Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Fishin' Post

Abboud and Grabia mocked me when I told them I was going fishing. I can’t for the life of me understand why, given that my rugged, manly exterior screams of a penchant for capturing and killing water based animals. Now, to be fair, I haven’t fished in years. Maybe even a decade. But since moving back to Alberta I have pledged to not take my newfound proximity to nature for granted, and have been moaning to anyone who’ll listen about hitting the lake. So I jumped at the chance when my buddy Garth rang me up. This meant rummaging through the shack only to find that my reel was all bunged up. Not wanting to unravel a tangled mile of nylon I grabbed my Dad’s ancient rod and reel. Then I went out partying, to partake in a fishing expedition of a different kind (albeit ultimately and predictably fruitless). Undaunted I went to sleep at four AM, realizing that if I was a real fisherman I’d have been on the road already. But to quote Sir Charles Barkley, “that would be… uncivilized.”

Four hours later Garth picked me up in his Explorer and we were off. After collecting Dave, Mike, and Aaron at various points on the northside, we hit the fishing store to buy licenses. Aaron observed that they sold “glistening nuggets.” We giggled. The clerk asked where we were going. “Carson-Pegasus” someone replied. “Good trout” said the clerk. Reassured by this brief but knowing exchange, I learned that before I bought my license I would need something called a “WIN card,” or “Wildlife Identification Number.” Needing a license to buy a license, I dubbed it the “license license,” just another unnecessary Alberta government user fee cash grab which dinged me for a tenner in addition to the $22.50 for the proper fishing license itself. Angry with government, I felt ready to hit the Alberta hinterland.

Along the way I scanned the “2005 Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations,” looking for funny parts. After joking with the guys about fishing with a spear, I was chastened in reading that Albertans do not need an additional license to go spearfishing, although “only spears propelled by spring, elastic, compressed gas or muscular power are permitted.” Bowfishing is also allowed, but crossbows are strictly verboten. Good thing I left my trusty navigator Chewbacca at home.

After stops for Timmy’s, gas, cash and Taco Time (we all opted for the Dr. Pepper), we got to the lake outside of Whitecourt and rented two boats. I rode with G-Dog and Mike. It was a perfect fall day, the changing leaves of the canopy shining gold and orange under a rich fall blue sky, with only a light wind whipping up a little chop on the lake. A hawk swooped overhead, indicating to us a plentitude of fish. As soon as we were out on the water, I felt instant calm and total forgetfulness of all my nagging worries. Garth showed me how to tie on a lead, and hooked me up with a great looking lure, to which I added some “trout attractant.” We had been told by the boathouse staff that “scent traps with green paste” were working, as were “green wedding bands.” None of us had heard of such odd fishing tackle, but we had nodded as if we were pros. Meanwhile, back in the boat, we were trawling. The boat drifted into the reeds and I lost Garth’s lure. I put some Powerbait, a pink putty rumored to be loved by the fishies, on a plain hook with some weights on the line. Soon the hook came back without the Powerbait. I was annoyed. I then went for a plain, garden variety red-and white-spinner. Spinners are for casting, and as I found trawling boring I started to whip my dad’s old rod and let rip, then gently reel it in. It worked like a charm. Cast, reel, cast, reel. That was more like it. We bantered about politics, sports, movies, music, chicks, and work.

An hour had passed and I’d caught nothing. No one had. We knew the fish were biting as other fishers within earshot told us they’d landed a few. I thought I’d had a nibble but it could have been weeds, which I had been pulling up in chunks. The thought of returning home empty handed meant enduring abuse at the hands of Abboud and Grabia. I had to catch a fish. My manhood demanded nothing less.

I felt a tug. “I’ve think I’ve got one!” I announced. I gave it a yank to set the hook in, as Garth had advised. But then the line went limp. Oh well. I reeled it in. But as my lure got closer it came alive. There was a flurry of excited activity between us all as we sprung to attention. I believe I was cussing as the fish splashed about outside the boat. Mike grabbed the net and I landed the fish. Garth grabbed it and pulled out the hook using a set of pliers. Garth told me we had a limit of two of each breed. It was a rainbow trout and long enough at 35 cm; I wanted my trophy so I decided to keep it. The capture was a team effort but now the final duty fell to me: the kill. I took the squirming mass and bashed it against the oar several times until it fell limp. It was glorious. I reveled in the thrill of bloodsport. I growled in my new role as king of the food chain. Eat your heart out Abboud and Grabia.

Time passed. Mike’s reel got buggered up so he wrapped his line around his hand and let it out. He got a bite and rapidly reeled it in around his hand until his fingers turned red and white. It must have been painful but he didn’t complain at all. The fish was a little guy so we tossed it back. I caught two more, one while we were chatting with the dudes in the other boat. It was a real spectacle. My end of the boat became a real killzone as the blood splattered everywhere. Real grisly. I thought I’d killed the second fish but it continued to flop about in the black garbage bag that improvised as our dead fish storage. Garth told me to let it suffocate, and reassured me that it was humane. I still felt kind of bad, but what can you do? It was hard to justify having any qualms now that I had reestablished my pedigree as a bonafide fish murderer. With the third fish I caught, the hook was set under the fish’s eye and also tangled in the net. I grabbed the pliers and yanked the hook, but in the process pulled the net through the opening under the fish’s eye. I held the fish and the net in each hand and pulled them apart like a pin from a grenade, but tore its eye to shreds in the process. I was at my limit so I took my suffering slippery grenade and lobbed it for the horizon. I imagined my maimed fish meeting up in a fishy freakshow with another who took one of my lures, which would surely still be hanging out of its mouth.

I felt bad that no one else caught anything, save Mike’s wee catch and release. The other guys had busted rods, reels, and used up their tackle. Aaron had tangled his gear up in his propeller twice. I could have stayed all day, casting and reeling, no longer caring about the catch, but with the sun going down, a chill in the air, and some dispiritedness setting in, we decided to call it a day. As Garth revved the throttle to full I tossed one last cast, even though we were going way too fast to catch anything. I bought ice for the fish cooler, we paid our $20 apiece for the boats, and each downed a warm Coors Lite in the parking lot, as Tone Loc played on Garth’s satellite radio.

Driving home I idly searched through the Sportfishing Guide for the regulations for the lake, which I couldn’t find before. It was under another name, McLeod (Carson) in Eastern Slope zone 2. Carson-Pegasus was actually the name of the surrounding provincial park. Reading the fine print I saw that the limit after September 1st was “zero.” Oops, we'd misread the limit. My trusty companions chided me for being a poacher, albeit unwittingly. We were all wiped and fell silent for the ride home. Sunburnt, windswept, and now apparently a fugitive with the previous night’s revelry catching up with me, I fell asleep to Bobcat Goldthwait’s inane screeching about Melissa Etheridge's choice of sperm donor on Garth’s comedy station. We’d had a great day out.

I can still smell the cooked contraband fish, tossed in flour with salt and pepper, fried in butter on each side, and drizzled with more butter, lemon and thyme. I fed my family with food I’d killed myself, proud as a cat with a mouse. It was delicious.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

You fell asleep in the car? Gasp! I am shocked.


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