Welcome to Week LXVIII 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.
For those looking for a bit more of a rustic weekend of fishing I might suggest you head north of Arran, SK. to Townsend Lake.
Townsend Lake is perhaps the least known lakes area within a couple of hours of Yorkton. It is the site of a Saskatchewan Parks campgrounds, with more than 20 sites at Townsend.
But as I said it is a bit more rustic than other area options. None of the sites offer electricity, the bathrooms while clean are not of the flush variety, and cell service does not exist.
The lake offers a bit more of a rough-it-style camping option.
In our case we faced some true hardships, traveling with friends, let's call them Rob and Audrey to protect the innocent. They have a camper trailer, and during the weekend the battery power actually failed in the middle of our first night, and there was a shortage of decaf coffee options for the by-the-cup coffee maker.
Townsend Lake is the central lake in a collection of lakes within about 15-miles of each other including; Woody, Elbow, Spirit, Smallfish and Isbister.
I'll get into the specifics of fishing the lakes next week.
This week I want to go off a bit of a tangent in terms of what a fishing trip can be about.
We arrived at the campsite on Townsend Saturday about noon, and baked through camp set-up on one of the hottest weekends of the summer. The good news was that it was late enough in the summer, and likely because of the heat, few others were camping. I am pretty sure there was not another site within a 100-years in any direction of the camper was occupied.
The first night I was amazed by just how quiet it can be. Even growing up on a farm there always seemed to be sounds. Our dog barking back-and-forth with the neighbour's just across the small creek, a fox or coyote calling to the moon, the neighbour's cows calling to their calves, noise was pretty much part of the nights.
At Townsend silence hung over the park like a veil. It was so different from being in Yorkton where street sounds, and train whistles are just part of the night. There was a somewhat eerie quality to the silence, one where I will admit to missing the whir of the always present fan spinning in our bedroom.
Of course you spend time at a lake to get away from the norm of life in the city, and in that regard Townsend Lake takes you a bit farther in terms of difference than more 'developed' lake sites.
So Sunday morning I trek down the hill to the washroom, and notice a really neat fungus growing on a moss-covered stump. There was something about the fungus that captured my attention, and I recalled a vow made in this space in the winter months to stop my focus on fishing on occasion to use my camera for more than pike pics.
I went back to camp, dug out the digital camera, and went for a walk after a breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. At anytime that trio makes about as tasty a breakfast as you can have. Smelling the bacon frying on a small camp stove on a picnic table, and then eating it in the shade of tall pines, a cheeky squirrel chattering somewhere near by, well it doesn't get any better in terms of food, especially when you factor in sharing it with best buds.
The walk I take is not a long one. I start at the aforementioned fungus and then wind my way through the trees down the hill on one side the road, then back up the other. The whole walk was maybe half an hour, and yet in that time I came across some of the prettiest wild flowers still blooming among the trees.
My grandparents had green thumbs which extended to their elbows, and they delighted in growing beautiful dahlias, pansies and gladiolas. Their garden was always a sea of blooms. While I inherited nothing of the green thumb blood, I did learn to appreciate the beauty of a flower.
As far as wildfowers go, pretty is pretty, but what species they might be I had no clue.
So I turned to what we call in the business 'a source'. In this case I shot an email with some attached pictures to Joan Wilson in Saltcoats, a great lady with an interest in wildflowers.
"The lilac blue flowers are asters and my guess is that they are Lindley's aster which blooms at this time of year," she said.
"The third flower image has me confused as the flower cluster looks like yarrow, or milfoil, which blooms through July and August, but the leaves surrounding the picture are not yarrow leaves, but look like pine needles. Did you find it growing in the trees? (yes I did). …
"The mushroom seems like it could be the late stage of a 'masked tricholoma' which can grow in late summer."
I can see where a field guide to such things would be invaluable if one were to go wildflower hunting. An ideal one would be Wildflowers Across the Prairies, which has a local connection worth mentioning here.
"More than thirty years ago Jim and Shirley Jowsey of Saltcoats began the work that would lead to the publication of Wildflowers Across the Prairies," related an online article by former Yorkton This Week writer Kathy Morrell on the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association website. "The book is co-authored by F. R. Vance, J. R. Jowsey and J. S. McLean. The volume, considered the authoritative field guide to prairie flora, contains beautiful photographs, clear line drawings and a reader friendly text.
"More than 100,000 copies have been published since 1977. The book is still available at local book stores
"The guide is for everyone from a child in school to a university student, to a farmer interested in the plants of the area to a visitor wishing to know a little more about his tourist destination. It has been seen in the cottage at the lake, the back seat of the car and the backpack of the hiker along the nature trail. It is even a prescribed book in the study of landscape architecture at the University of Manitoba."
To find the tiny blooms amid the decay of long dead trees, their trunks slowly turning to earth through the action of moss, bugs and other critters of the forest floor, was amazing, their beauty juxtaposed against the green of the forest.
Add in mushrooms, fungus and moss-covered tree stumps and it was a beautiful walk amid things one will never see in a city of concrete and asphalt.
I'll admit I'm not one for extended nature walks seeking out some usual species of plover or sparrow, but I do appreciate nature, and the walk around Townsend Lake renewed that appreciation.
The weekend plan also included time, at least according to my vision of things, to play Salmon Run.
Salmon Run is a new board game about, yes you guessed it, salmon returning up river. It made sense to me to play it while out fishing.
But the days were long, and hot, all right more than hot, being closer to steam sauna hot, so come dark it was bedtime.
Still this is a game ideal to pack along on camping trips for when you do have time to socialize over a game, after all 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
While playing Salmon Run did not make our weekend list of accomplishments, the plan to make fish for supper Sunday did.
The pike obliged in providing the main course, and I had planned ahead to cook up heritage blue potatoes with cream and dill, as well as a sauce for the pan-fried fish.
The potatoes were purchased at the Assiniboine Food Security Alliance farmers' market. To learn a bit more about the blue spuds I turned to Alliance head Warren Crossman, and the grower of the purchased spuds.
"Sometimes called purple potatoes are blue potatoes," he replied to my query via email. "These potatoes are blue skinned with blue flesh. One common varietyis Russian Blue (or Blue Russian) aka Blue of Sweden, Black Russian, Davis Purple, Eureka Purple, Fenton Blue, Purple Marker, Purple Mountain, Shaw #7 (these are strains but are not known if they are different cultivars). Russian Blue is a true-blue potato with deep blue to almost purple skin and blue slightly grainy flesh almost purple.
"Another similar blue variety is All Blue.
"Blue potatoes (blue skin, blue flesh) do not appear to be that well known by consumers, particularly amongst those who think roundish red and white potatoes are the only types of potatoes that exist. Blue potatoes tend to be a growing novelty among consumers who wish to add a different colour to meal menus such as in boiled or mashed potatoes, potato salads or fresh fries.
"Blue potatoes varieties can be mid-season (80 days) to late-seasons (90 days) to maturity depending upon the variety. These days to maturity are common among all potato varieties."
I can say with cream, even cream that curdled a bit as I added it to a too-hot pan, was still tasty.
As for the sauce, I kept it pretty simple, having basically wandered the aisles at the store Friday before heading to the standardbred races at Cornerstone Raceway, planning the sauce as I walked.
I started with a can of drained corn to which I added a couple of individual portion containers of blueberry-flavoured apple sauce, about half as much ketchup, and then flavoured it with healthy doses of nutmeg and cinnamon. The original idea was to add a heat element with some hot sauce, but it got missed in the packing for the trip. I heated the mixture and served it with the pike which I simply fried in margarine, seasoning with lemon pepper and seasoning salt.
The sauce was great, and it is one that will be versatile.
The leftovers went great on top of the hashbrowns the next morning at breakfast, and it would be ideal on meatloaf, or as a hotdog condiment.
As for the fishing on the trip, pop back in seven days to read all about it.