Our Man In Canada
November 14th, 2005

Wandering Aengus, Sucker Run
By Steve Galea

I'll admit to feeling a little nervous. Though my method was legal, in the back of my mind there was the unsettling question of ethics and local customs.

It was easy to see that people up and down the creek were thinking the same thing. They wore transparent looks of annoyance—the kind you get at the express line-up when you sneak in your eleventh item. It was as if I had violated some unwritten code—like I was cheating somehow.

Finally, a big, gruff fellow carrying a five-pronged spear waded up the bush-choked stream and grumbled what I assumed was a greeting. Maybe it's just me, but encounters like this make me nervous.

"You're new around here, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes, I am. It shows that much, huh?" I was the only one in neoprene waders—or any waders for that matter.

He nodded and gazed towards the pool below me, where suckers were lined up shoulder to shoulder.

"First off," he began, "I know that the regs say you can catch 'em your way, but it doesn't really seem right, does it? I mean, you're hauling them in hand over fist. Where's the challenge?"

"Well, 1 admit that they're easy to get this way, but it does take a bit of skill."

As if to deflate that point, my line hesitated, and I raised the rod on another one—a hefty two pounder. My # 16 gray nymph was still intact, but the 1.5 1b tippet was frayed enough to need replacement.

"That's another thing," he lectured. "You're releasing every one and you haven't even got wet yet. That's not how it's done. Are you some sort of tree-hugging, animal rights sissy?"

"No," I grumbled in my deepest voice. "I'm just here for the sport. I tug hard, believe me. Their lips probably hurt for weeks."

He shook his spear in disbelief. With soggy beard and water dripping from his massive frame, he looked like a backwoods version of Neptune.

"Sport!" he snorted. "Why, anyone can catch them on a 4wt fly rod and a 6X leader. Try using one of these!"

He stabbed violently into the pool and somehow missed skewering a sucker, even though you could have walked to the other side on their backs. As his spear glanced off a rock, he lost his balance and fell in.

Suckers scattered and regrouped as he rose, soaked from head to toe, shivering, desperate, maniacal.

Up and down the creek, other guys were splashing, slipping on slick rocks, stabbing with their spears. Every now and then, they'd get a fish, too.

As I continued to haul in fish after fish, they'd stop briefly, giving me dirty looks normally reserved for poachers and parking metre readers. These hurt, but not as much as the name "sissy." I applied my cherry flavoured lip balm thinking I'd been called a lot of things, but never that before.

In an effort to understand it, I invited the big guy over to discuss the matter, man to man. I even cleared off a spot on my picnic blanket and offered to share my wine and cheese.

"Shoot, this kind of thing is just plain immoral," he complained as he chugged the icewine. "Fly rods weren't ever intended to catch suckers. What's next? Dry flies for carp?"

"Well, actually, it's been done ..." I offered.

I guess the strain was too much. He snapped "In these parts floats and doughballs are the only way to go, mister!" he screamed.

Fortunately, a couple of his buddies held him back. As it was, I spilled a little wine—consequently soiling my waders simultaneously from both sides. They held him as long as they could before releasing him. I guess they figured that with him waterlogged and foaming at the mouth I could probably outrun him.

I ran like mascara at a wedding. Courage and convictions tend to evaporate when faced with a six-toothed lumberjack brandishing a five-pronged fishing spear. After all, these were only suckers dodging pointy sticks and gulping flies. It wasn't like this was a trout stream. And besides, run or not, they weren't exactly going anywhere.

Then again, maybe it's called a run for quite different reasons! ~ Steve Galea

Credits: We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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