Sunday, March 22, 2009

Destiny, Fate and the Fish'n Sherpas


I am starting to believe in Destiny and Fate. I think that these two deities, these two powers of the universe, bend their attention even down to the minutest details, such as who on March 21st 2009 catches fish and who doesn't. All else being equal, the water being the perfect colour, and at the perfect height, with a gentle breeze out of the south-west and a birdsong morning - there is no reason why three perfectly good anglers should have such ill mykissian fortune.

It was in fact a very strange day, for the perfectly good reason that I wasn't even supposed to start the day where I did. I was originally taking a friend fishing, in the opposite direction of the compass. But he phoned me the night before, just as I was starting to prepare his roe bags, to save me the trouble. His wife and one of his children were sick, so he wouldn't be able to make it. The following morning, the flu that had assailed his family would miraculously abate, and he would call me at work thinking he was calling my cell... that is Fate.

This gave me the opportunity to fish with Wallacio again and finally meet Joe A. (aka JFL), with whom I've often corresponded. Joe's deceased but excellent Blog (Steelhead Diaries) served as inspiration for this little space of my own. I was glad to find that he has a very good sense of humour and is a joy to fish with. I was further impressed by his relaxed, easy-going, non-compulsive, low-keyed, unselfconscious style. :) I could tell that he and Wallacio have been fishing together for a long time, because certain orations and points of view that Joe expressed elicited smirks and suppressed giggles of the kind which can only come from long familiarity.

About the fishing, for the day, it was mostly in the back seat. We spent a lot of time talking, getting to know eachother and laughing. Each of us poked or got robbed by at least one fish. But I was the lucky winner for the day, cashing my lottery ticket in the form of a fresh 6lb hen. My two sherpas were extremely helpful with regards to landing the gleaming fish. Wallacio obligingly tailed the fish, while Joe took pictures. Although I took pictures of it, too, I really didn't have to go through the effort, since my sherpas did such a great job themselves. That is Destiny.

In the end, I was just really happy to get out. It's all about getting out there, for me.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploration & Fishing with a Friend

Part 1: A New River to Fish.

It was 5:10pm and my self-appointed quitting time had come. My watch alarm was beeping, and it was time to pull the float from the water and go home, to help my wife with our rambunctious twins. The water was probably a little dirtier than I would have liked, and fishing a new river in high-water conditions is usually pretty challenging, no matter the skill level of the angler. Add to this the fact that I only had an hour in which to fish, and the result should be obvious. That is, until the float went down.

As it turns out, I had read the water correctly. After 45 minutes or so of dredging the deeper portions of a corner-shaped pool, I had decided that fish might be seeking rest behind the many bottom obstructions that had hampered my drifts in the long, straight section immediately following the tail-out of the pool I'd been fishing. I'd seen several large wakes in that run as well. So I had shortened my drift to what I hoped was an appropriate length, high enough to avoid snags but deep enough to come within the striking range of any fish that might be lurking there. Before the time could reach 5:10:30 - which is when the alarm would stop - I was fighting a 5lb male.

Not knowing the bottom of this river very well (yet) I had an interesting time landing this fish, but it was finally done. After a few quick pictures I released the beautifully coloured fish, wishing him success on his quest.

Part 2: Fishing with Wallacio and Exploring the New River.

Slush. Big gobs of slush, floating down the river seemingly consciously trying to grab our floats and wreck every attempt at producing a decent drift. That, and frozen toes seemed the order of the morning.

I was fishing with Wallacio, which was as fun as always (except for the above listed nuissances), and we were attacking as well as we could, one of the better pools on one of our favourite rivers east of Toronto. Although it was cold at the time, we knew that it was going to warm up significantly later on in the day.

Either way, our jaw muscles were not cold. They were well warmed up, as we kept the conversation going most of the morning. Among the subjects that were broached, Wallacio predicted that the slush would only disappear around 11 O'clock, when he had to leave. I told him I was optimistic, but as it turns out... I was optimistic. The slush hung around until 11, although it did start to relent around 9:30am or so. I find it, therefore, ironic that all the fish we caught were landed and released well before that time.

I was the first to get action. My float went down somewhat after the end of my drift, and it turned out to be a lovely little "shaker" which I quickly unhooked and released. We fished for another little while, and I got another hit. This time, the fish was much larger. After 5 minutes of the "Michigan Dirty" I managed to land another nice male steelhead. Wallacio snapped a quick picture and the fish was released unharmed. Both fish had hit in the same spot, so we decided to walk 10m or so downstream and fish it more seriously.

Not much later, it was Wallacio's turn to get into the game, and he didn't disappoint. After a good fight, I tailed the fish for him and we got ready to take a picture. It was a beautiful 7-8lb female, who bore proof of having benefited from catch and release: Wallacio's hook was on one side of her mouth, while on the other she bore a small wound which had obviously been given her by another angler's hook. Both of us are C&R advocates, so it was nice to be the recipients of its effects. Anyway, worried that ice might form on its gills while it was out of the water, I dunked the fish into the flow for a second. But only for a second; she was still very energetic, and with a powerful flick of her tail she slipped from my grasp. We watched her go, as she sped off into deeper water. Oops!

After Wallacio left, I fished for another half hour or so on this river, getting one bona fide hit but failing to connect. I decided that I should head homeward, but that I should also take a look at the river from Part 1 again: I really wanted to check out the mouth, and what the river looks like at the lake.

On my way to the river mouth, I saw a group of three fishermen. One of them seemed quite a bit younger than the other two, and I did a double take. In fact we both did. Having only ever seen pictures of eachother, it wasn't immediately obvious to either of us who the other fisherman was... but here was definitely Silvio from the Ontario Fishing .Net forum. We shook hands and said hello, and he shared a picture with me of a monster male Steelhead that he landed at "My Pier" that same morning.

I was not disappointed with my visit to the mouth of the river, even though it wasn't piscatorially successful. I did miss another good hit, though, again failing to connect because I wasn't paying attention. There was too much surf for me to fish it very well, and I knew that the time had come to go home.

On the way, I saw this fantastic creature and took a picture of it. Zeus himself, witholding bounty until my next allotted opportunity on the rivers!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sorry. For once I have to apologize about using French material. That's only because the clip is from "Highlander," which is an English movie, and in my opinion few translations ever do justice to the original. Highlander is a conspicuous example of this... By misfortune, I couldn't find an English version of the clip, and this is about the length I was looking for. If you took French in school, but have forgotten most of it, maybe you can practice comprehension...

Highlander is a 1986 movie starring Christophe Lambert and Sean Connery, and it's one of my favourites. I posted the above clip despite the unfortunate dubbing, because some of you will have seen the movie and may remember this scene. Where Ramirez asks MacLeod to "feel the stag, his heartbeat," particularly reminds me of Spring - and it matches a recurring theme for me, which is the coming of Steelhead once the rivers have broken free of ice: sometimes it seems that one can almost feel it all happening, the rush and rumble of the water, the passing upriver of the fish.

Beyond the scene in the above clip, where the two sword wielders on the high cliff cannot possibly be Connery and Lambert, there is some pretty interesting goofiness in the movie. For example, consider the odd fact that a Scotsman, who has a thick Scottish accent and is posing as an Egyptian with a failed Spanish accent, is teaching sword fighting to a Frenchman, who himself has a thick French accent but is posing as a Scotsman with a (miserably) failed Scottish accent. What the ... is that? This really pushes Tolkien's concept of "suspending disbelief" to the max. Notwithstanding, the storyline has always held a lot of meaning for me. I especially appreciate the way the film treats "true" (a.k.a. "immortal") love calling out, via the symbolic invention of Immortals, the limits of love which consequence - or finally death - imposes. The symbolism of the Immortal becomes that of the memory of the beautiful thing that was, which in effect our children will eventually carry with them. And I believe that it's this symbolism that attracts the film's cult audience, to this day, in a similar fashion as "Romeo and Juliet," if of a lesser literary pedigree.

Anyway, the rivers have truly burst their seams. I've seen several today, and all of them are high and muddy, and the trout are fighting the currents even now...


Thursday, March 05, 2009

New Links & Fly-Fishing Women

Somewhere in the ether, where the hearts of all fisher men meet, at that specific point where reality dictates that their fanaticism must segregate them from women forever, where there had been incalculable woe there is now singing and rejoicing.

In other words, for all those Steelhead bums who thought that they had to quit fishing to avoid a life of loneliness and celibacy, there may be some salvation after all...

When I recently decided to update the blog links that I have posted on my site, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an old stereotype that had somehow lodged itself inside my thick skull - namely that women who fish are few and far between - is completely unfounded. In fact, it appears that it may be ridiculous in the extreme to think that women could not enjoy fishing as much, or more, than men do. In the case of a specific woman, I can't say... but the basic truth, that women can fish just as well and as hard and as successfully as men can, is to me a very happy one. In fact, a lot of the blogs I've added are written by fly anglers of superior knowledge and skill.

In my search for new fishing blogs to list on my site, I came upon no fewer than 6 sites - and I have no doubt that I'll discover more and more of them, and so I will keep looking and keep adding any one that I find. If you know any good ones, please drop them in my comments. Once I've looked it over, I will post your comment & link the suggested blog into my site.

Please take some time to visit some of these blogs. Some of them are truly excellent, offering a insightful commentary, professional grade photography and engaging and evocative story-telling. I've also added some pretty good "male" blogs, which are equally worth looking over.



Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"New" Waders

For those of you with the patience to have been following this space for more than a few entries, you may remember the issues I recently had when I purchased a pair of Chota bootfoot waders.

To make a long story short, they leaked up and down the inside seams after only a few trips, and Chota wouldn't support them on the basis that they were "close-outs" - which is just a term that someone can use to say "we built a piece of worthless crap on which we would still like to make some money, at your expense." Even though I did manage to salvage them with an entire tube of aquaseal, a short year later my heel had eaten through the lining in the right foot and now they are pretty much garbage. I might hold on to them and lend them out to guys I want to play a joke on.

Anyway, since the demise of my Chotas I've had quite the conundrum. I still have a pair of Orvis Silver Labels, which are about 5 years old and have stood me in good stead, but they are also creeping nearer wader heaven. I've combed the internet, looking for a deal on quality and shying away from anything that says "close-out." Once bitten, twice shy. I saw some fairly good deals, but nothing I could justify in light of my little family's situation. And with therapy bills to pay for Isaac, and no help from our friendly albeit socialistic government, $450.00 to $500.00 US for top-of-the-line waders is not in the cards.

Enter Ebay. By some fluke, I found an ad for a pair of used Dan Bailey EZ-Zip Waders (pictured above) that were exactly my size. According to the ad, a guide was selling them during the off-season, for cash. At this point, "used" sounds much better than "close-out." At the very least, it most likely means that the seller bought them off the rack, brand new and NOT in the bargain bin. He'd worn them only a few times ("once or twice" which I took to be a slight exaggeration) and they were otherwise as good as new. From the pictures he posted of them, the only real worry I had was that he claimed that the zipper was great for when you needed to attend to nature's call. I wasn't sure how crazy I was about wearing a used garment that might have even trace amounts of some other guy's tinkle on them. But they are clean as clean: I got them last week, and I'm sitting in them now as I write this.

Yes, I'm wearing them right now. I know. Laura says I'm a geek, too. She didn't clue in to the pee thing. They look clean...

Hopefully most of you already know that I'm a bit of a weirdo, so you won't be too shocked... But I also mention that I'm already wearing them, like an excited kid on Christmas morning, because that's how good these waders seem to be. It's gotten me very excited. These are top-of-the-line waders, made by one of the most respected wader manufacturers in the US, and probably in the world. Simms are the only company that I can think of who would be acknowlged as superior, without much debate.

The waders themselves still smell new. They have a few dirty spots on them, and the gravel guard on the right foot looks like it might have briefly visited the underside of a boat bench (it has a small perforation that doesn't really need patching) - but otherwise, they are literally as good as new. Plus they have tons of neat features, such as fleece lined hand-warmer pockets combined with several smaller pockets for gear and tackle; the waist belt is built-in; legs are articulated & have no seams at the knees ; neoprene booties are form fitted and feature an abrasion resistent sole; and the waterproof zipper allows for easy entry and exit as well as being a nice way to cool down when the weather warms up. Oh yeah, and they are easier to pee from :).

The real kicker for me, though, is that the final cost was well under budget!

Time will tell if they are as good as they look, or if the seller left me a few pin holes to patch up. But by all appearances I have an excellent set of waders on my hands, which should alleviate "wader stress" for the next few years.

I can't wait to try them out on the rivers.... might be time for a NY State foray... hmmmm...