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PAUL SMITH: Time to think

It’s a mausey day. — Paul Smith photo
It’s a mausey day. — Paul Smith photo - Paul Smith

These are crazy days we are living through right now, not just here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but all over the world.

It is a time for physically distancing ourselves from all friends and folks, with exception only for our family with whom we share a house

It is not easy, but we have to do it to save lives. There will be better days ahead. Hopefully by July or August this epidemic will be all over and I’ll be spending two weeks living in a 10-by-12-ft Labrador tent with my best buddies. We will be fishing for salmon on the mighty Pinware.

Time will tell.

In the meantime we have to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves.

For us anglers we can catch up on fly tying and replenish our arsenals of hook, fur, and feather. I’ve been doing some of that. I’ve also been doing quite a bit of reading. I’ve ordered a bunch of fishing books on Amazon as of late and I’m getting time to read them.

That’s good, and I’ll be doing more than my share of sea tout fishing this spring. For the past few years I’ve been spending May month in Florida and missing out on quite a bit of great trout fishing, both for brook trout and sea run browns.

I haven’t complained much because I do enjoy the sunny Gulf Coast and its great angling opportunities.

Anyway, my glass is half full and I’ll drink it all down.

I have always loved hiking and walking alone. In fact 90 per cent of my hiking and walking has always been alone, so guess what? I’m doing lots of hiking, snowshoeing and walking alone. And I never distract myself with music or audio books. Lots of people utilize the modern version of the Sony Walkman to pass the time while walking.

I have the technology and I’ll use it if I’m forced to use a treadmill for exercise, but never outdoors.

I prefer the solitude and time to think.

Walking is a great time for introspective pondering.

So go outside for a walk in the fresh air and take some time for deep undirected thinking. Let the hectic universe float frivolously away. There’s so much going on in the chaotic world, we hardly ever get time to let our minds just wander where it wishes.

Seize the day.

Yesterday I went on a foggy, dreary, and mausey, walk. Have you heard that word before?

I’d almost forgot about mausey, until my buddy Derek mentioned it this morning. We were having coffee together, not really physically together, but rather digitally. I’m doing that now, calling up one of my buddies for a chat over morning coffee.

It’s just another coping mechanism to get through these trying times.

Anyway, mausey is a reference to light rain on a foggy or cloudy windless day. It’s similar to RDF only not quite as rainy.

My mother used the word all the time.

So, here I go on my mausey walk with my raincoat on. I never plan what I’m going to think about. It just happens, depending many times on stuff I see along the way. I’ll take you along on my walk inside my head.

For the first mile or so my brain is dead silent, like meditation, with only my body’s rhythm registering. I’m out for a fast one so I sense a light sweat building, and my muscles feeling the burn inflicted by a steep hill taken at full pace.

I love it — heart beat elevated and cool air in my lungs.

Who does this? — Paul Smith photo
Who does this? — Paul Smith photo

Then I see it, an atrocity.

Lord Almighty, what total disregard some people have for our countryside. Some idiot has thrown a box-spring and mattress by the side of the bloody road.

Are these the same sort of people who refuse to obey social-distancing rules? Because there is a clear common denominator here — that being total disregard for society as a whole.

Who the hell do they think is going to pick this up and transport it to where they should have carried it in the first place?

Then my mind wandered to the latex gloves I’d seen the day before on the supermarket parking lot. Now, who is going to have to pick that up? The answer is obvious — an essentially worker who isn’t getting paid anywhere near enough.

I was fuming and my state of Zen much disrupted. I needed to think more calming pleasant thoughts.

Running water soothes my soul— Paul Smith photo
Running water soothes my soul— Paul Smith photo

I came by a lovely brook and settled down.

Running water soothes me always.

It’s a big part of why I love fly-fishing so much. I wonder are there any brook trout in that stream right now.

I forgot all about that mattress madness. They are named brook trout for a reason I guess. I just finished reading “Squaretail,” a fantastic book by Bob Mallard about brook trout, albeit mostly in the United States, but brook trout are brook trout wherever they swim.

In some places brook trout spend their entire lives in running water 365 days a year. I’m not sure about here at home in Newfoundland. Convention wisdom in this neck of the woods places our native trout in ponds and lakes during the winter and streams in summer.

You know what? I don’t really know for sure but I’m going to find out if that is true. I’m getting out my nymph rod and I’m going to drift some bead-heads through those riffles. I’ll let you know. I’m doing a lot of trout fishing this spring.

Finally I reach my turnaround about three miles from home with my fishing plans all figured out.

That’s a dandy stand of juniper trees by the side of the road here. I put the cardboard coffee container perched on a snow bank out of my mind. I’d had enough of those thoughts.

Remember I told you about my new wood furnace? Well, I got to thinking about firewood. Eastern larch or juniper, as we call it locally, is the absolute best firewood. I like it more than spruce of even birch.

It’s grand stuff for overnight fires. I thought back to a full load of big knotty Juniper that I cut with my cousin Gordon Smith back in the winter of 1984.

Juniper is the best for both boat building and home heating. — Paul Smith photo
Juniper is the best for both boat building and home heating. — Paul Smith photo

Ten pickup loads we cut in all, and hauled it out with my 200-cc Yamaha Trike. Gordon sliced his leg one day with my Jonsered-590. Gordon is dead now and I miss him.

As the miles went by my mind wandered back even further.

During the late summer of 1979 I was collecting timber to build a 20-foot fishing boat. I needed a crooked piece for a stem as well as a giant knee for a sternpost. I also required quite a few clear knotless six-foot juniper sections to mill into ribs for steam bending.

Juniper is heavy, and if you have cut firewood you know this very well. With a smile I paced along picturing the younger and tougher me lugging those massive larch sections to my waiting Ford truck under the hot August sun. I wandered all over the woods searching for the clearest of juniper.

I lugged once massive stick nearly a mile with my Pioneer 1074 swinging in my free hand. I thought of a familiar Bob Seger song. Over forty year have gone now, not just twenty.

I arrived home reassured that I need to build another boat. Such are the meandering streams of thought when you have time to think.

Stay tuned for some book reviews. I’ve also had time to read.

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


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