There are rare times in a fisherman’s life when everything clicks. The weather is superb, a lifetime friend has hooked a true trophy, and there is film in my camera. I could hardly wait to get back home, and have it developed.
Six days earlier, on a Sunday morning, Doc and the rest of us rolled out of our vehicles, and elbowed each other mercilessly as we crowded through the door of Knobby’s fly-in fishing business in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
We made so much rowdy noise, Knobby nearly dropped the lighter he was using to fire up his pipe. “Welcome to Paradise, men,” he said. “What’s all the excitement?”
After almost 30 years of annual Canadian fishing trips with Knobby, every time seemed like the first. “This could very well be the best year ever,” Doc said. “The water level, the temperature, the ice-out, the spawn, even the Solunar Tables show this is the week to hook Mr. Big.”
“Walleye or northern?” Knobby asked.
“Why not both?” the policeman said.
“One of each,” I chimed in.
“And plenty for the frying pan, too,” the attorney said.
The banker and plant manager were already busy filling in fishing license forms at the direction of Knobby’s daughter, Donna, and I looked out the window to see our piles of gear slowly disappearing into the tail section of a turboprop Caravan.
“Who’s that for?” Doc said, pointing at a table in the back that held a triple-decker cake decorated with a blue plastic float plane.
“That’s for Matt Mitchell’s birthday,” Knobby said. “Matt’ll be flying you in today.”
“Been with you quite a while, hasn’t he?”
“Since 1968,” Knobby said. “I hired him as a dock hand, and he was so bad at it, I had to either fire him or put him in a plane. Must have been the right choice because he’s logged over 28,000 hours in the air. As a matter of fact, a newspaper reporter from Kenora is coming in to do a story about him.”
“Quite a coincidence, Knobby,” I said. “The paper in Tucson wants me to write a travel feature on Northwest Ontario fly-in fishing. They even want photos.”
“Maybe you can mention Matt and me.”
“There’s a good possibility, Knobby,” I said. “Make you even more famous.”
“I already had my 15 minutes of fame,” Doc said, smugly.
“Was that the time you were arrested for mooning the Minnesota bench at an Iowa basketball game?” the plant manager asked.
“No,” Doc said. “I got to shake hands with Arnold Palmer a few years ago.”
“And it took you 15 minutes?” the attorney asked.
“Hell, I can shake hands in under 15 seconds, easy,” the banker added.
“Why Arnie?” I asked. “Was Tiger Woods busy?”
Doc finished his paperwork, glared at me, and stomped on out to the plane.
“You sure are hard on Doc,” Knobby said.
“Most of the time he deserves it,” I said. “But he’ll get even somehow. He always does.”
“Have a good week,” Knobby said, and we certainly did.
The single cabin on Bamaji Lake gave us access to miles of weedy and rocky shorelines, as well as incoming fast water, and we visited familiar honey holes we remembered from years past.
The fish were as hungry and aggressive as Aunt Lucy gets when she’s back on Weight Watchers, and we caught and released an average of 50 fish per man per day. It seemed the size of both walleyes and pike were gradually increasing the harder we fished.
I teamed up with Doc the third day, and he was convinced that the moon phase, the alignment of the planets, and the feng shui of the 14-foot Lund was perfect for him to catch the biggest fish of his life. I razzed him about all of it, of course, until something very large gobbled his Luhr-Jensen Hot Rod spoon. Doc’s heavy rod bent double, and the 5500C drag sang like a dental drill.
“Hang on, Doc,” I yelled. He played the big pike brilliantly through three spirited, tail-splashing runs, and finally steered it boatside. I cradled it in a net I held almost flat, and Doc quickly worked the hook free.
“What a fish!” He exclaimed.
“You’re not going to stuff him, are you?” I asked.
Doc knew from my yearly lectures how I was vehemently opposed to removing key members of the breeding pool, and I was surprised when he said, “Nope. I’m gonna weigh him, and let him go.”
We waited five minutes to make certain the beast had suffered no ill effects from the fight, then Doc gently lifted him into the boat, put a digital scale on his lip, and hung him vertically. “An even 28,” Doc said, unhooking the scale, and preparing to slip the pike back into the water.
“Wait! I have to get a picture for my newspaper story,” I said.
“This could be another 15 minutes of fame for you, Doc.”
That was all the incentive Doc needed, and he said, “I better get one, too.” He dug his camera out of his pocket, then sat down and held the pike at about a 45-degree angle, showing off its razor teeth and beautiful coloring. I snapped a shot with Doc’s camera, then put it on the seat, pulled mine out of its case, and carefully checked the settings.
Continued – click on page link below.
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