For the past few years Goldie and I have been spending May in Florida. Some would question that particular time slot away from home, and holidaying in the sunny south. Well, I look at it this way. May weather in Newfoundland isn’t fantastic, by any latitude standard. Typically, we get plenty of gusty wind off the frigid North Atlantic and damp conditions. My snowshoes are stored on the garage rafters for another season. I’ve had an opportunity to tangle sea run browns, April typically being the optimum spring fishery month, and brook trout fishing is closed until May 15. There is no hunting. So, I’m not missing too much at home. No matter when we leave I’m missing something, so I guess, like life in general, compromise it is.
You know what? Last weekend I totally forgot to write about the Victoria Day Weekend. Today, Wednesday, is May 23, so I guess it was a tad early this year and the holiday just didn’t register in my brain. I know it’s always celebrated on the weekend before May 24, but I plum forgot and I apologize for not writing a May 24 trouting column. I usually do. I have so many wonderful memories to draw from, fishing as a kid with friends, trouting with my dad, and most of all canoeing trout ponds with my two daughters. Next is grandchildren.
I wish I had more photos from my older May 24 adventures. I have some, but not as many as I would like. In the past cameras were bulkier and much more susceptible to damage from the outdoor elements. More often than not, on wet watery adventures, which most May 24 outers certainly are, my camera stayed at home. That is very regrettable.
Although both Allison and Megan spent time trouting with me as kids, Megan was the quintessential trouter. She has inherited the Bishop’s Cove bloodline for trout fishing. It will be interesting to see if her children, Harry and Rory, inherit the gene. Or, maybe it’s more about nurture. I will see to it that they get their fair allotment of outdoor nurture. Nature on the other hand, is up to the angling gods. We will soon see. But sometimes generations are skipped. Maybe someday Allison’s kids will take up the rod. I tried my best, but Allison is not a trouter.
On a particular May 24 weekend, 1994 or thereabouts, I decided to take the kids trouting on Sunday morning while Goldie tended the cabin and prepared for a mid-afternoon cooked dinner. Megan was 10 years old and Allison five. Megan didn’t want Allison to go and eventually got her way. She figured that Allison would fuss to come home early and ruin our morning fishing. Allison didn’t care much anyway, so all was well with the world.
I loaded my canoe on the roof of my old Chevy S10 and headed in over the Old Track Road for Bishop’s Pond, where I knew we could catch a fine meal of mud trout. Megan was excited and decked out in her thigh rubbers, tackle vest, and fishing hat. But we made a big mistake. It was a lovely sunny morning, hardly a cloud in the sky, and didn’t look a bit like rain. We were only going for a few hours, so I didn’t bother to take our raincoats. Like cameras, foul-weather gear was much bulkier in those days.
We arrived at the parking spot and I took the canoe down and threw it up over my head for the five-minute portage to the pond. Megan knew the drill. She carried the rods and tackle, along with a light lunch that Goldie had packed. Goldie never let me take the kids anywhere without a lunch. So off we went. I slid the canoe in the water. Megan jumped in without saying a word and skillfully made her way to the front seat. I pushed off the canoe with one foot and settled into the stern for the paddle to our favourite shoreline.
The trout were plentiful. Megan was in her glee, catching a few, and getting lots of bites. I did a bit of fishing, but opted more to sit on a rock, soak in the ambiance, and let her catch a dozen trout for a late supper, or Monday-morning breakfast. I noticed some dark clouds rushing in over the distant hills. It didn’t look good. I didn’t need a Doppler radar app on my smartphone to see that it was going to pour very soon, and we had to paddle back across a big pond and then portage to the truck with no rain jackets. Do as I say and not as I always did, never leave home without a bloody raincoat.
“Come on Megan, let’s get back to the truck, it’s soon going to pour.” My words fell on muffled ears. I let her fish a few more minutes and said it again.
“I just had a big bite, hang on till I catches him.”
I hung on another five or so. Drops began to fall in the still water around us.
“C’mon Megan, your mother is going to kill me”
“What odds Dad? The trout are biting mad.”
There she was reeling in a plump pink whopper. Now it was pouring. We were gone past the point of no return. You can only get so bloody wet anyway, and it wasn’t too cold. It wouldn’t be the first or last time Goldie became upset with me for this sort of thing. You have to live a little.
So I sat on a nice comfy rock in the pouring rain and let my daughter fish to her heart’s content in a torrential downpour. How I wish I had my Olympus Tough outdoor waterproof camera. But they did not exist, the only image is in my brain, all mine, and I cannot share in pixels, only words. I’ll do my best.
It was raining so hard that the end of the tipped canoe was filling with water. I pulled it in and turned it over. The rain could not phase Megan’s fishing intensity. It’s in the blood I’m convinced. Surely, I did nothing to make her that extreme? Did I? Water poured down the sides and off the brim of her bucket-style fishing hat. I’m sure her boots were filling. Mine were. I told her two more trout and we had to go. She finally agreed.
Another mental photo, paddling across the pond, now with a bit of a breeze to add to the onslaught of falling water, but she didn’t care. Megan was a bloody tough outdoor kid, doing her share on the paddle all the way, happy as a lark. She caught her limit of trout and had fun doing it. That’s all that mattered in her 10-year-old world that day. If only we adults could understand and achieve such contentment in simple things. I do sometimes, but life can be complicated.
We arrived at the cabin soaked to the skin. Goldie said something scolding to me I’m sure. I made excuses I imagine. I don’t recall much of that part. I might have said I’m sorry, but I really didn’t mean it.
The wood stove crackled and the cabin felt warm. Steam rose from our wet clothes. Megan grinned at me as her mother stripped off her wet clothes. I dried myself off and lit my pipe by the stove. It was a good day.
Next time I’ll bring a camera. Grandkids, remember?
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock