Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who's the Sherpa?

Last March, I amused myself by picking on a couple of friends, after a slow day of fishing. Because I'd caught the only one, I jokingly called them my "fishing sherpas".


Well, the joke was on me this past weekend.

Wallacio and I got out for a much anticipated morning visit, to a tributary that is among our favourites. The water was just a little higher and dirtier than we would have liked, but we were game nonetheless. We hiked down to a large wintering hole and started fishing.

Once there, after a few drifts, I decided I wanted to have a smoke, so I reached for my cigar. I then promptly found out that I had forgot to bring a lighter. I also found out that my friend appreciates a good stogie from time to time, as well - I suppose forgetting the lighter in the car was a form of justice, then, as not bringing an extra cigar to share flouts proper etiquette!

In the meantime, it wasn't long before Wallacio hooked into a fish, which he said was big and heavy. Only, the fight didn't last very long and, soon he had a giant, gleaming sucker on the bank. This is a bit early for suckers to be in the rivers, to tell the truth, and it wasn't the only one we'd catch. I was experimenting with a new "secret" roe cure, and I found out that the suckers liked it very much.

But the steelhead, the one that was caught and landed, liked Wallacio's roe better. When it came boiling to the surface after being hooked, there was no doubt as to which species it belonged to. The fight also lasted much longer than any old sucker could've offered.

Finally, Wallacio had her on the bank. We snapped a few quick pictures, then released her to continue on her maiden spawning run.

A few hours and many frozen toes later, I ran out of time and had to make my way home. The sherpa was done, skunked, but glad nonetheless to have spent the morning with such a fine gentleman; and one who didn't brag at all or carry on the way his "sherpa" once had...

Next time, I bring two cigars.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Lewiston Bridge, Niagara RiverAfter all the angst of my last post, May manifests itself in March. Just like that, the ice receded, the rivers rose, the fish ran and the rain came.

And by miraculous chance, I was afforded a day and a few hours to launch myself into this early Spring, with rod in hand and fish on the brain.

I visited some of the smallest flows available, as well as the very biggest - the Niagara river. I won't tell you that my success was stellar on the Niagara, because Niagara Riverthe hot bite was "so last week," but I acquitted myself well everywhere else I went. Mind you, the Niagara fresh from ice-out is a wonderful thing to behold. Such a greenish turquoise hue lights up the water, that one can stare at it for hours - which is really easy to do when the fish aren't biting.

Elsewhere, the water was either on the rise or on the drop, fresh from ice-out, teeming with opportunity. Whether I targeted fish that were hampered by an Chromium Generosumobstruction or swiftly passing through a wide open lower section of river, I managed to make a decent number of connections. I also got to fish with one of my newest friends in the steelheading community. Rene is not only a superb fly and jig tyer, but he is a superlative steelheader. He exhibits all the characteristics of the rest of us addicts: careful indecision and indomitable enthusiasm. Is the wind too high? Is the water too brown? but all these doubts will disappear in a cloud of laughter the moment the float disappears under the flow.

But for me, these past few days, it's as though nature and fate have wanted to Stocked Steelheadremove all doubt. At perfectly timed intervals, my most trusted "advisors" have made the often torturous decision of "where to go" quite painless.
Very timely, unexpected meetings and phone calls have resulted in good advice and good fishing, for which I'm thankful.

The most memorable fish over this little stretch is probably the last one I caught. She was neither big nor incredibly strong or acrobatic, but she was definitely enthusiastic in her expression of hunger! Lew After having watched Rene "out-dozen" me, I deduced that he'd sprinkled some sort of magical faerie steelhead-attractant dust on his roe; and fifteen minutes of drifting with one of roe bags he'd tied proved the point. The above fish was the result, and I've rarely seen a more aggressive take. There was a little stream of air bubbles in its wake, as it literally torpedoed down!

But that's only speaking for me... As far as Rene was concerned, well... Need I say more? Let me say that I eyed that thing with envy - and looking at the picture now, I can honestly say that I'll beg him for his bait can earlier in the game next time!

So what now? Back to hand wringing, I suppose. That, and staring at my "days to the opener" counter on my blog.
I'll probably go and flick through my pictures, and then those of other fisherfolk who are so kind as to share their success pictorially, while I work and raise kids. Sigh. Big sigh. HUGE sigh.

But these sons of mine will keep my busy enough, I suppose. And that's a good thing, as it can make time go by really quickly - and if they beat me up enough (remember: twins, and they're 4 years old now!) I will actually deserve the break!


Monday, March 01, 2010

Prime Location

“Chopping up wieners in my kitchen.”

Months or years down the road, when someone asks me “where were you,” that is going to be part of my answer.

With Canada and the USA tied at 2 in overtime, at the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver, February 28th 2010, I left my seat to attend to the menial – while the truly epic was going on.
I struggle to explain even to myself, why.

The wieners are the easiest part to explain. Isaac loves them, and it was nearing supper time for him. God knows, I couldn’t eat. And it was probably not a good idea, in retrospect, to be holding a knife, trying to cut specific things not referred to as “fingers,” while such an historic occasion was going on. The knife was rattling on the cutting board as I tried to concentrate on the task at hand. But the TV was on, and I could hear the excitement of the crowd, of Chris Cuthbert trying to stay with the moment, the slap of pucks on sticks, the crashing of bodies caroming off the boards.

But I couldn’t bear to watch.

After the tying goal, scored by USA’s Zach Parisé, with only 24 seconds left in the third period, I had flown off my seat, ranting and raving; 2 posts earlier in the third! Sidney Crosby missed on a break-away! Whose check was Parisé anyway? And inevitably: are they going to beat us? Again? These were probably the same thoughts that were going through the minds and hearts of countless other Canadians. So many of us must have felt as though our doom was almost at hand. The Gold Medal – the 14th for Canada in Vancouver, and the most ever by any nation at any Olympic Winter Games – had been seconds away, and now it could be put out of reach altogether and forever: overtime would ensue and, beyond it, lurking in dark, un-nameable fear, the spectre of a shoot-out.

In steelheader’s terms, it was like having a 25lb steelhead not only hooked, but almost landed, mere feet from shore; only to have it turn quickly away, snap the shredded tippet and disappear. It's enough to make a wildly beating heart spiral down into the stomach, sinking like a stone to which you, me, all of us had foolishly tied our collective Spirit. I wasn’t at any of the thousands of public gatherings, in any bar or arena or public venue, so I didn’t have to face the dreadful silence that must have fallen on all those places. But I did not have any countrymen to lean on either, so that I could have the courage to continue watching. I was alone at home, except for a little child who did not understand what was going on but who was getting hungrier by the minute. I had to get him something to eat. And I couldn’t brave the pain of possibly seeing the game evaporate, of watching the dagger go in, live.

Then, who knows how close I came to cutting a finger; I heard Cuthbert say something about a goal. Was it over? For a moment, I think there was silence everywhere, a huge intake of breath across the country. Because a second later, the roar of the crowd left me no doubt, and I jumped out of the kitchen, my knife rolling about on the counter like Sidney’s stick after he dropped it on the ice, hopping around like a fool, picking up Isaac, my little boy, and hugging him and saying “look Isaac, we won! We won!” I opened up the patio door and sounded my victorious yawp across the rooftops of the neighborhood, to add it to all the other voices that were also cheering, here in Canada and around the world.

A day or two before the game, Stephen Brunt submitted a piece to CTV, which captured something important about Canada and the Vancouver Winter Games. It was inspiring. And I think that this hockey game was, in many ways, an embodiment of what Brunt was telling us. When Sidney scored the “golden goal,” it was more than winning a hockey game. It was about more than just hockey, or even the Olympics: it was about the joy of being Canadian. We all felt it.

So, where were you? Does it really matter? No. Not really. Because, for once, no matter where you were in the geographic world, our hearts were all right there in Vancouver, flying on the shot that went in, lifting in that single moment all our Spirits.

Where were you? The only real answer is: "Canada."