) would seem unimpressive. Dull. Whoop-dee-doo. But I know better, now. Life itself accelerates from 0 to the speed of absolute chaos, in a fraction of the fraction of a split second. As I held my twin boys, fraternal and therefore completely different from one another; proud father, elated and scared as hell, I dimly realised that I had just gone through such an acceleration in Life.

Only the parents of multiples know or can truly understand how the next 3 months would unfold. I can honestly say that I have never before experienced such emotional tumult, nor so much love, nor pride, nor fear, confusion, anger and great, great joy. And yet, in all of this daily chaos and struggle to keep up, there was always a relative involved, staying up late with us or for us, making breakfast, lunch, dinner, cleaning the kitchen, holding one of the babies or bathing him, changing diapers and on and on; and sometimes one of those relatives was my own father.

His caring and his involvement in our new life, as parents, moved me. When you have children of your own, turn back & look at your parents. You see them as children, once, and parents, as they were and are for you, and grandparents now; and you see yourself, as you will also someday be. And if you look down at the little bundle in your arms; suddenly, you no longer merely know that time is a limited commodity for us all, but you can feel it. You can feel it like the icy hand of a creditor on your shoulder, and yet it affirms life and the importance of "now." "Now is the time." "Today is the day" ; every day.

So, I go fishing with my dad, while I still can.

I greet my boys joyfully every morning before I head out to work, and I greet them equally happily when I get back home.

I try as hard as I can to express my appreciation of the incredible heroism of my wife, Laura, and even try to get ahead of her & figure out before hand those little tasks she needs done that will make her life easier.

I hold Samuel til he falls asleep, snap pictures of Laura playing with Isaac and participate, as my father taught me to, in as many aspects of my childrens' lives as I can.

I even promised not to go fishing until next fall. Let's see. Now, that was nice of me, wasn't it!!!


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

2006 Trout Opener

Predictably, this year's opener was rather slow. A warm winter & early thaw contributed to the steelhead beating a hasty retreat to Lake Ontario & Lake Erie. Low and clear waters, bearing only the palest remaining tinge of last week's rains, did not help much either.

However, some stretches of the rivers I fished did make for surprisingly good fishing, providing among others the spawned-out male in the caption, above. I also managed a pair of wild brown trout, which is always a big bonus in southern ontario. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a doe and her fawn.

But, best of all on most days I was joined by my father (his first opener), some of my steelheading buddies (Mike & Andrew), my brother in-law, Richard, his brother, John, and his "Schöne," Inge. The highlight of the opening weekend, therefore, was only indirectly related to fishing: a camping style fish-fry by the banks of one of my favourite tributaries. We sat in the shade of newly unfurled leaves, savouring the rare treat of the freshest, butter-fried trout possible. I don't usually like eating fish, but with Mike as the cook, it's a no-miss proposition! He turns it into candy every time.

Close on the list of highlights was the final day of fishing. It was only my father and I, and he managed all the fish! It was a great honour to "teach back" to the man who first instilled the love of angling in me. He's still not used to long steelhead rods & is only starting to get the hang of rigging the float, spacing shot etc... but he catches on quickly. Watching him fight and land a lovely spawned-out hen, pushing 10 lbs, was truly joyous.

So that settles it, again: the sport of angling is not all about catching fish. To be sure, the trout themselves are a precious (in my opinion priceless) resource. But whether one fishes alone or with others, a communion occurs whose blessings and rewards are only partially attributable to the fish or the fishing. There are no words to label it, which is good; only the secure knowledge of time well spent, out of a bank that proves, in the end, far too poor.


Monday, April 17, 2006

An Inspiring Trip

Last Thursday's was not as fish-filled a trip as anticipated, but I did manage a few surprisingly fresh steelhead on a south shore Lake Erie tributary. It was a long trip, almost 1000km there and back for me. And, although it made me wonder at my sanity in view of the expense in gasoline alone, it was worthwhile as a learning experience. Truly eye opening. I'm still kicking myself for having forgotten my digicam, as I would have loved to share a picture. So many opportunities, other than fish, presented themselves... So, though the attached photo is thematic enough, it's from a couple of years ago. It shows my good friend Mike, waiting for a strike.

In any case, the numbers of fish are quite high in this tributary, because even though the water was very off-coloured (or as Mike often says "barely fishable") three of us managed well in excess of 30 steelhead landed. In my opinion, we had no business catching so many under the conditions that we faced. Therefore, as soon as I can string a couple of days together, when the flows are clearer, I'll be going back to that very spot!

In the meantime, I was moved to poetry & I share it with you now. Think of an earlier than average morning, before the coffee really sets in or the endless road-miles stop ticking in the back of your eyes, sometime shortly after the first cast, when you are not ready, nor are your fingers that grip the rod more like paws than articulate digits...



down goes
the float float
down goes
the down
the goes float
goes float the
down the goes
down float
float goes
down ! the

rod swings
up up rod
swings the swings
up rod up
swings the
rod !

too late. nothing.
only a shade
swimming in dream
dreaming in the water
of a thought of


Monday, April 10, 2006


Already, the rod is prepared, cleaned and polished. The flies and jigs are in their boxes. The multicoloured sacks of spawn are quietly waiting in the freezer. The waders are by the door, as is the jacket and the vest with all its zippers and pouches and rattling containers. The hat is hanging on a peg.

Will Thursday be a great day? Unforgettable, humming even through the headstone once all these things have come to naught for me? The forecast looks promising, and the river is preparing the scene, lashing its eye-green ribbon through the countryside and under the boughs of trees. Tuning its orchestra of voices to rocks and ledges through riffles and runs.

I could go fishless. The steelhead may deem me, on that day, less than worthy & will not wish to play for me. They will see the long baton, the light note of the float as it rides the murmuring current, and yet find me wanting in prestige. No great music can come of him!

Luckily, not all symphonies or rock ballads or little country tunes need the great clash of bright cymbals, though beautifully striped with red and pink as these. The cardinal has a fine tenor, and the white breasted sparrow a soprano that embodies and instills ease. The river also needs only to be listened to.

And then when I come home, like Sam Gamgee, I will say "I'm back," but also - as I've already done now many times - read in my sons' smiles and my wife's, "I'm here."