Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Benny, The Fish & The Princess (#168)


Well, that silly twit dog of mine needed his second bath in a week this morning. His second one ever, for that matter. And for the same reason as the first. He lucked into a couple of rotting trout corpses, an unpleasant but common byproduct of the spring fishing season. Not content with merely finding such treasures, he naturally had to acquire some proof in order to convince me he wasn’t fibbing.

So he rolled in them, covering himself in dirt, blood and gore and enveloping his entire little body in a miasma of eau de rot.

You’ve never seen a happier dog.

He was a little less pleased with the bathtub but submitted with reasonably good grace. Worth it I suppose.

After the first time, I’d kept him on the leash until we were well past the area of the corpse he found. Today, he found another “treasure” further upstream. He’ll remain on the leash for the morning walks for the foreseeable future.


I’m definitely missing the solitary aspect of walking in winter. The paths are just too darn busy these days. Everybody and their brother-in-law and their dogs are out there enjoying Spring. Can’t say I blame them but comparatively, it feels like playing on the highway. Ben enjoys the face time with other dogs but is a little frustrated because on the morning walks he’s being kept on his leash (those rotting fish I mentioned earlier).

For the most part, our evening walks occur further from the creek, so I still let him off then, and will continue, despite what happened last evening. As usual, he was some 50 yards (meters) ahead of me, scouting. He disappeared from my sight briefly as I was rounding a turn. When I spotted him next, I groaned.

He was on his back and rocking joyfully from side to side. This is hardly ever a good sign. I hurried over and called him off. Luckily, this time the object of his affections was the carcass of a desiccated salmon. The fish died months ago and had sort of freeze-dried over the winter. I was hopeful that the taint wasn’t too bad, as he wasn’t covered in gore and slime as he had been on the earlier, bath-worthy occasions.

I rubbed his flank and then smelled my hand. Not too bad. I’ve smelled worse after a day of fishing. Pretty sure.

Anyway, shortly afterwards, we met up with a woman walking her white poodle which was leashed and approximately Ben’s size. Ben, of course, dashed toward them and began playfully circling the poodle, hoping for a romp and some mutual sniffing of naughty bits.

The woman, who was rather stylishly dressed and sported dark sunglasses, wasn’t overly thrilled with Ben’s attentions. I was told that “Princess” was nipped by another dog and was nervous of them. Princess appeared fine to me, curious and unafraid, but I called Ben off. It reminded me of how some moms will feel a chill and immediately put a sweater on their child who was blissfully unaware of being cold.

We let Princess and the Queen Mum get well ahead of us while I diverted Ben’s attention by tossing a stick.

About 10 minutes later though, our paths crossed again. By now we were nearing the road and I had Ben back on his leash. The Queen Mum was inclined to stop and chat this time, probably because Ben’s attentions were somewhat curtailed. As we spoke, she bent to pat him.

I almost said something about his earlier roll in the salmon carcass. My internal debate lasted for the two seconds it took for her hand to make contact with Ben’s fur. I decided to smile and nod instead as she stroked him and chatted about the weather.

A minute or so later we bid each other a pleasant good evening. She’d probably find out when she got back to her car, or home. Or maybe not. When Ben and I returned, I held him close and sniffed deeply.

He was fine. He just smelled like an old fishing buddy to me.

If we meet again, I expect the Queen Mum’s reaction at that time will tell me if she agrees.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Of Geese & Men: Spring Fishing Adventures II (#167)

If you haven’t read the first part of this story, you may do so by scrolling down the page a bit.


Approximately 150 yards south of where I was fishing, and on the opposite side of the creek, is a boat launch ramp and parking lot. The ramp is busy during the summer and fall months with pleasure boaters and salmon/trout fishermen. They launch their craft in the creek and putter south for half a mile until they reach the harbour and Lake Ontario.

A car with a canoe strapped to the roof appeared in the lot and gave me something new to look at. Two people got out of the vehicle, unstrapped the canoe and carried it to the water’s edge.

It was early afternoon now and the temperature had probably reached 10C (50F) under sunny skies but the water temperature was still only about 4C (39F). I couldn’t see the people very clearly but it seemed obvious they were not wearing floatation gear. After placing the canoe in the water, one of them returned from the car carrying two very old-fashioned, keyhole-type life preservers which were plopped into the bottom of the canoe.

I shook my head. If they were to overturn, hypothermia would set in quickly and there was zero chance they’d be able to don those antique life jackets while in the water. I hoped they had no intention of heading to the lake proper.

It seemed they didn’t. They pointed their canoe upstream and stroked their way toward me, politely staying close to the opposite shore where they were least likely to interfere with my fishing.

A russet-haired woman, in her early-mid 30s and wearing a heavy knit sweater, sat in the bow. I didn’t get much of an impression of the man in the stern except to note he also wore a sweater and some kind of off-white toque on his head.

They both waved as they passed and I waved back. As I watched them stroke their way upstream, my dismay at their old lifesaving gear was replaced by admiration for their paddling prowess.

They stroked and paused in unspoken unison, displaying a synchronicity that could only be born from hundreds of hours of togetherness. On every second stroke, the woman in the bow would rest her paddle on the gunnel for a two-count. The man would simply pause in mid-stroke, paddle blade hovering. Their strokes were precise and clean. The blades barely dripped. It was poetry. Too soon, they were out of sight.


Shortly after the canoeists passed, Mr. Couple, the lonely goose whose mate had been driven off by a rival, caught my attention again. He had been desultorily preening on the opposite bank when he suddenly waddled back into the water and began swimming southward, to my right. He was making soft noises, almost as if talking to himself, and was swimming with intent.

In a moment, I could see why. Swimming upstream to meet him was his lost lady love. I was amazed he could recognize her from such a distance. I’m fairly certain he didn’t hear her. There was something about her, perhaps her swimming style, that he recognized from over a hundred yards away. I was very pleased they’d found each other again.

So he wasn’t being blase (or a pig!) after all. He was just patiently awaiting his mate’s return. He had faith.

Men are such saints.


A half-hour after they’d disappeared upstream, the canoeists returned, this time a little closer to the middle of the creek. We chatted briefly about the lovely day as they passed me again. This time I noted that the man’s “off-white toque” was actually a thick head of grey-white hair. He seemed to be in his late 50s or early 60s and I wondered if they were a father/daughter or May/December pair. I hoped the former.

How wonderful to foster, then share, a much-loved activity throughout childhood and into adulthood, like my father and I did with fishing. It’s a priceless gift for both parent and child.


May have jumped the gun a tad when I declared the gander a non-pig. A few minutes after his mate’s return, he swam behind her and, in a flurry of splashing and honking, clambered atop her back, immersing her completely.

If the act I’m pretty sure he intended, actually occurred, I sure hope she was one of those rare, easy-to-please females because in two seconds they were back above water and swimming apart.

Men are so...efficient.


The shadows were lengthening. My thermos was empty. The fish, if any were indeed around, were too polite to disturb my half-day reverie. That other reality beckoned and I reluctantly packed my gear for the half-mile walk back to the car.

Several hours earlier, when I walked to the fishing spot, I passed a couple of mated pairs of geese swimming in the creek. Now, on the way back, they were on the shore and quite close to the path I was walking.

The two pair were about 100 yards apart. As I clomped past them in my hip waders, the males (I presume) hissed and muttered soft warnings. I could tell they didn’t want to have to mess with me but would, if I came too close. I reassured them, both verbally and via my body language, that I posed no threat. I avoided eye contact, spoke softly and didn’t break stride.

Men are so brave, respectful, and all-round admirable.


Maybe my next fishing adventure will feature a finned critter or two. Or not. Doesn’t matter. Fishing is always good.

Here's where I set up shop for the day. The rod on the left is ready for action. The rod leaning on the stick is already in action - sorta.

Mr. and Mrs. Couple, in a non-intimate moment.

Can you spot the froggie above?

Okay, how about now?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Fishing Adventures - Part One (#166)

Despite my outdoor enjoyment with Ben this winter, my spirit meter was still down a quart because it had been quite some time since I’d been fishing.

I remedied that over the last couple of days. Here’s Part One of what happened:


Finally! We have lovely, true-Spring weather with temperatures around 7C (45F). It was warmer in town, just a couple of miles north of where I fish, but my proximity to Lake Ontario subtracted a few degrees.

High water precluded fishing from my usual spot, so I set up shop at my second-favourite, the confluence of two creeks. Geese appeared to be pairing up. I spotted several couples on my walk in and a pair were nibbling at grass on the opposite bank from where I decided to fish, about 100 feet (30 metres) away.

Conditions weren’t conducive to actually catching a fish. The water was still too high and dingy and most of the trout had undoubtedly moved beyond this part of the creek, further north into spawning water. Those spawning grounds, parts of which include the area where Ben and I walk daily, were off-limits to anglers for 10 more days.

Which was fine. Because I didn’t come for the fish. I came for the fishing.


As expected, the underwater action was slow. After an hour, I quit drifting roe under a float, rigged up a worm on a slip-sinker rig, cast it out and set my rod down on a forked stick. I then commenced some serious idling.

Soon, I was ambling along the shoreline, peering amongst the flotsam for anything of interest. Spooking a frog was accompanied by a sudden realization:

For 50 years, ever since I was a kid, I’d do this when the fish weren’t biting. I’d wander the shoreline looking for frogs, crayfish, minnows and/or treasure. Treasure usually took the form of lost or forgotten fishing gear - a lure or a float, sometimes a knife or some coins.

I wasn’t to be disappointed this day either. As if spotting the frog wasn't enough, I found two floats tucked in amongst some reeds. One was of the balsa variety I use often, the other was a plastic model, more suited to a young angler. I kept the former and “hid” the latter on a branch of a nearby tree, at approximately the eye level of an eight-year-old.


Lunch was a fisherman’s feast and I nibbled at it over the course of the afternoon - a bag of pumpkin seeds, a couple of thick slices of kielbasa, a chunk of old cheddar and two mini-carrots so, if questioned, I could respond with a righteous “Of course I ate some vegetables!”

I choked down the carrots first so I could savour the good stuff. Dessert was a chocolate-covered granola bar and all of the above was washed down with hot, honeyed cups of tea from my thermos.

As I sipped and chewed, I watched and listened.

Geese nibbled grass and each other. The cries of soaring gulls swelled and faded as they dipped close, then away. The buzzy trill of redwing blackbirds was as near-constant as the distant hum of the highway. To the north, perhaps a mile away, four turkey vultures circled slowly. I pitied da’ food.

Every hour or so, the peace was shattered by a mournful whistle heralding the rumbling approach of a train at the nearby crossing. For a thunderous few seconds, as it blasted its whistle yet again, all other sounds disappeared. Then, after the train’s departure, like cautious children peeking around a corner after a parental quarrel, the birds re-took up their songs.


The pair of geese I considered a couple were in the shallows on the opposite side of the creek when two other geese paddled their way upstream. The newcomers passed on my side of the creek, about 20 feet in front of me.

Well, I guess they got too darn close for Mr. Couple’s liking and he tore after both, skittering across the top of the water, half flying and half running, all the while honking and hissing his outrage. He veered towards the goose in the lead and chased it upstream, to the north. I heard the commotion but my view was blocked by some trees.

The trailing newcomer suddenly flew towards Mrs. Couple, who had been left defenseless on the opposite shore. Trumpeting her alarm, she dashed off to the south, the newcomer in hot pursuit, only inches behind. As they flew past me, I could almost feel the concussion of their wing beats. Within seconds, they too were out of my sight.

A moment later, Mr. Couple’s triumphant return from chasing off one challenger was ruined by the realization there’d be no hero-welcoming nuzzle from Mrs. Couple.

She was gone.

I felt badly for Mr. Couple as he swam back and forth in front of me, bugling softly. He stopped calling within a few minutes though, and seemed to resume his normal behaviour - preening and feeding.

Men are such pigs.


To be continued....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sticks & Pups & Play (#165)

Yep, another excerpt from Walking With Benny.


Last evening’s walk was a misery. A wind-whipped rain (one degree colder and there’s another word for it) made me glad for my hood. My gloves were soon soaked and do not retain heat at all well when wet. By the time we returned, Ben was shivering and needed to be toweled off. (Don’t feel sorry for him. Within seconds, he was playing tug-of-war with the towel.)

So I was pleased to awaken to a sunny day that was a couple of degrees on the happy side of freezing.

Last night’s rain was still frozen in the shaded areas, so I had to tippy-toe for part of the walk but the sunshine and warmth made up for that temporary discomfort. The birds were still singing their fool heads off except, of course, for the gulls and crows. They can’t sing a lick. They screeched and cawed their fool heads off though; sounding just as happy, if a trifle less melodic, than their kin.

I joined them occasionally, in a dignified manner. My caw has promise but I think I’ll retire my screech.

Ben is learning the Joy of Sticks. He seeks them out now, especially when I’ve stopped to do something boring like listen to a set of rapids or try to spot a calling bird. His favourites are moist and heavily barked. These shred easily and really, what good is a chew if it doesn’t make some kind of a mess? Like most pups, he was gifted in this area. At eight weeks of age, he could turn a single tissue into 273 pieces and distribute them throughout three rooms. In less than a minute. The lad was a prodigy. And a bit spooky.

Anyway, for a goodly portion of our walks these days, he’s either happily carrying or happily destroying a stick. It’s quite comical to watch at times. He’s especially proud when he manages to snag a long one, a three-footer or so. Of course, it’s whip-thin but to look at this wee dog prancing down the path, head and tail proudly erect, you’d think he just broke a stick-carrying world record and he’s basking in the huzzahs of the cheering throng.

And then I lunge - as if to steal it - and the game is on.

My thunderfeet are no match for his limber legs and he knows it. He taunts me, scampering some distance ahead, then laying down for a quick gnaw while never taking his eyes off my lumbering progress.

I give up. I stand erect, lower my arms from their vaguely menacing, gonna-grab-that-stick position, and walk more quickly, not looking at him. I am obviously tiring of the game. He dances ever closer with the stick, alert for any untoward movement of mine. He suspects I’m likely feigning. I mean, who wouldn't want such a yummy stick?

Another lunge, a quick dodge, and he’s off again, grinning.

Maybe I’m too old and too clumsy to win at this game (although I prefer to blame my heavy winter boots and clothing) but you’re never too old to play, right?