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)