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Fish Tales #2: a pleasant afternoon floating the river

Back then, I fly fished the section of The River above the escarpment every chance I got. We called it The Brook Trout Water, because there were no browns above the falls. Early in the season when the Hendricksons were coming off, I’d park by the highway late morning, and walk the railway tracks down to where the stream flowed close to the tracks, wet wading and fishing my way back to the car. By the time I reached my fave stretches, the bugs were emerging the the trout were on them.

For a stream that close to the city, it was mighty fine, helped out by special regulations to keep the the bait plonkers out. The brookies were plentiful. They averaged 8 or 9 inches but bigger trout in were not uncommon. Every once in a while I’d catch a brookie of unexpected size. A lunker. People have told me it’s not so great anymore, but I really can’t say. I hardly chase trout at all these days.

One afternoon, just as the bugs started coming off the water, I heard banging and clanging upstream. This was most unusual. In fact, most days I had much of the water to myself. When other anglers were on that stretch, it was usually because the Other River was blown out and guys were looking for a place to cast to some trout. Finally, I saw the source of the noise. Two guys were wading downstream toward me, pulling a 14 foot aluminum car-top boat behind them.

So much for a fine afternoon of fishing. These characters were sure to spook the trout all the way down to the falls. I took a deep breath, determined to be polite. Hi, I said.

Hi! How’s the fishin’?
Well, it WAS pretty good. What are you guys up to with that boat?
We’re floating down to the lake.
We’re floating down to the lake.
I see. You guys know about the escarpment, right?
What do you mean?
The falls.
The falls?
Yeah, the falls.
We didn’t know there was a falls. I guess we’ll have to drag the boat around it.
Yeah, well, it’s not so easy. I think you’re going to have a problem.
Oh, we’ll manage!
If you do get your boat down below the falls in one piece, you’ll be facing a long stretch of pocket water. It’s fast, with lots of boulders. Tricky to wade, even when you’re not dragging a boat.

It was clear they didn’t believe a word I was saying. I wished them luck, and started looking for a comfortable spot to have lunch. Off they went, their boat banging against rocks along the way. I’ve often wondered what happened to them.

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Fish Tales #1: Leeches

When I was a young lad, I watched my dad and my big brother Joe get ready for their fishing trips, load up the station wagon and take off up north somewhere or other. When they returned, they brought stories of their adventures and sometimes plenty of trout for a feast. It all sounded so fantastic to my young ears and I wanted to go with them in the worst way.

They used to go fishing with a fellow named Charlie, who took them to many excellent spots over the years. I was pretty young and I barely remember Charlie. I recall or at least imagine a man with a long face smoking a pipe. Charlie had talked to a farmer somewhere, sometime, who told him about a place he called the High Falls. There were beaver ponds above a set of falls on a small creek and they were loaded with big trout. Charlie, my dad and Joe were determined to find the place, even though Charlie’s directions were plenty vague.

The day they finally found the High Falls, they came home with a cooler full of big brook trout. Back then there was no such thing as catch and release, and limits were generous – 15 trout per day per angler. At home they laid 21 trout on the hood of the old station wagon. We have the photo in one of the old family photo albums. I vaguely recall the oils from some of the trout left impressions on the hood of the station wagon, stains bad enough they could not be removed.

The important matter of photographing the trout taken care of, my father went inside to have a shower and change from his fishing clothes. He must have cried out when he removed his pants. I just remember there were many leeches, gorged with blood, attached to his legs. I’m sure he had wet-waded the beaver ponds where they caught all the trout and picked up the leeches there. I remember thinking, oh no, the leeches must have been on Dad’s legs for hours.

Years later, I had my own unfortunate encounter with leeches. It was on a canoe trip in Northern Ontario. At the end of one of the portages, there was a beautiful waterfall that stepped down in 3 terraces. We were hot and sweaty and tired from the portage and decided to take some time to cool off in the waterfall. It felt so good. We were leaning back onto mossy rocks with the water splashing over us.

We quickly found out we had all picked up several very small leeches on the backs of our heads where we used the moss as a pillow. I recall we used tweezers from a first aid kit to remove the leeches from each another’s heads. It was not a painful experience but more like a creepy one.

Many years later, I quizzed my brother on the location and looked at some topo maps. I decided to try to retrace their steps. The creek was low and the High Falls, though indeed high, was hardly spectacular. I found a trail that led to the beaver ponds above. They were just as Joe and my dad described them, except there was a hunting cabin in good shape behind one of the ponds. I fished the ponds for hours and did not catch any trout, though that was not what mattered. I was highly satisfied to see the place i heard the same stories about for years. It was a magical place in my childhood imagination.

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At the End of the Rainbow

Sierra Ferrell performing At the End of the Rainbow

I’ve been saying for some time that Sierra Ferrell is THE voice to check out in country music today. Here she is with her fabulous band + horns at the Americana Awards. Glad to see she is seeing some success in the music biz.

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Chickens in Traditional Music

Old Hen Cackle performed by Dan Gellert
The Chicken Reel performed by Patt & Possum
Cluck Old Hen performed by Joel Mabus
Cacklin’ Hen with Trevor and Travis Stuart

Do you have any fave tunes about poultry?

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Listen to the new episode of The Agency Podcast right here, or find it at all the best podcast spots.

In this episode, Agents Candy and Eugene are joined by Special Agent Sarah Elliot to talk about the Whitechapel Murders – new theories, some bizarre; what the victims were really like, and 19th Century London compared to cities today.

Read more from Sarah at Swallowing the Camel.

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The best fiddle tune ever?

Is Lucky Trapper’s Reel by Andy Dejarlis the best fiddle tune ever? Asking for a friend. Let’s listen to Zachary Willier tearing it up with some very talented help….

Is it the best fiddle tune ever? Discuss.
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Hispanic Witches

The Agents had a blast talking to Associate Professor Irma Cantu from Texas A&M International University about witches. She takes us through Inquisitional Archives, female protests, healthcare, herbalism and freedom – and more. You can listen to this fascinating interview right here or find it at all the good podcast places.

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The Art of Misdirection

The new episode of The Agency Podcast is now available. Listen right here or find it at all the best podcast places.

This week:
CIA Backlash
AI Resistance
The Slap (and how to get attention)
Weird Tales and Absurd Characters
DakhaBrakha at Koerner Hall
Morrisseau fraudsters busted
I Just Don’t Know What to do with Myself
Creatives and Art Workers
Email from Andy
…and more

Our opening theme is a traditional tune called Wild Hog in the Woods, played by Agent Eugene on clawhammer banjo.
The ending musical snippet for this episode is from Sho Z-Pod Duba from a Tiny Desk Concert by DakhaBrakha.

This episode of The Agency Podcast is dedicated to Toronto naturalist, musician and teacher Miles Hearn, who passed on February 25 and also to Kiska, the last captive killer whale in Canada — also known as “the loneliest whale in the world” – who died at a Canadian waterpark this week. The orca was believed to be 47 years old.

Email the Agents anytime. Thank you for listening.

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Who should become Toronto’s next Mayor?

John Tory is about the last guy I would have expected would lose his gig over a sex scandal, but not long after breezing to a win for his third mandate, it happened and he’s gone. It’s a pity we have to pay for another election, but, at least in my opinion, some new blood was needed in any case. I wish we had a 2 term limit for municipal politicians. When Mr. Tory decided to run for a 3rd term, high profile candidates stayed away. I think this was both because it is tremendously difficult to unseat an incumbent in Toronto municipal politics and because Tory has been a likable guy who appeared to be always on the job, unlike the previous Mayor, who was apparently on the pipe. I think 2 terms is plenty long enough for any politician.

When Tory was first elected, the City was reeling from the bizarre behaviour of a Mayor in crisis. How Mr. Ford ever got himself elected in the first place is a mystery, but today seems to be a good time for populist scaliwags and ne’er-do-wells to gain power. Witness over 70 million of our American friends twice voting for Mr. Trump for President. John Tory was obviously a hard worker. He appeared everywhere and famously rarely slept. However, beyond being a stable administrator after Rob Ford, I’m not sure what he’s actually accomplished. Oh, he was a fast-talker, always doing something or another but after 2-and-a-bit mandates, I’m not convinced he had any kind of strong vision for Toronto.

The last date for candidates to declare for this election will be May 12 for a June 25 election. I think we will see a lot of political jockeying between now and May 12, and close to that date, some big-name candidates will declare, and some other candidates will bail. Some candidates have already declared. These include Gil Penalosa, who came in a distant second to Tory in the last election. Plenty of other potential candidates are thinking about it (translate: drumming up support). Some others have said no way, but don’t be surprised if some of those change their mind close to the deadline.

I don’t have a candidate in mind at this stage. I didn’t vote for Tory last time out, though I wasn’t thrilled with the slate. This time out, I don’t think we need another stodgy businessman, nor an idealogue who will spend his time social engineering. To be frank, none of the names being bandied about are super-inspiring to me, but I’m keeping an open mind.

Have you got a candidate in mind? Is there someone out there with an irresistible vision for The City?