Old timers: they just know

The drive from the city to Barry’s Bay had me thinking of big lake trout; the miles seemed to slip by unnoticed. Arriving in town I felt that I was home. Local lads have a saying: you can take the boy out of the Bay but you cannot take the Bay out of the boy.

I pulled into the yard. Dad was sitting on the porch. “How are you?” “Good,” he said, “thought you might arrive about now.” This happened often. “But how did you know?” I questioned. “Just figured you would,” was the usual reply.

Then he asked, “Wanna go to Aylen Lake tomorrow?” “Absolutely,” and so it was decided. Next morning I was up bright and early but Dad was not. He got up around 8 a.m., made fresh coffee, turned on CBC and sat down. “So Dad, what time are we going fishing?” “Best time is between 10 and 2,” he answered. Well, I was packed, ready to go; Mom even had our lunches made. Dad was not to be moved until he listened to his CBC programs. Finally at 10 he said, “Well, what you waiting for? Let’s head out.” Above: out fishing with the author’s Dad, Gilbert Glofcheskie, as a storm approaches (photo Gil Glofcheskie)

We drove down the hill to the landing at Aylen Lake where a fellow was loading his boat onto his trailer, I asked him how the fishing was. “It could’ve been better, caught a small one but there’s a storm brewing, thought it was time to get off the lake before the rush.” I know this lake and you would not want to be out there when a storm hits; the lake can blow up quickly. The fella asked us, “Do you guys fish here much?” Dad answered, “A couple times.” Well, I bet Dad had fished Aylen hundreds of times! He was good at keeping his business his own, as were most of the old timers around here.

We put our boat in the water and headed down the lake. Beautiful Aylen Lake is fed from the waters flowing in from Algonquin Park, deep and cold. Aylen has excellent lake trout fishing. The MNR traps its trout, harvests the eggs and raises the hatchlings to stock other trout lakes. By the time we reached our fishing spot the sky was beginning to cloud over and you could clearly see a storm was coming. “We should have been here earlier,” I mentioned. “The fish weren’t bitin’ earlier,” he said. Dad had an answer for everything and always sounded so sure of himself.

We got our tackle ready, Dad picked his land marks and we started to troll. The boat speed had to be just right. The lure had to have the right flip; if you could not feel the flip something was wrong, dirt or weeds were on the hooks.

Since it was springtime, we flat-lined with mono filament. Steel line is used for summer fishing when the trout are down deep. Steel line is tricky; when you messed it up you had serious trouble, a bird’s nest of tangled line.

Wham! Dad had a fish on and 30 seconds later I had a hit too — a double header! Dad flipped the boat into neutral and we both reeled in two nice 3 lb. trout, didn’t even use the net. Then we made another pass.

Glancing to the west I noticed the clouds were building, growing darker as they moved in our direction. “How soon before it comes down?” “Don’t worry, I’ll let you know,” and he chuckled. There had to be some bigger ones in that hole and again he picked his bearing points and we trolled across the shoal. Wham, another one on and it feels larger than the last one. Glancing at Dad, I noticed a smile on his face as he reeled the trout in and I netted his nice 6 pounder. Dad made it look so easy.

Hearing thunder, I peered over my left shoulder. “Getting closer,” I said, “think it’s time to pack it in?” He glanced back, “Not yet, we’re still good. Let’s try the shoal on the opposite side,” and he swung the boat around. Meanwhile in the distance, other boats were racing to the landing. “There’s going to be a half-hour line up at the ramp, no sense going now when we could be fishing.” Dad always had an answer.

He lined the boat up between the two white pines on one hill and the cut in the ridge on the opposite side. The old timers used land marks for everything in the bush. Dad was definitely a bushman; he was a hunter, a fisherman, a trapper, he guided, and logged this area most of his life. He would point to a spot and tell a story about something that happened 50 years ago; it was never a boring story. He then pointed out where the old mica feldspar mine had been  and the Ranger Station location. He proceeded to explain the history of the place. I think he was trying to distract me and maybe ease my mind.

However, I was keeping my eye on the approaching storm. I thought I spotted lighting. Dad did not seem a bit concerned and that’s when it happened, another solid hit. I shouted, “It’s a big one” and the fight was on! The trout almost jerked the rod out of my hands. Dad put the boat in neutral and the fish was off and running. I was so excited I almost forgot about the storm. With every thrash of his head the Grey showed me his power — one minute he was headed away from the boat, the next straight back at it. He dove deeper, trying to tear the hook free or the rod from my hands. Just when I was gaining line he would run, stripping line from the reel.

Dad had the net ready and the trout finally broke the surface. This trout must weigh about 20 lbs; I struggled to bring him in close to the boat and the waiting net. Suddenly the line shot straight up into the air, the fish was free of the hook. It lay there for a moment, too far for us to net him in, then rolled once and disappeared below, down into the depths. Gone! Dad looked at me and chuckled, “Sorry you lost that beauty but you should see the look on your face.” He had that smile on his face, “Don’t worry, son, he’ll be bigger the next time you catch him.”

I could now smell the rain on the wind. “What do you think, Dad, should we go now?” He looked up, “Let’s give it one more pass, I think we’re good yet.” “Whatever you think Dad,” a worried look on my face.

We headed towards the storm and could see rain and lighting in the distance; we turned and started another pass. I could feel the thump of the canoe warbler as I moved it back and forth to produce that enticing feel of a live injured bait fish. Dad got a hit, the trout came in for a few feet and just as quickly was gone, “Probably got my bait,” he said, “you keep fishing.” He reeled in and sure enough his bait was gone. We were headed in the direction of the landing at a slow troll, the thunder rolling in a low ominous growl.

I looked at Dad. “You got five minutes more.” Then, just like that, my time was up. “Reel in and pack up.” I started to reel and the trout struck. I shouted, “I am snagged!” and then the line started to peel off. “I got a fish and it’s a nice one.” “Well, you better get him in before we get soaked.” Time was running out. “I don’t want to lose him, Dad.” Here I was stuck, between a rock and hard place. Play the fish properly or lose him? The trout finally broke the surface. Lighting was flashing, thunder was booming. I could feel what was about to happen. Now, my dad was no longer a spring chicken. He stood up, took a step, swung the big net and dropped the fish at my feet. “You take care of the fish and pack up.” He threw the motor into high and we zoomed to the dock.

Five minutes later we approached the landing and we were the only ones at the dock.

Dad backed the trailer in under the boat and pulled it from the water. I emptied the contents along with the fish into the truck and Dad tied the boat down. As we opened the truck doors and stepped inside, the sky opened up, it was a deluge. Another minute and we would have been soaked through. I turned and looked at him, “Good timing, Dad, how did you know?” He just chuckled and said, “Ya gotta pay attention to what nature is telling you, son.” I thought about that and started to pay attention. I loved fishing with my Dad; I miss him and the many great times we spent together. He was an outdoorsman, a man wise to the ways of nature. Living in the wonderful Madawaska Valley is a delight in so many ways.

The longer your line is in the water, the better your chances of catching the Big One.

Good Luck.


Now it’s my turn to pass on what I’ve learned, here’s a few pointers that may help …

  • The higher the clouds, the fairer the weather. Rain clouds tend to be lower to the ground. Nimbostratus- dark clouds, hang low, are normally associated with rain clouds.
  • Cumulus- towering clouds indicate the possibility of showers later in the day.
  • Cumulonimbus- typical thunderstorm clouds appear early in the day or developing through the day indicate a high likelihood of thunderstorms or other severe weather.
  • Cirrus- stringy fluffy clouds, bad weather within 36 hours when they appear high in the sky. Altocumulus- fish scale clouds an indicator of bad weather within the next 36 hours Cirrocumulus- small puffy clouds in rows mean that cold weather is coming.
  • Mammatus- flukey clouds can bring both nice or poor weather.

Other indicators:

  • Falling or rising barometer – rain or clear weather.
  • Rainbows in the east or west – passing or coming rain.
  • Ring around the moon at night indicates snow or rain.
  • Red sky night, high pressure. Red sky morning, rain or snow.
  • Bats in the evening, fair weather the next day.
  • Frogs are noisier when rain is coming.
  • Cats clear their ears before the rain and dogs eat grass before it rains.

Here is the best one, try it:

Being cold-blooded, crickets are affected by temperature. Count the number of times a cricket chirps in 14 seconds, add 40, and you will get the temperature in Fahrenheit.


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