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Paul Smith: Old stuff in an expanding universe

Here's my movie star tent, and the shotgun — not for sale.
Here's my movie star tent, and the shotgun — not for sale.

I like to try new things and I crave novel challenges.

I suppose it is what makes life interesting, and keeps me fresh and ticking to the beat of my universe. It is my universe, and I believe we all have our own, figuratively of course, the universe we create around us from our unique experiences and many diverse friends. Nobody faces death wishing they had not travelled so much, made fewer friends, caught fewer fish, or spent less time with their children. Think about that. Now make some plans to expand your event horizon. Check out the African Savanna, climb Gros Morne, or catch a permit on a fly rod. Time is ticking.

Yesterday some new fly-fishing gear arrived at our house by courier service. Yes indeed, I bought another fly rod, two actually. One is a spare to a salmon rod that I love so much I’m afraid of breaking it mid adventure, and then having to live without its sweet ways for days in Labrador. Call me foolish, but I can’t risk such a catastrophe. The company replaces broken graphite, but they do not deliver to a tent in Labrador.

The other stick is an 8 foot-6-inch 16 wt. Now that is a very powerful fly rod, meant for the mightiest fish. To put this in perspective, I use a 7-wt for Atlantic salmon, the king of freshwater game fish. Nobody I know goes heavier than 9-wt. for salmon. I have used a 12-wt for tarpon, and I’ve hooked those silver salty beasts over 100-lbs. Tarpon are powerful saltwater beasts. Now I have it in my head to go for a billfish, or tuna, maybe a sailfish or a marlin.

My friend Josh Thelin with his first permit, Turneffe Flats, Belize

I’m working on puffing up my universe a tad, the bonus being travel to warm southern lands, and time on the blue tropical ocean. You will likely hear much more, if the gods see fit. For now I have to rig a new tuna-sized reel with stout line and the best knots. I’ll need to contact my friend Jeff de Brown who’s an expert on these matters. He lives on the East Cape on the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. You can check out his fishing operation at

I mentioned delivery to a tent, maybe that could be arrived. I wonder? This reminds me of an interesting tent story. Back in 1976, at just 16 years old, I was working on my universe, setting out to hunt ducks for the first time. I figured on spending the night by the side of a great duck pond I’d discovered while trouting during the summer. At the time I didn’t own a tent light enough to carry on my back for a two-hour walk in the woods. So I went to Canadian Tire and bought one.

There was no internet in 1976 and I was busy with getting started out at MUN to study physics. I did little research, other than browsing a book at the library, and didn’t really know anyone with backpacking experience that I could ask. With limited time, I walked to the store and bought a canvas pup-style tent. It had two simple poles, back and front, with ropes and pegs included, for around $50  I think. I was all set for the backcountry and wild black ducks.

I used this tent for nigh on 20 years before retiring it for lighter shelters of higher-tech fabric and more sophisticated pole designs. I retired it on a shelf in the garage and there it rested until 2014 when I set it up in our backyard for a photo. I was writing about my first duck hunting experience and wanted to include my old canvas pack tent in the story.

You will never guess what happened. An Emmy winning film director from the USA was looking for a tent to include in a scene that he was shooting to advertise a new outdoor photography product. I imagine that he found my Telegram piece by doing a search related to tents of some sort. Anyway, he read my column and decided my old tent was right for the scene. He e-mailed me to discuss the possibilities.

They wanted to buy my tent for the movies but I just couldn’t sell it. My tent had expanded my universe, actually became part of my Earthly footprint, had elevated from mere canvas, thread, and stitches, to emotional attachment. I was offered 15 times over what I paid for the tent, a tidy investment indeed. No, I don’t need money enough to sell stuff steeped in my soul. I love my old stuff. I ended up renting them the tent, for still more than I paid for it. A courier picked it up and returned it a month later. My old duck-hunting tent made it to the movies.

Isn’t it interesting how the universe is linked together? Actors sat in chairs, maybe making their film debut, in the woods amongst the trees, in front of the tent I took on my very first duck-hunting trip. I suppose our paths may never cross, or maybe they will. Maybe I will meet one of them on a marlin boat in Baja, Mexico. I wish my tent could talk, and tell me about its adventure.

Don’t bother to ask if the Remington 870 leaning by the tent is for sale. I don’t use it anymore, but I bought it with my very first paycheck. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I take it out for cleaning now and then. Memories come flooding back.


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock  

I want to catch a billfish with my new fly rod.


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