The clear, sun filled sky seemed in tune with the great feeling I had last Wednesday as I walked onto the bridge over the Brokenhead River to once again meet with my Ojibway friends for their summer fishing derby. I noticed long time councilor Winston Desjarlais was working his rod and as I approached him he shook my hand saying,” Hi Arnie, how’s it going.” We hadn’t seen each other for a while but after catching up, Winston gave us a humorous if not biting story from his youth. Years ago when he was about 8, his favorite uncle took him to get some crayfish at the Red Lodge rapids and when uncle poured the “little lobsters” as Winston used to call them into a pail, one fell inside ”Wins’” rubber boot. Well, it reacted predictably and began biting which caused him to hop around wildly. Uncle took charge of the situation and grabbed Winston, held him down and pulled his boot off. Free of the terrifying crayfish Win settled down as his uncle gave him a comforting smile, ruffling his hair, saying, “Boy, you’ll be ok.”
Before I left that afternoon, Meech Hocaluk with his secret bag of fishing tricks got 1st prize for the biggest walleye. The next day I went visiting our angling friends on the Selkirk pier and met Doug Smart, a Winnipegger, who originated from Scotland. He was a thin fellow with grey hair, fine facial features and a ready open smile. His story takes us to that wonderful Scottish highland town, Tomnavoulin at a time just after the war. His family was having relatives come for a visit from Aberdeen and mother was in a “tizzy” because at that time getting any kind of meat for meals was impossible. Doug’s Grandfather Sandy Irvine heard of the crisis and showed up bidding Doug come with him. There were many spring fed creeks in the area filled with trout but they were all on crown land and taking them was poaching. Intrepid Scotsman Sandy, vowed there would be fish before their company on the suppe r table so he, with little Doug, shuffled along back roads to a fine crystal clear cold creek full of trout. There, big Sandy, barefoot with pants rolled up, waded into the icy water and spreading his legs wide said to the boy on the bank, “When a fish comes, you jump on it!” Then with lightening speed Sandy scooped and threw fish to Doug. When they had enough they strung them on a willow branch and tripped through lanes and fields home under the cover of night. When the relatives arrived the whole family had their fill of a fine meal.
Toward the weekend I was at a party for Robert Kristjanson at the commercial fishers’ landing at the Gimli Marina Complex. Rob was a leader in the development of how commercial fishing works in the country and still fishes in his eighties. I sat listening to Rob reminding us how the huge marina came from nothing to a place for all kinds of fishing and boating. Sitting beside me was a young guy talking about lifting nets. It turned out he was a rooky commercial fisher who without family connections or experience decided this is what he wanted to do. Justin Cerbeandt, a huge unassuming lad with short sun-bleached hair, laughed as he recalled going out on his first open water net setting trip. The waves were 8’ high slamming the skiff about wildly. He told his partner Mike Lenton, “I don’t care if I’m going to be called a sissy, but we’re going back to harbor!” When they got there all the other fishers had stayed in and one old-timer looking at them shook his head saying, “You don’t go out in this!” I sat there listening to Rob talking about his half century of fishing and to Justin who was just starting and I was filled with pride knowing our fishing culture and industry is alive and well in these men.
I’ve wanted to show you the picture of Jason Zhang with his catch at Hecla for some time. He struck me as such an interesting chap because he will only fish Hecla and he’s one of those guys who when nobody’s catching anything; he will.
See you next week, happy fishing!