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The best fishing days ever!

Best Fishing days…30 years apart

My parents operated a camp for kids in the wilds of Northern Ontario. For the first 18 years of my life, I spent the last day of school to Labour Day playing outside while they hosted 60 town kids. They spent the week learning to swim, to paddle a canoe, to hike and to endure the rain with no TV. I was free to be; I loved archery, hiking and exploring, even though I couldn’t hit a haystack, never hiked more than a hundred yards from the camp and there wasn’t a square foot of the property left unexplored.

But most of all I loved to troll for small mouth bass.

As soon as I could paddle a canoe alone, I was on the water. I cushioned my knees with a life jacket, leaning against the web seat. When I was clear of the dock, I tossed the lure into the water, tucked the butt of my rod under my knee. I stared at the rod looking for the telltale jerk of a bass on the line. Trolling was my preferred method of fishing; I was afraid of casting since earlier in my fishing career I stuck a Mepps spinner into my neck. My dad cut it out with a razor. (I am still afraid to use Mepps spinners!)

My brother was a few years older and was my fishing hero. He paddled the canoe with his left arm straight and strong, so did I. He discovered small, gold Rapalas, so I bought one. He trolled across the shore in front of camp, so did I. Later he taught me how to fly fish and showed me walleye lurked in the deeper water off the sand bar.

At about seven or eight in the evening the wind calmed down and the water was like glass; the best time to drag the Rapala along the shore in front of the camp. Some people fished the point of land that was directly across the lake from our shore, or the sandbar in the middle. However, I stayed near our shore because King Solomon lived there.

King Solomon was legendary; about 15 pounds and three feet long, so I was led to believe. (Legends do not have to conform to reality.) My brother had hooked into him at least once, and our friends who lived in the cottage next to the camp, had all lost a battle to King Solomon. I was determined to land him.

Even small bass were worthy opponents. Sometimes they dove deep for cover; sometimes they danced on the water. When I finally landed one, I carefully removed the hook and held the fish by the belly, avoiding the dorsal fin, and admired its gray green colour and its oval, deep belly. Then I let it go; never losing the wonder of how fast the bass darted for cover.

Years have passed since then. I brought my son Matt to the lake to show him where I grew up, and to show him how to fish. We rigged our lines while sitting on the old wooden dock. I paddled with my left arm straight and strong, the butt of my rod tucked under my knee. Matt had his own style and I resisted the temptation to show him the “right” way.

We trolled along the shore but weren’t having much luck. I suggested that Matt toss his small gold Rapala toward the shore. The lure hit the water at the edge of some rocks. Something blew up under the hooks. Matt feverishly cranked the handle on the reel – not letting the fish run, not playing with the drag – he just hauled it in. He pulled it up to the canoe and I grabbed it and held it for him to see.

As a father, I am as excited and proud of my kids’ fishing success as my own. We both shook with excitement as I held the fat bass. I showed Matt the points on the dorsal fin and pointed to the mouth, how to distinguish a small mouth bass from a large mouth. Bus most of all we simply admired at as big a bass as I had ever seen.

“Do you want to keep it?” I asked.

“You mean kill it and eat it?”

“Yeah. We could if you want.”

Matt looked at the big bass. Its gills strained to breathe. “No.

I don’t want to kill it.”

I lowered the fish to the water and he watched in amazement as it swished its black-tipped tail and disappeared.

He had caught King Solomon.

30 years later…

A group of 8 men – one was father and 10-year-old son – spent a few days canoeing and camping on a remote lake in Northern Ontario. The rest day dawned clear, calm and warm. Knowing that Dad had not much fishing experience, I approached him: “I’d like to take you and your son out fishing.”

“I’d love that.”

I still paddle with my left arm strong and straight. Although I had my rod in the canoe, I acted like the guide, positioning the canoe so they could toss their simple worm and hooks towards the shore.

Wasn’t long before Dad caught a good-sized small mouth.

“Do you want to keep it?” I asked him.

“You mean kill it and eat it?”

“Yeah. We could if you want.”

Dad looked at the big bass. Its gills strained to breathe. “No.

I don’t want to kill it.”

Within minutes, Son had a big bass on the line. It dove for deep cover, and Son cranked the reel. It danced on the water, and Son cranked the reel. He pulled the fish to the boat and I netted it. I held the fish up so we could examine it closely.

“It’s bigger than yours!” he said to Dad.

“Sure is!”

“Do you want to keep it?” he asked.

“You mean kill it and eat it?”


“Yes. It would be good. And it’s the biggest one!”

At that moment, however, the fish wriggled out of my fingers and dove deep for cover; never to be seen again. “But it was bigger than yours!”

“Sure was.”

Moral of the story? Go fishing with kids!

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