Sixteen years does much to cloud a memory, as does being seventy. Though in general I remember most of our days on Brunne, a few odd things stand out. We were trolling the north shore in search of walleyes. I was the motor and Allan was doing the catching, the usual drill for us. Not a lot of fish, but enough to know we were doing something right. Perhaps three walleyes into the paddle Al let me know, in no uncertain terms that trolling sucked. Had to admit he was right. Sitting and watching a rod tip smacks too much of hunting for meat and meat only. Yes, we wanted to catch fish all right but the skill required for trolling is a couple of notches below casting and even more so below pulling out the fly rod.
Casting with either pole pays homage to the work ethic, is more physical, and by far, more mental. Casting calls for continual decision making and control. Picking the best looking spot on shore or along a mid-lake reef and doing your best to throw the lure right on the money is a continual challenge. From my experience there's as much joy to be found in dropping a spinner or fly dead center into a cut in the shoreline as there is in hooking up. Sounds like a load of crap but it's not. Having one shot to a good looking spot knowing a mistake will spook the pool or hang the lure in a bush sure does get the blood flowing and a man's focus up. Call it self-made pressure. A good fishing trip will test a person again and again.
Early on, Allan and I realized it was part of the game to get hung on the bottom or on shore. Paddling in or back is part of the challenge of putting the lure where the fish are. Simply put, fish hang in cover 'cause they want to eat and not be eaten. Our rule was simply, 'you gonna catch fish, you gonna get hung.' Casting calls for expertise, trolling is literally a pain in the ass.
The other moment happen in mid-lake. We were bobbing in the waves and working a reef for whatever we might find but mostly thinking walleyes. By now we'd been in Canada long enough and had enough success to know large northern pike are both exciting and painful. We caught little along the rocks but I did manage to catch a wide-bodied pike of size. Of course she wasn't happy and threw her weight around when I hoisted the fish for a picture. That might have been what made me aware of where were were and what that meant.
The two of us were perched in a tiny aluminum canoe a half mile from the nearest shore, bobbing in swells and instinctively rolling our hips to maintain balance, two portages and seventeen miles away from the nearest flush toilet, five hundred miles north of the border, and nine hundred miles away from home. Damn. Roll the boat and we were screwed. For a moment I was spooked. It was much safer seeing and smelling the water, islands, shore, forest, clouds, and sky than it was to gut feel the reality of our situation. I have a tendency to float along the surface of life. Simpler than being aware of what it is I'm floating on and what's beneath the surface. Get the job done and move on. Out on the water it felt like I was caught in the world between being awake and dreaming. For me fishing has always had its mystical side and bobbing above that reef I was knocking on its door.