Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

An old and not so good fishing story

My job had me travelling all over Northern Ontario so one summer I planned my schedule to fit in some fishing in the middle of the trip. I had to drive up Hwy 129 from Thessalon to Chapleau on my way to Timmins so I stopped at an outfitter in Thessalon to ask about brookie streams. He recommended I try the Snowshoe, Rapid, and Gravel.

I found the Snowshoe first and you couldn't ask for a prettier little river. The only problem; it was in a 50' deep gorge with no way to climb down. I found a logging road that ran alongside the stream and drove over to it to see if it would lead to better access.

Parked in the entrance was a big Ford 4X4 so I asked the driver if he’d ever been down that road. He looks at me kinda shocked and says,” NOOO!” in an “Are you nuts?” tone of voice. It didn’t look that bad so I drove my poor, long-suffering little Carolla down it with one wheel in a rut and the other on the grass covered centre hump, in the hope that it would meet the stream.

I drove like that for about half a mile, with the brush scraping the side, until I encountered a mud puddle that would give a Hummer driver second thoughts. I backed up (without falling off the hump) and parked in a little cutout in the bush. Got out and walked on until I couldn't hear the water anymore as the road had curved away from the stream. So with much muttering under the breath, slogged back to the car and drove out, scraping the other side of the car for good measure.

Back up the road to the highway, and I'll try the track on the other side. It goes nowhere too. Then I noticed that the south east corner of the bridge leads down to the water, over two very large chunks of the Canadian Shield. I hadn't put on my waders yet, so I thought I'd try it out with my hiking boots. The first huge rock was lichen covered and like walking on sponge marbles. The second rock was 15' from the bottom and soaking wet with runoff. I put one foot on it and started skating. Thankfully I was holding on to a little pine at the time or I would have been in the river real quick. Well, scratch off the Snowshoe. About 20 minutes later down the road, it dawned on me that with my studded wading boots I could've walked that rock like it was my kitchen floor.

On the way to the Rapid, I found a little stream called the Lafoe. It had perfect access, a place to park, and it wasn't too brush entangled. Only problem it was tea coloured, loaded with tannins. I figured it was probably too acidic and passed it up. The Rapid was next and it had the same tea colour as the Lafoe except it was in a green tunnel of brush and stepped up the hill in a series of mini waterfalls. Next.

Just before I crossed the Gravel I saw a wide, well-maintained gravel road. The Gravel River itself was easy to get to except for the tangled brush along the banks. I figured I'd try the gravel road since it seemed to curve toward the river.

About 200 yards up, I encountered a party of very damp, hung-over hunters with their 4X4s, campers, lines full of drying clothes and stacked, empty cases of two-fours. They gave me the evil eye as of course they rightly assumed that only a wimpy, fly fishing, Toronto yuppie would be driving a cell phone equipped compact on these roads. An aside to the young: in the early days of cell phones, they had to be installed in cars because they were so large and their presence was given away by their telltale antenna. They were only of use in urban areas due to very limited coverage. In the cellphone-less North, the antenna marked you as a pathetic city slicker.

I hemmed and hawed for a moment, trying to make up my mind if the hunters would be willing to part with some useful info, but they didn’t appear to be in the mood for such generosity. So I doubled back as I figured the brush entanglements would be more hospitable.

Back out to the highway, I stopped just on the side of the bridge and parked on the gravel shoulder. Burning with impatience, I was out of the car, into my waders, and in my haste promptly drop my brand new Featherweight reel in the roadside gravel. Cleaned off the reel, examine the scratches, cursed my ham handedness, on with the rest of the gear and down the bank, only to encounter impenetrable brush. The next few minutes was consumed with working back and forth in search of a better spot to get through it.

Finally wiggle my way through into the water and I start tying on a fly only to drop my rod onto the rocks. As I move to pick up the rod I feel that I'm dragging something. Half the prickly vine that had been on the brush is now embedded in my gravel guards. Strip off the vine, get the fly on, and out under the bridge to drop a couple of casts upstream into a great looking spot, except I can't shoot any line! Thrash, thrash, still no line shoot, but the fly is smacking into the water real good. Any brookie worth his slime is no doubt now 100 yards upstream.

I had missed a guide! I haven't done that in I don’t know how long. Back under the bridge, cut off the fly and re-thread the rod. Have I mentioned that it was a beautiful, blue-sky day? Well, I step out from under the bridge and the only cloud in the sky decides to rain on me. It’s not too bad, so I try a few more casts and I still can't shoot line. I've missed another guide!

Back under the bridge, cut the fly off, re-thread, and back out only to have the heavens open up and dump a monsoon on me. Well, I'm not the brightest lad in the universe, but I am about figuring the good Lord is trying to tell me something. So I give up, fight my way off the river and back to the car in the pouring rain, only to find that I have left the driver's side window and sunroof open!!! The cloth interior is totally soaked and I have nothing to sop up the mess. It’s going to be a very wet butt ride to Timmins.

I saved the best for last. Close to Chapleau, I see another outfitter so I stop in for a chat. Well, he's fished all of these rivers and the Snowshoe and Gravel don't have squat in them except for the odd smallmouth. You guessed it; the Lafoe and Rapid are excellent. Should have left the damn rods at home.

This was the first time in my career that I wiggled my work schedule to leave some fishing room in the middle of the day and karma had bitten my butt badly. Never bothered trying it again.