Saturday August 30, 2014

Soap and games and fishing reads

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Welcome to Week LXXXIX 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.

As the month comes to an end, and dreams of open water spring fishing, begin to take on a more hopeful feel, I thought I'd give readers a bit of a mixed bag of fishing material this week.

The first little tidbit I have to thank some cattlemen friends for.

Going back to last fall a letter came in the mail, which in itself is pretty rare given the use of electronic correspondence these days.

The letter was from Mike and Joanne Neilson who run a Charolais cattle herd out in the Willowbrook district. I first met them when I did a story shortly after they moved their cattle operation from Northern Ontario to our area.

Mike and his wife are just good people, and I was glad to get a handwritten note about a Charolais-influenced feeder sale they were involved with at Heartland Livestock in the city.

What has all this to do with fishing?

Well the envelope included a newspaper clipping from an Ontario paper featuring a handmade soap which was good for getting rid of the smell of fish.

Anyone that handles pike all day will know the smell can linger through several hand washings with most soaps, so I was immediately curious to learn more.

I web-searched Lake of the Woods Soap Company ( ), and dropped them an email. They were headed to the Toronto Royal at the time, a place I visited as a Grade VI student back in 1972 when my Dad actually had pigs entered in the show. The pigs went east by train, and Dad and I followed on a passenger train a few days later. It was an amazing experience.

But I digress.

Back to the soap.

Located in Kenora, ON., on the shores of Lake of the Woods, the company is operated by Rita Boutette, who was good enough to send me a couple of bars of her fish scent-cutting, licorice-based soap.

Boutette creates soaps and skin care products which are all-vegetable, all-natural, 100 per cent phosphate free and biodegradable

But how did the anise soap get developed?

"When I first purchased the soap company I did a lot of research on line and in books about soap," she said. "I wanted to expand the product line. I found a reference to the soap in a book and then did more research on line. The research showed that not only was it great for fishing, but for hunting as well."

Boutette explained many outdoorsman use it to help them fool game.

"When you use it, it masks human scent," she said.

The same masking ability of the soap has the added benefit for fishermen.

"The other advantage I discovered from our summer clients who fished, was that it also removed the fish smell from their hands after cleaning the fish," said Boutette. "I remember seeing an article about licorice scented bait as well."

Boutette added, the soap was a great fit for her given the location.

"One of the great draws for Lake of the Woods is the water and the fishing, so it seemed like an ideal soap to work on," she said. "We donated sample bars to all the participants in the Kenora Bass Tournament this year."

While we are a long way from Kenora, getting the soap is not hard for Prairie fishermen.

"Our on line store is in the process of being updated with all the scents that we carry," said Boutette.

You can find Lake of the Woods Soaps on line at, or email Boutette at for more information

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So, as I said it's still January. That means evenings are still long ones minus the sun, which means a time to grab a good fishing book.

I did just that recently with Holding Lies by John Larison.

Holding Lies is one of those books that even after reading the last page and setting it down, I was not exactly sure how much I had liked it.

It is a work of fiction, the main character being a fisherman. It has a suspicious death which made me think it would fit into the fun world of 'fishing mysteries', which it does to an extent.

But in the end Holding Lies is about relationships, those made, those lost, those hoped to be reformed, all set against the backdrop of a love of river and fishing.

"Holding Lies was inspired by my time on the rivers of the northwest, guiding fly anglers for steelhead," Larison told me via email. "A few of our rivers have five generations of fly fishing tradition. Here the pools are named and the locals know a hundred years of fishing history. I love to linger around these rivers; come low water one year, I wanted to go back but couldn't so I started writing Holding Lies.

"The characters are strictly factious, though their 'types' exist on many NW steelhead rivers, guides who have dedicated their lives to perusing and preserving wild steelhead."

Larison added, "I'm a father of two daughters and a son, and this book is largely about a father trying to do right by his child, so the story remains close to my heart."

Beyond the relationships of the book, young guides to old, fisherman to the river, father to estranged daughter, Holding Lies speaks for conservation, which is an aspect I did appreciate.

"The book makes an argument for the protection of wild steelhead in the Northwest," said Larison. "Wild steelhead embody everything we value about the west coast. They offer an angler a world-class excuse to explore rugged Northwest rivers through the seasons. I've never caught two steelhead that were alike. Everyone is unique, and every river has a population uniquely evolved for that ecosystem. I know of no more alluring fish than the wild steelhead.

"Angling is my passion and my living, but deep down I'm a hunter. And that's why I love steelhead. We don't try to find the fly that the steelhead will eat; we're not matching any hatches. Instead, we're exploring runs hunting that special fish that will eat a swung fly. We don't catch fish everyday, but when we do, it's magic."

It's not exactly a book I would have naturally gravitated to, but I have to say it was an enjoyable read partly because it offered something different from my usual reading, and I will add I now have Larison's earlier fiction work 'Northwest of Normal' on my 'want to read' list on, an online site I'll give a big recommendation for. If you are a reader it is a must join.

Now if you are not into a book on a January evening, might I suggest a game, in this case one with a fish theme of course.

I recently wrote about Fishing Tournament, a game given its maiden run on the table New Year's Eve with friends Rob and Audrey.

That same night we also delved into Sturgeon, a card game from designer Russell Brown released in 2010 by Minion Games.

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The game is a nice simple offering for two to five players who compete to be the first to have two sturgeon in play. A sturgeon comes into play replacing two bass, with a bass hitting the table replacing two minnows.

Of course there are ways to steal fish from other players, to protect the fish you have, and a sturgeon fisherman who can harvest your prized fish.

The game has a good amount of player interaction, and has enough card powers to keep everyone in the hunt to win a game.

"The interaction with your neighbors around the table, and the fact that how far someone is away from you around the table is how hard they are to 'get to' in the game" is the game element Brown said he is proudest of. "I came up with this (though it wasn't published yet) before Emiliano Sciarra used the same concept for weapon range in his awesome card game, "Bang!".

The game actually took nearly a decade from idea to publication.

"Many years ago, around 2000, when my kids were much younger, we would camp every summer a Peninsula State Park on Lake Michigan," said Brown. "We were fishing from shore one year and it started to rain, so we spent a couple hours in a lodge building on the beach. I was looking out at the lake when I came up with the idea of a card game where bigger fish ate smaller fish. The idea of eating your neighbor's fish was what really interested me …

"The core concept was big fish eating small fish, which quickly became "eating" small fish to create a large fish."

Of course an idea is a long way from playable game. That takes time, offered Brown.

"When I first came up with it, we play tested it in a board game group that met about once a month," he said. "I also had some work colleagues that really liked the game and played a two-player game whenever they could at lunch for about a year … The hardest part was balancing cards and game time. It plays very differently based on the number of players. The game can get into strange states, especially with five-players …

"There were a few prototype decks around that people played with for years. James Mathe was part of that original board game group, and when he started Minion Games a few years ago, he asked if he could publish Sturgeon."

Interestingly for its appeal to a fisherman, Brown said it's a market he has found difficult to grab.

"Reaction in the more hardcore gaming community has been lukewarm, mostly due to some of the 'dead time' states the game can get into - when players may have to spend a few turns just drawing and discarding without much happening," he said. (I will interject that did not seem a huge issue in our games). "We've never been able to get the game out into the fisherman market effectively. Minion games is hooked into the mainstream game store distribution channels, not the Gander Mountains or small sporting goods shops. We thought about doing a drive to all the tourist towns in northern Wisconsin with a trunk full of games for consignment sale, but it just wasn't worth it."

It can of course be ordered online at and is a great little card game for the camper, or cabin.

Interestingly, Brown is not an avid fisherman.

"I'd have to say no. Just for fun when we go camping. I did some fly fishing when I was younger," he said.

"I have never caught anything larger than a bass. And anyone who knows fish will probably realize how little I know, given that I have bottom-feeding sturgeon gobbling up bass in my game.

"Honestly, I chose sturgeon for the game name and the largest fish card because I thought it sounded a little silly. 'Pike' or 'Baracuda' might have made more sense, but just didn't sound right."

In terms of fishing, Brown's memorable fishing experience isn't even about a big fish.

"I don't have the usual whopper story, but here's my favorite: When my brother and I were teenagers, we were fishing with bobbers and worms from the shore of Devil's Lake, Wisconsin. He hauled back and cast his line far out, but realized something didn't seem right," said Brown. "He reeled in and found that his hook was missing. We thought it might have hooked on something, so we searched around a bit. I finally spotted it. It was stuck in the side of his face, just in front of his ear. The worm was still squirming around on it. I'm not sure why he didn't feel it."



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