As a farm boy in Saskatchewan, it was always a treat to head down to Diefenbaker Lake. I don't really recall who first took me fishing there. Probably Dad. I do recall practicing casting with rubber weights on the gravel of the farmyard one spring. Of course, all i could think of at the time is that there has to be a better way to catch a fish! It seemed like forever until we could really cast a real hook in the real water of Diefenbaker Lake. Of course, my younger brother Gary out-fished me consistently which fact caused me no end of discomfiture.
In any case I persisted and every doug has his day. I remember so well staying with my cousins in a little cove where my uncle set his trailer for the weekend. There were a couple of buffalo-berry bushes rising up from the water and i decided to drop my hook between them and let it sink. This was to become my favourite technique for triggering strikes from the northern pike, a technique I still use, lo these fifty years hence. What would it take to buy my memory of that morning? The sudden solid pull on the line, watching the nylon cut the water as the 7 pounder struggled to rid himself of my hook. I was a pretty excited kid that morning. And my brothers successes were the farthest thing from my mind. The fish and excited kid with the plastic glasses and the toothy grin actually made the Herbert Herald ! Fame, glory and fine dining, all in one joyful explosion of fishing prowess! I was more hooked on fishing than the fish i caught was hooked on me.
Fast forward. Fred, Charlie, and brother Dave are out on the Bay for some pike fishing. Fred and Charlie own a fishing lodge in Alaska and a farm in Missouri and so, they made the trip spring and fall and rarely failed to stop by for a little fishing or even just a visit and a laugh or too. We had so many wonderful times over the years and I guess they wanted their brother Dave to experience the pike fishing on Teslin Lake for himself. The day went perfectly, though there was some emotion in the air as Dave was dying of cancer. It seemed impossible as he seemed energetic and healthy.
We moved around the glass-calm lake, hooking up on a lot of pike and letting them go. Finally it was time to head in. Halfway back i had the sudden urge to stop near one of my favorite weed-beds just for a quick cast or two.
Dave immediately looped a line overboard at a random spot and got the strike of his life. The fish was big enough to pull the boat and the struggle went on for some time until finally Dave was able to bring the beast near enough the boat for me to slide my hand up under the gillslit and hoist him aboard. 26 pounds and 46 inches!
Of course, these are the fish I want to leave in the lake. They're great for business. But fishermen are funny. They seem to get a kick out of catching really big fish. No idea why that is, but it is. Just no explaining the mind of the die-hard fisherman. Unfortunately for my business ambitions and for this particular fish himself, Dave was a taxidermist and i realized there would be no point in trying to get him to release this specimen. Besides, hadn't God given him this moment, this time, this special fish for the purpose of lightening his load in this life?
So, we hauled it back to shore, took the photos, which are still some of my favourites. Now, Fred likes to bring home the salmon and the freezer on his truck was absolutely jammed with fillets from Alaska. How to install Daves pike for the long ride back to Missouri? There was just one way and the contribution of all those fresh fillets was much appreciated that winter!
Now, sadly, both Dave and Charlie have been taken from this life. Fred still stops by whenever he has a chance. The connection between us is the memories we share of the many special trips out on the lake, Charlies infectious laughter when she hooked up on a good one... and many unforgettable fishing trips in the land of the midnight sun.
(to be continued...check back!)