Just Another Opening Day in Canada
By Kevin Fancy
There is - or should be - something special about every fishing trip.
You don't have to be a fly angler to understand that, but with all the
variables and chances for a boon or bust trip in our sport, strange
things happen a bit more frequently. I feel sorry for all the southern
anglers that have no major seasonal changes to contend with. This is a
major source of success and failure here in Canada. In the north we are
not only restricted by the legal aspects of keeping within the season,
we also have far less generous weather patterns to contend with. The
seasons may still be open but when the ice locks up the waters,
fly-fishing is done. One advantage to the hard water season is it gives
us a chance to review our year, plan the new one and tie up all those
flies and make some new patterns we didn't have time for when the
fishing was hot. A favorite pastime is dreaming of next year's first
Last October I was called by an old client, now friend, who was upset
that for one more year we didn't have a chance to get out and fish. I
had promised Jeff many years before and every year since that he and I
would get out some day and do the waters together. We tried but things
never gelled. Last year we agreed that this would be the year. Neither
on of us would take the first trip of the season without the other.
Plans were made and it was decided that in eight months, on May 9th, we
would fish Jeff's favorite rainbow lake. I will admit to some
reservations. I had fished this lake some two hours from my home at
least three times in the past and had yet to report a hit. Jeff on the
other hand visits the lake at least ten times a year and claims yet to
have missed his limit. As you can see this trip was setting itself up
for something special already.
It was a long winter and because of the tying I do for others, I didn't
have time to tie a single fly for myself. Last year I lost a lot of
flies and gave away dozens so pick'ins were slim as I looked over my
flies for the trip. A week before I promised to sit down and make up
some of my favorites, but that never happened. What did happen was I
ended up going with the flies I ended with last October and even less
because I seemed to have misplaced a box of old patterns I like to keep
I was to meet Jeff and his friend Gerry at Jeff's home. The set time
was two p.m. and if I was late I was in big trouble. Ross and I pulled
into the drive at - no kidding - 1:59. It was classic. Needless to say
Jeff wasn't ready and as time rolled on we were getting worried. Jerry
was off getting his camper and had yet to return. The lake we were
traveling to had only one camping spot and we knew if we weren't there
before five we would loose it. Never having taken the route Jeff had
planned Ross and I offered to go ahead by directions only. It was the
only logical solution so we packed a map and hit the road.
The trip in was a breeze. No missed turns or anything like that. We
went straight to the lake an found our campsite empty. Pulling in we
quickly unpacked and slipped the boat in the water. Time to get a jump
on our friends. Armed with our fly rods we pushed off from shore and
began the conquest of Quackenbush. I took to trolling as Ross tried
casting to the shores. Keep in mind, I have been here three times
before and have yet to see a fish so I am skeptical to say the least.
Once around the lake, nothing. Two and three times around, nada. I
felt like this lake was going to treat me as it always had.
We saw Jeff and Gerry pull in and cut short a run to meet them at the
launch. We reported our failure and Jeff brought up his total success
rate once more. The wind from the west was dying and the thick layer of
clouds overhead began to break up. Two boats headed out together this
time with Jeff's in the lead. Ross and I hadn't made it fifty feet from
the launch when I had my first strike. A dandy, but I missed it. Then
Ross got one and missed. Again and again the strikes came but they were
short. The fish seemed to be turning on. As we passed Jeff and Gerry
going the other way we inquired as to their status only to be informed
of two things. They where hitless and it seemed they had given up on
flies and were using worms and Cricket Hoppers. When a fly fisherman
falls, he crashes!
As the skies cleared to blue and the wind stopped, the clock rolled
around to seven p.m. We must have had fifty hits by this point and not
a single fish. Until now! BANG I had a great hit and set the hook in a
flash. The rainbow jumped at least four times and I was careful as I
drew him to the boat with my three-pound leader and five-weight line.
When it was in the boat it was a tasty 1.5 pounds. We got half way
around the lake before I was hit again. This really took the 'nine-three'
hard and walked the water countless times. After a good ten minutes
there was a 3 pounder in the boat. Ten minutes later I landed another
1.5 pound fish and then all hits and action ceased. Dark was closing in
so we decided to go to shore to set a fire.
Next morning we were up and on the lake at five am. Jeff and Gerry, the
hardware boys we called them, were on the water first. Jeff missed on
hit right off the launch and sadly because that is all he got all day.
The winds were dead when Ross and I hit the water and thick dark clouds
were building overhead. We managed almost one circuit of the lake
before Ross caught his first fish. In the same place on the second
round he got another. Hits were starting to dwindle and when a light
rain started the quit completely. A wind started from the east and by
seven Ross and I decided that under the circumstances we might as well
head in for breakfast and wait out the weather. In Canada it is a
fishing fact that when out for trout if the wind is from the east and
the rain starts to fall, pack it up.
We had our breakfast and waited in the truck for the others to come in.
The rain went from drizzle to rain, to a driving rain and still they
fished. At noon the two hardware boys called it quits. Drenched and
depressed they came to shore. No hits and no fish made the air a bit
thick considering the fly guy's success. All we could say to console
them was "I told you so!" That day it rained and rained. It was almost
seven in the evening when the wind stopped and we saw blue sky again.
We were out like a shot.
To make a long and very predictable story shorter, that night the score
was increased by two for the fly guys and none for the hardware boys.
Sunday morning brought a scotch mist and a strange west wind. We headed
out in the lake for a last ditch effort. We managed two circuits of the
lake before we spotted a body in our camp. It was a swamp mountie
(fisheries officer) he waved us in and we turned for shore and brought
in our lines. Jeff and Gerry had finally caught a fish and were loath
to come in but as they turned the boat they hooked yet another.
The mountie checked Ross and I out as only they can. We passed in
flying colours except for one thing.
"Who lit this fire?" he asked. Ross fessed up and we were informed
there was a ban on. That's a hefty ticket. We explained all the rain
we had been having and our lack of knowledge about the ban but it did no
good. Then Jeff pulled to shore and was put through the wringer like
us. When he commented on the amout of rain we had the mountie looked
skeptical and reported that only a few miles away less than a half inch
had fallen. We directed his view to the wet patch under the camper and
asked him how that could have gotten that wet with such little rain. He
relented and thankfully withdrew the charges. In the mean time while
checking out Jeff and Gerry's licenses it was discovered that although
Gerry had an outdoor card good for three years the ministry forgot to
affix a fishing license to it. Out came the ticket book again. Gerry
and Jeff pleaded their story and again the MNR officer believed them
and dropped the charges as long as Gerry promised to pick up his license
some time in the following week. He had after all been fishing for more
than a year without a license.
Well that was it for me. We packed up and headed the two hours back to
town. My opening day, nothing special, just like any other. Took the
biggest and most fish as usual (ha, ha) but other than that just another
first. As I said before we fly anglers put up with a lot and it pays or
it doesn't depending on the whims of mother nature. Oh, and as for
Jeff's last and only fish, he had dropped the hardware and put on a Zug
Bug. Kind of makes you feel good don't it! ~ Kevin Fancy
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