Sometimes unexpected pleasure can be found right in our own vicinity.
By way of a backgrounder, a couple of years ago my cousin Geoff, from Thorndale, and I ventured about 1,800 kms north to go fishing on Caribou Lake. It was an 18-hour drive from St. Marys, through the state of Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, onto the Trans-Canada Highway with an overnight stop, before turning off just before Thunder Bay and then further north to Armstrong, Ontario, located above Lake Nipigon. At “London Camp,” circa 1950, we caught plenty of fine Pickerel “Walleye” and a few Lake Trout. It was truly an adventure, especially running through a couple of blinding rainstorms on the lake.
By contrast, on a recent Saturday afternoon, my friend Robert Skipper —whose father ran a scrap metal business in St. Marys for many years — invited me to “fish the Thames.”
After gathering all the necessary fishing tackle — including the purchase of a set of hip waders from the local Canadian Tire store — and finally, locating a bait vending machine up on Highway 7 at the GOCO gas bar — where, incidentally, the going price on dew worms is $3.50/dozen — I was outfitted and ready to “go fishin’.”
As it turns out, Robert has been up to his knees in the North Branch of the Thames over many years, and apparently knows every “hole” north of town. He directed me over a circuitous route, known only to the chosen few, until we made a final turn along a gravel road and pulled over onto a conveniently mowed grassy shoulder.
After unloading our gear and suiting up, we ventured through thick underbrush and burr bushes, covertly and gingerly crossed over an electrified fence, and made our way down to the river bank. Once in position, and looking around, there was absolutely no evidence of human habitation to be seen except for a few sheep grazing on the opposite bank. You could actually hear them grinding their teeth as they “mowed” through the lush grass.
Before getting underway, we agreed to a “catch and release” policy — considering, in part, the diminished state of Ontario game fish populations in our rivers in general. More importantly, though, we look upon Bass as a revered species having special healing properties for those fortunate enough to get their hooks — I mean hands — on one.
Robert positioned himself in the water up to his knees, of course, and proceeded to ply the surface with a silver Rapala crank bait lure. My choice for the afternoon would be the worms with a small red and white bobber.
By 5:30 p.m., the sun was already setting behind the willow tree-lined bank and shadows were cast across the waters providing intermittent areas of sun and shade. This made traversing the river bottom on foot somewhat of a balancing act as I tried to seek out a pathway through the slippery rocks. On a couple of occasions, I could feel myself slipping and the fear of thrashing about in two feet of water and not wanting to drop my rod and reel only helped to heighten my anticipation of actually hooking a Bass.
In the meantime, Robert had had a strike and was reeling in the first fish of the day. But the cunning Bass got off.
Next it was my turn. The bobber dove deep and I “hanked” hard on my line and I had it! I let it play a little, but not too long because I didn’t want to tire it out too much. When I finally hoisted it out of the pool and into my hands I was looking at a perfect specimen — a one-pound Smallmouth with beautiful markings.
As I worked away at dislodging the hook, I spoke gently to the beast to let it know that all would be okay in a minute, and that it would be released gently back into its Thames home. A sense of being at peace with my environment and the accomplishment of successfully landing a big one was a welcome reward.
Robert and myself released two more trophy Bass that afternoon, along with a few words of encouragement and a thank you to the Bass for being so “sporting” about everything.
Elapsed time: two hours. Two hours of contemplation and contentment, knowing that all was well with the Bass in the Thames. Then it was a 15-minute journey back home to Church Street where the real evening meal of pan-fried oven steaks, boiled potatoes with fresh chives, and string beans was on the menu.
Maybe next week, we’ll go out to Pathways for Fish and Chips.