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Rufus Guinchard on fiddle

I’ve been learning a little bit about the late great Newfoundland fiddler, Rufus Guinchard, and came across this old clip featuring Mr. Guinchard, at 90 years, still sawing out the tunes.

Check out the unusual way Rufus Guinchard held his fiddle when he played.

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House Musical

Listen to the latest from The Agency right here or find it at all the good podcast places.

This week:
We talk to creators Scott Free and Marcus Waller about their new musical HOUSE MUSICAL. The production is playing late April at The Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois.

The agents also share their love for New York City. Candy still doesn’t have Netflix or HBO and Eugene is caught up on Succession and has an idea.

The Agents love to hear your ideas for episodes, or your thoughts on life, the world and the universe. Email us anytime.

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Fish Tales #3: the big one

Fishing was a big deal in our house as I was growing up. You might say my childhood was punctuated by photographs of dead fish. Some catches were near legendary in the family, and the story of how my father caught a large sturgeon on a fly rod was told to me I don’t know how many times over the years. Dad would point at my brother Joe, who was a boy when it happened, and say: it was bigger than him and better lookin’ too.

My dad liked to tell the same stories over and over, and he felt free to change them up to fit the audience. He didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story either, so I sometimes I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. One thing for sure – he did catch a whopping big sturgeon and we have the dead fish pictures to prove it.

This was back before I was born. My guess would be around 1955. My dad liked to fish at Montgomery’s Rapids on the Nottawasaga River – for walleye, which we called pickerel, and for migratory rainbow trout, which these days everyone calls steelhead. The rapids formed a deep whirlpool on one side. Somehow, my father discovered that there were huge sturgeon living in that whirlpool, and he was determined to catch one.

In the evening, just before he was ready to quit fishing for the day and drive home, Dad would rig up a long fly rod with a bait hook, heavy leader and a sliding bell sinker rig. He baited his hook with what he described as a big gob of dew worms. He’s just flip the bait into the water and with the help of the long rod, he could drift his bait around and around and around the whirlpool. I believed him when he told me it wasn’t unusual to hook a sturgeon that way. Landing the fish was another thing altogether – he only ever landed one.

Dad bragged the sturgeon was 57 pounds and 57 inches. He brought it home and had the meat smoked, and gave away chunks of smoked sturgeon to friends. I guess the photo was taken in the yard of their home, which was on Methuen Avenue in the Jane and Annette area of the City.

The old photo of Dad with the sturgeon triggered my childhood imagination. It seems impossible, exotic even. I couldn’t wait to go with them and take part in their adventures.

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Keanu vs Bronson

Listen to the new episode of The Agency Podcast right here or find it in the usual places. However you access it, we’d appreciate it if you would “like” or comment and please subscribe to hear all the future episodes.

This episode The Agents speak with Peyton McCarty-Simas about witches in horror films, a subject which includes psychedelics and discussion on political movements.

John Wick 4 (or… who would win a cage match between Keanu, Liam Neeson, and Charles Bronson)
Ted Lasso
Succession – it’s back
Art and politics – Kent Monkman at the ROM
+ listener mail and more

Thanks for listening.

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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 and 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 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.