The Quiet shared 7
Thanks for visiting and thank you for stopping by the Fireside. I so love the company and all the many talented people who come i from the cold. You are all dearly loved and I want to thank you all for the encouragement.
The snow has stopped again but they are saying a good chance it will be back tomorrow then clearing for the weekend which is good. I have a conference to attend in the city starting Friday night and just as soon like to have the roads clear.
Fast approaching some sunny weather here mid month and a visit to Arizona for a few weeks. Looking forward to leaving the cold behind for awhile. So gather around and settle in and lets see where Tannis and I end up this day.
The Quiet Chapter Seven
As we pack up after breakfast and set out for another day, I’m aware of a constant nagging reminder that I must soon return to work and other commitments, facing another week of chaos. It is not an appealing thought. I think I will take the grace day I mentioned earlier. That will give me a few extra days to reach LY5. I have been late before and I can almost count on a low fly over from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. All it takes is a wave and they are on their way back knowing we are just fine. A man has his priorities and being here is mine.
The return trip is generally steady hard travel where we stop only to eat and then move on again.
The canoe is loaded and I survey the camp to be sure I have left it in order. Tannis has already boarded and is getting impatient because I have mentioned the word fishin’.
I laugh at her and she gives me that disgusted look that she has mastered so well. She speaks her own language, which I have come to understand. First comes the look, followed by the cold shoulder she is so good at. A thought that may be passing through her mind is, “What can I go roll in tonight to get even?” How fast she forgets the dreaded bath.
We finally shove off. It always amazes me how effortlessly the canoe glides on the water. It is so energy efficient in its design and construction.
Johnny and his family build their own canoes. They are true works of art, functional and very well crafted. They are made with willow trees that are still green and pliable lashed down over a frame and dried that way for the first year. The following year the true craft comes in as the Taggish Cree cover the willows with birch bark. All the material comes from the land, even the sap gum they use to seal the bark joints.
My canoe is not Taggish; I got it as a result of a friendship formed through a former work friend. Dave had traveled north to seek something he had lost as well. A failed relationship with a school sweetheart had done him much damage. He was angry at life and ran from it all. He ended up in the Yukon.
The canoe I used at the time came from a friend, another drifter who had arrived in the Yukon. Dave was an avid outdoors man who loved to fish, hunt and explore. But the city life drew him as well. After about a year he had to sell nearly everything he had just bought to pay his way back to the city. I was the beneficiary of several of those things, as well as this canoe. Wounded as it was from abuse, with a large patch, it remains the same as the day I bought it.
It has served me very well, so I thank you Dave.
Tannis and I have spent many hours simply traveling along. I built a bit of an outrigger that I can mount an electric motor on to assist in paddling or when fishing deep for trout. The motor is small but it pushes us along very nicely. I carry an extra marine battery that I can charge off the van when we are close by. It is especially handy when we are fishing LY1.
I have studied many books on the proper way to handle a canoe. However I believe it comes naturally through trial and error and before I knew it, I was able to paddle great distances with little effort.
When fully loaded like we are now, it becomes a chore, but the rewards far outweigh the tired muscles at the end of the day. With just a few strokes we are gliding along quietly at a nice speed with very little effort.
LY5 is just ahead. The entrance is marked with a downed tree that reaches nearly across the lake. It’s a stretch to get the canoe under it. We have to because it leads into a shallow bay filled with pike that are in the spring spawn right now.
Here my trusty spin cast comes into play as well as my fly rod. I can stand in the canoe, as it is stable, with the exception of Tannis moving around. This is a practice I have become accustomed to, although once I recall Tannis shifted her weight and caught me off guard. The result was a rude awakening for me as to just how cold the water is. The bottom, though sandy, is very soft. I was able to stand in it, but I went home, the owner of a single shoe because I lost one to the soft bottom of the lake. It was another of those days when I got the look from Tannis then the cold shoulder.
I like to use light tackle here and hooks that are very small. Generally, I use a small Len Thompson 5 of diamonds and a 10-pound test line. Combine that with a four-piece Eagle Claw rod and I’m ready.
I have caught some world-class pike right here in this lake. By standing, I can actually see them parked in the water. They are tail to shore, waiting for a female or some unsuspecting food to pass close by.
This is what I would call “pick your fish” fishing. Simply drop your hook within range and start reeling fast and they begin the attack. The water is so shallow I can see the wake coming straight at the hook. That is exciting, and then comes the strike! It is violent and the fight is worth the days it takes to get here. Again this is all catch and release.
A few years back I came in here just after the ice had cleared in June and landed three of the largest Northerners I have ever caught. The largest weighing in at 38 and a half pounds. The other two at 33 and 31 pounds. It was an exceptional day as these boys were in early staking their claims to prime breeding grounds. This battle lasts up to a half hour on fish this size and they have only one thing in mind and that is to head for deep water pulling the canoe and us in tow. Is it any wonder I would be more than willing to miss a few days work.
I usually spend a few hours here, and I have never been disappointed with the results. The action is so furious that I have to stop after awhile because my arms and hands get sore. Ever hear a fisherman complain about that kind of hardship? It is comical when you think of it, but these fish are very aggressive. I have had some ugly wounds inflicted on my hands and fingers because pike have row after row of razor sharp teeth. I have to take great care when taking out a hook. Hospitals have the tool for the job: forceps—the longer the better. A pike once clamped down on the fatty part of my thumb and part of my index finger. My first response was to try and pull my hand back. That is lesson number one on the not-to-do list. I must have missed that class. Within two days I had the reddest, ugliest infected hand you ever saw. I needed some serious antibiotic treatment, and I missed out on fishing for a few weeks.
That was a feat in itself with such a large fish, a barking dog and all the obstacles that seem to come into play. Once I had the fish landed, I was attempting to take the hook out of his mouth and with a mighty flip of his tail he jumped to the bottom of the canoe. You might think the fight was over, but before he was done, my tackle box was spread from one end of the canoe to the other. By this time Tannis was at the farthest place of retreat I was covered in fish slime. After that little ordeal I was finally able to release him back into the lake.
After the spawn is over, in three weeks or so, the pike head back into the deep water and become harder to catch, as their food is so plentiful. It is best that I enjoy the time here, and I do.
When placing the fish back in the water for release it is important to grasp the tail and gently move them forward and back to re-oxygenate the gills and lungs. Once revived they slowly swim away. I thought this fellow would become winter feed for us because he kept rolling onto his side. I was leaning over and working him with both hands when all of a sudden both Tannis and I were covered in water with one massive splash from his tail.
A few years ago as I came into the area early one morning, a floatplane that landed and made camp for the night. Tannis announced our arrival with a growl. She is so tasteful when she meets strangers for the first time. I had plans to simply pull up quietly to their camp and order breakfast. The couple from the plane—Jessie and his wife Julie—were from Montana. They willingly offered coffee and we spent most of the morning talking together.
They had recently bought their plane and this was its maiden voyage–all the way from Montana to Alaska—and now they were heading home. They had flown during the day and landed each evening on these isolated lakes. They shared their experiences from their trip and told me this had been their lifelong dream of a holiday. Jessie was a draftsman and Julie a nurse and they had four children as well as three grandchildren.
The two of them were adventurous and loved the chance to chat. They were the kind of people you just instantly love. They had so many questions about how and why I was this far back in the wilderness. As it turned out, Jessie was also an alcoholic who had been sober for many years, and he had a very clear understanding of what brought me here.
As they were leaving we exchanged our information and as result shared many years of Christmas cards and letters.
Julie was cute, as she would always address the letters ‘Canoe Man’ or ‘Wilderness Man with barking dog.’ The Post Master in Whitehorse got used to it after awhile and just laughed.
Julie passed away of breast cancer some years later. Jessie stayed in touch for a few years but the letters and cards slowly dwindled. I found out several years later from his son that Jessie had passed away of a massive heart attack.
Friendships are wonderful; some people you just cannot help but love. They had such a spirit of zest in their lives. I was truly blessed getting to know them.
As I pass the spot where they camped I see a rock pile they had gathered to anchor the plane to that night. It is the only footprint left of their visit.
Though lovely, Lake LY5 has a different shape. It is almost round and fairly shallow. On the east and west side, there are miles and miles of gently rising landscape with very few trees. Because it is shallow and filled with boggy land it is an ideal location for wildlife.
All over there are signs that moose have been here. You can tell because old beds of grass have been flattened. Many moose can be found at the south end of the lake near the trees, since they like the comfort of knowing they can find cover quickly.
Depending on the availability of females, male moose seldom travel but a few miles from where they are born. A bull moose will settle into an area and breed for a few years until a more dominant male challenges him. Should he be defeated, he will simply move to another spot and challenge the male there. We do not know whether inter-breeding takes place, but the consensus of the federal wildlife people is no.
There are also signs that there are elk in the area. A male assumes leadership of several cows. They have been known to fight to the death over their rightful place as leader of the herd. Younger bulls often try but lose out to the dominant male. Eventually they drift away and begin the cycle all over again.
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Link To Chapter 6
- “The World of Quill”
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