comments 4

That little crick, you know the one…

     My father was full of stories, too many to remember all at once. Some of them I store away until I need them. Then one day some little thing triggers something way back in my memory. I had, for instance, forgotten all about Aub.

I never met Aub. I’ll have to ask big brother Salvelinas if he ever did. I remember Charlie a little. Charlie was my dad’s other fishing buddy from way back. I remember that every time I saw Charlie he was smoking a different pipe and I remember that he used wooden strike-anywhere matches that he liked to spark off the bottom of tables. I also remember Charlie’s legendary love for the drink. My father claimed that Charlie converted the glove compartment of his car into a bar, complete with mixes, so he could pour himself a drink while driving. Today I’m sure they would lock him up and throw away the key.

However, I never met Aub, or at least I have no memory of him outside of my father’s stories. They used to fish a little stream north of the city that my father claimed was full of big brown trout. Legend has it they would camp out and fish most of the night. My father, as I have already told you, was a bank-napping worm plonker of the highest order. Aub, on the other hand, preferred a long fly rod with a tiny Williams Wobbler spoon. These tiny spoons were very light and if you gave them a little tug in the water they would flutter like crazy downstream.

     My father claimed that Aub would reach out with is long fly rod and gently flip his Williams into the water and flutter it under logs. This is difficult enough in daylight. Believe me, I’ve tried it. The first thing that happens is the wobbler gets hooked behind a log and snap it’s gone. At night it is impossible. But Aub was the stuff of legends. The big browns would emerge from their bomb shelters to attack the little lure. There were stories of 6 pound browns, 8 pound browns, 5 pound browns from this little stream. I suppose my dad simply made up a weight whenever he told the story.

     When I was about 12, my he took me to the stream on the way back from yet another stream on opening weekend of the trout season. There was a big pool just downstream from the bridge. I set up a forked stick and let a worm drift deep down into the pool. I think I caught 6 suckers in a row and then nothing. Meanwhile, my father had high-tailed it way way upstream. He must have remembered a special spot. I was sitting on the bank day-dreaming when the trout hit. It wasn’t 5 or 6 or even 8 pounds, but it was a full 16 inches and just a beautiful brown trout. Supper. In those days nobody ever heard of catch and release. It was always catch and cook. I put my trout in the cooler in the car and started walking upstream trying to find my dad.

     The stream was slowish, tree-lined, with some deep holes and undercuts. It wasn’t a stream you might think about wading. Instead, you walked the banks looking for good spots, spots that looked trouty, spots where you could cast a little bit. I walked and walked and there was no sign of my father. In fact I was half-way up to the next concession before I found him. As soon as he saw me he said, “Quiet…” I got the picture and snuck up slowly.

     He was at a place where the stream flattened out. This broad flat ran for about 40 or 50 feet, strewn with logs along the bottom. I knelt down beside my father, eager to tell him about my trout but he motioned for me to stay quiet and pointed out in the water. I can tell you my father was not exaggerating when he said big brown trout inhabited this stream, for that afternoon I saw one cruising that flat. How big was it? I don’t know. Trout grow in memory, don’t they? It was a trout that you would measure in pounds instead of inches, 4 pounds, 5 pounds, maybe even bigger. Hard to say. We watched the trout move in amongst the logs, dropping its head down, feeding. We watched for about 20 minutes until the trout moved to a place that satisfied my dad. He didn’t stand up. From a kneeling position, he flipped his line upstream from the trout, baited with a worm, no weight on the line. We watched the worm waggle in the current toward the trout, closer, a little closer, and then just past the trout, and just as my dad raised his rod tip the trout turned and struck the worm.

     And then it was over. The trout tangled the line behind a log in a second or two and was gone.

That was 40 years ago. We went back a few more times and caught a few browns, but caught nothing else as big as the trout we ate that night for supper, and never again saw a giant brown in that stream the likes of the one we saw that day feeding in the flat.

     In the twilight of his life, my father asked me to take him back there and I did. We parked at the bridge. His knees were shot but with my help I got him to the big pool downstream, except that the pool had become a shadow of its former self. This stream never looked great, even in its day, but now it seemed there was less water and it was murkier. Maybe there are still some trout in the stream. Maybe it has just changed and is still worth a look. Or maybe like so much else it has been ruined by development. There didn’t seem to be much point in fishing it.

Instead we drove into town and I found us a fish ‘n’ chip shop and we enjoyed a good lunch and I listened to the old man talk about Aub and the days when they’d fish the stream all night, and Aub would tie on his little Williams Wobbler and let it drift deep under the logs. I loved that story.

4 Comments

  1. candyminx

    I just delighted in reading these accounts from both you and your brother today. Thanks for the great stories!

  2. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    I know the stream and the pool. I used to know the stream very well indeed as it was a stream that dad loved to fish. We never caught a lot there but the stream was pretty and it was reliable enough that we usually brought home a couple of dinner sized brown trout. It was actually this stream which taught me that every small stream holds huge trout and that you could use a Williams Wobbler to find them. We had gone into the section where the bank was wooded on a blistering hot summer day. I found myself at a hairpin turn on the stream and there was a serious log jam on each side of the hairpin with maybe 10-12 feet of clear quiet water between the 2 log jams. In the heat the trout were clearly hiding deep under cover so I decided to see if I could entice one of them to come out for a look with a Wobbler. First cast sorta near the downstream jam and I was stunned to see 5 monster brown trout slowly emerge from the depths of their cover to take a look. The smallest was easily 8 pounds and the biggest I pegged at around 16 pounds and about 3 feet long. None of them struck at the lure, they had just come out for a look. In my wildest imagination I would not have believed that fish that big could live in a stream that small yet there they were – 5 of them. After that I had a new found respect for this little stream. In retrospect I think that because nobody ever fished there the trout that survived being lunch grew to a ripe old age. I always made a point of scouting a pool or two on every trip with a Wobbler and over the years saw dozens of really big trout. That of course explained why we never caught all that many smaller trout. The really big ones were very tough to catch and while we did manage to hook a few over the years we didnt succeed in actually landing any of them. The lesson I learned that say served me very well in later years though. I developed a confidence that yes each smallish stream did hold big trout and lots of them and I knew that I could see them if I really wanted to. Catching them was of course a different issue.

    There may no longer be trout in that stream. The water temperature was only marginally acceptable to trout back then and only brown trout could prosper in the stream. In the late ’80s there was a major fish kill in the stream. The story I got at the time was that an upstream land owner had cleared a mile of forest along the stream allowing the sun to beat down on the unprotected water which raised the temperature by enough that the trout could no longer survive. I heard stories of thousands of dead trout lining the banks. I am certain that the fish kill happened, it made the local newspapers but I admit I am not 100% certain of the cause. For some years the stream was reputed to be fishless although there appears to be signs that some sort of rehab program is in place. I dont think the current land owners would allow folks to go in and fish so the stream is lost now. Sad really. Not everything that we call progress is good.

  3. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    See this is what happens when you are young… you miss out out on all the good stuff from the good old days.

    I did in fact fish with Aub on a couple of occasions. I dont remember very much about the events as I was 10-12 years old at the time but I do remember Aub. And I do remember learning the joys of a Williams Wobbler from him. These days the Wobbler comes only in big lake trout sizes but back then there was a midget size – perfect for the small streams of Southern Ontario. They were made by the Williams Gold Mining Company and they featured real gold and real silver plating. Simply put no trout could resist coming out from its shelter for at least a closer look at that incredibly shiny lure. They didnt strike it often but if you wanted to see just what was living in a particular stream and exactly where they were hiding you only had to tie on a Wobbler and pay attention. Often trout of astounding size would show themselves. Sadly I havent seen the midget size for sale in decades. We saw a lot of huge trout when using a Wobbler but we didnt actually catch very many of them. Dad knew the reason for this. The instructions on the Wobbler package said to ‘fish with a short snappy jerk’ Dad’s contention was that I was too tall.

    Charlie can only be described as special. He was a very serious outdoorsman – a hunter and a fisherman. He knew every stream and lake in Southern Ontario and had managed to befriend every land owner possible to get permission to fish on their land. Every fishing trip with Charlie was an adventure and he generously showed us some of the best trout spots in the province – places no one would think to look but which were teeming with trout. In fact Charlie did have a bar in the front seat of his station wagon. He stocked an assortment of hard liquor, mix, ice cubes and plastic glasses all within easy reach. It occupied not only the glove compartment but also a wooden chest custom built to fit on the transmission hump on the floor between the driver and passenger. In later years I did a lot of the driving on longer trips because letting Charlie drive could get a bit scary.

    I vividly recall one spring trip to the Sundridge area. It was Charlie who introduced us to the trout in this area both in the area of the cataract and what we mis-named the high falls. On this particular opening weekend of the season the rivers were flooded to the point where they were unfishable. Charlie led us upstream to smaller waters to areas that later proved to be loaded with trout but it didnt help, the rivers were just too flooded. The only way to save the weekend was to find a lake to fish in. The smaller lakes were still mostly frozen that year so we decided the right thing to do was to fish the big lake – Lake Bernard. Most of the big lake was frozen but there was a fringe around shore of open water that extended out about 200 meters from shore. Charlie always carried a small outboard motor in the back of the station wagon – you just never knew when you might need one, but we didnt have a boat. The marinas were not yet open for the season so we couldnt rent one. That left us only one alternative. Piracy! Yep, Charlie drove us to the end of some little dirt road where there were a half dozen cottages still closed up for the winter. He found a 16 foot aluminum boat upside down behind one of the cottages and we commandeered the thing. The three of us dragged it 50 meters to the water, loaded up our fishing gear, hung Charlie’s motor on the back and away we went. It turns out we didnt catch anything and when we were done we carefully put the boat back where we found it and left without getting arrested for trespassing, theft, piracy and being idiots. Probably the owner never knew we borrowed his boat but he might have noticed the footprints we left behind on the muddy shore.

    • Was it you or Dad who said that Charlie fell into every trout stream in Ontario? By the way I’m sure you know the stream I wrote about is near where we pick chanterelles, next concession downstream. If I didn’t actually catch a big trout and see a bigger one I would never have believed it.

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