Welcome to Week LXV of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
You may recall a couple of weeks back the trip to Gull Lake where I ended up wondering if the lake wasn't something out of the play Brigadoon, only showing itself every few years, speculation based on finding no one in nearby Benito, MB. that had even heard of the lake.
Well a call to Duck Mountain Provincial Park in Manitoba shed some light on the mystery, and confirmed not only the lake's existence, but how to find it.
It's actually an easy find. You head north out of Roblin, MB. on Highway 83 turn at the San Clara corner and head east until you hit the lake.
You will need to make a stop at Childs Lake on the way to get yourself a day pass ($5), and that's fine since that stop allows you to cast a hook at that lake as well.
But back to the start of the day. The son is driving, and while I myself love sleeping in, and am not overly happy about rising early, he is still close enough to being a teenage that he seems to fear the morning light the way Bram Stoker's version of a vampire fears the sun.
Still we get on the road by just after eight, not exactly rising with the proverbial rooster, but the trip is only a couple of hours away, at best.
I will say once you turn toward San Clara the scenery is picturesque. The land is made for cattle, and between pastureland, cattle grazing, round bales in fields, and bluffs of trees, it is a very nice drive.
Of course the park itself has the road lined with tall trees, and helped by a doe with a spotted fawn at her side in one ditch along the way, it was a very nice Sunday drive.
We start at Childs Lake where we are told there is shore fishing off the boat dock area. We find the spot and get to it.
It's not a bad shore fishing area, although you may have to reel in on occasion for a boat launching. But nice spot, or not, the fish are not co-operative.
That was too bad since the lake is home to not only pike, perch and walleye, but lake trout and splake.
For those unfamiliar with splake it "is a hybrid of two fish species resulting from the crossing of a male brook trout and a female lake trout. The name itself is a portmanteau of speckled trout (another name for brook trout) and lake trout, and may have been used to describe such hybrids as early as the 1880s. Hybrids of the male lake trout with the female brook trout (the so-called "brookinaw") have also been produced, but are not as successful," notes Wikipedia.
With no fish even teasing a hook, we head farther east into the park, and find the mysterious Gull Lake.
The handy little map procured at the park office shows species in the lakes in the park, and lists brook and rainbow trout, splake and whitefish.
Here we are again confined to the boat launch area, and this time that means crowded with only four or five fishermen on site. The better half throws out a jig with minnows on bare hooks, and starts pulling in perch which are only slightly larger than big aquarium goldfish. But as she points out they are fish.
All right I have to give her that.
I hang a bare hook, bait it with minnows, and let it hang a couple of feet below a smaller bobber. I used to fish perch that way when I was kid, and the bobber soon disappears under the surface. I go to set the hook, but on a relatively slack line based on the light hook, I fail miserably.
While I try to remember how to bobber fish, the son grows bored, and retires to his truck for a wee nap.
I know when I was a young kid my attention span for fishing on a slow day was — well short.
That said, I am not sure my disinterest in simply fishing to fish continued quite as long as it has for him.
But we pack it in after I manage a couple of bobber perch, while the better half probably managed double digits, dragging in two small perch at a time on one occasion.
I will digress from the trip here for a second.
I have an, as of yet, unused one-person pontoon boat which would have been ideal at Gull Lake.
A look at the map shows numerous other lakes which are enticing to a fisherman, Beautiful lake just a bit farther east with walleye, Shilliday Lake farther still with rainbow trout, East and West Blue Lakes with a range of species, and the list goes on.
Now I am a bit past where sleeping in a tent excites me but I have to admit the thought more than crossed my mind driving through the park. A tent and my pontoon boat and a couple of weeks to explore lake after lake after lake, catching fish, or not, is pretty darned appealing.
On this trip though we have one more hope for fish. We hit Laurie Lake, another five-species lake with a sizable boat launch area to fish from. No fish though.
At this point I'm just happy living on a near perfect summer day. Sunny, but not 'bake-your-brains-out hot. Hardly any wind. If you were to custom engineer a summer's day with a weather machine you'd end up with a Sunday like this one was.
The son, barely up before heading out in the morning did not take time to sprinkle some corn flakes into a bowl and add milk, so he's hungry.
We hit the Child's Lake Lodge.
On the way to the door a red squirrel runs across the trail. It finds a peanut and stops to nibble at its bountiful find. It's just a little extra bonus on a day, even sans fish, was better than most anything else I could have been doing.
That of course may be a result of age.
The son is less ecstatic about the day, determining it a long drive, one expensive gas to catch no fish.
At 25, I suppose that was a legitimate view.
But I am 53. While hopefully I have a couple of more decades left, and most of that spent still fishing, when you enter the second half century of life you seem suddenly to recognize more days are behind you than remain in front of you.
The vagary of life is such that there is no guarantee I will see another spring to see a doe and its spotted fawn, or the better half pulling in a pair of tiny perch, or a red squirrel hungry to consume a treat, or even my son opting to snooze rather than fish.
So I have grown to understand fishing is an experience about far more than catching fish. I think back to Schutte Lake last summer, and the perfect little fishing spot my son and I found. Sure we caught some fish, but it was memorable for its seclusion, its beauty and because he and I shared the experience. It was not about the fish at all.
I suppose non-fishermen might not get it, but I might compare it to the Saskatchewan Roughrider fans who trek to Regina even in train wreck seasons like the one under soon-fired coach Greg Marshall. It didn't matter if the 'Riders won, you just enjoy being there.
Back to the trip at-hand, the restaurant in closed, which actually ended up being a good thing as we headed to Benito.
After a couple of rounds on the community's solid little disc golf course we end up at the Gateway Valley Inn for their Sunday evening smorg; turkey, lasagna, lazy cabbage rolls, potato salad, stuffing, all obviously homemade and all excellent. It was such a great way to complete a great day. I'd make the same trip anytime, although a few obliging fish would have been nice, but yet it did mean I didn't have to clean the catch.
Now not every day free to fish has good weather. A case in point was the recent long weekend Monday where clouds threatened rain in the morning, and then delivered by mid afternoon and through into the evening.
It's a day like that you need options, and a good one is to pull out a copy of Salmon Run, a 2013 board game release from game designer Jesse Catron.
"Every year thousands of salmon are compelled by nature to leave the ocean and swim up the river of their birth to spawn. This perilous journey can span hundreds of miles, and it is fraught with danger. Strong rapids, waterfalls, hungry bears, and eagles all await the salmon on their quest. Only the most fit will complete the Salmon Run," details the game's rules booklet.
"Salmon Run is a fast-paced racing game for the whole family. Maneuver your salmon upriver avoiding obstacles and jumping over waterfalls. Challenge the immense power of the river's currents! Avoid ferocious bears! Beware of stealthy eagles waiting to snatch victory from your hand! Most of all, pace your salmon to avoid debilitating fatigue."
In interviewing Catron I was surprised Salmon Run is his first published game coming from Gryphon Games.
"I've designed quite a few games but Salmon Run is indeed the first one to be published," he said. "I've tried designing everything from simple abstracts to massive customizable card games, (not recommended!), to varying degrees of success. Most of my designs are for my own amusement, as I really enjoy game design.
"I felt I had something special with Salmon Run so I decided to submit it to publishers.
He was right on that account. While the premise of racing salmon may seem a bit strange, it works. It allows for a modular board, representing the turns in a river, and that means variety in courses.
There are natural barriers salmon must traverse, rapids, hungry bears and eagles, and those too are incorporated to good effect here.
Catron said salmon, while not his reason for wanting to design a game, became part of his inspiration.
"It began with my desire to make an enjoyable game I could play with my nephews and nieces. Something accessible enough that they could grasp but complex and engaging enough that I would still enjoy it," he said.
"I brainstormed for a theme from nature. I thought about mass migrations and settled on salmon and their long journey to spawn. You have to admire their steadfast resolve to overcome great obstacles in self-sacrifice.
"The mechanics emerged from the theme. I tried to emulate the long exhausting and perilous journey in a way that would play fast and be both fun and interactive for families and gamers."
While even a read through of the rules will tell you Catron managed to capture the struggle well, it was not an easy thing to do.
"In general, the most difficult part of game design for me is keeping myself focused on one game long enough to see it through to completion," he said. "The fun part of design is coming up with new ideas and clever mechanisms to facilitate them. The menial but vital task of play-testing them to death is not as fulfilling. Too often I will get sidetracked with a new 'great' game idea and letting it consume my mental energy.
"Invariably, I need to heed the lesson of the spawning salmon and stay focused on completing the task.
"For Salmon Run, the most challenging part of the design was emulating the current of the river. For those who haven't played Salmon Run, most of the spaces on the board have arrows leaving them and pointing downstream. If a player obtains and plays a 'Current' card, the river's current is activated and all salmon must move downstream in the direction of the arrow in the space their salmon occupy. Originally, the current was automatically activated at the end of each round. While thematic, it was too brutal. The game bogged down, was too slow, and players were very frustrated. I tried several fixes but nothing worked to my liking until I put the power of the current into a card.
"For a long time I mistakenly had the card included in each player's starting deck, much like the bear is now. I wanted the current to be a major factor in the game the way it is for salmon in real life.
"However, it still slowed the game down too much. Once I let this go, and made it so that the current card had to be obtained over the course of the game, playing time decreased and fun increased significantly."
To better understand the core of the game I turn back to the rules. "Each card a player plays goes to his own Discard Pile (next to his Swim Deck). When a player's Swim Deck runs out, he simply shuffles his Discard Pile to reform his Swim Deck. Managing the Swim Deck properly is vital to doing well. As the game progresses, other cards will be added (or removed) that may either benefit the player or hinder him."
So as designer, I asked Catron what element of Salmon Run he is proudest of.
"Probably the fatigue mechanic," he said. "Most racing games are quick dashes to the finish. However, salmon are running, or rather swimming, more of a marathon with only intermittent quick bursts of speed and energy. Nobody wants to play a marathon, it's grueling and monotonous. So the fatigue mechanic was my way of emulating the long journey of the salmon while keeping the game short and fun.
"For those who haven't played, whenever a player plays three movement cards on a turn, runs into a bear, or jumps over a waterfall, they get a fatigue card added to their deck. As the fatigue cards accumulate in the player's deck they will start to limit their options and slow them down on future turns. It gives the players a meaningful choice in how they pace themselves.
"They can choose to rush ahead but there are consequences down the road.
"Or they can race slow and steady but risk being left behind.
"Knowing how to manage your salmon's fatigue is key. I'm very satisfied with how effective the mechanics turned out."
Catron said people seem to enjoy the experience of playing Salmon Run.
"Overall the reaction has been great," he said. "A wide range of people seem to genuinely have fun playing, from kids and families to true gamers.
"Admittedly, it sometimes takes some convincing to get 'hardcore' gamers to try a game about racing fish. More often than not they have a great time once they keep an open mind and take Salmon Run for what it is: a quick, accessible, and fun racing game with a unique theme and more depth than it first appears. Reviews have been positive as well."
That about sums up Salmon Run. This isn't particularly taxing on the brain cells, which is fine for a rainy day at the cabin when you don't want to think too hard, yet need something fun to do.
That's the key to this fine game, it is fun.
And more is likely on the way.
"Nothing official, but I do have some expansion ideas I'm working on involving beaver dams and otters," offered Catron.
"There is already the Fishermen expansion available, which adds two new double-sided boards, a fishing hook hazard, Grizzly bear cards, and a fifth player.
"Hopefully the game will be successful enough to warrant more expansions."
Check Salmon Run out through www.eagle-gryphon.com