Some of you are aware that I like to go fishing every once in awhile. Last year, 2015, was the first year in many that I didn’t make my trek to the wilds of Canada’s Ontario province to take on that old sharp-toothed fish some call the northern pike. Things just didn’t fall into place. Then I found out that my favorite fishing camp, Three Bears, in Shining Tree, Ontario, was no longer operating and was up for sale. The news of that seemed to knock the wind from my sails.
It shouldn’t have bothered me so much; there are other outfitters and other fishing camps. But Three Bears was special. One of my first trips there was with my oldest brother and a brother-in-law, among others. Both of them are gone now. I went there once with a friend, who is now in a fight for his life with cancer. I also had a special friend there who owned and ran the camp. Where he is now, I have no idea. I hope and pray he is well.
Last year, I think I went fishing once, in a friend’s pond. A couple of weeks ago I was invited on a float trip on the Shenandoah River below Luray. It was a good trip. The water was a bit cloudy, which is better for fishing than when the water is gin clear. The weather cooperated, and we got a close look at a bald eagle. The most exciting thing was watching Bob Day and Charles Johnson roll their canoe over on its side and dump the entire contents, including themselves, into the drink.
Thank goodness, the water was shallow and except for an abrasion or two on their lower extremities, the biggest blow was to their pride. And the only things they lost were a couple of Twinkies and some Ho-Hos. I shouldn’t be telling this tale; next time it will be my canoe that makes like a rolling pin.
My bride and I took a ride up Old Hollow a few weeks ago. I showed her where, as a boy, I used to sit on the bank with my dad and a brother or two waiting for 12 noon and the start of trout fishing season, and hoping nobody else found our spot, because we could see some of the trout in the water that had been put there a few days or weeks before. I used to think that time had stopped and everyone in Rappahannock with a fishing pole knew where the fish were, and they joined us waiting for the fishing time to begin.
And it also seemed as though they all had better and newer fishing tackle and some had vests on with all sorts of flies and spoons and other fancy lures that would catch any fish in the river, and there I sat with my old fishing pole and a coffee can with some worms in it. And some of them had fancy waders on and I knew that as soon as the time came they were going to stomp over into the middle of the river and what trout they didn’t catch would have headed for parts unknown.
That makes it sound a bit like I should have given up on fishing. The truth is it just made me want to fish more, and harder. And when I finally got to Canada for the first time, in the early to mid 1960s, I absolutely fell in love with the place. Most days you could fish as long as you wanted and never see another boat. Or if you did, it was just a blip on the other side of the lake.
And the lakes were everywhere. Big lakes, little lakes, shallow lakes, deep lakes, and every other kind of lake you could think of. And it was perfectly all right for you to fish in each and every one of them, if you had the time and the inclination. And for the most part, there were fish in all of them.
And while your friends back in Virginia were suffering from hot, humid and muggy weather, you had to pull that army blanket around you a little tighter to stay warm through the night.
I guess part of the reason I hate to leave Canada behind is because, like a lot of other things, it will be relegated to the “been there, done that” category, and I’m not sure I am ready to let it go.
I have been fishing since I took a straight pin from my mother’s sewing box and bent it into something resembling a fish hook, and went down to the little stream that started in Wade and Alice Pullen’s yard as a spring, where my Uncle Willie Brady used to cross the road to get his and Aunt Bessie’s drinking water.
There were minnows in that stream. And if you could get the pin curved just right and keep the knot from coming loose that you had tied just under the head of that pin with a piece of string from a feed sack, and you could keep a piece of fishing worm on the hook, then you might be lucky enough to catch one of those minnows with the reddish-orange stripe down his side, and you could pretend you had just caught another rainbow trout.
I wonder if there are still minnows in that stream. I have now some better fishing tackle than I had then. Maybe I can catch one with the stripe on his side. And I won’t have to worry about turning my canoe over.