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.