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.


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