This one’s dedicated to Gordon

Paul Smith
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I’m compelled from within to write this week about trouting.

By the time this piece goes to press, we’ll be nigh on the opening of angling season 2013, and that makes me very excited. Actually it delights many of us who find great joy and inner piece from hook and line.

But that’s not the sole or vital reason I’m in angling context right now. I could still be writing about snowshoes, winter camping or last-ditch, snowy, moose hunting methods. After years of holding out, the gods have finally seen fit to gift us with a smidgeon of real winter weather, and there so much to do and tell.

I have to pen a story of pondside pursuits in honour of my cousin, who passed away last week at the age of 71 after a courageous four-year battle with cancer.

There is no person on this planet who could possibly have loved trouting more than Gordon Smith from Bishop’s Cove. He had plenty of company in this small town clinging to steep cliffs on the north side of Conception Bay.

Per capita this might be the angling capital of the world. I have often said that catching trout is in the Bishop’s Cove gene pool, either that or there is something terribly fishy in the water. No, it must be hereditary.

I grew up travelling all over Newfoundland, moving every year or so until finally settling at the start of Grade 8 in Spaniard’s Bay, my mom’s hometown. So, what’s my blood connection to Bishop’s Cove?  My father, who was Gordon’s uncle, hailed from Bishop’s Cove.

The two people who most influenced my early angling life were my father and Gordon. Gordon was 20 years my senior and growing up he was more like an uncle to me, and a very close uncle at that.

My father travelled around our fair province supervising construction projects for the Lundrigans of Corner Brook. Gordon was a young carpenter and Dad always made sure that his nephew Gordon had a job. So we would be living all over Newfoundland, some places that were actually quite isolated in the 1960s, and Gordon would invariably be there.

Gordon spent many hours at our kitchen table, and what do you suppose he and my father talked about?  Maybe they conversed on current events and politics?  If so, I certainly don’t remember much about it. Newfoundland senior hockey might have gotten a bit of airtime, but that was mainly my mother’s passion. Dad had limited interest in hockey.

You’ve guessed it, I’m sure. Trouting was always the main agenda with both Gordon and my father, and when they got together, doubly so. Chasing trout dominated our kitchen round tables — that is when, for some reason, we weren’t actually fishing.


Fishing buddies

Gordon and Dad had a long history of angling together. There is no pond in Bishop’s Cove, but the native hardcore anglers certainly didn’t mind a jaunt on foot to Neddie Smith’s Pond. That was Dad’s game when he was a boy in the 1920s.

My father was one of the first in Bishop’s Cove to own a car. He was single up to his mid-40s and worked steady, so he had a few dollars, enough at least to buy a car. Dad’s car provided grand opportunities for trouting, and his relatives and friends always tagged along.

Gordon was a young boy and chased Uncle Max trouting whenever he could. According to the endless stories I’ve heard, that was quite a lot. I think they explored just about every gulley, pond and brook within a hundred road miles of Bishop’s Cove.

So, we ended up in 1966 — the big Newfoundland Come Home Year, I believe it was — living in St. Anthony. Dad was construction superintendent on the new Grenfell Memorial Hospital. Back in those days all the roads on the Northern Peninsula were gravel, potholed and rough. The pavement ended in Deer Lake. We had been living in St John’s for a couple of years, and this move was like setting the dial on a time machine back 20 or 30 years. There was no television, zero department stores, and no A&W or KFC. But the trouting was fantastic and that made up for any lack of modern amenities.  

We were just settled into a house on the Base Road when Gordon showed up in his white ’65 Ford Fairlane. He was a cool dude in those days, at least I thought so. Gordon had a job building the hospital along with a bunch more of the boys from the Conception Bay area. It wasn’t long before Dad and Gordon were conspiring to find out the best ponds for catching those plump, fat mud trout they loved so dearly, both catching and eating.

The local men that they knew from working on the hospital were surprisingly very obliging on disclosing what would be top secret information around home. I guess trout were so plentiful around St. Anthony in those days that nobody thought much of keeping secret gullies and ponds all to themselves. So Dad, Gordon and yours truly had the time of their lives for the two years it took to build the hospital.

I remember vividly, one cold spring night, plans being made at the kitchen table in St. Anthony for an excursion to a pond around Cook’s Harbour, a small fishing community about 30 miles by road from St. Anthony.  There was talk of numerous and particularly rotund trout. I’m not sure who had extorted the intelligence on this one, Gordon or my father, but they were planning to give it a try the next day off work. I was all ears knowing of course that I’d be included without question in any of their fishing adventures.


Hooked a big one

Sunday came and Gordon showed up for dinner. As soon as my mother had the dishes cleared we were piling into Dad’s 64 Strato Chief and zooming out the Base Road in a cloud of dust.

I’ve never seen trout more eager to eat a worm before or since. We were literally snagging a trout on every cast. The pond was only about a 10-minute walk from the road and my mother had tagged along rather than spend Sunday afternoon alone. She never fished, but loved to knit or read either in the car or on a shoreline rock while we trouted. Gordon and Dad were using spinning rods, but I was swinging a two-piece bamboo.

As soon as my bobber dipped I’d hurl a plump trout up on the mossy bank where my mother would take my prize off the hook. In my hurry to catch yet another, I pulled prematurely on the line and stuck the hook, luckily not past the barb, in my mother’s butt. Mom screamed and Gordon and Dad rolled laughing. It was a great day, one of many.

I spent time with Gordon over the years, trouting, wood cutting and moose hunting. His sharp sense of humour and wit were a delight to those who understood him. Gordon read widely, nurturing his deep interest in history, and was a true and proud Newfoundlander, not too keen on us becoming the 10th province, I believe. He always referred to the mainland, Ontario for instance, as up in Canada. I liked that. It always made me smile.

He never missed reading my column.  I will miss him.


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

Organizations: Grenfell Memorial Hospital

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. Anthony, Base Road Deer Lake Ontario Canada

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Recent comments

  • anna smith
    January 28, 2013 - 00:36

    What a great tribute to Gordon,he lived across the road from us and like Gordon would and did say you now live in upper Canada and he always referred upper Canada and of course I being a mainlander as Gordon would say had a lot to prove and over time I did,Gordon spent alot of time at the house and drank alot of tea,that's when he wasn't trouting or gone in the woods and the day I left Bishop's Cove,Gordon was the last person I saw and he pulled the gate across for me and as we are saying our goodbyes and my son Brien missed Gordon alot and when Brien would go to visit Gordon and Marion was #1 on the list,Gordon had a big heart and he would do anything for you and he was opinionated and if he could get a rise out of ya he would,I really liked Gordon,I loved listening to his stories and he knew Nfld history inside and out and very proud of his heritage,I cried the day he passed as he was our very good friend and he will be missed by Aunt Suzanna's crowd.

  • Paul Smith
    January 27, 2013 - 17:39

    Yes indeed, I can tell by your words that you knew him well.

  • Winston Adamskk
    January 27, 2013 - 11:24

    I knew Gordon. He lived up the road from me. He was 6 years older, so we were not friends in the 50s. By the mid 60s he was working as a carpenter,and had a nice car. When home, he was a buddy of other near by young single men: Alton Lynch, Leander Williams, Johnnie Garland ; all with a reputation as heavy drinkers. Gordon, in particular, delighted in pulling pranks, and getting his buddies in trouble, but all in fun. Eventually they all settled down. In 87 I built a cottage in Bishop's Cove, over looking Quilty's Cove and spent weekends and holidays there. By then Gordon was 47. I hired him and our friend and neighbour Harvey Mercer to build a 8 x10 fishing stage near the shore. After work I would join them for a few beers. I got to know Gordon better. My cottage had a big deck overlooking the Cove and with a view from Spaniard's Bay, to Madrock, to Bell Island. Over the next 20 years many was the time Gordon would drop by. In summer, we would sit outdoors , overlooking the bay. He would talk and I would listen. He talked about the old timers,and who had fished out of the Cove. He talked about uncle Eli Smith and his wife, and Julie. He talked about Anson, their "retarded" son. He talked about aunt Hannah and aunt Vickie, and Uncle Joe Lynch, and uncle Tom Lynch. He talked about uncle Joe Peddle, who lived in on the hill. It wasn't just talk. Gordon describes their character and the way of life here in the 40s, 50s and 60s. He often described some humourous event that would bring a smile for him and me. He talked about the Gospel preachers who came here in the 50s. He was there on Quilty's Bank the day Anson fought the preacher. He had a remarkable memory.Two hours would pass like 10 minutes.I delighted in hearing his stories that added to my knowledge of our community. I learned that Gordon also read extensively had a keen interest in Nfld history. He had little time for local papers with little historical content. He could talk about Squires, the Merchants of St. Johns, about Joey, or Peter Cashin. While he lacked much formal education he was much more knowledge than others with university degrees. Of interest to me, he said he had never heard uncle Joe Lynch say he had travelled to Hudson Bay on a salvage mission. I had long sought a photograph of the "Village Belle". That was a schooner abandoned by the Mounties in 1915 and salvaged by my father, Capt. Esau Adams in 1918. I had assumed that no photograph existed, until a few years ago Gordon dropped by. He spread out a 10 x14 photograph saying "you can have this one." It was a sharp, close up photograph, you could see the features of the men on deck, And on the stern the large letters of the name VILLAGE BE.... A gift of 1000 dollars could not have been more peasing to me. On a later visit, I passed along to him to my father's journal "The Salvage of the Village Belle". He made himself comfortable on the chesterfield, and never spoke for more than an hour, until he had finished reading every word. And this was in much contrast to my family members who had shown little interest in this. Gordon indeen had a great love for Nfld history. Somein the community, as might be expected, didn't like Gordon. And there were some that Gordon didn't like. He had a distain for those who were extreme hippicites. That, I suppose, is a virtue, and would be learned from the teachings of Christ. But Gordon would be the last to say he himself had not sinned, and he did give up the drinking altogether. Gordon, himself had a very houmourous side. He told me " it's strange, if you tell someone a lie they'll beleive if, if you tell them the truth, they won't beleive it." Some will say Gordon told many a whopper. But, in my opinion, Gordon never intended to deceive. A keen observer could detect that twinkle in his eye. He liked to joke. he liked to pull your leg. Alton Lynch was one of his last visitors before his passing. Gordon knew his time was short. His voice was shallow. " Alton, say goodbye to the boys for me. And if you like, you can make a donation to the church on my behalf. 150 dollars would be good." And Alton, probably his best and longest friend, is left to wonder, the donation thing, was he serious? I too liked Gordon. I will miss him.