Is Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne trying to TEAR THIS PLACE APART?
The news is bleak: he’s already set the wheels in motion, setting up a four-member committee to choose a newly-designed provincial salmon fly for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Is it all a distraction? Or is it meant to set us all up against each other in the lead-up to the provincial election?
I see where this effort is going. And it looks a lot like war.
On one side, the west-coasters, with their freakish bright orange parachute wing buck bugs, their nose-in-the-air “things-are-different-on-the-mighty-Humber” ideology.
(“That’s not even a fly,” I’ve heard some eastern purists say. “That’s just a neon approximation of a tiny Vienna Sausage. No art to using it at all. Drag it across the water like a fish-finding Timbit.”)
Then, the west coasters, sneering at the eastern traditionalists with their perfectly-quaffed sleek flat moose-haired Blue Charms, 100 years of British fly-fishing history tucked firmly behind it and not even one speck of neon on the thing anywhere.
“You can’t even fish it properly in quiet water without using a hitch,” the westerners will say, and they’ll spit out the word “hitch” like it was dirty.
The battle lines will be drawn near Appleton in Central, also known as a provincial Tidy Towns winner in 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2016.
Well, it won’t be so tidy, will it, not when the ramshackle wall goes up across the TCH, with the blue-charmers on the eastern side, flicking their near-invisible dark barbless flies at the foreheads of their bomber enemies from the west. The Westies will be lined up on the other side, revving their ATVs and chanting, “Hum on Humber. Hum on the Humber. Stupid Blue Charm? Nothing dumber.” Eating their trademark Cheezies, the closest thing in appearance to an orange Buck Bug.
It’s divide and conquer, people. Divide and conquer.
Woe betide those who head across the battle lines to fish on the opposition side, using bootleg Blue Charms on Portland Creek or up on the Cloud. Salmon vigilantes will be out there tracking them down, breaking their rods, turning out their fly boxes on the ground and burning their hair-wing flies in little stinking feather-and-hair pyres until there’s nothing left but the hooks. (The Westies won’t come the other way with their Bombers, of course. “Do you guys even have a real river?” they’ll shout from the safety of their pickups.)
Labrador, of course, will be above it all completely. “We already have all the big fish,” they’ll scoff. “Enjoy fishing for your piddling grilse.”
I’ll be embedded with the Blue Charmers, even though I don’t fish salmon any more. I’m just too far east to make it out before hostilities start in earnest. (I hear that, down on the foot of the Avalon, near Placentia, there’s still a pocket of those who will always worship the Polar White as the one true salmon fly. But they were always different down there, and it’s hard for strangers to fit in.)
Byrne’s a west-coaster, so we already know where this is likely going. The panel’s probably already got its marching orders, not written down, of course, but explained in a long-since-disappeared pin-to-pin instant message — “Pick any orange parachute buck bug variant you like — and believe me, you don’t want cross me on this” probably sums it up.
Byrne will have his alternate Confederation Building built in Corner Brook or Flower’s Cove before you can say, “Where’s my tippet?”
What’s next? Picking a provincial trout fly?
It’ll be the Muddler Minnows up against the Dark Montreals, chunky versus sleek. And someone’s bound to point out that Montreal is in — gasp — Quebec.
It’s divide and conquer, people.
Divide and conquer.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.