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.