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?