Sunday, November 21, 2010

Double Trouble

The best part about a good dose of November rain is that it brings in the fish. This goes for pretty much any river that is home to a run of Steelhead. The worst part about that very same dose of rain is that it causes a conundrum as to where one should go: suddenly, there are so many options!

Lucky for me, my dilemma was eliminated completely after a short, to-the-point conversation with Laura. A family engagement, on the evening of the chosen date, meant that faraway destinations like Lake Huron or Georgian Bay tributaries were out of the question. My only requirement for the day was that I remain close to home, so that I could make it back in time to honour my obligations.

This suited my partner for the day just fine. Khalid is still not hugely accustomed to the larger, northern tributaries, and he was quite happy to remain in his comfort zone. So, naturally, we chose to fish the eastern Lake Ontario tributaries which, so much of the time, are desperately in need of rain and resemble ditches rather than rivers or creeks. Close to 30mm of precipitation should change that, shouldn't it?

Not really, as it turns out.

It seems that we have not had a lot of rain this fall. All that last Tuesday's nearly monsoon-like downpour did was to replenish the local water table. All the rivers we fished were low and clearing. They almost looked as if there'd been no rain at all. The conditions appeared to be so bad that my reaction, upon beholding our initial destination, was almost to turn around and leave. Luckily, I didn't succumb to this pessimism. There was enough colour to the water to make it worthwhile, and by mid November there is typically no reason why fish would not be present at most of their landing pads, especially after a significant rainfall.

I've been fishing the eastern Lake Ontario tributaries for over 20 years, now, and I suppose that this has given me a good amount of familiarity with them. I've gotten to know their rhythm. If I stand on the banks of one tributary and observe the conditions under which it flows, I know what all the others are doing. And as I continue to learn, I've become aware of a loose timetable that these rivers keep and which basically allows me to pick fish off steadily, all day long. With my family responsibilities, in fact, it's becoming more and more tempting to eschew rivers farther afield, since they often represent a greater risk of being skunked!

Thursday was another nail in that coffin, so to speak.

Khalid and I did quite well. We visited three tributaries, both hooking well into the double digits, and landing a respectable total at the end of the day. As a matter of fact, my day started really well, right off the bat: I had a fish on within two or three drifts. But Khalid had me worried: at first, I wasn't sure that the Tim's "double double" I bought him had had any real effect. Every now and again, I heard his rod whip back, but I would look up only to see him shaking his head or shrugging at yet another missed opportunity. As we walked away from our first river of the day, we were both scratching our heads. Was he cursed?

For so many years, it had seemed that my good friend didn't really take the sport all that seriously. He was always just happy to be out fishing, and it didn't seem to matter much whether he caught one fish or five, or even none at all. But last Spring, that all began to change. He purchased an advanced steelhead rod blank and built his own rod; he turned to Simms for waders and wading boots; he picked up a fly vice and fly tying materials and started experimenting with his own jig and fly designs. And since then, he's been out fishing more often than I can remember, and he has steadily had more and more success.

So it was a mystery, as we approached our day's second destination, how it was that he had still not had even a solid battle yet. We set up on opposite sides of the river and started fishing. It wasn't long before my float went down, and I set the hook... on nothing; which caused the float to fly out and my line to get tangled up in some bushes behind me. As I wrestled with this situation, I looked up to see what Khalid was doing. I saw his float. It was there. Then, it was gone.

Fish on!

My buddy had found his groove. For the next hour or so, he was the only one to steadily catch fish. Again and again, the little red float would vanish beneath the surface of the water, and his rod would bend under the pressure of another strike. He outfished us all, during that stretch of time, and I could see by the look on his face that it felt good. It felt good for me, too.

His display of new-found ability didn't stop there. At our third destination, he did the same thing, again. He managed to locate a pod of migrating brown trout, hooking three and landing one. I think he's ready for the next stage; he doesn't have to feel uncomfortable with fishing the northern rivers. Fishing new waters demands that one be observant, and flexible enough to try something different in order to be successful. Khalid has now shown me that he can do that.

And the best part of it, in the end, is that not only do I have this good friend named Khalid - but he's a great fishing buddy to boot! To have this crazy passion, float fishing for Steelhead, in common is a tremendous gift. Not many people have walked as far from the path of "normalcy" as I have, always looking forward to the next opportunity to slip on my waders and head a-river; so it's nice to know that I have a great friend with whom to share this rare and finely measured insanity!

Welcome to the loonie bin, Khalid!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tale of Two Rivers

What few people realize before they go fishing with Mike is that he is quite a natural story teller. Some people have the innate talent of spellbinding others, simply by the manner in which they present things to their listeners. They often don't even know they're doing it, or have even the slightest notion of the full effect that their stories have on other people.

Mike is one of these people.

And since I love a good story and tend to have a good memory where stories, movies, novels (etc) are concerned, part of my enjoyment of fishing with Mike is to hear all the good stories that come my way. This is a concept that has always been floating around in the back of my head and which I'm only now putting into words. In a way, I surprise myself by finally writing it all down; it's new and familiar all at once.

I became acutely conscious of it only today, when Mike marveled at how I could remember the "disappearing roe" episode. In fact, I remember much more than that, but the story of how the roe disappeared, and where it went to, is among my favourites.

It's quite simple, really.

One evening, before a fishing trip, Mike was tying up roe bags as usual. He likes to get comfortable when he does this, so not only did he have his roe laid out in a small container on the table, but he had crackers to munch on and presumably something to drink along with that. Before he started tying the roe up into the bags he needed, he decided to step out for a smoke - or he may have gone to the washroom. I don't remember.

In any case, when he returned, the roe had vanished. The container was still there, but it was empty. Minutes later, an acquaintance of his appeared and apologized for his rudeness. Mike asked why. Well, because the acquaintance had seen the caviar on the table, and the crackers, and... well... he hadn't been able to resist! Mike decided it was better not to tell this person that he'd actually been preparing those eggs for use as bait...

The flip-side of being a good storyteller is that you tend to use the same devices in your everyday speech as you do in your stories, especially if you're a subconscious storyteller like Mike. Grand vistas of opportunity will open before your eyes, as you speak to him over the phone before your next trip together. The number of chrome fish that you'll hook up with reaches wild proportions, and you feel your confidence soar as you listen to the fantastic creek conditions, how "stacked" the fish will be, and how epic or awesome it's all going to be.

The problem is of course that, for most of us, the end result is seldom as stellar as in the promising "trailer." This is not at all to say that there are not excellent days to be had fishing with Mike - because there are, and there have been (and will be) many. And this is no claim that any of these opportunities would ever have come to light if it hadn't been for that optimistic baritone at the other end of the line, describing all the great fishing that lies ahead. Rather, the point is merely this: the guy in the trailer is Mike, or some dude with the skills of a Mike, and there are very few of these dudes around on any given day. I've seldom seen him outfished, and I've never seen him get skunked.

Case (or rather "cases") in point: our last two trips together. Perhaps, as it pertains to me, the Steelhead Gods were unimpressed that I should have the opportunity to fish twice with Mike in any given steelhead season. So they withdrew success on the first one, and gave it on the second. I think, as I pulled a sizeable Georgian Bay "shaker" ashore, I heard some deity's giggles in the flow. But two weeks later, there was a choir singing as another Lake Ontario brute snapped my tippet or pulled a hook.

Oh but I've visited new waters that I would probably never have seen and hooked into fish that I otherwise would never have found if not for my guide. Yea though I caught nothing (or almost) on the first trip and hooked many but lost almost all of them on the second, I enjoyed myself immensely.

I enjoyed:
  • being outdoors all day
  • having my picture taken with fish, as opposed to the other way around
  • sharing hot capicolo and swiss cheese
  • being greeted with a cold "Blanche de Chambly" at the end of each trip
  • getting jibed about my "lack" of skill and the "poor" quality of my waders
  • wading chest deep into green rivers
  • the spring of my trusty "Frontier" as my spinning side casts gradually gain more "spin" and less "side"
  • getting into several long, serious and epic battles, in heavy flows, with primed, chromed and heavy fish
  • not having to drive
  • not having to push "send" or "delete" on 70 to 100 emails (140 to 200 if you count both days)
  • spending time with an old friend (seriously, the man is going quite gray...) :)
  • the many stories and recountings of recent and long passed events alike
However, overall, what I found most gratifying was not only all of the above, but the realization of the fact that, through it all, I've somehow managed to take my own place in the story. I too, "tuned," them in the tail-outs, or cast my presence on an uneventful day. I walked into the great Historia Mikus and added my 2 cents, or maybe 3, along with what I said and what I did, and what I recorded.

Indeed, this post is almost more suited to a diary than to a blog. It's a little navel-gazing exercise that, for once, I don't have to feel guilty about. The reasons are hidden in some of the events not recounted here, but that this entry will always serve to refresh in my memory. Good things, enriching things; the bright threads that serve to weave the roe bag - or spawn sac - tapestry that every angler creates, consciously or not, as he or she traverses this life of far too occasional fishing.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Giving it where it's due

When the weather conditions and long laid plans to fish with Richard seemed to coincide, I decided that it was finally time to visit a stretch of river that I'd always wanted to fish. For years, this stretch of river had been a sanctuary, but thanks to recent changes to the regulations it is now open for angling. Richard and I intended to fish all of it. We parked one car at the top of the stretch, and one below it; almost all of it would be brand new water to us.

The morning was warm, for the time of year, and the water was lower and clearer than we'd hoped. It seems to be an autumnal trend that, as we get less and less rain, and as many of our rivers recover or benefit from better overall management (and therefore suffer less siltation and overrun), water conditions are almost always lower and clearer than we would be lead to expect, just from reading the graphs.

Nonetheless, we started fishing, working our way up, drifting in deeper or faster water, in bends and in pockets behind large boulders. One of the latter provided my first surprise of the day, as a large steelhead in the 8lb range took my float down with a quick bob. Just as I was pulling it up on shore, my leader snapped, and the fish promptly flipped and turned, and then it zipped out into the free river. I was a little disappointed at not getting a picture, but I was very happy to have hooked into something under less than promising conditions.

I won't lie. It wasn't exactly a fish-fest, and there were long stretches of sifting unsuccessful drifts, but we acquitted ourselves well, both of us catching more than we thought we could expect, including Richard's personal best steelhead, and probably my personal best coho.

Beyond that, the river yielded some very good water, which I can't wait to fish again, under better conditions. There were some really interesting stretches, with some hidden troughs to be sounded at some future point, when the fish are in again and in greater numbers.

Then, there was the usual bonus of fishing with Richard. He is always a jovial and optimistic companion, and his sense of humour never fails to make a fishless hour pass more quickly and less painfully. I was really glad that he also finally took my advice, adjusting his drift depth as instructed, to absolutely "school" me in one of the better pools we found.

I was lucky enough to take the last fish of the day, an absolute lightning bolt of a hen that forced me to rush down-river in its pursuit. Richard was there to help snap a picture of it, and it will adorn my banner for a while.

More days of fishing are coming soon, and more entries!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I was sitting in a business meeting.

14 floors up overlooking the City the dormant suburbs the mature trees growing in organised quadrants of fall splashes of brown, orange, red, yellow in the hazy distance smokestacks, and bits of highway scratching their swaths through the horizon, down there.

How many people are milling about? How many cars?

Who is late for something, or just impatient waiting at a light, leaning on the horn, gesticulating with a minute hand at a minute problem? At an old lady pushing her wheels across the rickety concrete. At a teenager spitting his gum in the gutter.

Over the monotonous drone of the traffic and of my peers discussing statistics and positioning and advancements and pros and cons, through the double panes I begin to hear a siren.

Who is sick? and will this be their last day? Does their family know? What sequence of events will it set in motion? A priest, a lawyer, a florist, tissue paper for the lacrimal aftermath.

The siren rises and we all hear it, but our world goes on, and on as the wailing fades. Just like that. Someone in the room sighs.

Just a random event, like a leaf falling from a tree, one of the many many.

But somewhere down there, somewhere just below the furthest reach of sight and beyond that of the corporate imagination, there is a single point of focus that cannot be explained, nor can it be devined, nor touched, nor caught, nor frozen, nor forced, nor feigned, because it moves like one of the living, and it is never the same thing twice; for over the miles of concrete and all the woods and waters and through all the active trouble of this world, somehow, at the precise point marked by a little red beacon, comes the flash, the silver pulse of the wild trout, which careens through a wave, busting the shadows and tearing from the absolute centre of the heart of at least one person,

a deep sigh. This is what it is.

This is what it means, to be alive.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It never rains but...

Buoyed by Wallacio's optimism, I ignored the fact that it had rained buckets last night and that most of my rivers would be running high chocolate today, and went fishing.

I only had a little less than a couple of hours to deal with, as usual, which did nothing for my own optimism, but did wonders for my pessimism.

When I got down to the Lake, I saw that my predictions in that quarter, at least, were correct. Though there were a few taller waves, the swell was minimal and gentle. My spirits rose.

I fished the Lake for about 30 minutes without effect. My spirits fell.

Sighing, I trudged to shore and began looking over the estuary. The water was nowhere near as high as I would have liked, and the clarity left much to be desired. It looked somehow like a giant, green sewer. My spirits retreated somewhere, down in the vicinity of my heels.

Tearing off a spent roe bag, I put on a new one and cast it out. The cast was bad, and the wind blew the offering to shore, and I thought doesn't that just figure. Sucking it up, I cast out again and this time the float landed true. It rounded the corner gently, sauntering toward the river mouth, and then it went down. My rod whistled through the air as I yanked back, and the line, hook and all, came flying out fishless. But the roe bag had been pulverized by something... my spirits rose, cautiously.

I tied on a new roe bag. I tried again. Perhaps three drifts into it, the float started to jiggle. It jiggled a little left, a little right. It stopped. Then it when down. Whooof! my rod went up, and this time I felt the hook hit home. There were head shakes, a leap - of brilliant chrome steelhead - and moments later, a beautiful 4 lb early fall steelhead on the bank. Oh clumsy me! A lovely steelhead in the water again, slipping through my fingers before I could take a picture.

Steelhead number two did about the same thing, only this time when the fish took off from shore, and as I reached confidently for my camera, my right hand forgot what my left hand was doing - which was to block the wheel on the centrepin; and the fish shook its head once, a lunge, and it was gone.

But now my spirits were up. They stayed up, through four large Chinooks. I went through the trouble of landing two of them, one of which I gave to a fellow angler who seemed interested in finding new ways of torturing his own palate, and released the other. The last two I "released" via clamping on the reel and letting the line break, as by then I didn't have time to fight them but needed to start toward the car and make for work. On my way out, I handed the few roe bags I had left to the envious Russian gentleman, who was genuinely grateful for the chance to catch a fish on his own!

All this in just a little over an hour. Too bad it can't always be like this!



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Full Circle

This weekend marked the first time, since I injured my back about 3 weeks ago, that I could start resuming some of my normal activities, such as picking up my kids and pitching in an equal share of the chores at home (insert Laura's giggle soundbyte here).

It also meant that I could go salmon fishing, given the time. In fact, I was lucky enough to go twice. This past Friday night with JP, and just this afternoon for a couple of hours by myself.

Friday night's escapade was uneventful. Under the pier lights, we saw one salmon rise up and consider JP's lure, which it declined to hit. And we saw another type of fish altogether, absolutely slam a lure more than half its size; the lure was a rapala J-13 and the fish... a smallmouth bass! It was only about 2lbs but it fought fiercely enough to give an account of itself better than any salmon of the same size. As soon as it was released, it zipped away into the dark.

It was unfortunate that we didn't get any salmon but, with JP, piscatorial success is almost a secondary consideration, since we spend so much time enjoying good conversation. Add piers and beers (and a Tim Horton's coffee), and the fish are really just a bonus!

The only facet of Friday's foray which I really didn't enjoy was the incredible crowd of people, many of whom had tents and trailers set up, and who were ready to spend all night fishing for their elusive quarry. Perhaps because Chinook salmon are so big, it increases their popular visibility. Every year, the same mass exodus takes place, seemingly more fanatical than in years past. The glowing rod tips lining each side of the pier were like giant, radioactive reeds waving in an ethereal wind. The number of lines sitting on bottom could sift the river mouth with no less efficacy than a gill net. Next year, I fully expect to hear religious chanting to the Salmon God...

Today's outing was in stark contrast. Worried that last night's rain might have been enough to muddy the local rivers, and needing to get the boys out of the house, I took Samuel & Isaac to take a look at a nearby dam. They were both better for the walk, and Samuel took real interest in the behemoths that boiled in the protected waters below the dam. Afterward, I dropped the boys off at home, and Laura was kind enough to grant me a couple of hours to see if I might get a fish or two.

As luck would have it, the spot I picked was deserted. There were people around, but nowhere near me; and there wasn't a tent or camper in sight. The only inhabitants were swans. There was a mother there, with two cygnets, and she hissed as they slipped into the water to get away from me. I unfolded a chair, sat down and watched my float swing in the lazy current. Every now and again, a salmon would jump and land with a splash. Not much happened. In fact, the swans got so comfortable with me sitting there, that they came back to their spot & seemed to offer the same detached attention to my float as I was.

But time was wearing on, and I was soon going to have to leave. I looked downriver, to zone in on a splash that I'd heard, and then my float went down. Ironically, I had no idea that it had gone down. All I knew was that my rod suddenly kicked and bucked, as if it wanted to leap out of my hand. I no sooner looked back to where my float had been than the great, big splash of a rolling salmon replaced it. I pulled back hard on the stick, and then, like a rider at the rodeo when the gates open, I waited for the bull to tear out.

She took a wicked run about 100ft long, before she tired somewhat and I was able to turn her. A few shorter runs followed, but within 10 minutes, I had my first salmon of 2010 on the bank. I was pleased that it was a female, no less, since I need eggs, and I would rather take them from a stocked Chinook than from a wild steelhead.

And anyway Samuel had also asked me, earlier today, if I could bring one home the next time I caught one. How could I disappoint him?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Back Out

Here's a quote for you "The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity." (Mark Twain)

I've recently been granted a golden opportunity, of which I can say I took the most complete advantage, to truly understand this quote. I've never read it before tonight. But a recent back injury, incurred while lifting Isaac out of the back of my car, has got me thinking that I'm not 25 anymore. It's also got me reading a bunch of quotes about aging. And Mark Twain's "chance without the capacity" really caught my funny bone.

Two doctors and one chiropractor all agree that I've seriously strained some muscles in my lower back. But Experience has a different point to make: for example driving for even 30 minutes anywhere, and then coming home, means an agonizing morning to come. Also, "thou shalt not sit or stand comfortably in one place for more than 5 minutes at a time," and "thou shalt beg thy wife to tie thy shoes" appear to be among the more salient of the many commandments of Experience.

You would think that nearly 2 weeks would be enough to put the old man back on his feet, but that is apparently not the case. Today I elected not to drive to Peterborough with my family, and tonight I decided not to go casting glo-spoons off the nearby pier; not just because I have to concentrate on getting better (so I can get back to work), but because I risk some pretty nasty consequences should I not follow the octogenarian rhythm of my inferior vertebrae.

This brings me back to Twain's quote. My back woes have kept me away from work for almost two weeks. Under more favorable circumstances, this should have provided for an opportunity to tangle with some Chinook salmon, but I have simply not had the means. My rods and lures sit in the basement collecting cobwebs and dust, and I've been looking at my fly box with less relish and hope than I have at my little bottle of Tylenol 3's. My empty waders, hanging from their hooks, fill me with dread at the prospect of the horrifyingly painful task of having to lift my legs, bend them inward (OUCH!) and then plunge them into place, one by one.

When something you love scares you this much, just because of the acute physical discomfort it may cause, it's a sure sign of old age! In other words, "The years teach much which the days never knew." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Monday, May 10, 2010

Opener 2010: Epiphany

Low and very clear riverAs I sit here, finally writing down my thoughts on this year's opener, I still waver. I still doubt myself, and I still don't know quite what to write. I think it’s because I have suffered, and because I have had an epiphany.

Is it moronic-ironic to say that I "suffered" an epiphany? And yet, this is what has happened.

It will take me more than a few sit downs to write this entry, I know. I am in no mood to shorten things, so you might as well go to the fridge, get yourself a beer Samuel Fishingthen pass by the pantry and pull out a bag of your favourite munchies, before you sit back down in front of your computer. Because, unless this space usually makes you want to expel the full content of your stomach (in which case you're not even reading this), you will have full leisure to attend to your chosen drink and snack, and then some.

First, I must take down the ridiculous "countdown to the 2010 opener" counter. Done!

Then, I must tell you about this Steelhead from a rifflespring, how much I looked forward to it, how much I finally disdained the fishing conditions it offered when it did arrive, and what in truth were the redeeming circumstances. I don't really know where to start. I'm so late in writing this, mostly through disgust, and yet there really is something to tell. I have to set my nose to the grindstone and finally get it done.

Artist at workAlright then: what kind of an idiot books a week of vacation to go fishing - during a drought? And who goes fishing with a full blown pneumonia? Granted, I didn't know it was pneumonia at the time, and I thought it was just a foreshadowing of old age that caused me to lose my steam half-way through opening day. But eventually, even in my Success with the new rodfeverish mental state, I concluded that pulmonary difficulties don't usually persist beyond a couple of weeks and a full set of strong antibiotics. It took a second prescription of even stronger stuff to finally cure me. Even now, as I write this, the lungs are clear and the sinuses have finally begun to follow suit.

But fishing during a drought? Never,A surprise, early smallmouth bass ever, in my entire life have I seen our rivers so low. I have seen all of them in the summer, and they were never so devoid of flow. It is the terrible proof of the drought that has hung over Southern Ontario since September 2009. Even as most people (and my lower back) have been thankful for an easy Winter, I know what it means when we get no snow.

It invariably means low, clear conditions, skittish fish that fear even the faintest hint of the appearance of a float over their heads, regardless of what is dangling beneath it. Worse, when the fish are visible, everyone sees them. And whether you Going Fishing!are like me, more apt to release them carefully… or not - you will see them, too. And if you are so inclined, you can kick them at your leisure, after you beached them with a hook down their throat. You can slit the males' bellies to look for eggs. You can keep them all. No wonder those that are left fear your float even more than the sight of you: if the appearance of the white corpses of their peers is not enough, then the rush-hour-like congestion of floats and bobbers overhead is a sure sign that danger is nearby.

There is little or no true float fishing skill involved in presenting to trout that are readily visible. The firstFun with friends part of the equation - locating fish - is already resolved for you. You hardly need to read the water to determine where the fish might be. And if you are crafty enough to be the first to arrive at a likely pool, just as the sun rises, you will not be denied. One or another of the sleepy fish will engulf even your clumsiest offering.

But to locate these fish in high water, when it is not clear, when pools are not obvious and fish cannot be seen... that is a real skill. I trumpet myself a little, of course, because I know that I Recovered, post-spawn steelheadpossess a reasonable measure of that skill. And I can also tell you that, under these conditions, fish are rarely spooked; so that, if you find them in any number, you will surely have a good day. Give me any eastern Lake Ontario river in spate, and I will guide you to the fish. Give it me in a drought..... and I will guide you to the nearest beer-stocked cooler. Why bother panic-stricken trout? If they could partake, I would share the refreshing contents of the cooler with them, rather than whatever I might attach beneath the float!

And yet, and yet... Many trips are defined not only by the fish you catch, but by the quality of the company you keep.Springtime in the forest In fact, when the fishing goes south, your friends will more often than not salvage the whole affair for you. Their presence, and the fun you share, makes the whole experience worthwhile. And as such, what an opener it was! I walked more than I fished, and I got to share it with some excellent company.

Thanks to René, Dan, Jean-Pierre, Samuel, Marie-Eve and Khalid, I had a pleasant Locked in combatopener. Despite some surprisingly crowded conditions, rivers in an agony of hypohydrosis (no water) and a season at least 2 weeks early, we had fun. While it is certain that I thoroughly enjoy "double digit" days, it is equally true that days spent fishing with friends are never really fruitless.

I suppose that I've come to a cross-roads in life and in fishing life. I've long Victory! A post-spawn steelhead on her maiden voyagebeen in the habit of putting off the pursuit of angling perfection, for an extra hour or two in the company of my wife and of my sons. But this has solidified, now. Why go at all? If the gods do not deduct from the allotment of a man's life hours spent fishing, then surely they treat the joy of the fleeting years of the infancy of his children with the same indulgence. It is easy to forego a slow day of fishing alone, for hours spent bathing in the happiness of a hearth rich in the laughter of children and the love of an inimitable wife.

I've turned myself inside out. I don't want to go fishing in the heat anymore. I will wait for the autumn, and for whatever rain the steelhead gods are so kind as to Idylllet fall within the compass of my leisure time. Returning health has fueled my optimism that, yes, every drought has its end; and it has helped me understand that one should harvest always what is most in plenty and readiest to be plucked. During a drought, and with two funny, cheerful, adorable four year-olds, and with a wife who is still young and beautiful, I can readily discern the complete futility of chasing the shadow of past piscatorial successes. Carpe diem.

So I've just come in, now, from a warm May evening, that feels more like late July, Fronds in sunlightand I have smoked the first cigar since I don't know when - a gorgeous No.4 Partagas, and probably the best I've had in a long, long time. I don't snarl so much at the drought - which I can't control - but rather am inclined to sit in wonderment, enjoying the experience, and ready to wait and see when this dry spell will end, and what will come round the next bend...

Early in bloom