Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Steroidal beaver

Angler’s often talk about there encounters with beavers, so here’s my version of a run-in with “Johnny Canuck”. The beaver has a reputation for being industrious, tireless, passive, nice, but a bit dimwitted. Let’s just say that the fellow I met up with came under the heading of “None of the Above.”

Late in the summer, I was fishing Duffins Creek, a nice stretch of water just east of Toronto. It gets a fairly heavy steelhead run so the stream ends up full of young steelhead. Some may reach as much as eight or nine inches and a few bigger ones hang around as residents, so they are a bunch of fun on a two or three weight. It’s a tiny, little stream where you fish for tiny, little fish using only tiny, little flies on a tiny, little rod, or so I thought.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with young steelhead, but they are the most voracious little buggers. Toss anything near them that looks remotely edible and they are scrapping with each other to get there first, hardly the behaviour that their older siblings display. They also seem to school up a bit, usually a small group of them congregating in a good feeding spot and splashing about as they chase whatever.

As I waded from one riffle to another, I spotted a group rising fairly regularly. There wasn’t any particular hatch happening though there were the odd caddis rising, a few BWOs in the air, and a few floating, dead spent spinners. I think they were going after anything that drifted by. I had tied on a size 18 ‘something or other’ for no particular reason and had already taken a few. I spotted a bunch of rises on the other side of a low foot bridge, not high enough to walk my 5’ 7” under upright, so I remained on the other side and casted under it side-arm. I took a couple of little rainbows, then I suppose in response to the commotion, the rest of the pack edged away, further upstream.

As I walked under the bridge to pursue the retreating ‘bows, a huge, black, torpedo shaped thing shot through the water in front of me, heading for the opposite bank. Now, I’m not the type to startle, but that did make me sit up and take notice. When I go fishing with my French-Canadian brother-in-law, he usually disparagingly refers to the fish that I catch as “la baleine de crik” or creek whales. Well, I thought I had just seen the real thing. As it slowed down to turn, I recognized as a huge male beaver. This massive rodent proceeded to swim in an agitated fashion between a long, thin partially submerged tree trunk and the undercut bank, obviously disturbed by my presence. To mollify him I figured I’d pretend to ignore him and started casting to the trout that were still rising oblivious to this little drama. Then an unexpected thing occurred. The beaver stopped swimming in circles, glided up to the log, rested his chin on it and proceeded to watch me cast. Obviously, my casting technique wasn’t impressing him, but he was fascinated by the fly and followed its every movement.

The little trout finally got bored with my fly so I waded up further to the next bend, to cast along a curving seam. The trout may have become bored, but not the beaver. He wasn’t through with my fly or me. He promptly charged right past me into the seam after the fly. I yanked it out, caught it, and waited for him to leave. He didn’t. Up waded up to the next pool, tried again. In he splashed. Two more pools, same result. I’d never catch anything with this big, ugly bugger charging into every pool.

Then I made the Big Mistake. I stepped over his dam, into HIS turf. All hell broke loose. He charged around, tail slapping, snorting, swimming around me, glaring at me with those glistening black hamster-like eyes. You must realize, they have big front teeth that do a good imitation of a chainsaw and I was wearing tree-coloured waders. Discretion overwhelmed valour as I climbed out of his pool with my dignity and waders intact.

If I were ever going to get any fishing in, I’d have to shake this persistent, steroidal rodent. I slogged it up the bank about 50 yards or so, looked back and Mr. Beaver was nowhere in sight. I picked out a pretty little bend in the creek, with a nice seam that ran down to a very large pile of driftwood. To fish it, I repeated the same pattern with each cast, flick out to the head of the seam, get a nice drag free drift along the inside of the bend, then pull out just before the fly disappeared under the logjam.

After a dozen casts or so, I plucked out a couple of eight inchers, and was getting ready to move on. Just one more cast. Same routine, flick out, drift down, and . . . just as my fly reached the logs, a big black nose emerged from underneath the pile and intercepted my fly. We all know how fast the human mind can operate in a crisis. I did instant calculations on my chances of landing a 30+ lb. beaver on a seven foot, two weight, on 7X tippet, then calculated the odds of being able to remove the fly while keeping my fingers intact. With the calculations coming up craps, I yanked my fly clear of his nose. Fortunately, Mr. Beaver was more curious than hungry so I never did get to test my chances. Curiosity and honour satisfied, he swam away, leaving me to reduce my pulse rate and gather my breath. I have had plenty of refusals from trout, but that was my first from a beaver, and hopefully, the last.