Saturday, September 1, 2007


On August 30th, following a full day of classes, I was invited to join a group of fellow teachers on a fishing trip. Without even having changed, I jumped into the back seat of a pick-up and we were off. Out first stop, the local corner store, for worms. Then off we went towards the cross, driving through a cove which lay between the mountainous walls. We stopped along the way to better affix a canoe which was tied to the roof of the vehicle. Along the drive I was assured that I didn’t need gear because we had borrowed the schools rods (yes, the school had rods).

We hadn’t driven for very long when we came across one of the hundreds of pristine lakes that surround the town. We piled out, and untied the canoe. I was passed a bottle of bug spray and liberally dowsed myself in the nauseous spray, knowing that it was much better than the massive red bites I would otherwise have received from the small black flies that swarm in clouds around Schefferville.

We then walked through the dense brush to a small (2 x 2 meter) clearing which revealed a beautiful, monstrous lake of still dark water. Or at least it was almost still, with the exception of dozens of fish that continually slapped the waters surface with their tails looking to eat some of the millions of black flies.

And so I was volunteered, being the newest to the lake, to a canoe tour. I piled in, and was lead around the edges of the water by Andy, one of the adult ed. Teachers, and one of the nicest Newfoundlanders you could possibly meet. This being his second year, he pointed out the large hill that lay behind us, and told me that it was the sight of a ski hill that existed in the 80’s. But that we would be back there this winter for a winter carnival where the children will slide down the former ski hill and we (the teachers) will prepare hotdogs and hot chocolate from the near by cabin.

Andy then told me that last year he often cross country skied though the clearings of the woods. That was until he was warned of wolf packs that were known to frequent the area.

We arrived back on shore, and I was passed a rod and a beer. Not being a beer drinker I took the rod and cast into the water. On my first case I felt that slight tug on the line, and gave a slight jerk. At once there was thrashing in the water and I brought in the 9 inch speckled trout. Fran├žois, the French teacher, eagerly removed the fish (which I had hooked through the eye) and snapped its neck with several stomps of his foot onto the wet marshy shore. I had forgotten how it felt of fish, and how non-vegetarian it was.

And so I continued to fish, left alone as some went in the boat, some waded out in their boots and some (using a hatchet) carved their way through the wilderness to create a new path. I again, in several minutes, managed to land another fish. I excitedly brought it in, and went to remove the hook as I had many times my childhood. The 12 inch rainbow trout reminded me of how slimy fish skin can be. The hook was well planted into the side of the animal’s mouth, which gaped as it wiggled. I firmly held onto the body and removed the hook with little difficulty, only to be covered in the watery blood. Rather than try to squish the fish to death, as Fran├žois had done, I tried to slap its head against a rock. This proved difficult, and the fish slipped from my hand several times, and nearly wound back up in the water. I refused to let it go after such troubles. So I finally placed it of the ground, slapping around as fish out of water tend to do. I lifted my foot and brought it down with what I believed to be a sufficient force to cause death, but not create a fish mush beneath my shoe. To my surprise, the fish continued to look at me as it mouthed and flopped around. Determined, I tried again and again. Then I finally heard and felt in my toes, a SNAP. I lifted my foot, having finally killed the fish, and turned to the water to wash my hands. I felt no guilt, as one may think of a former vegetarian. Instead I felt somewhat nauseated by the prospect of having to clean, remove the head, and then eat the little fish. It reminded me of a pet beta I had owned only years before. I cast my line and began to feel yet more bites when, to my surprise, I heard a rustling come from behind. It was that cursed fish, come back to life, and thrashing around in the grass filled impression that had been left from my stopping on it. I pulled my line out and resolved to place a large stone on the fish, to keep it in place. And there it lay, continuing to struggle to move, but finally unable. It died without my knowing, becoming one of the pile that was accumulated by all of us.

I continued fishing with minimal success as the sun began to set. My hands grew cold from their contact with the water as the in couching winds blew. The flies retreated with the chill. Then I felt the same feeling on my line, I jerked and wound in my line, which seemed drug down by the massive weight at the end. Only there was no thrashing. And so I looked down and saw, through the dark water, a massive piece of drift wood I had snagged as small fish nibbled at the worm.

The worms that were bought were unlike any I had ever seen. They were comparable to small snakes, with their girth close to that of my baby finger. One worm was enough from half a dozen casts. With the dexterity of my fingers minimized by the cold, I was forced to use the sharp, inner edge of a pair of pliers (intended for wire) cut the things into pieces. And as their wiggling bodies were threaded onto the hooks, white goop leaked from within.

Throughout the evening I managed to land four keep able trout; however, the last fish I hooked was no more than a few inches. I grindingly removed the hook from the little bleeding slimy body and gingerly placed it back into the water and watched it spring to life and swim off. By this time it was dark and cold. The canoe was on its way in, and a understanding was reached that our three hours were sufficient fun. We gathered our things and headed back to the truck. The sun was setting, as a small fire was lit, to warm our selves before tying on the canoe. The moon began to raise in the sky, nearly full, a deep shade of yellow.

We returned the canoe to the teacher we had borrowed it from, and gladly offered up our catch to her and her guests, several research students from McGill. None of us had eaten since lunch (I had had a sandwich and apple), so we hurried home. I walked up the stairs, turned on the heat, and went to change. And only then did I truly realize how badly I smelled. Covered in bug spray and fish slim then fire ash I was sickened by myself.

All and all, it was a wonderful experience that reminded me of simpler times. The people I work with are a barrel of laughs and will surly keep me sane for the next ten months. I have recently had many offers to try caribou, with none yet coming to fruition, but I’m sure it will only be a mater of time. I’ll keep you posted. My goodness... I'm getting long winded.

1 comment:

Kennie said...

LOL - Joe I have never laughed so hard in my life reading this post! Those poor fish! Don't you guys kill them humanely like we do up here (we just slap them against rocks)?

And yes, the people we work with will keep us sane!