Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Smoke in the Snow

Shoveling the driveway yet again, I paused to light up. Little halos of smoke fluttered away into the night as I puffed the little stogie to life. I got back to work. Push, scrape, lift, toss; repeat - pausing every now and again to luxuriate in what some would consider stench, though it will always delight me.

When all the white stuff was cleared away and the cars, swept clean, sat quietly in the driveway, it started to snow. Just a passing flurry, with only a slight breeze to disturb the peaceful descent of the large, white flakes, swirling like glowing moths in the dull city lights. In silence, I took in the scene, savoring the smoke, watching as the temporary fruit of my labor vanished under the fresh, feathery blanket.

When -3 degrees Celsius feels balmy, it's clear that we've passed through the
heart of Winter, even though we've yet to reach the other side.

It occurs to me that even these sometimes barren and unpleasant times are just part of the cycle, of the process of each long-awaited fishing trip. The realization imparts a certain ephemeral charm to even the mundane activity of the shoveling of snow, the early morning alarm clock beyond, the tawdry and pointless commute; endlessly repeated, as they are, and yet leading me toward...

I start thinking back on a few things.

First, and most exciting for me personally, an unexpected phone call from a friend, presaging something I've always dreamed of but never really hoped would happen: a professional request for my pictures and for my writing. I won't go into detail at the moment, but suffice it to say that when the email from the publisher arrived in my inbox, I was very excited. I remain giddy and enthusiastic, and I promise to share more with you in the following weeks and months.

The experience has spurred me to procure myself with a decent DSLR camera, and I will be obtaining a lens or two for it in the coming weeks. Whenever the next fishing trip comes, it's not only the fishing that will excite me! I've always enjoyed the photographic part of the experience, stopping now and then to take a few shots, but I never dared bring the family DSLR - just in case it went for an unfortunate underwater adventure - and point-and-shoot cameras are so much easier and less expensive to replace. So while my pics may have been interesting, they were never really suitable for the pages of a magazine.

I'm a little trepidatious as well, since this past Fall did not cover me in glory half as much as I'd hoped or expected. On the Georgian Bay, anglers complained the fish were underfed; on Lake Ontario tributaries, an overabundance of gill lice was claiming quite a few fish. So I have no idea what numbers of fish will be greeting my friends and I when Nature sees fit to send us a few warm days in which to find open water (and unfrozen guides)!

It wasn't for lack of trying. Several trips took me to a number of my usual spots, and even to some new water, but conditions were never ripe and fish tended to be scarce. Tenacity paid off, but there were no large-number days. A few times, recent snow melt had made water temperatures drop too much, turning off the bite; or the rivers were blown... There were some pretty fantastic trips nonetheless, all of which were spent in good company. As always, the silver lining to any mediocre trip is composed of the friends with whom I share the rivers I visit.

Salmon, by contrast, were much easier to come by, and I did quite well in comparison, when considering that I don't usually spend entire days chasing them, as I do for steelhead. A few hours here, a few hours there, stolen on early mornings when the family is still asleep: this usually suffices for me, where Great Lakes pacific salmon are concerned. On the canadian side of the Lake, for example, Coho salmon are usually harder to come by; but my luck was good and I caught a number of these feisty silver beasts. 

Ah well. New seasons come and go. Now, I cross my fingers and hope for at least a short window of above-zero temperatures, so that I can ring up a few good friends and head out in search of open water.

As my toes started to freeze and the cinders cooled in my hands, I tossed the dead, brown butt into the icy street. I turned in and shut the garage door, took off my coat so as not to stink up the house, turned a few techie tricks for Laura and sat down to write this. 

The clock stretches out toward midnight, and another early commute awaits me in the black morning beyond. As I prepare for a last wistful glance at a fish picture or two, before I head up to a well-deserved sleep, I leave you with an image: bright sunrise, breaking through the mists of Lake Ontario, swift and hopeful.

Good night!