This week, I think I will tell a funny story. It’s a fishing yarn — no surprise there — and although humorous, this tale honours a fine fisherman who has passed on to the clear mountain streams elsewhere. That is, I guess, wherever the salmon gods see fit for us anglers to wet a line in the afterlife.
Harvey Bishop passed away a few years back, a kind and witty man, I gathered quickly from the too little time I knew him.
And he was a very experienced and accomplished salmon angler.
Harvey lived in Steady Brook, a truly outdoor town, nestled in the Humber Valley on our lovely West Coast. It is a fine place for a hopelessly addicted salmon fisherman to live.
Harvey knew the Lower Humber very well and was one of the few who managed to consistently hook and battle her giant Atlantic salmon.
I had plans made with Harvey to fish with him on the Humber, but, unfortunately, he died before we could make time to get together on the river.
For those of you who do not know, the Lower Humber is legendary water for catching very big salmon. The biggest salmon ever caught in Newfoundland, many more than 40 pounds, have been taken from secret holes along the Humber.
To put matters in perspective, anglers travel the world in hopes of tangling with a 40-pound salmon. Catching such a gargantuan fish is a very big deal. International anglers pay big dollars to fish with the hopes of tangling with such a massive beast.
On the Gaula’s Gaulfossen Pool the price tag is US$10,000 per day. Likewise, it costs upwards of $15,000 per week to fish Russia’s big fish rivers, the Kharlovka or the Yokanga, for instance.
I think we often don’t appreciate fishing wherever we like for free.
Back to the funny part of my story.
Each summer, Harvey hosted a group of avid Prince Edward Island anglers in his neck of the woods.
Ron Campbell knew plenty about goose hunting on P.E.I., and Harvey was an expert on Newfoundland’s salmon rivers.
The two established a reciprocating outdoor relationship that lasted close to a decade. Ron and his buddies fished with Harvey in Newfoundland, and Harvey got treated to a goose hunt on the potato fields each fall.
So in July 2000, Harvey and his P.E.I. guests were fishing the Pinware River in southern Labrador, staying at the Pinware River Lodge, owned and operated by Arthur Fowler.
The river was low and the fishing a little slow. While all hands were having an evening swallow of fine whiskey, Ron busied himself at the tying bench trying to create the next low water killer.
While yarns were exchanged and tongues thickened from the spirits, Ron combined fur, feather, synthetic and steel with optimistic fervour.
Harvey noticed Ron’s lack of contribution to the good-natured blarney flying about the room and figured he must be tying up something of significance.
“What’s ya tying up there, Ron?” says Harvey.
“None of your business,” is Ron’s good-natured reply.
The tying and talking continued on, but when Ron left the vise unattended to fetch himself a refill, Harvey took the fly and slipped it into his shirt pocket. The theft caused some spirited interrogation, but the culprit went undisclosed until the following evening.
Harvey fared quite well the next day, hooking and releasing several fine grilse in tough, low-water conditions.
That night over a few drinks, Harvey confessed his sin: “That was a fine fly you tied up there last night, Ron. I hooked two fish on it today,” says Harvey as he plucked the tattered fly from his vest.
There was a roar of laughter and the None of Your Business pattern was proclaimed with the clinking of glasses and requests for samples. Ron tied up a round for all hands.
The next day, Harvey was fishing Tidal Pool, about 50 yards above a young boy who was clearly intent on catching his first salmon in spite of his struggle with casting and presentation.
Good-natured Harvey just couldn’t resist; he had to help out the young fella. He waded to the boy and broke the ice with the usual sort of on-river chitchat.
Harvey ended up donating a fly to the cause and showing the lad exactly how to fish the pool.
And wouldn’t you know it: a fat grilse grabbed the fly on the second cast. Suffice to say there was quite a commotion — somersaulting salmon and screaming kid.
The dad, who was fishing a little further downstream, came splashing upriver. After 10 minutes of chaos the father netted the fish and all were ecstatic.
The grateful dad’s first words to Harvey were, “What fly was that?”
Not thinking, Harvey replied, “None of Your Business.”
The dad’s face went ashen.
“No! No! That’s the name of the fly,” says Harvey, and went on to explain.
All were happy again and laughing.
Harvey showed me this fly and told me its story over a drink of fine Canadian whiskey while camped on the river of its birth, one of Labrador’s crown jewels, the Pinware.
Afterwards, I wrote a piece about the fly in the Atlantic Salmon Journal. I imagine now it’s catching salmon all over the world, a tribute to both Ron Campbell, who tied the prototype, and Harvey Bishop, who gave it spirit, character and, like all great flies, a good story.
The None of Your Business really does catch fish, so for those of you keen on tying, I’ll give you the pattern. It’s a very simple fly. The body is dubbed black seal fur or similar substitute, ribbed with flat pearl Uni Mylar. Then it’s winged with fine moose body hair, topped off with a few strands of pearl Crystal Flash. I prefer to tie mine on a Partridge Single Salmon in sizes 8 to 12. The tail and throat are both fashioned of blue Crystal Flash.
If any readers have stories of either the None of Your Business or Harvey Bishop’s salmon fishing escapades, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear them.
And if you tie and fish this fly, be mindful of your tongue, for fear of being tossed in the river.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at email@example.com.