Friday April 25, 2014

Not all fishing highlights are fish

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Welcome to Week LXXXV 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.

So it's a new year. As a fisherman the turning of the calender from one year to the next is far less significant than the date when a new fishing season opens.

But that is still a ways off, with some hope for a hard water fishing trip or two before then. A buddy has suggested he's going to be getting a four-man pop up shack/tent from Ole Saint Nick, although knowing Graeme as I do I would have thought him on the old guy's naughty list and in for enough coal to heat his house through January.

So rather than making a bunch of resolutions, I did that with the first article of 2013, and looking back, time and circumstance 'kibbled' my success rate pretty badly, so I'll just push things like a trip to Winnipeg and the Red River for catfish to the year ahead.

Instead I spent some time in preparing for this column looking back at the past year, and what things I experienced in terms of the hobby which will be lasting memories.

Not every trip to open water, or every fish caught, will last as a memory. Many are about the joys of the moment, and then they fade away after a few weeks, melding in with dozens of other trips and hundreds of other fish through the years.

In terms of pure fishing, 2013 was not the year 2012 was. Then again 2012 might be an anomaly for fishermen never to be experienced again. You could practically throw a hook in a ditch puddle in 2012 and catch a pike. They were all over, to the point there was probably a movie in there somewhere about the pike plague taking over the Prairies. It would certainly have been as interesting as 'Sharknado' which has developed something of a cult following.

The 12-months just past were not like that. There were days when no fish were biting. The kind of day that would try any fishermen's patience, unless you can enjoy the sunshine, the pelicans skimming over the water, and the friendship of a good fishing partner. If you can enjoy those things in life, fishing on a slow day, becomes far less stressful and the whole experience of going fishing grows beyond how many fish are on the stringer at day's end.

That all said, the season started out hot, well sort of.

The first day out last spring saw my son and I at Theodore Dam where there was still lots of ice on the water and while we could fish the open area along the shore, we were shut-out.

Ah but wait, this is a look back at the entire year, and I would be amiss if I didn't mention an ice fishing tournament at Lake of the Prairies in February.

It was my first tournament experience, and both my son and I were among the literally hundreds of fishermen shut out that day.

But what the day did deliver us was a look at water going over the spillway, meaning open water in February. The tournament was on a Saturday and we were back the next day, in spite of me battling a cold, to fish open water from a snow-covered shoreline.

I initially said no to the trip when my son called. I felt terrible and darn it the bed was so warm and comfy, but I thought better of it, and off we went.

It was sunny, not bitterly cold, and a few pike were biting.

It was one day I'll remember always and I was glad I shared it with my son.

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But back to the start of the new season. After an opening day skunk, the next trip was what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the Canora Dam and a day where I caught something like 70 fish, mostly pike, most small.

But really when you are into fishing where you can see the pike running the lure a few feet from where you are standing boot-top deep in water, and they keep doing it for hours, size does not matter.

You just say WOW! and cast again and again and again, basking in the pure delight of the day.

Fast forward to late summer and the better half and I go on a weekend camping and fishing trip to Townsend Lake, with stops at several other lakes in the area.

It's hot, I mean really, really hot and for the most part the fishing is just OK, but this was a trip about being out there with friends. Sure I could have lived my life happily never having seen my bud Rob sans his shirt, but it was cool seeing him catch a fish.

I've known Rob and his good wife Audrey for far longer than either he or I like to admit and have done many things together, but never fishing. I really didn't know he could cast -- all right he really can't, but a couple of pike felt pity on him and sacrificed themselves -- but now that I know he will toss a hook I'll be dragging him out more often.

The trip to Townsend also gave me a morning where I left the fishing gear behind, grabbed the camera instead and went on a walkabout in the trees capturing some rather cool wildflowers, fungus and moss covered stumps. It was a world many fisherman just walk by and never really appreciate, at least that is the way it had been with me for years.

I loved the quiet, solitude of the walk, the hidden beauty of the forest floor. It was an expansion of my hobby, and I will do more of that in 2014 -- all right there is a small resolution for 2014.

Speaking of stopping to smell the flowers, there was an afternoon on the Qu'Appelle River under a bridge on Highway 47 which stands out too.

To start with because of the huge smile my better half had on her face as she caught three channel catfish, an accomplishment made all the sweeter for her by the fact I didn't get one that day. It didn't hurt either her one cat was a biggie, well big for the Qu'Appelle River anyways.

I do believe fishermen ascend to a higher understanding of life when they reach that zen moment where they can enjoy the success of others as much as their own.

Now don't get me wrong, I wanted a catfish that day and I took some playful jabs at her about her taking the honey hole all to herself, but really it was great to see her so happy over a fish.

That same day I also spent some time away from my rod, again with camera in hand shooting pictures of leopard frogs, which was more fun than I would have imagined.

The better half and I also made a couple of trips into Manitoba. The first to Neepawa to fish Irwin Lake.

The fishing amounted to one tiny pike of little note, but a chance to throw a couple of rounds at the Neepawa Disc Golf Course and to tour the home-turned-museum of noted Canadian author Margaret Laurence, made the day fantastic.

As a writer I appreciated just being in the place some of this country's greatest literature was created.

And as a fisherman it was simply a case of finding fun in places associated with lakes on slow days.

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A second trip into our neighbouring province put us at Shoal Lake.

It was a beautiful summer eve and while the fish were not plentiful, the one pike that did take a surface floating hook did so with as much panache as a 'slough shark' is likely to muster. It was a strike to remember.

So too, was the nearby Manitoba RCMP Museum. It's one of those little gem museums a bit off the beaten path that are just darned interesting to tour, and I recommend it and the lake on whose shore it sits.

And finally there was a fall trip to a familiar fishing spot, the 'new' Togo Bridge.

It was a quick trip with my aforementioned naughty bud Graeme. Now I might say the sweetest element of the memory is me catching fish, and him not. But to remind all readers of my friend's abject failure that day might be viewed as me being naughty.

Now it is a fair distance from the next holiday season, and Santa may well be sleeping off a few million cookies and glasses of eggnog, but there is the worry of this new tradition of a 'shelf elf' watching over us all year long. Apparently, Santa has created his own 'secret service' and sent out elves as spies placed in our homes. At least that is what The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition a 2005 children's picture book, written and self-published by American author Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell and illustrated by Coë Steinwart suggests, and it is a tradition gaining some footing, so maybe I shouldn't repeat his lack of success to often.

Anyway, the day is not a memory because of Graeme's casting -- you can't really call it fishing with fish can you?

Nor is it because I had a pretty good day thank you very much, although I did my comeuppance a week or so later when I was skunked as my better half landed fish-after-fish. Yes karma can be a bit hard to deal with at times.

No, the day is memorable because it's a blast discussing movies, not that Graeme and I ever agree on what's good in a flick. Then there is football, he a fan of the NFL and I a Canadian through-and-through so devoted to the CFL. Common ground not easily found.

Yet for our differences, we enjoy the kibitzing and camaraderie, with fishing simply the backdrop to two friends having a good day together.

And there you have it folks, a quick look back on some of my favourite fishing moments of 2013. Thanks for reading my ramblings so rabidly. Have a great fishing 2014, and stick around as more adventures are to come for sharing I am sure.



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