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Blindfold Lake

gaston reflectionWe grew up with the strange notion that the only fish worth pursuing were trout and that the further one ventured afield the better the fishing would be. For some reason, perhaps owing to the fact that trout only lived in the most beautiful places, where the water was clean and because they were also were great sport on rod and reel, and delicious to boot, they seemed to occupy the higher rungs of the sport fish ladder. In part this was due to our geography as our small town was surrounded by a countryside of lakes and rivers that all held trout of some sort. A river ran right through the center of town and the rapids pools behind the dry-cleaning shop always held some good trout, mostly browns and rainbows although every once in a while we would catch a surprise laker or brookie that somehow washed down from one of the nearby lakes, usually during the high water run-off in Spring. The best holes on the river were also the toughest to fish as they coursed through a deep ravine surrounded by almost vertical cliffs that were intolerant of any error. But once the walls had been scaled there were three beautiful pools, deep and dark, that always held some big fish, our record being a grotesquely hook-jawed twenty-six inch monster brown caught by my friend when we were fifteen years old. It wasn’t pretty, nor was the water clean as the dry cleaners dumped their untreated water into the river which left a thick brown foam scum that formed in the back eddies, but the fishing was still good and these were big trout for any river.  Read More »

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The Malay Musky Man

felixmusky5In many ways Felix was one of the most enlightened individuals ever aboard my boat. Like most clients who book my services, he was quite an experienced fisherman although had never succeeded catching the elusive musky and was counting on me to assist him in his holy quest. Our relationship began almost a year earlier when he called late one night and proceeded to interview me for the job and once satisfied that I possessed all the requisite credentials, he then blocked off three days in October,  almost a year in advance. Most of my clients  – businessmen, engineers, doctors, usually visiting the city on conferences – tend to book one or two days in advance if they suddenly find an opening in their schedules. The other unusual thing was that usually I’m the one who filters out prospective guests, lowering their expectations, whilst at the same time gauging the relative strength of both their physical and mental constitutions to determine if they have what it takes to endure a full day of hard work in adverse weather conditions and be satisfied with a day that at best will only mean a few fish. But he had done his research, disclosing that he had studied ichthyology in college, and was aware of the quasi-mythical status of the musky. Read More »

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the karnatzel jerkbait

kosher karnatzel jerkbait

kosher karnatzel jerkbait

Some people are like magnets to strange shit. It is not as though they choose to be, or derive any pleasure out of it, it is just that weird stuff tends to happen around them more often than anyone else. If it is true that some have a Midas touch while others have the opposite, that is everything they touch turns to crap, it also seems reasonable to assume that for whatever reason, there are those individuals that draw forth or extract what can be considered to be the strangest element in any given scenario as well. Case in point. My unnamed friend (no not me) is a pretty normal guy yet somehow seems to draw out the weird factor inherent to any environment. Even fishing becomes weird when he is in the vicinity. Just last week we were fishing for muskies when he gets a nice fish to follow boatside and starts to figure eight under the boat. His sunglasses, which had been giving him problems all day, finally fell for the last time, bouncing off the side chamber of the inflatable, but of course not before he he tried to grab them and missed, loudly banging the side chamber of the boat, which then spooked the musky who bolted just as the glasses fell and sank into the water, the timing so impeccable as they landed square on the fishes head and it swam away looking like quite the cool cat wearing my friends shades…. Read More »

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Jurassic Park

lrAR2garreleaseIt is the time of year so eagerly awaited, the memory of which has sustained us through a long and cold winter, the time when the ice finally melts and winter relinquishes its icy grip on the world. Slowly, the water in the shallow bays warms and in a ritual as old as time, the river monsters slowly begin to invade the bays in search of bait and to spawn, and for a brief time the hunter becomes the hunted. At first, they are reluctant to feed for other urges preoccupy their immediate concerns. Their arrival follows a few days after the legions of carp show up by the thousands, wallowing in the shallow water, as they too are responding to a primordial urge that supercedes their hunger. Like ghosts, camouflaged by their spotted leopard markings, rendering them almost invisible at ones feet, they cruise in and out of my line of vision, swimming with a sense of purpose and urgency. This is the best time of the year to catch a giant longnose gar on the fly. The males are usually the first to arrive as they search for a suitable female. Once they find her, several prospective suitors will remain by her side until she is ready to drop her eggs. It is not uncommon to see a female spawn with several males at the same time, a dangerous orgy of teeth and scales as they roll over each other in barely a few inches of water until her eggs have been fertilized. During this time, for obvious reasons, as no creature on the planet interrupts a session of coitus to enjoy a meal, they will not hit a fly or any other bait. When this happens, most of my time is spent observing their behavior rather than actually fishing for them. I choose not to disturb them at this time, not even fishing for them, just watching like a curious voyeur, a fish pervert. They don’t seem to mind or fear me as they have evolved as creatures with no natural predators, except man. As I walk across the basin, stumbling over algae-covered rocks formed in the the basement of time, the ancient riverbed of the St-Lawrence now lies exposed in the low water conditions, my thoughts wander until I slip on a boulder that has suddenly shifted under my footstep. It is the slipperiest place on earth and each footstep is a metaphor for life as it must be planned well in advance. You need to keep your eyes on the ground and plan three steps ahead to keep out of trouble. Sometimes, the smaller boulders are more firmly grounded than the larger ones, some weighing up to a ton, that are precariously balanced and shift under the slightest disturbance. The riverbed is littered with stones that have split and shattered with the ice break of every new year, testimony to the unrelenting will of water in all its forms. My partner is wading further up the shoreline, his fly rod bent into an arc that telegraphs that he is into a good fish, another huge smallmouth bass.  Before the day is over, he will have hooked over a hundred of these hard-fighting fish so eager to take his fly. But bass are not on the program today, at least not on my program. I am here exclusively for the gar. My eight weight, fully loaded with a gar fly tied to my tippet and anchored in the cork handle, waits patiently at my side, ready to perform at a seconds notice. There is no blind casting, only sight fishing to gar that swim by my post. The casts are usually hurried, short and crisp, a quick flick of the wrist and the fly is roll cast a few feet ahead of their path. Several of them swim right by me, some of them between my legs, but none seem interested in my fly. They are cruising beneath the surface and have no interest in feeding, most swimming away from the fly as if it was an irritant or social pariah best avoided at all costs. I roll cast to a few dozen fish without so much as a glance. Perhaps the water is still too cold. I hear a splash behind me and wheel around to see my friend who is once again locked into a monster bass. It does looks like fun and for a moment I consider putting on a leech fly and joining him, but remember my quest and decide against it.  I am not here for bass. As all hope for a gar is abandoned, a group of three are spotted lying stationary in the water off the point, as if involved in serious discussion. These guys look like they will hit and on my first cast one of them slashes at the fly but misses and returns to the pack. The next cast falls in front of the group and the two smaller males, like gentlemen, defer to the appetite of the larger female and allow her to take the fly. Maybe they think this sacrifice will endear them to her, like taking a date out for dinner in the hope it leads to other things. For a second, as she tries to figure out what has just happened, she lays confused on the surface and shakes her head angrily before peeling off towards deeper water. The males follow her as if this is part of her ritual. Like most males in the animal kingdom, they have no idea what is going on. They only want to get laid. Meanwhile, the fish is is strong and tests my drag, jumping acrobatically and running until finally tiring and coming to rest at my feet. She is close to fifty inches, a third of which is a thin mandible lined with miniscule yet razor sharp teeth from which there is no escape. She is the last of the great dinosaurs that still roam the planet.  A highly evolved creature, a hunter throughout the eons. For a brief moment, our eyes lock and we recognize ourselves in each other before parting company, both of us heading in separate directions.

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Two Legends Collide

franck - picture for blogWorld famous angler Franck Hiribarne of France (photo on left) recently engaged my services as a guide to help him land the trophy fish of a lifetime — a musky — which had always eluded him. Our three-day expedition on Lake St. Francis, one hour west of Montreal, was both exciting and successful. So exciting, in fact, that word got out and an old journalism friend, Warren Perley, founder and chief editor of a new ad-free, long-form journalism site called BestStory.ca convinced me to share our adventure with the public, resulting in a story in excess of 5,000 words and 20 photos describing the drama behind the scenes. Below is a teaser for the story with a link to the BestStory.ca site, where you can buy the article itself for 40 cents using a credit card through PayPal. You can read the story from any web-enabled device, including a tablet or smart phone, and you have access to re-read any story purchased on the site forever. Hope you enjoy Franck’s amazing fishing adventures as much as I have. Read More »

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end of days trout

It made perfect sense to want to spend our last day on earth fishing. It seemed natural that if there was going to be an apocalypse the best place to witness this cataclysmic event would be on a lake fishing. If one knew the exact time of their death and had the option of choosing their exit strategy from life, an option given to us by the Mayans that predicted this day as the end of all days, could there be a more ideal fashion than going out chasing some end of days browns and rainbows on a five weight? I think not so armed with my inflatable boat and fly rods in the truck we headed away across the Champlain bridge and south down highway 10 towards the Eastern Townships. As if by serendipitous chance, the  date of the opening of the winter trout season coincided with the Mayan end of the world and the unseasonably milder temperatures had kept the lake open, for normally this time of the year it would be covered under a foot of ice. Lake Massawippi, straddled between the sleepy towns of North Hatley and Ayer’s Cliff, is arguably one of the most picturesque lakes in the area.  Read More »

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Requiem for a Rod

As it is with people, the life of a fishing rod can terminate in a variety of ways. Some live long and prosperous lives, beating all odds and avoiding the many pitfalls of life, while others less fortunate fall victim to the vagaries of accident or disease, their lives claimed before their time. It can be as sudden and inglorious as a traffic accident, or perhaps carelessly broken in a car door or trunk, or worse still, trod upon by a careless friend, or maybe even fall victim to a low ceiling fan with an insatiable hunger for rod tips. On other occasions, it can also be in the blazing glory of battle, under the weight of a large fish, when an overexerted rod has a sudden coronary and the graphite explodes into an aneurism of fibers unable to maintain their corporal integrity. But no matter how the death occurs, as it is with people, there is always a deep sense of personal loss. There is nothing as obvious in life as that which has been lost. Read More »

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culvert city

All my life I have been fascinated by culverts. There is something about them, not from a civil engineering perspective but from a fisherman’s standpoint, that inspires the imagination and fuels a vague optimism that despite all the rapid changes taking place in our landscape, there was still a faint glimmer of hope that life could sometimes flourish in the unlikeliest of places. Since early childhood, creeks have always played an important role in my streamside education where it was quickly learned that brook trout, the gleaming jewels of these bodies of water, only thrived in the most pristine and beautiful places where the water flowed cold and clear and clean from the hills. From beneath the logs and stones that cluttered these little creeks, dark shadows would quickly dart out into the current to hit your fly or worm and then just as quickly, return to the safety of cover. Sometimes the creeks ran under the gravel road through a stone or steel culvert, spilling into deep pools that formed beneath that often harbored large schools of trout.  Culvert pools were veritable magnets to trout in the summer for they offered cold and deep water that remained well oxygenated throughout the entire year and held an abundance of food. All in all, a perfect micro habitat for trout to reside although admittedly, not all culverts were created equally, nor do they all hold fish. A good culvert, in my estimation, would usually hold a dozen or so trout.   Read More »

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where wild things roam…

It has been a while since my last post as we have rented a cottage in the Laurentians during the entire month of July. The weather has been spectacular, sunny and warm every day and for the first few weeks, despite been surrounded by babbling brooks and countless lakes teeming with trout, the agenda has not included much fishing. Instead, my wife and I take long romantic hikes through the woods, sit idly on our porch with its million dollar view of the green mountains, listen to the birds singing in the trees, watch life go by and generally don’t do much other than eat and sleep. It is an idyllic life, as close to living like a canine without having to eat from a bowl or take your morning dump outdoors. Read More »

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a day for dragons

One of my main fishing partners is an actor and as such is often prone to fits of embellishment and excessive emoting, perhaps somewhat of an occupational hazard as a character actor typecast into bad guy roles, so it was not without a healthy degree of skepticism on my behalf when he disclosed the secret location of a place that had apparently never been fished by humans since the beginning of time. This unsupported and historically inaccurate claim was fairly dubious, for we were not flying to virgin waters in the wilderness but rather fishing a spot within an hour of a major metropolis with over two million inhabitants.  Read More »

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