Welcome to Week 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.
It’s the morning of May 24, and the plan is to finally get out to open water and fish.
Missing opening day was something I had not expected to ever happen, well until I learned the season opened on a Monday. Talk about a decision which impacts the desire of Saskatchewan people to celebrate the demise of winter by getting out and fishing on opening day. Most of us work Mondays, that is reality. Even myself, in a career with more flexibility than most, Mondays are impossible to get away and do anything fun, as it is the busiest writing day in the week.
Then, from opening day until the 24th I was following another passion, the Yorkton Terriers.
I have covered the team for some 17 years now, from the days of coach Lee Odelein, through Wade Klippenstein, who I still keep in sporadic communication through Facebook, and then the dismal Blaine Gusdal years, a dark time of poor teams and then the resurgence under Don Chesney, Ed Zawatsky and now Trent Cassan.
There have been a lot of seasons, and tons of games, and even four trips to the national championship Royal Bank Cup.
Finally this year, the Junior Terriers brought home the Cup. It was a journey I was fortunate to be part of through my job.
The ever so-sweet sweep of Melville to win the Canalta Cup in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Then the comeback to top the Western Canada Cup in Dauphin,
And finally an epic 12-day journey alongside the Terriers to Vernon, and the storybook tournament ending in a dramatic third period comeback in the RBC final, followed by the history-making overtime goal by Derek Falloon to win the first national title for the team, and community.
I relate this because, well it’s such a great story, as a local hockey fan, and if I am going to miss out on the joys of early season fishing, watching live, as the Terriers win a national championship is as good a reason as I could imagine. It was being part of the biggest sports story in this city’s history, and easily a story in my top-five in more than a quarter of a century as a newspaper journalist in Yorkton.
But the Terriers held their awards night Friday so that meant fishing time Saturday.
The idea was to set the alarm for six to get a good start.
However, the better half managed to set the alarm for p.m., not a.m., I think she secretly thought I was crazy to want to start so early, so sabotaged the plan.
Fortunately I woke up about seven, saw the miscue, and got the trip back on track.
We headed to Stoney Lake south of Margo.
It’s a familiar place for me to fish these days, although why I picked there for the first trip of the year is something I’m not sure of. I guess we’ll call it a gut feeling.
That is the toughest part of the early spring. Canora Dam calls to me. I’ve always had great Mother’s Day fishing there, although this year I was in a rink in Vernon that day.
It’s hard not to pick Togo Bridge. It is close and the fishing is lazy, since it’s a minnow on a jig and wait for a nibble kind of spot.
Indian Point at Crooked Lake is such a fun pike spot.
Now, Theodore Dam is again close and usually spring active.
But this year it was Stoney.
Familiar spots to start the season are always great. You know where you are going. You know what usually works. You can get down to casting, which of course is like a man starving finally getting a meal. We as fishermen, are in essence starved over the winter. We are bears forced to hibernate through the cold and live off the memories of past summer successes.
So I am quick to put on a Len Thompson Fire Tiger and cast on a warm Saturday morning.
As we who fish are apt to do, I was counting casts to start the morn. One, nothing. All right the idea of catching a fish on the first cast of a season is too much to ask for, but I had hoped.
Two, three, four ... wait there’s a tug. Sweet I have a bite. The rod tip bends nicely. The fight of the fish reverberates through the line, the rod, and then back to my hands.
I inhale deeply and smile. I am back in one of the sweetest places in the world. The sun is warm on my back. The breeze cool in my face as it comes off the lake.
The rod is twitching. The heart races just a bit.
It’s a pike, three, maybe 3.5 pounds. A welterweight fighter who is ideal for the first fish of the year; not so small as to be a disappointment, not so large as to manage escape to skills rusted by months of winter.
It is a gratifying catch, but then again aren’t they all.
The pike seem to come in waves.
I tie into a second one quickly, get it close enough to shore to watch it make a wily little twist and swim away leaving my hook caught in a root.
I was able to free the hook without a cold water wade, so that was a good thing.
And then it quiets.
I switch to a red and white spoon and get nowhere.
I feel an uncustomary restlessness come upon me. I start to think about nearby Pelican Lake. I am still famished from winter and I want fish, lots of fish.
Opening day, more than any other in the year, is less about the trip, and more about catching.
I switch to a Len Thompson hammered perch, and that does the trick. After 10 I lost track. It was likely a dozen landed, a few more teasing me with tentative nibbles.
The better half managed one. I like to think of that as karma for the alarm clock incident, although I suspect writing this will cost me in karma down the road too.
We finally head down the road to what is usually a pike hotspot at Pelican Lake, but I can’t get so much as a nibble.
We swing south and give Fishing Lake a try. A couple of more nice pike and it’s time to head home, the Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Gala awaited me that eve.
Was it the best first day? Sure it was, cause it was the most recent. Every first trip of the season is extraordinary because it heralds a bunch of trips to come. It is the appetizer for a buffet that will extend until late into the fall and I can hardly wait to enjoy every course.