Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Cure for what Ails

Misery. Misery and abject disappointment. Everything was going wrong. For one, I was taking a vacation day when I really should've been taking a sick day. My voice, or what little croaking squeakiness remained of it, was comical at best, and now it was snowing. Not just a little dusting to tickle a dryad's toes, but a real dump with flakes that kept getting bigger and bigger, and more and more numerous.

Mike's knuckles where as white as the snow outside, as he gripped the steering wheel. Every now and again a moan of despair would issue from him, or an epithet: "if I knew it was gonna be like this..." Right. Apparently no one knew, because most of the regional weather forecasts, for the small geographical area in which we were now facing the probability of having to unwillingly prolong our stay, were in disagreement. Some called for snow, others for rain, others for ice pellets. Some called for lots of snow, others for just a little. As I looked out the window, it looked like those who predicted "a lot" were the ones to bet on.

But any storm meets its match in madness. And the madness that was (and as far as I know always will be) upon Mike and I was acute desire for winter chrome steelhead. We drove on, narrowly avoiding a ride home in a tow truck, and we reached our destination.

Our destination didn't look too great. The water conditions were not as advantageous as we'd hoped them to be. There was at most, as we looked down on the river's swollen flow, 10 inches of visibility. This is just barely enough, at the best of times; but this was not the best of times. This is mid December, and we are only a week away from the shortest day of the year. The water was surely freezing, and the fish were sluggish. We intoned the winter steelheader's mantra "oh well, we're here, so...." On came the waders and the coats, out came the tackle. One good thing: the snow had turned to rain.

Yes the pictures do give it away, but they are the ending and not the beginning or really even the middle. We searched for fish most of the morning with little luck. We went down, and then up, and then a little bit down from up. Down from up is at about 11am, a cold, wet - nay bone drenched - and despondent 11am. It was so wet that you'll observe several blotches on the shots I've provided. Also, Mike's camera gave out by 11:30am. Too wet. Too cold. Turn me off.

At least by then, we were on. And how on! Only restraint, brought about by mutual interest in eachother's catch, kept us from aspiring to a constant state of "double header." Our restraint, I might add, was also inspired by the fact that Mike and I don't get to fish together much these days. We work very different hours, and I tend to be busy with Laura and the twins on weekends. So, each fish we caught was truly shared. We both enjoyed the other's catch as much as our own.

Did I mention that the fishing got good? This is the elixir; which is anything you love to do, when you do it, it cures you. Bear with my grammar for a while. It cures you of despondency and of physical ailments. This steady stream of fish, some bright, some not so bright, cured us both respectively. So Mike's knuckles wouldn't be as tight on the wheel on the uneventful drive home, and the cold I've been sporting for the last week feels like it's finally going to fade away.

My voice isn't back yet, but I know some people who won't find that terribly disappointing!


Friday, November 23, 2007

laugh wise heart

laugh wise heart

laugh wise
heart and always
seek again
the thing you seek
gentle little man
playful and kind
thoughtful sprite and
gift to us
gift to the needy too
freezies and baba
bunn-bunn and bath-time
hop and run skip
and jump
roll over us again
your light and your
heedless blessing
to the broken hearted
and even
the very happy
love is too weak
a word gratitude
too shallow
come now
time for walk
kick the ball and
the park swing is

i did not know

i did not know

i did not know
what beauty
was before
you smiled or your blue
eyes opened and for
the first time
fixed me found me
father yours
lost like you are
adrift in your sea
just like you and
as you struggle and fight
to swim out
through confounding
currents and swirls of
unbidden cryptic
frenetic chaotic faces
only ever and rarely
finding harbour
in your clear gaze
and your smile and
the hope that
you find it too
when i smile
when i laugh
with you

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November's Bounty

If I have to identify one theme from the past few days, it must be parenthood. Oddly enough, that's still not the title of this entry. Let me explain.

First, this past Sunday and Monday were an excellent reminder of how plentiful the rewards of November steelhead fishing can be. Second, as spending time with my sons often prevents me from venturing out, November happens to be my own father's birth month. So, it is a positive irony that I got to share Sunday fishing with the man for whom I must have cost many fishing days myself, as a tot. This month gives me a lot to be thankful for!

But now, about the boredom. It was excessive at times, truly. It's funny how the long minutes and hours of fishless drifting tend to vanish from our fishing stories. Very few trips are without a lull, where one starts thinking about lighting another cigar, maybe sharing a beer or switching spots, making a coffee run to Tim Horton's, remembering that last month's phone bill isn't paid yet, and what did I do with the remote for the DVD player because I'd really like to find... plop! the float goes down and our mind is back; usually too late as we swing a crushed bit of bait up out of the water and into the muck on the ground behind us.

In fact, my dad almost tripped on his own feet when it happened to him Sunday morning. His floundering and near dive into a patch of wet sand is what woke me out of my reverie. He missed the hit, but it was just as well since the fish eventually did make it around to visit us. We were fishing on an eastern lake Ontario tributary, and these rivers get like that: one minute you almost believe that there never existed a single fish in the history of the river, and the next you can barely keep them off your offerings. Once the fish rolled in, dad and I managed to land over a dozen chrome bright steelhead in less than an hour and a half.

Other than the fact that we pretty much had the entire river to ourselves, thanks to our patience, the highlight was shared between a missed behemoth that would probably tilt the scales at 15lbs and the stupidest NY escapee imaginable: he was hooked and landed three times (we recognized him by the strange upward angle of his snout and the diagonal scoring on his left cheek - he also happened to be the only dark fish of the lot). I will let you guess who missed that big one. But does it really matter? Both dad and I got a good look at it, and we both held our breath until it finally got free.

Sunday was different only because I was in Western NY, by myself (all my prospective fishing partners having had other things that needed doing), on a river that has a decided advantage in mykissian quantities and therefore offered more opportunity for donut redemption.

The morning was good, the late morning and early afternoon dismal and crowded, and the late afternoon was chock full of fish. I got to resume my photographic experimentations of actual fish, instead of (as above) floats lazily bobbing, or marsh vegetation (as below). About those lovely pictures, I snapped so many of them while waiting for steelhead on Sunday, that the batteries in the camera died on our second fish. Irony?

Another marked difference between NY and Ontario tributaries is that very few of the odd, truncated mutants that are often encountered in NY are ever seen in Ontario. One of the hens I caught on Monday was not only abnormally short, but so dark as to make me believe that she might already be mating.

Finally, though I spent less time hauling in fall steelhead than I did waiting for them and wondering where they'd got to, when they did show up they were available by the gaggle. Both rivers I fished afforded me stretches of good luck of the kind where, after unhooking one fish, your next drift had barely started before you hooked yet another.

These poor fish, these second, third, fourth and fifth comers; they are unfortunate. They can't fool you as you dream of them and wander in your thoughts with glazed eyes. You are ready for them, and your reflexes are warmed up. The float pops down, and you know exactly when to strike. Your nerves are charged for action, yet you are calm. You are excited, but you are very much at ease.

You are steelhead fishing in November, enjoying rich bounty.


Thursday, November 08, 2007


The last few days before a long awaited fishing excursion are like the scent of fresh bread. In some ways it is better than the moment that comes after you first shred through the new loaf and scoop onto a warm slice a melting glob of butter, to bite into the steaming, delicious flesh. The scent itself always evokes the first bite that springs from the dream idealism, although the bread is not fresh for long, can be too hot or not of the kind that its fragrance had promised.

I dwell in the scent of it now. Already the hours drag. The minutes eek each small tick as drops from some old tap, with a rust clogged, slow, slow drip.

The promise of the coming novemberine days is almost palpable; it is felt in the crenelations of the brain like current rushing under one's scalp: dreams of fish dancing like fish, who disappear from sight as soon as the fisherman's silhouette rises through the clear water.

Outside I hear the rain patter on the glass like impatient fingers tap tapping the ever nascent question "is it time now?" Is it time to wake up, now, to set the rod and tackle in their designated sacred space by the cooler in the trunk, and roar the engine to life?

Can the long awaited morning be here yet? And will there be enough rain?

Is it time now, to break out the sandwiches I made for lunch, to savour them and as I chew the fresh crust, ponder the brilliant morning that was and the memories that were made?

No. Not yet. The oven's just warming up, and the rods are sitting still, by the door, waiting.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good morning

As I sat watching the shadows in the moonlit pool, awaiting daybreak, I pondered that having forgotten my camera at home yet again might not be such a big deal. The shadows that I was watching were not mere shadows, but dark Chinooks chasing one another in the tail-out of a pool. The water in the pool was far, far clearer than what I had expected to find. After Friday's and Saturday's precipitation, I was pretty sure that there would be quite a bit of colour to the water. But now as the moon shone I saw not only the black, frolicking Chinooks but the white gravel underneath them: "Low and Gin Clear," words of doom for any Steelhead fisherman.

It was also my luck to be sharing this prestigious bit of low, clear river with six or seven local fellows, some of whom had waded over in their running shoes and were already flinging their bobbers at the elusive shades, cursing when they turned out to be logs. The honour of the quick flick at the end of every 8 foot drift is ubiquitous, and I hear it practiced around me in the gloaming. But when my float goes under and a chrome flash is seen, cigarettes drop from mouths agape, the whites of eyes glow like stars. Language erupts that is all "he just had one on," and nothing like "that was a nice one, bud," no acknowledging the stranger who just lost a fish and showed you that they are present. And so, soon, there is my float and about four others hovering over the short pool, and the evidence of my folly is now complete. I can't take the fishing pressure, myself; I start down the river well before the sun breaks the horizon.

A full hour of doubt elapses, as I work my way down closer to where my car is parked. What should I do? There are other options than here, and certainly the water must have better colour elsewhere. I am indecisive, so I keep fishing. I get into a rhythm, despite the low flow, the shallow current and my pessimism. I reach a straight section of river that I've never fished before and spot what looks like a deeper drift, but it's hard to tell from the angle at which I begin to fish through it. I don't know it yet, but there's a straight line down the middle of this pool. Drift six inches to the right, and your hook digs itself into a wiry stump, but drift six inches to the left and; the float goes down. It is not the expected snag, at least. But it's a Chinook. The heavy, powerful headshakes are telltale. I consider snapping off, then the fish leaps - big bright chrome Steelhead! She fights me up and then far down to the end of the drift, where I finally tail her and get to admire her rosy blush and her bright flanks like freshly minted nickel. She goes approximately eight pounds, and after a short breather sitting comfortably in the current, she smashes at me with her tail, a big boil and she's gone.

Less than an hour later, two good pan-sized trout also fall to my wares, and I almost succumb to the desire to eat them... but I don't. A Chinook also grabs my bait, but I have no interest in disturbing him so I snap my line off as soon as I get a good look at him. But all I can think about is that first Steelhead.

It's funny how one fish can sometimes make your day. Or rather, what that one fish can do to your day is what's worth considering. Later in the afternoon, I will catch three more fish, two of which are bigger than the gorgeous hen from the early morning, respectively weighing in at 10 and 12 pounds. The 10 pounder will leap five, six or seven times and attempt a little tail-walk before he is finally subdued, and the 12 pounder will take me about fifteen minutes to land and he will bend the 13ft Frontier as I have never seen it bend; but the beauty of the first fish, the unexpectedness of her, and the mythical time of day when I caught her, all leave a deeper mark. One fish turned my whole day around, magically going from unmitigated disaster to jubilant success.

I haven't smiled like that for a fish in a long time.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First Fall Chrome 2007

I was wisely counseled not to start my 2007 fall season where I eventually foolishly went anyway. What is it with rash individuals that they must always be so stubborn? Anyway, it was off to Steelhead Alley that I went, with Richard in tow and very much in the game, last Saturday morning.

We arrived at our destination in good time, and early. But what met our eyes, as the sun rose, was not a river but what now looked more like a series of stagnant meres connected by dust-choked rivulets... It seems that the southern shore of Lake Erie, known for its temperamental, spate-driven rivers has been very hard hit by this summer's drought, and water levels are nowhere near what they should be. Later in the day, we would meet a gaggle of pennsylvania steelheaders, looking for all the world like shipwreck victims washed up on barren shores. They had a forlorn, regretful set to their shoulders, doubtful of their chrome fortune.

Anyway, despite the conditions that first met us in the morning, we bravely set bait to hook, and it is our good fortune that a number of fine specimens had indeed braved the unnaturally low water levels and were present to accept our offerings. But our luck would not last, as it turns out. A high wind, gusting to 45kmh started rising at about 10am, followed by a high pressure front - effectively ending our fun for most of the day. The wind blew so hard at times that it kicked up mini maelstroms of dust, and our floats were often blown back upriver, against the feeble "current."

Richard managed to find the hot button at the very end of the day, landing the fine hen in the caption below. But most of the rest of the time was spent smoking cigars, drinking beer, eating lunch and granola bars, making jokes; and brainstorming cost-cutting measures for our home economies, by planning amendments to our wives' and toddlers' diets, shifting them strictly to barley and corn (number 1 and 2 respectively on the calory per dollar ratio scale).

No fun whatsoever (when I announced the new diet to Laura the next day..hmmph! women!).


Monday, October 08, 2007

Huron River, Michigan

It's been a while since I wrote something significant about fishing. It won't be much longer, I swear.

Meanwhile, I took my entire little contingent on a trip to the Huron River, near Ann Arbor Michigan, last week. Well, not exactly. The Huron River was more of a side trip. We actually went to see Dr. Richard Solomon M.D. as a unit, for the benefit of Isaac. More on the Huron River follows, below.

We have heard about a lot of different therapies for children with autism, and Dr. Solomon was referred to us as one of the best in "play" therapy. We wanted to see him in order to get a different point of view as to what we should be doing for Isaac now, as well as how we could best apply play therapy to Isaac - and we wanted to hear about it from a proponent of that therapy, as there seem to be so few of them here in Canada.

The visit to Dr. Solomon's office did not disappoint, and I believe that it will prove to be a turning point for us in our battle with autism. Many things about the consultation impressed me, not least of which was the efficiency with which an information-packed two hours were conducted. We learned a good deal that I won't recount here, lest I start chapter one of a new book on the subject. At this point in our fight with Isaac's condition, we are well educated; but Dr. Solomon managed to shed light on many facets of our child's difficulties as well as teach us what we really needed to know: how can we, his parents and those who love him the most, best help him. No matter the challenges that lie ahead, sometimes all one needs to get underway is a clear road ahead. This is what Dr. Solomon helped us with most last week, and in my view it is a gift beyond estimation.

Now, about that river. It turns out that the Doctor himself is somewhat of a trout and bass fisherman - another trait that marks him as an intelligent man. But I'm not sure that he's aware of what he has almost right on his doorstep. The Huron River is a huge warm water river, that is stocked with roughly 35000 steelhead yearly, and it is known mostly for its spring run. I would have loved to have sampled it in October, nonetheless, but my passing there was so short that my interest needed to be mostly professional. I am pretty certain that what steelhead are in the river at this moment have not gotten very far up river, and I was as far is it is possible for them to go. In May, there should be throngs of them, but in this extended August I would not be bothered to rig up for mere ghosts of anticipation.

The stretch of river that I visited was deep and mostly slow. It flows rather somnolently in long bends over a weedy bottom, which looks to be a mix of sand and gravel - although it was difficult for me to tell, as the water was somewhat stained from a recent rain. Now and again, a riffle or two show up and the river dives into a pool. And its banks are heavily wooded, so that I would not suggest tackling it without your waders. In fact, in the lower stretches, boats are de rigueur for serious numbers anglers.

Beyond this, my observations are that there are a lot more deciduous trees in southern Michigan than what is commonly observed around Toronto and points north. And they are much larger, too. I used to live in Windsor, Ontario, so long ago now that I'd forgotten that oak and chestnuts trees could get so big. The area also seems to benefit from warmer weather, a later fall and an earlier spring, which would account for the size of its trees.

We have a return appointment with Dr. Solomon in February, so I may just pack my gear and bring it with me at that time. We will see. I hope I will!

Finally, here are a few more of the pictures I took during our visit to the Huron. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Lords of the Lord the Rings

It's been three years since the last installment of the movie trilogy of The Lord of the Rings was released on DVD, and I've finally decided to sit down and speak my mind about the whole sordid mess.

Some of you may know that I wrote my Masters thesis on The Lord of the Rings, the book, by J.R.R. Tolkien. This makes me more of a purist than most viewers of the three movies. It also means that I take certain thematic and literary aspects of the books a lot more seriously than most people. And all of this translates to a more critical view of some of the events and characters in the movie, how they were portrayed, as well as some of the really crappy substitutions that the screenplay writers made over what Tolkien had previously intended.

I don't blame the movie's writers,
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, for trying to find directions for the plot that are more simplistic than what the books had achieved, especially since movie audiences don't tend to be as erudite as the reading public. But I do reserve the privilege to make comment on some of the aspects where I think they foundered.

Before I go on, I should mention that much of my consternation with the films stems not only from book-related mishaps, but also from the point of view of a movie buff. Almost anyone who loves movies has at least one, but usually more than one, favourite that they can watch over and over again. For example, I could watch The Empire Strikes Back, or The Shawshank Redemption, or Gettysburg - pretty much any time, and I would still enjoy those movies for what they are to me: really well produced, entertaining and meaningful stories. I don't find myself capable of saying the same for the Lord of the Rings

There's too much cliché to them, I guess. One device that is used in the movies which really turns me off is the use of "what ___ ?" In linguistic terms, this is called "evaluation," which is the story teller's way of quantifying the importance of what is going on. Music in movies is a form of evaluation. For example, in The Gladiator, the battle scenes represent excellent musical evaluation. But in strictly literary terms, repetition, exaggeration and alliteration can all mark evaluative writing - such as in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" ("The horror! The horror!") or Shakespeare's "Richard III" ("A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!") An often overlooked aspect of J.R.R. Tolkien's writing is that he was a master of evaluation. It is also for this reason that his books read so well and that so many people, who otherwise don't read Fantasy novels, pick up his books and then never put them down; and
his descriptions of Lorien and of the charge of the Rohirrim are among the great literary masterpieces of our time.

This brings me back to "what ___ ?" There are several instances of this poor evaluative device that pop up with irritating regularity, meaning to me that the screenplay writers were strapped for time & had no better device to fall back on. There is the instance where Frodo has just called Gollum by his rightful name, "Smeagol," and this latter responds with "what did you call me?" At the end of "The Two Towers," there is Sam's speech about going on with the fight, and there still being something to fight for. The music for that scene, and the cutting back and forth between Sam, the Ents and Helm's Deep is actually very nice evaluation - but Frodo's response, which is supposed to cap it all off, is like a flat balloon: "what is it Sam?" as though he wasn't about to tell us! In fishing terms this is like seeing your float strike downward from the vicious attack of a ravenous and frenzied ... old boot. Tolkien did not resort to this simple trick, in his books, and his portrayal of the scenes are vastly different.

But the movie is replete with these what? what? what? setups that don't exist in the book. It is very much like the blast of a hammer: the first time it is surprising, then it gets progressively less so until one just ignores it, or is bored by it. It reminds me of a critique that Mark Twain once wrote about Fennimore Cooper (author of The Last of the Mohicans), namely that:

Style may be likened to an army, the author to its general, the book to the campaign. Some authors proportion an attacking force to the strength or weakness, the importance or unimportance, of the object to be attacked; but Cooper doesn't. It doesn't make any difference to Cooper whether the object of attack is a hundred thousand men or a cow; he hurls his entire force against it. He comes thundering down with all his battalions at his back, cavalry in the van, artillery on the flanks, infantry massed in the middle, forty bands braying, a thousand banners streaming in the wind; and whether the object be an army or a cow you will see him come marching sublimely ...

This is very much the way the writers of the movie The Lord of the Rings approached their script. They hit us over and over with the same tricks, the same set ups and with the same mega-blast exaggerations of Tolkien's original. The Black Riders make creepy-crawlies slither out of the ground, the mountain troll in Moria walks into the chamber of mazarbûl and engages the entire kung-fu masters company in a brawl, the King of the Dead enters into disdainful scary-o discourse with Aragorn and Gimli and Legolas, Legolas turns into the mega atomic surfer dude snowboarding down stairs and extreme-skiing to death huge mammoths, the Ents turn into blithering idiots stupid enough to be tricked by Pippin the stupidest of all hobbits, etc... ad nauseum. In these (and so many more) scenes, the movies so misrepresent the books that anyone reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time must either find the real story bland in comparison, or be puzzled as to where the script writers got the inspiration for scenes that just do not exist in the book.

Finally, although I could go on and on, all of this forced hoopla mars the subtlety and poetry with which Tolkien had so painstakingly decorated his original stories; and I am left with the feeling, not so much of having seen something wonderful and artful, but more of having been to the carnival and having had a reel gud time.

And maybe that's all that Walsh, Boyens and Jackson had truly set out to achieve, when they sought to bring this massive beautiful and ungainly thing to the silver screen: just giving their viewers a good time. After all, it is Hollywood, and the name of the game is profit, above all else. Balancing the necessary flash-bang plot pyrothechnics with a sufficient amount of more deeply flowing literary matter is a very difficult and foolhardy thing to attempt, especially when your writer was J.R.R. Tolkien. And that is probably why the first time I saw the movies, it was a good time; but the second time, it was merely tiresome.


Monday, August 27, 2007

First Boot (Booted)

There was one touch, a missed connection that came later, a nerve rattling taunt from the dark waters; but before that, there was one fine take that felt like a clump of weeds at first. There was a half-hearted head-shake or two, and it came in like wood. But the thing must have realised that something wasn’t right. It turned toward the horizon and sped off, a salmon or a submarine. It was hard to tell in the dark whether I was running out of line or not… I lost the game of chicken… tightened the drag… then a single strand of silk is willowing out in the waves; had to reel it in like an empty net, the lost glow spoon a fool’s offering easily paid for a warm night starlit, hazy with a red, setting moon over the ever clattering waves.


Monday, August 06, 2007

More on patching

It's been a very busy summer of commuting and twins-raising for me, so I can't offer any significant or action-packed news of the angling variety. My sons are 19 months old now and getting big, which is not helping my lower back; although I can't remember my deltoids ever being in better shape. That's definitely because both of my boys love being pitched in the air, or jumping on "Papa" from up stairs. Kids that age tend to be rather persistent, so I get lots of repititions! Laura and I have been busy trying to organise and get funding for all the therapy that Isaac will require, and this represents quite honestly the largest part of our worries and our time.

So it was very much to let off a little steam that I turned my brain back to fishing, and some of the mini chores I left unfinished last spring. The salmon will be in soon, if they have not already buzzed some of the local piers, and my waders are still in need of repair. I can't even think of getting out on local rivers before I do a little fixin' up.

My last entry dealt with McNett's "Tenacious Tape." I also mentioned that McNett has a good deal more to offer when it comes to stopping leaks - for example, they manufacture Aquaseal, which is a staple for all those who put their waders through hell. As well, they make Gore-Tex patches that have an adhesive on the back and which can be used as a more effective, if much more localised, repair tool than Tenacious Tape.

Much to my surprise and satisfaction, I found out through regular internet google snooping, that Mountain Equipment Co-op sells a wide array of McNett products. MEC is a canadian outdoors company, specialising mostly in hiking, mountain climbing and kayaking gear - so they don't sell waders, for example. There's a big franchise location in downtown Toronto, on King Street West, and a membership (free) is required to purchase their stuff. I personally love MEC. It is a bit more costly than your regular outdoors store, but the equipment they sell is top notch; I've got a 13 year old Gore-Tex coat that's still kicking around, and which has seen and continues to see, its fair share of November days on the water. I fervently hope that they will someday make waders and wading jackets. Anyway, when you order stuff online from them, as I did just recently, it is delivered very quickly. My parcel was at my door in less than 3 business days.

What was in the parcel? All of the above, really, except the Gore-Tex coat - I'll have to wait before I get myself a new one of those! I will apply it all where I think it's needed and report, after a couple of fishing trips. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tenacious and a "D"

I recently had the opportunity to test out a product that is new to me, although apparently not that new to many other outdoor enthusiasts. The product is called Tenacious Tape and it is produced by McNett , which sells oodles of similar products for all outdoor activities. I have permanently stashed my roll of Tenacious Tape inside my waders' zip-pocket, as my in-the-field go-to for whenever I might spring a leak. The tape is about 2.5 inches wide and you get 24 inches per roll.

I tested this stuff for an Ebay retailer, Discount fishing , from whom I had also bought a pair of Chota Tellico Shoals bootfoot waders, last summer. They were nice enough to send me a roll of this tape, along with replacement waders, when my Chotas began to leak prematurely after only very light usage. The caption above gives you an idea, but more on this later.

My mission with the tape was to see how well it could stand up to punishment. Although I was advised to put the tape on the inside of my leaky waders, I decided to really go for it and I stuck it to the outside seams. The result: I fished for 4 days out of 5 at this year's opener and only began to experience dampness on the 4th day - on which I walked well over 7 km's in the bush, tracking steelhead in a relatively small creek, festooned with obstacles as well as bank-clambering and climbing opportunities.

This may not sound so incredible, but for anyone who wades a lot it should jump out at you as outstanding.
Although urethane sealants such as Aquaseal (ironically also made by McNett) are the most effective way to plug up leaks long term, they can take hours to dry; whereas the tape goes on in minutes, making it an invaluable stop-gap in the field. If your waders develop a visibile tear that doesn't accomodate a tractor trailer and a circus-troop of elephants, all you need to do is let the spot get dry, brush off any sand etc., and slap some Tenacious tape on. You'll be good for the day, at least, and if you put it on the inside of your waders you'll probably make the whole trip.

Now to the "D" section of this review: those Chota Tellico Shoals bootfoot waders. I was deeply disappointed to find that the seams on these waders lasted less than twice as long as the tape I used to repair them. Specifically, the seams inside the knees took about 8 or 10 trips to wear out. By comparison, I have an old 4 year-old pair of Orvis Silver Label bootfoot waders which are STILL useable and took well over 2 years of much more punishment than I ever gave the Chota's, to develop any kind of leak at the seams. To give you a better idea of what this means, the original Silver labels retailed for about 1/3 the price of the Tellico Shoals - and lasted many many fishing trips longer.

My disappointment did not end there. When I contacted Chota about these waders, the response I got was that they were discontinued & that I should go back to the retailer (i.e. Discount Fishing) - which I refused to do, based on principle: your product, your problem. No matter how much I argued, the reply was always the same: we won't replace this obviously defective product. Luckily for me, they did forward my complaint to Mike at Discount Fishing, and he resolved the issue of being wader-less on the eve of the opener, by sending me a brand new pair of Hodgmans.

The Chota's only avoid a complete "F" grade because they do have one redeeming feature: quick lace boots. I found these to be the most comfortable bootfoot design I've tried, the most stable and the easiest to lace up. I imagine that their wading boots are similarly practical. You basically just pull one lace, then hook it up to handy little notches on either side of the boots. Voilà, all laced up and ready to go.
It's just too bad about the water that leaks in. That sort of thing does affect comfort negatively - especially in early March!

So if you're thinking of Chota waders, be warned! But
you'll definitely need McNett's tape with them, because it's as tenacious as tape can get!


Sunday, May 06, 2007

It's OK! It's OK!

Well, it looks like my camera will be ok, for now. Other than a few water stains inside the lens, I should still get some use out of it.

Also, the memory card that was inside the camera when it got wet survived. I include footage of my brother in-law in an epic struggle with a large male from the day after the opener, and less than an hour before the venerable Minolta Z1 was to take its impromptu mini-dip.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Opener 2007 or Fish, Camera, Hook!

At the very least, the 2007 opener was better numbers-wise for me than 2006. A late spring and water temperatures that are still relatively low for this time of year, coupled with a decent rain the day before, made for very good opening day festivities.

I was lucky at every turn, where fish are concerned, as I had enough rain and room when I needed them. I fished four tributaries, and only one was low and clear when I fished it. Otherwise, the conditions that greeted me were always good.

I got to fish with my father again this opener, as well as my good friend Khalid for at least one day. We all caught fish and are very satisfied with our opener.

The only one that is not satisfied is my camera. My camera did not enjoy this opener as much as it normally would have, nor did my blood pressure or my centrepin reel for that matter. What? you say... Let me explain.
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First, on day two, fishing the upper reaches of one of my favourite Lake Ontario tributaries, my reel began to feel as though something were grinding inside. As any good fool would do, I proceeded to remove the screw that keeps the assembly together, dipping the reel in the water to remove whatever grime was causing the problem, and dropping the screw into about 3 feet of fast moving water.


I can't see down there because the water is still somewhat murky from Friday's rain. I move away a little and begin to peer into the water. I look and look and look - there it is! Excited, shocked out of the grief that had so tightly gripped me a moment before, I reached down into the freezing cold water and came up with the screw; got it!; and a pantfull of water. You see, I usually sling my camera around my neck & tuck it in my waders for safe keeping. But it's not that safe when the waders get water in them. Wet camera. Oh &*^%&^! The camera is still sitting on top of my fridge, all compartments open, in the vain hope that it will dry up and retain some of its functionality... more updates to come on that one!
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This was not the end of my keystone routine. On Wednesday, the final day of my Mykissian odyssey, I had turned from the upper reaches of a Georgian Bay tributary and was headed home. I needed to make it to the car before 3pm, so I could make it back in time to pick up my boys at daycare. I was in a hurry and got careless, which is not a good thing to do on a river with a clay bottom, and a good, steep gradient.

SPLASH! CRASH! I find myself on all fours, covered in clay, with my face nearly plastered against my reel. I sigh. Nothing seems broken. I feel around with my nerves. Toes: ok. Knees: good. Arms: yep. Hands: uh oh. Uh oh is right. My left hand is having a problem. The palm of my left hand, in particular, looks to have a hook embedded in it. Yes. The hook is in there. Right. That would explain


...Which was being exacerbated by the fact that the hook had been holding onto the wire hook rest, near the rod's handle, but had been pulled through it during my fall; and it was now being pulled back hard by the tension in the rod. Talk about being shackled! I was covered with clay and very goofily caught in my own trap. Ugh.
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It took a few moments to calm down, but I finally did. Then, I slowly unwound the reel to give myself some slack, cut the line with my pliers and rinsed off both clay-caked hands. It's a good thing that the water was cold, because it helped numb the area from which I had to - with a very quick movement - rip out the hook. It was just a small hook, with a small barb. Two days later, the barest little pinprick remains to tell the story.

There's always so much more to tell, such as the immense male from a very small eastern Ontario tributary, who jumped twice at least 4 feet in the air before prying himself free; a new spot to fish, nestled in high cliffs and adorned with cedar, pine and birch; my father's amazing addiction to Tim Horton's blueberry fritters and of course, as always, Laura's immense generosity for giving up her favourite helper for such long periods of time.

This season's done for me, except for perhaps one last trip. The next rain may find me bidding my little friends adieu in a way which they undoubtedly feel uncomfortable, but which restores me to myself, nature and the fish's beautiful


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