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Author Archives: Ari Vineberg

The Unatrouter

This is neither a cautionary tale nor a work of fiction. Rather, it is a factual account of the activities that took place a week ago last Friday, as all official records will indicate, during my latest trout adventure. Little did I know that the roles were to be reversed and that it was the fisherman was to be the catch of the day.

For one almost fateful morning my person was the subject of a joint manhunt co-ordinated by agencies of both the United States of America, land of the not so free anymore since the passage of The Patriot Act, and Canada, land of the timid politicians who do not want to ruffle the feathers of the bald eagle. And then there was little old me, middle-aged, fish-addicted, and somewhat still suffering from two months of cabin fever who needed to feel the tug of a fish the way a junkie needs a fix. I was a trout junkie. A trout terrorist…..the Una-Trouter!

The day started quite inocuously, the sun was shining, birds were chirping in the treetops, squirrels played and life was finally returning after a long winter. Then it began to turn into a hellish nightmare which had nothing to do with the fishing. You see, I was fishing border waters and had parked my suspicious black truck at the end of a dead-end country road in the middle of nowhere, not fifty feet from a snowbank and large obelisk shaped stone with U.S.A. painted in red across it that demarcated the borderline between Canada and the US. This border is the longest unprotected border in the civilized world and many parts of it, like this one, are basically patrolled by squirrels and crows. Read More »

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fishing

Fishing as a sport has often been described as an activity mostly consisting up of long periods of boredom followed by short and intense periods of exciting activity. While this proposition is not entirely untrue, the statement misses the point of the exercise entirely and fails to underscore the importance of the events that happen outside those moments of intense activity – which for many is a big part of why they fish. The down time between catching fish allows us those requisite moments of respite from civilization for solitary reflection and introspection, observation and thought about the quarry and nature, or of time to talk and further deepen a close friendship. If one takes a moment to think about it, if we only fished to catch fish that the whole enterprise could logically be viewed as an exceedingly productive way to waste ones time.  The scientific method and catch statistics can back me up on this. Should one be so inclined to do the mathematical calculations of catch rates vs. effort or hours fished they would also quickly arrive at the conclusion  that ninety percent of their time was spent staring at their inert lines and not much else.  In the real world people get fired for such a lack of productivity. But here is where logic and mathematics fall to the wayside and where statistics hold no currency. Read More »

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The Gar Wars

It was not only the hottest day of the summer but the highest on record in the last twenty years, the mercury at a blistering 108F with the humidex close to ninety percent and severe storm warnings in effect, further proof that global warming  was a reality.The entire week Environment Canada issued warnings broadcast on the radio advising both the elderly and infirm as well as the very young to remain indoors and drink plenty of fluids during the heat wave. The heat was infernal and while most sane people sought to find some respite in their air-conditioned homes or swimming pools, we revelled in the torrid heat that was a harbinger for the massive numbers of gar that congregated during summer in the Bay of Quinte. This heat signalled the prime time for gar and we waited impatiently near the marina in downtown Belleville for my friend and guide extraordinaire Glen Hales to show up with his boat and take us out for a few days on the Bay of Quinte. The Gar Wars were about to begin and the force was with us. Read More »

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carpe diem

 

carp on the fly

Every so often I am reminded that even fish are subject to cultural relativism and historical prejudice. Allow me to explain the thought. It is somewhat odd and unreasonable that certain species of fish are viewed by fisherman as trash fish in certain parts of the world while in others reign as the supreme sportfish. There are several examples of this. Perhaps the most notable is the common carp, a fish introduced in the 1872 from Germany by J.A. Poppe from Sonoma, California who imported a mere five specimens to rear in his pond as a cheap and fast-growing food source that, like most invasive species, got out of control and eventually managed to  establish itself in virtually every water system in Continental North America. It has always been perceived a  trash fish, a bottom feeder unfit for both human consumption or sport, its primary use by importers intended as animal food and fertilizer. While there has been some changes in the mindset of anglers in last decade or so (perhaps as a result of globalization and the internet) , and the acceptance by a few «early adopters» that the carp is indeed a worthy sportfish, there are still very few North American anglers that target carp, which is really quite a shame since most of our waters hold healthy populations of carp that can weigh upwards of forty pounds and that can pull like a Kenworth semi truck, testing both anglers skill and equipment. Truth be told they can really put a bass to shame in terms of fight and stamina their only apparent shortcoming is that they do not leap out of the water when hooked, preferring to vaporize the drags pads of your reel with each blistering, bonefish-like run that seems to never end. Yet mention in conversation that you are a carp fisherman and you immediately raise eyebrows and are perceived as somewhat eccentric and odd. Until recently there were very few carp clubs dedicated to this fishery although there are now several hundred across the country. Read More »

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The Rod

The man largely responsible for my introduction to the world of fly fishing was none other than Paul Bean, a fly tier of great international renown whose exquisitely crafted flies  – sporting names like the Princess Diana, Lady Rosalyn, or Redford - graced the walls of such sporting luminaries as Prince Philip, former first lady Rosalyn Carter, as well as actor Robert Redford. As one would expect, these are not your normal, everyday store bought flies that one could order online, say at a Cabela’s or Orvis, or find in any fly shop. These were commissioned flies by wealthy patrons directly through Paul and sometimes waiting periods could be up to a year. What made Paul and his flies unique was that they were perfect artistic recreations of old British Atlantic Salmon patterns dating back centuries, researched himself through archival information found within the dusty shelves of old and forgotten librairies in English Counties, and that he was probably the only human being alive that possessed this wealth of self-taught knowledge.  The flies are fully functional and you can fish with them but most of them lie protected as both works of art and as investments behind ornate glass frames that hang on study or office walls, often accompagnied, like Paul was during most of his life, with one of his wife Maureen’s beautiful watercolors depicting scenes of the salmon fisherman’s life. These creations were labors of love and often required hundreds of hours spent hunched over a table in his workshop, seeking for universal truth in the perfection of a salmon fly. He only cranked out a handful of these precious creations each year and despite prices in the thousands of dollars they were always quickly scooped up by discerning collectors across the globe. Read More »

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the river’s edge

Hank Wilson spun the wheels of the old black Buick and left a dust storm in his wake as he veered right at the stop sign near St-Anthony’s cemetery and parked his car on the side of First Concession road near the old covered bridge at Hinchenbrooke. It was one of the last covered bridges in the County and there had been some talk about closing it down to traffic or perhaps making it a historical site as it was the second oldest covered bridge in Canada, built a year or so after the Victoria bridge in nearby Montreal. It had once joined the municipalities of Hinchenbrooke and Elgin allowing for the movement by horse drawn carriage between these two small communities over the river but these days, other than the dozen or so cars that still used the back roads to cross the river, it was mostly a hangout for local teens to smoke dope and drink beer and its wooden walls were painted with colourful tags and graffitti. According to the local historians, Percy Bridge had been erected in 1861 and was the only known surviving sample in the world of the McCallum inflexible arched truss, invented and patented by Daniel McCallum, a renowned New York bridge builder. Read More »

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a day in the life

It was the first day of the season and while I didn’t catch anything I wasn’t too concerned as it was still early in the season and had come equipped with modest expectations of not catching anything at all. It was more of a reconnaissance trip, first to check on the water levels to determine if they were low enough to crossover to the island in the middle, and to see if the fish had begun their annual spawning run. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to be outdoors after a long winter, to feel the warmth of the sun upon your face, and to watch the migratory birds flying in tight formations in the cerulean sky as they have done since the beginning of time. It had been two weeks since Milad died and I desperately needed an affirmation that life was for the living and that it stopped for nobody, despite the heartbreak and grieving. Read More »

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Journey to Quetico – part 3

 

The storm began around midnight and by three a.m. the torrential rains had discovered the subtle design and construction flaws inherent in the floor seams and other closures of the tent, and made itself manifest by the puddle of water that had gradually formed on the floor of my tent.  At first it felt as though I was in a dreamlike state where my body was being transported across a great body of water and when I drifted back into consciousness realized my whereabouts in the tent and that my sleeping bag was completely drenched. My clothing and shoes, which had been dumped at the foot of my sleeping bag near the entrance, were also soaked. I had never been so wet, cold, and tired in my life. It even felt damp under my skin and my bones and muscles ached as I began to shiver in the cold darkness. The wind howled in angry gusts and the tent walls flapped audibly in the wind, like a flag during gale force winds. My immediate concern, before mild hypothermia began to set in, was to get some dry clothing on quickly, throw a tarp over the tent, and sponge out the water on the floor. Read More »

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Journey to Quetico – Part 2

The first cast of the day was made at sunrise  standing naked on the rocks and taking a leak while casting a popper against the shoreline and produced a fine fish which we filleted and ate for breakfast along with several pieces of burnt toast and blueberry jam and cups of steaming coffee. The campsite was quickly broken down and stowed away into the canoe and we dumped the canoe back into the tannic water and started paddling once again. There was a beach on the other side of the lake as well and from a distance we discerned the rectangular shape of a Yurt set up on shore. In the middle of the lake we encountered an elderly woman who was paddling a sea kayak and pulled up next to her for a friendly chat. Extremely fit and energetic, with a  matronly disposition, Sheila must have been as old as my grandmother and she and her husband had been visiting the park for over twenty years and had rented a yurt for the entire summer. It was her second week in the Park and she said that the weather, usually unpredictable, had been spectacular. Before we departed company she confirmed the direction of Pickerel River and, as she pushed off, warned us of the dangers of prevailing west winds that sometimes blew through Pickerel Lake without notice and caused dangerous whitecaps. Read More »

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Journey to Quetico – Part 1

FORTIFIED BY A MIXTURE STRONG BLACK COFFEE AND ADRENALINE we drove for two straight days along the old Voyager Trail up the Ottawa River to North Lake and then northwards around and over two of the Great lakes before the first signs for Quetico and the many outfitters that serviced the National Park began to appear on the side of the highway. While we were headed for Atikokan some of the outfitters were located near the entrance of the historic Dawson trail that had first opened up the travel route a hundred years ago from the U.S to Northern Canada and which had once been the only transportation route through to the Western Prairie provinces. Read More »

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