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!