Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Gratitude

As I emerged from the brush to look out onto the Lake, I paused. There, across the river mouth and silhouetted against the glimmering sheen of dusk on the water's surface, I could see a Great Blue heron.

The little camera tried in vain to capture the stoic shade where it stood, gazing out onto the lake; as it also paid attention to the large, bungling creature that had just appeared and seemed about to disturb its vigil. Blur after blur snapped through the lens and onto the little memory card, whilst the eyes took in all the details down to this silent bird's clear beak-tip. One step forward on my part, and the great wings suddenly unfolded to snatch it up and carry it towards less inhabited shores.

As my feet crunched over the gravel and sand, another movement caught my eye, further inland. An older gentleman stood by the river's edge,
contemplating me as he lit a cigarette. Not very observantly, I asked if he'd had any luck (as he put the two pieces of his rod together), and he chuckled that he had just gotten there himself. After a quiet exchange of pleasantries, I set up my own rod and quietly waded out into the lake.

I was in no hurry, to tell the truth. I'd taken a quick look at the river graph before I left home. Though there had been some rain during the previous day, it had hardly been enough to create more than a small spike in water levels. Still, it was a quiet morning, and I hadn't fished since the previous weekend - when I'd watched JP again miss a couple of fish - but I had caught nothing. I pulled a cigar out of my pocket, placed a roe bag on my hook, cast my offering & started to feel around for my lighter. It didn't take many drifts for me to recall that I had left the lighter up in the car; nor to ascertain that there were indeed fish in the area - as my float took a sudden swerving dip and something bright and silvery pulled and yanked at my arms for a few seconds, before disappearing into the as-yet sunless waters!

I remembered that the other fisherman, just a few yards upstream, had been smoking a cigarette, so I went quickly to beg him for a light. Once this was accomplished, I returned to my spot and started again. I savoured the luxuriant smoke as it wafted over my head and off into the gentle breeze. I also reset my offering and whisked a cast into the current.

What followed was an exhilarating two hours of mayhem, filled with crushed roe bags, snapped-off hooks and severed tippet. One moment, the float would
dip quickly and the offender was gone before I could set the hook; another, a large, angry fish yanked the float down and sped off at uncontrolled speed until the pressure abruptly vanished, and my line came back with nothing but a forlorn corkscrew of line where the knot had broken under stress. It was the kind of morning where one doesn't count - though, of landed fish, there weren't many, I must admit. 

Still, I managed to bring two ashore that made for good photographic material, the best of which a fellow angler very kindly took pictures with my camera. You can see it to the left, and below, a beautiful, pristine hen steelhead which fought with more electricity and vivacity than any of the chinook I had been allowed to master up to then. In fact, when I first hooked it, it had freakishly rushed at me - right under my rod - dragging the tip squarely into the bottom and dangerously risking a "break off" of the absolute worst kind! Only a quick spinorama on my part, aided by letting off all pressure on the line, saved my rod tip from utter fracas.

Then suddenly, there was an element of the surreal as I peeked at the time: 


Time. Like the heron, my morning on the water was gone. I packed up my rod and headed for the car, with only one last wistful backward glance at the lake; and in Thanksgiving, for the incredible good luck that had brought about the coinciding of one of my rare trips with conditions of even rarer occurrence. I'd promised 9:30am but wouldn't make that now... 

Time to start the engine, put the car in gear, ease into the ever increasing rush forward: the long road awaits. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Return of the Chinooks

Roe bag number thirteen was quietly riding the slow current, snugly held up by a float just above it. Twelve other roe bags over three trips had gone and done the same; they all died in vain. Munched, torn, shredded - one or the other had happened to all twelve. And the thirteenth was to be no different.

But whereas the twelve that went before it had missed their mark, the thirteenth would not.

That is, the ball of nerves nestled in the otherwise empty space that governs the movements of the hand, which in turn is connected to the float and roe bag, through rod and reel; this ball of nerves would relax long enough to count:

"1... 2.... 3..."

Then the hookset came, and there was a Lake Ontario Chinook salmon now,
where a moment before the thirteenth roe bag had been. They fight much differently than steelhead. The first thing that always seems to happen is a big lurch at the surface. The fish will come up and thrash and splash for a bit, before getting back down, swinging this way and that - like a plane on a runway; to take off with incredible thrust in one direction. After this - assuming the hook holds true - a tug of war ensues, a few more runs are attempted, and finally a chinook salmon is lying on the bank. 

This September has been pretty special for me, since it has permitted me not only the leisure of affirming certain theories I've been entertaining, but also because through the salmon I've been able to share the river banks with quite a few good friends. You may already have noted, from the opening picture,
that Oliver has been among my river buddies this month, but that number also includes Khalid, Jean-Pierre, Isaac and Sam's uncle Steve, and of course the boys themselves.

Isaac kept me very busy, when Sam and I took a look at one of our local tributaries, or I might have had occasion to take a picture of some of the fun. Still, there was reason for excitement as the thing was very close. Sam and I both saw the float go down once, but the hookset was a tad late. Then, later, probably when I was trying to coax Isaac into another 5 minutes of patience (by bribing him with my decrepit, crack-screened iPod), another roe bag came back totally crushed. I really hope I get the opportunity, this year, to see the look on Sam's face when he has a salmon on the end of his line, for the very first time!

Most recently, "uncle Steve" came by for a visit, specifically to come and join
me in the hunt for the "boots." We had an interesting time visiting rain-swollen tributaries, and watching hordes of large salmon working their way in from the lake. Neither of us caught very much as the rain was falling, but the next day proved productive and saw us land a few fish, and hook and miss many, many more. 

I don't usually get this much time on the river and, in fact, I feel almost dazed by it. It's true that we're not following a crazy "rep" hockey schedule this year, so my time isn't all spent at the rink. But even so I suppose it helps when friends and family from afar serve as the reason for my forays, especially when favourite Fragile X helpers like "auntie Colleen" show up for the ride. Still, this marks the first time in a long time that Laura actually sent me fishing not once, but twice! I can only hope that this unusual blessing follows me during the upcoming steelhead installment of the season.

Certainly, J.P. and I have probably found a good compromise that should work
most weekends. That is, use the few hours between sunrise and kid-rise to indulge ourselves on our nearby creeks. This way, we get to have a couple of quiet hours fishing, without being absent or otherwise neglecting important engagements, tasks or assignments given to us by those whom we naturally accept to be wiser than we are... I mean that! So, I've also got a reasonable expectation of hope that I can finally manage to get J.P. onto some serious salmonids, quite soon. If not, it won't be for any lack of trying!

So then, a fine excuse materializes that will or should allow us to watch the season pass slowly, even as our turbid lives rush past. Every now and again, it helps anchor the soul to watch a tree turn its colours, or fish swim upstream, or better yet - just stand there a while, as the sun rises and the great painting unfolds across the sky; not as though we had any expectation of fish, but that this clear, bright, peaceful day-break was all that we came for. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I am quite remiss, I know.

Really, what I would like to do with this blog is to add more updates more often. But there's a problem with being an “average” fisherman. When you are an expert, by definition, you are familiar and that means that you partake in the activity often. Expertise in fishing isn’t garnered by sitting around on the couch, playing captive games of “Temple Run” for the perseverant pleasure of one’s special needs son, or getting nailed in the groin playing mini-sticks with his more agile brother. No, instead expertise is earned through hours spent on the water, discovering the secrets of the fish. Commensurate with this, the more hours you spend fishing the more you have to write about. And when you also happen to own a fishing blog, then you can live the dream of populating that space more often.

That is if you don’t also regularly engage in procrastination, which is one of my many qualities. Procrastination, and the general lassitude which  has descended on me from the first weather report that advertised that our opener might as well find all our little streams filled with gin and transported to Cancun. Don’t get me wrong. Like anyone else, I find a river of gin in Cancun a very attractive proposition; just not when the river is an eastern Lake Ontario tributary, actually in Ontario. No gin, no Cancun, no bikinis, no pool-side drinks - and no fish.


Yes, I exaggerate. But only a little, and if anything I appreciate the little ironies of the past two years almost as much as the fishing. Predictions for
last year were dour. Water was low. No snow in the winter. No rain for almost a month before the opener. Logic dictated the fishing would be poor at best. What happened? It rained generously just before opener, and again during the first week after opener, resulting in a mass exodus of extremely well recovered and almost chrome-bright drop back steelhead which, for those lucky enough to be present, provided a short span of days within which the fishing was almost unnaturally abundant. This year? Lots of snow in the winter (more in the space of 3 days in January than in the all of the previous winter); lots of rain in the Spring. High, happy rivers and a late run – it augured magnificently. There were still fish running the river 2 days before the opener, fer lardssake! Then, the clouds disappeared, the bright blue sky and golden sun of mid-summer floated aloft, and the waters cleared and the fish cleared out. The water table was quite high and healthy this year, so the fish seemed to finish spawning in a hurry and zipped back out into the lake none the worse for wear. 

How prophetic that Solopaddler himself advised me to temper my enthusiasm when, back in March, I slavered over the possibilities of this year’s opener. I very clearly recall his words. “It only takes one or two days in the twenties to chase ‘em all out,” he said. I think, in the end, it was more like 5 or 6 days, at least one of which was in the thirties. Thank God for those little cryopaks that kept the beer cold!

Still, I have to partially blame my general lack of success on the emotional discomfiture brought about by these horrid steelheading conditions.
My own eagerness thermometer goes down, when the other one goes up too far. In my experience, 20+ is too much. I’m like a steelhead that way, because too much heat makes me somnolent and unresponsive. Lots of other fishermen seemed to be having a good time, basking in the sun if not in fish.

In fact, I don't remember much of what we did... I have a vague memory of fishing an active morning with Khalid and Oliver, where I lucked out and tapped a good vein, going 1 for 9 or so on some pretty exciting and vivacious steelhead. Then I seem to recall that the day got hot, and somehow there appeared a few dozen pounds of lead in my boots, my tongue turned to wood and my bones got stuck. Did I catch anything else that day? I might have. There's an echo in there as of a wooly bugger that got crunched by another frenetic fish. 

I know that both Khalid and Oliver fared much better than I did, overall. Khalid got into decent numbers of fish every day that he went out, and when Oliver joined us later in the season - when the weather cooled and delivered a goodly rain; he beat us both. It was nice to see my friend hit a productive channel in a churning stretch of river, and the way he manhandled some of those fish belied his trade; energetic steelhead would make a mad dash downstream in the heavy current, only to be winched out like tinseled tether balls to lay stunned on the bank.

But for me, personally, whether it was something else happening in my life or something about this year's fishing, but the fire went out of me and is only now just starting to spark itself up again. I must admit that my exciting if not amazingly productive overnight trips to the Salmon and the Saugeen rendered our local tribs somewhat more humdrum and less exotic. As beautiful as our fish are, there is something to be said for fishing them out of a river too wide and powerful to cross in waders, versus the little creeks and trickles that are so ubiquitous out here... 

Even now, I feel a certain lassitude. I think I've been working on this thing for at least a week now, and - just like the spring season that preceded it - I don't really know where it's going. Blah blah blah; oh! is that a piece of lint in my navel?

As I write this, the big green thugs are starting to work their way into the rivers. As usual, the summer has managed to dry everything up - even though July had a record for rain; and the rivers in some places are mere rivulets, meandering through parched gravel and cracked mud. 

If fate hadn't intervened, I was going to get up early tomorrow to see what kind of salmonid trouble I might get myself into. But broken parasols, as it turns out, are an antithesis to next-day fishing. 

Oh well.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In pescum veritas

And suddenly, again; it's not about me anymore. Yet another underpinning of my life has become not so much something I do, as something I share.

The Opener is quickly bearing down on us. Despite a recent wintry dump of wet snow followed by a warm spell, which is all very promising, and I'm sure to enjoy some time on the water; yet, what I look forward to most is spending at least part of opening day with Sam. 

From my fondest memories of childhood, so have I raised this child thus far. I remember clearly, fishing under a fallen tree for dolly varden smolts, as a toddler - though my parents laugh warmly and tell that that was a twig to which was tethered by a small rope a red, plastic fish. But to the baby who gazed down into the clear waters of some unnamed B.C. river, upon the lively darting trout, the rod combo is a minor detail. What stirred me then, and what stirs me (and so many of us) now is the bright vibrant potential of those swiftly moving creatures. It is the instinct to capture, and the instinct to wonder that so imbues them with the ability to captivate. And, as my father was captivated and sought to share this fascination with me, so now do I seek to share it with my own sons; Samuel now and I so hope also with Isaac later. I seek to deliver to them this unique joy, which only the lighting up of our collective instinct can bring to pass.

As Samuel grows in mind and body, I am beginning to understand the reason behind why so many adults would say to me that they looked forward to spending their weekends with their children; back when I thought only of where I would be going to have nachos and beer, and with which friends - or where were we going skiing, or fishing, or fooling around on the beach. I had no clue that these activities could be rendered almost completely irrelevant and uninteresting by the simplest of things: love.

Speaking of instinct, I suppose that our protectiveness of our kids and our love for them can be termed as such. In purely scientific terms, I imagine that this is the only thing that makes sense. But Science, like Religion, has a way of becoming too absolute, and in human terms I think it is always enough just to say "love." Though it is a joy to analyse what it is to be a person, it also falls on us to experience what it means and, very much like that dim star that shines in a dark pocket of the night sky, look straight at it and it vanishes. There is studying the thing, and then there is being the thing; I've always been more interested in the later, hence why I so long ago eschewed the philosophical study of Mind and took up the wonder of literature. One sought to theorise about the thing, but the other is the great, clear manifestation of it and so often, again, with that un-focus that so aptly unveils that dim little star, the inside definition of who and what we are.

Do I digress?

A little, perhaps. But I think that having kids changes one's life and, by definition, this new perspective also changes the meaning of life itself. I am no longer living just for myself, but for these others that I place above myself; and my days are no longer as concerned with what gratifies me - or even them - but what will most bring us together, and most bring us real joy in life. Sometimes, that's hard work; other times it's time spent together.

And other times, it's fishing by a river together. And as I look forward now to taking Sam down by the tracks and walking out a ways to see what's going on and try our luck, I see another thing through this window. I've mentioned ad infinitum (or you might say ad nauseum) the indescribable joy and fulfillment of the moment before the catch, when the offering is taken, and the fight begins, and doubts are laid aside - and tonight as I finish this up I think I know the source of it. Obviously: love. 

Love, and the deep, instinctive fear of their hunger through our lack of success. Because you never know what the steelhead gods will throw your way - snow storms and droughts, or blessed rains and sweet, cool weather - and success is largely predicated on these conditions. But bring to the bank one of these beautiful, scintillating creatures and fear is replaced by joy; catch many and anxiety is dispelled by contentment and peace.

So, logically and pseudo-scientifically, I know already what new level of pride I will feel, when Samuel - whether this year or next - fights his first one and wins the battle: a new level and magnitude of that feeling, mingled with love, of which I'm certain that I have as yet no clear idea of how it will be

And that is the beauty of being. No matter how much you think you know, you never really know until you've been. You'll never live it all - but keep your eyes and heart open, and you'll live and be so much more than you ever thought you could.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Salmon Sick

Photo: O.Marx
This is a classic picture of what perplexed, cold and tired steelheaders look like, after a morning of mildly successful fishing. Oliver snapped it from one side of the Salmon River DSR, as a conversation among the group slowly began to coalesce, around the day's meager harvest of fish and plans to move elsewhere on this famous stream. I imagine that he had a poetic eye and, though I'm not sure if Oliver and Chess were having a similar discussion on their side, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had.

It's always that way.

When you're catching fish, there isn't even the first shadow of the wish to
move. Every seam bursts with the promise of fresh chrome bullets, ready to streak out and take multiple soaring leaps. But when the river is miserly, and nothing quite seems to satisfy the finicky mykiss, it's like a fresh rain on the burgeoning of doubts, questions, pointless theories (which may explain, but rarely overturn, lack of success) and the like. 

Of course, we'd picked this particular weekend, but we didn't expect the weather. Photo: O. MarxAt this time last year, the temperature was in the high teens and low twenties celsius. But 2013 exemplifies a return to the norm, and snow squalls through Thursday assured that a nasty cold snap was in place before our Friday arrival. A preliminary stop at the South Sandy, with Oliver and Chess, showed that it was brimming with slush. I was immediately reminded of my trip with Khalid to the Saugeen last fall, when snow pared down the number of fish we would end up seeing at the end of our lines. There is no fish I know of that reacts well to a big change in temperature, whether up or down...

At the Douglaston Salmon RunPhoto: P. Hurtubise parking lot, as the attendants handed us our tags (like ski lift tickets), they let us know that the day before had been good for the "pinners," on a variety of offerings but mostly on fresh roe bags. Or spawn sacs, as they call them in that part of the continent. This sounded good. As we came to the edge of the river, on a high cliff, overlooking a westward bend, Oliver, Chess, Adam & Mike Z turned upstream, whereas Mike B., Bill and I enacted the plan we'd discussed all week - go as far down stream as possible then work our way up.

Mike and Bill quickly got ahead of me, as I began to absorb and enjoy the freshly snow-cottoned woods around me. It almost had a Christmas morning feel to it, especially since we were Photo: P. Hurtubise all about set to partake in an activity that - to us at least - is a gift; even with freezing feet and heavy slogging through knee deep snow. I snapped a few pictures and even got a shot of Mike as he slipped through a patch of deciduous trees ahead of me. However it was not long before I caught up to them, as they debated how to cross over to and approach the Joss pool. We quickly found that it was not as difficult as the attendant at the entrance had predicted, but the rocks were exceedingly slippery. They would claim some of my friends on this day, but my luck as well as my footing held pretty well during most of the day.

The only exception, luckwise, was the Joss pool. On the next day, overlooking it with Oliver as we made our way back to the parking lot, I would understand why. Whereas I usually like to drift my float close to the opposite shore, this special poolPhoto: P. Hurtubise is an exception to this loosely held rule. There is a solid, shallow shelf of maybe 9' wide that juts out from the far shore - something less than 3' deep - and with little to no snags to indicate, to the rube (a.k.a. "moi") or any other steelheader of average abilities, that one is definitely fishing where the fish are not. Seen from above, atop the small escarpment at the foot of which it sits, the shelf is clearly visible. Fished from the opposite side, on a gray and snowy day, without an egg sinker at 5'... the angler will get the odd "tick" in the float, but no fish. 

Bill, however, was fishing closer to the near shore and, not on top of a shallow shelf , so he of course got fish. His first fish of the dayPhoto: P. Hurtubise was a beautiful chrome hen, close to 12lbs (or perhaps a bit more than that), which took him a good 10 minutes to land. He was quite ecstatic when he finally brought the fish to hand. Big and fresh, long and thick-backed, she was an excellent representation of the quintessential Lake Ontario steelhead. She appeared to huff as she rested at his feet. We took a few quick pictures then, as the rules demand on the DSR, we released her to swim and hopefully fight again. 

After Bill and I had settled in at the Joss pool, Mike had kept going. Based on the direction I saw him take originally, I assumed that he had changed his mind and gone up-river to inspect some difficult to reach waters that he had spied, on the DSR website's interactive map. But after an hour or so of catching nothing but cold toes, I decided to start making my way downriver. Bill felt that he still had a pile of fish in front of him, so he left me to my madness and stayed put.

After a slightly risky crossing to a nearby islet, I suddenly found myself on a section of path that, while it was snowy, was easy enough to follow. I inspectedPhoto: P. Hurtubise water here and there as I went along, until finally I came within sight of one of the lower spots that we had been looking for. To my mild consternation, there was already someone there, and as I got closer it became quite apparent that the chap was wrestling with a fresh catch. When I got even closer, it also then became quite obvious that the chap was Mike B. - who I thought had gone upriver! But here he was as usual, ahead of everyone else on the curve, landing his 10th fish of the morning, and with the usual easy manner quite capable of pointing out the more productive drifts available. 

Never one to disdain a free guide, I settled in and started casting more or less where he'd indicated. On one drift, he said "about 3 or 4 feet further out," whichPhoto: P. Hurtubise I did on the next cast. The float arched up and landed gently in the water, cocked, bobbed on the swift line of the current for a second, then jabbed down beneath the surface. Immediately my first (and best) fish of the trip started giving me the familiar head shaking, so much like the mandatory heaving of the bull in its stall at a rodeo, just beforePhoto: P. Hurtubise they open the gate; and all hell breaks loose! The fish was a nice 8 or 9lb male, already dark and milting slighty. But despite my moniker, and my previous exaggeration, I've had more impressive bouts. Not that it was the fish's fault, because he definitely fought "like a man," and never gave up; but the winter sluggishness that can afflict these fish when the water temperature has been low for a long time had somewhat of a grip on him. There were no brilliant leaps or nail-biting runs of extreme proportion, only a dogged and knuckle crunching tug of war which, in the end, he could not win. Mike was kind enough to film me landing this fish and I learned something... I do a pretty good imitation of "Bubbles"!

We fished this run for a while longer and each landed another fish, then went looking for even lower pools. On the way we both passed water that looked good,Photo: O. Marx but that neither of us fished; and which, the next day after discovering that others had success there, would eventually prompt me to think and Mike to express "I walked right by it." No matter how much you learn about this sport and these fish, this phrase will somehow never leave you. Like the smell in your arm pits after a long day of difficult physical activity, it will not always afflict you, but it is certain to pay you the occasional noxious visit. In this sport as in life: water we did not fish, because another ideal was leading us on, will grace our backward glance like dappled shade forever. At least, on this occasion, I'm in excellent company. The "Secret" deodorant of the Steelhead Gods gave out for both of us.

My search lead me farther downriver and through more difficult terrain than did Mike's. And while I thrashed about for a couple of fruitless hours, I later foundPhoto: P. Hurtubise out that he paid another visit to the run & caught a few more dandies before heading up-river and leaving it for the day. I eventually revisited it myself, as well, missing a couple of hits, then making my way back up to Joss. By the time I got there, I was quite tired, hungry and thirsty. I thought I had no water to drink, but a little rummaging produced a miraculous juice box, which I greedily drank. Then, sitting in the crook of a fallen trunk, I had a small lunch. I also had to re-rig, so I pulled out a "schtogge" and enjoyed it, here in this sheltered little spot. I was just finishing my rig when a big hand pressed down on my shoulder; I turned to see Oliver, and right behind him was Chess! 

Since I met Oliver two Decembers ago, I've heard a lot about Chess and was really looking forward to fishing with him. The experience of sharing a drift with him,Photo: BillM that Khalid had had last spring, and which he related to me in glowing terms, only made me more eager to finally meet this gentleman. So I was quite happy to see both of them at the Joss pool, and both of them quite jovially ready to head right back down river with me! We fished the Joss shelf for a while, including some more productive looking tail-water, without success and then headed back downriver, to the run that Mike and I had had most of our success in. I missed another fish down there, but by then the day was actually coming close to its end, and we opted to leave. 

Photo: BillMThat night, resting at the Fox Hollow Lodge and regaling in stories of fishing and fishermen, buoyed by the pleasant and soothing flow of cold micro-brew, and on a belly full of Eddie's roast beef, "the Seven," had a good time. It was, for me anyway, one of the things that made my "deal" with Laura so very worth it - enjoying the conversation of other cro-magnons such as myself, all tied into and revolving around the same passion and theme, of fishing moving waters for the bright moving quarry that is the Great-lakes run steelhead. Though the romance of seven snoring men is likely to endear itself to no one, still there is a joy in the concerted action of chasing the same prey which reduces the grunts and wheezes to nothing. With friends and without worries, and with only great reward to come, mild discomforts are easy to ignore. 

But then, early in the afternoon of the second day, the picture of the fourPhoto: P. Hurtubise perplexed steelheaders comes into play. We did manage a few fish, but not as  many, and on this day at least Mike B. had to be content with the usual mortal aspect of the human angler. Partly, this happened because the level of the water dropped from 1000cfs to 750cfs, and partly because of the continued cold weather. Later in the afternoon, things would perk up a little, as Mike and I fished the black hole & as Oliver and Chess fished slightly higher on the river - but no chrome-lode was discovered anywhere by any of us on this day.

Photo: P. HurtubiseStill, there is a beauty to winter steelheading that is unique and which, if you've never experienced it, can seem totally incomprehensible. In our case, the bright cotton of fresh snow provided a sharp back-light to the dark, almost black rushing ribbon of the river. Here and there, deer flitted among the trees, and, high above, the Canada geese and snow geese criss-crossed; Photo: P. Hurtubiseand when the sun came out on Saturday, the white on the wings of the snow geese looked like jagged etchings on a perfect glassy sphere of purest blue. Spring birdsong floated in the air, despite the cold, and chickadees were ubiquitous. At our feet, as we trod the frozen paths, the emerging stone flies wandered in the thousands, peppering the otherwise perfect blanket of white. Then, on the second day, when the waters were brought down, almost everywhere one looked - about six inches above the flowing stream - perfect white glinting diamonds of ice were clinging to branches that, only the night before had been swathed in dark water.Photo: P. Hurtubise As the sun rose and cast its dusky, snow-brightened light over the river's edge, the eye of the beholder wandered in amazement through a field of countless pearls, dazzling in the bedraggled brush; though the camera struggles to recreate the smallest shimmer of the beautiful spectacle, the speckled-silver waking dream. Among such priceless sparkling riches, and with the promise of even just a little tiny bit of chrome-silver, who is unhappy?

Finally, it was time for me to leave. The others had booked an extra night at the cabin and were staying, but I had my young family to think about, a promise I had made, and obligations to keep. And so, with miles to go before I slept, I drove patiently home, listening to the Leafs game on the radio, looking forward to my greater blessings - even despite the fact that (unbeknownst to me) one of them was stricken with the flu and would keep us all up the whole night!

Photo: P. Hurtubise And yet I have faith that it was only a temporary torture. I'm already home-sick to for the sweet flows of the Salmon, and some day I hope that "Papa" and his two boys will venture there together, sleep at the fox hollow, and share the dark promise of a riverbank together with how many bright steelhead in the offing? and how many friends in tow? Time will tell!


p.s. Thanks to Oliver, BillM and Mike for some of the pictures in this piece - and hopes of repeating our association again many times over the coming years!
Photo: P. Hurtubise

Friday, March 08, 2013

Deal with the Devil

To see the winsome float thrust its bright head beneath the frigid waters of a spring-melt-swollen river, what will we do? What tomorrows mortgage? What honour sell? What pride forsake?

Shall we be thus, then? We? Craven souls whose passions are so enthralled by the ghost-flash of sub-aqueous silver things that feed and writhe, that we would whore ourselves for the slightest chance of the briefest glimpse? Do we forget food? Deny ourselves drink? Doff little babies into tired mothers' arms, the better to cradle hard, brittle contraptions of graphite, cork, epoxy and aluminum - even by the coldest, iciest riverside? Do we exchange the warm, comfortable hearth for this most inhospitable alternative?

Behold! and lo! 


We do! 

And down in the gullets of the ravenous trout do all thoughts born of conscience find their untimely end. What feeble flame of god-fear flickered in our hearts, what self-doubt that might have belied our mad egocentric rapture, has been blown out, erased, eradicated, extirpated by the hurricane, the insane desire for the coveted chrome-thing that vaults and catapults its body in so many directions, seemingly almost all at once, and which so voraciously devours the offering that pleases it. Into the wide, gaping maw of this blackest chasm of obsession, do we throw ourselves willingly, cackling with obscene Lovecraftian delirium, we seers who touched therein the unseen, cyclopean, hoary source of that rarest of things, the lodestone; the mysterious Why that so propels us on this lunatic path.

Despair, ye wives and girlfriends, ye mothers and acquaintances, and yea even  ye good friends - for against this which thou perceivest as foe, there can be no victory. Not by force of arms, nor by strength of morals or convictions have you any hope to bring this Thing to heel or subdue it to thy will. For it is wild and moves whithersoever it will, effortlessly and completely - seize it! But then open thy hand to peer at its indefinable colour, and it has escaped you and now lies hidden where? You cannot guess!

And so it will come to pass that the seven mad men, The Seven, the Chrome-magnum (magnon?) Crew, the Heptametron of Steelheaders - mayhap joined by an eighth - shall cross long leagues, over hill, field and water, to unite in the Hollow of the Fox and there cast about them what mad Chromic, mykissian destruction their darkest fancies compel to. Yet...

Very nearly did the seventh forfeit his place within this lascivious lot, for he is caught in the grip of vile and reprehensible Responsibility; which counts each hour spent fishing tenfold and exacts thereby a high tariff. And as despair crept into his heart at the hopelessness that denied that he too should raise his rod at the fox's hollow - lo! Inspiration! He unfurled the Chroma Carta and before She who ruleth did he prostrate himself and then did shamely utter this incantation,

O great and beautiful She who rulest my heart and my life, who ownest my will down to the very last thought [exeunt Sincerity] and upon whose Grace resteth all my Hope; grant that I may join the Seven for two trajectories of the Sun over thy Queendom, and I do solemnly vow to ride forth neither before nor after on like errands [disclaimer: _until the fourth Saturday in April]!!!

And lo! By the absence of violent retribution did the Seventh know that his gambit had succeeded! And again by the growl this morning, when otherwise a  short foray might have been in order, "I need you to get the groceries before you go to work for your late shift," whereby she presseth her advantage - yea even by this did he know that the blissful path to the delectable Madness of the Six - now Seven - lay open at his feet! 

Thus did he forsake pride, sell honour, mortgage short, chrome-full tomorrows - that he might join in the maniacal gargantuan Oncorhyncus orgy that will take place in a few hours more than two weeks hence.

And you, brave souls, you Seven; you know who you are! Prepare then, the pagan altar, the forsaken Hall at the Hollow of the Fox, and at the appointed time, raise your graphite and your Demarcoes with me; swear with me fealty to the "passtime" that bears us down into this temporary, seasonal insanity - and let us fear no nightly noises, no not even the unwonted passing of the short hours thatour union is alotted, O mighty anglers, fearless beer drinkers and imbibers of Appleton's. Flies, you fools! Flies and beads!