Centuries ago, when I was a child, we spent our summers at my grandparent’s farm near Sussex, New Brunswick. This was the farm where my mother grew up, the middle of eleven children! We were, at a very young age, allowed to go off for the day as long as we returned for supper. My brother and I would take a stick and a string and a hook, dig some worms from behind the pig pen (always fearing a pig would come out of their shed), and go down the hill behind the barn, and across the meadow to the brook. The brook was shallow and we could walk along it without getting lost. We fished along the way, catching brook trout with ease. We cleaned them, and took them back to our grandmother who rolled them in a bit of flour and fried them in butter on the woodstove – the stove was always going no matter how hot the day as there was no electricity on the farm until 1965. I know this sounds like I grew up in the dark ages – but I suspect that life was much the same on the farm before 1965 as it was in 1865.
Every once in a while I have pulled out a fishing rod at the cottage and dropped it in the water, but it never had the same appeal as fishing in a brook. After reading Helen Humphrey’s most recent book Machine Without Horses, about the real and imagined life of Megan Boyd, a salmon-fly dresser who lived and worked all of her life in a small village in Scotland, I decided to book a fly fishing lesson.
A few weeks ago I spent an exhilarating and idyllic day on the Grand River, near Fergus, on a particular stretch of the river that is stocked with Brown Trout. The day I was there was one of great bird activity – hundreds of swallows swooping for bugs, Great Blue Herons and Osprey fishing for themselves, red winged blackbirds in abundance, and a lone oriole. There were a very few other fishermen, up and down stream, but no one except the Osprey caught any fish – and they very few. And, at least to me, it did not matter in the slightest. I learned how to tie my fishing lines together, and to tie the hook on to the line. I learned to cast overhead and from the side, learned some of the terminology, and best of all I had a day outdoors doing something that takes enough concentration to leave no room in your head for any thoughts other than to get that line where you want it to be. I was more than a little concerned that I’d be too uncoordinated to learn this, but apparently I was a natural. Once the rhythm of the cast is achieved it becomes both relaxing and controlled at the same time.
Looking for books to read about fly-fishing I re-discovered Lines Upon the Water by David Adams Richards, published in 1998, it was re-issued as a Penguin Modern Classic last year. David Adams Richards grew up near the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, and he has fished this river, alone or with friends since he was very young. He writes, “Fishing even then could take me out of myself”, something as much as, or even more important than, the catching of the fish! This is a memoir about fishing, in a place returned to, all of his life, no matter how far from home he has lived. He writes about his family and his friends, many who are guides, and some of the people he has met on the river. Adams has fished in all kinds of weather, with success or not, it seems there is no place he’d rather be. Fisherman or not you will enjoy this story, both humorous and profound, of time spent in the outdoors and the friendship of men.