Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm Thinking Of You Down In Mexico.........

My annual May Fly trip awaits. Less than a week away.  So for practice, I did this........

Ok, it is not a trout, it is not Mayfly and it sure as hell wasn't cold, but it is one of the coolest fly fishing experiences I have ever had. The fish is a 15 or so pound Jack Crevale. The location is Boca Paila Mexico, near the chill Mexican town of Tulum. It is something of a home away from home for me and my wife. It is our sixth visit, and this fish was a highlight in 2016.

There are many more highlights. Great restaraunts (we tried Casa Banana this year, amazing). Boutique beach front hotels and even great condos to rent. The story behind this fish?

The short version, it was 30 degrees, windy, and the surf on the beach was high. We were casting for Jacks between the waves. In the foam (foam is the home as my guide Rhett Schober told me). He was right. The first take I got was light and I missed it. (Trout setting in the salt is a no no). The second was solid and hard, I hooked up and the fight was on, until it wasn't. My free line wrapped around the fighting butt on my rod, and the fish was gone.

The third take was intense, and the fish ran hard and fast. Well into my 200 yards of backing and he took the fight for 40 minutes before he came to hand. The unseen part of the photo is the seven stitches in my leg from two nights prior. Apparently wet feet and spiral staircases are a bad mix. Who knew?

The trip though was with two of our good friends, including my friend Darren who I grew up with as a child. We played as four year old kids and on this day we played as 50 year old men. Tulum is worth more of a write up than this. As does my friendship with Darren, as does this fish and the events that led up to this day of fishing, including my daughter living through two earthquakes in Kumamoto Japan. yes it was quite a week. One I won't forget for a lot of reasons. I will elaborate more soon on all of it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hello World.......

Anyone who learns programming languages will recognize the Hello World as an exercise where you write your first code. I have had this blog since 2008 but I have sadly neglected it but now I find myself inspired again. A lot of stories to tell and ideas I am piecing together. Including things like posting from the lakes and rivers.

So where have I been? I have traveled many places, I rediscovered Salmon fishing and fell in love with the beauty of fishing in the tropics (Mexico specifically). I will write about all of this over the next little bit but my inspiration for this blog is drawn from this:

This, is my home province. Well a piece of it anyway. This is something I have neglected. My love of fly fishing was born in the lakes and still waters and rivers of Nova Scotia. In the back woods. Tea Kettles and cans of beans on open fires. Walking to a new lake and admiring the challenge of it. Reading a map and vowing to conquer another piece of this amazing wilderness we ar beyond lucky to have at our disposal.It is easy to be lured to the bright light side of fly fishing. Beautiful lodges on world class rivers. Beach front hotels near Mexican fllats. I love all that and will continue to enjoy it. But I turned 50 in 2015. And this winter I thought about the back woods trout fishing I did the past few years and realized, it wasn't much. So now, I want to right the wrongs and bring myself back to the land. While all in Nova Scotia on the angling front is not perfect, we are lucky to have some still pristine trout waters and the ability to explore them.

So the reset button is firmly pressed. It is time to rediscover why I started fishing and restore balance to my fly fishing soul. 2016 will be a great year. I will make sure of it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Tent Dwellers, circa 2015

“If you are willing to get wet and stay wet — to get cold and stay cold — to be bruised, and scuffed
and bitten — to be hungry and thirsty and to have your muscles strained and sore from unusual taxation; if you will become these things, not once, but many times, for the sake of moments of pure triumphs, and that larger luxury which comes with the comfort of the camp and the conquest of the wilderness, then go! The wilderness will welcome you, and teach you, and take you to its heart. And you will find your own soul there; and the discovery will be worth while.”

I first read the tent dwellers when I was 16. Bought my copy at a yard sale. At that younger age i enjoyed the book for the story it was, without the conext experience provides.

You see The Tent Dwellers is a story of 4 men on a three week long canoeing/trout fishing trek through the wilderness of my home province of Nova Scotia in 1908. The Nova Scotia described and the Nova Scotia today differ widely as you might imagine. In 1908, the unspoiled waters of Nova Scotia teemed with trout, big and small. The woodlands untouched. The Acid Rain not yet scorching the pristine waters.

This post though is not about that exactly. You see the book is a story of respect and love for the outdoors. The toughness and dedication of those who fished it. It is about the feeling of connecting with the outdoors, a group of friends, the fsh and it is a chronicle of all of it.

So this year, the group of us who May Fly fish together decided to do our own tent dwellers trip. We don't have time for three weeks, so three days will do.  So in early May we will pack our gear, lift out canoes and travel to some remote lakes. Sleeping by the shore, eating under the stars and photographing and chronicling it all. Our own Tent Dwellers circa 2015. There is still special fishing in Nova Scotia. We have done a lot of it already, but this May we will get it all in word in pictures and save it here for posterity.

We have done these trips before. The formation of our now camp started with week long trips in tents, in rain, in snow, in the cold. Wet for a week straight. We have never done it with the idea of keeping it in detail for future reads or looks.

I am neither a writer nor a photographer and certainly not Albert Bigelow Paine, but the motivation is the same, and the results, whatever they may be and for us at least, will be special.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How The Toronto Maple Leafs Ruined May Fly Fishing (For One Day)

May 8, 2000

I know what you are thinking. The Leafs don't play hockey in May. Usually, you would be right, but once upon a time, they did occasionally. For me, a Montreal fan, I could care less. Derrick however was a huge Leaf fan.

It had been a long day on the water. Sunny in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon, and the temperature satyed at about 7 degrees for the better part of the day. The conditions though, were perfect. A light breeze was just enough to carry fly across the lake and the fly were thick. So we did well, right? Well, not exactly. You see the small lake not far from the camp is not your typical lake. You have to work it hard to get fish, but it holds the biggest fish in the area. So it is a risk/reward lake. My favourite kind.

For Derrick though, tonight was Game 6 of the conference semi finals and his goal, was to leave the lake before dark (prime time) to watch his Leafs stave off elmination. So shortly before game time, he came to us and asked if we were going to go back to the camp and watch the game. Our reply was swift. "It's prime time". Derrick nodded and told us he would get the camp warm.

Now it is almost dark. Stephen and I caught nothing so far. Seen a few big fish move, but that was it. So we decide to go back and join Derrick at the camp. As we paddle back in low light, in the North side of the lake we see a raise. then another, then another. There is a big fish getting spent fly in the cove, and Stephen decides to go after it. As he is paddling to it, I see a raise just 50 feet of the shoal. I paddle out. It moves again. Another big fish. As I drop my anchor to move the boat around. As my anchor hits bottom, Stephen hooks his fish. It is large and the rod bends deeply. I check to see if he wants help, he says fish mine. I cast, and as the fly hits the water, the fish takes.

The next few minutes, we are landing our fish near the shoal. Derrick arrives as we do. He watches us bring them in. "Holy shit" was all he could muster. We measure the fish, both are 18 and 3/4 inches and close to four pounds. Almost like twins. We ask Derrick about the game on the walk to the camp. "It's over. The Leafs had 6 shots on goal, lost 3-0."

Stephen and I laughed. Like true Habs fans, our team missed the dance, we found our joy in the relative failure of the Leafs, and the biggest double header either of us will ever experince, for Trout at least. As for Derrick, we got back to the camp and he poured a drink. He took a snap of it, looked at us and said "The Leafs Ruined The May Fly". You can only laugh.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Long Walk Home

I have written about our trips the camp many times. I usually keep them light and focused on fishing but the truth is the camp was and is always about more than that. My wife calls it the he Man Woman Haters Club and while that is not true, the sentiment that it is a sanctuary where us, as friends take a week and do what we like to do best, May Fly fishing. We have done it for a lot of years now. 25 maybe as a group.

I met my friend Derrick Gage, oddly enough, fishing. The first time was at a meadow stream in Stewiacke. He was friends with another friend of mine and we hit it off right away. Derrick and I fished on a regular basis from that point on. Many trips yearly, leading into the time we decided, along with Steven and Stephen to build a camp.

In May of 2010, at the camp Derrick informed us he had cancer. He told us, and to this day I think it was for us, it was skin cancer. He would take drugs for it, some Chemo and all would be good. It was treated by him as minor and we fished, drank, told our stories and moved on from it. Over the course of the next two years though, things got worse. We rarely spoke of it, respecting his space and how he wanted to deal with it.

In May of 2012, we brought Derrick back to the camp. His health had deteriorated, so we wanted to make sure that he made this trip. Unlike the other trips in the past, this one was not about the rum, and the laughs, and the stories. This one felt necessary. It was about making sure that our friend got to spend May Fly at his favorite place in the world.

Sadly, Derrick never fished there. The walk to the camp was hard for him. A 10 minute walk for a healthy man, took us over 30 minutes. Derrick sat and caught his breath, got some sleep, but never really got his legs under him. Over the next 24 hours, fishing was not important. We ate, we talked, we kept our friend in good spirits. We talked past trips, the best catches, the funniest stories.

The next morning all went fishing except for me and of course Derrick. He slept, and was clearly uncomfortable. When he woke, I offered to drive him home. We agreed that the next morning we would make our way out.

The next day we all walked Derrick out. The trip took longer than the way in. Frequent rests, many stops, slow movements and a lot of pain. Once we reached the car, things got difficult. Long time friends, all saying goodbye. It was a difficult time. Everyone tried to keep a brave face. When Derrick and I got in the truck, he turned to me and said " I am never going to be back here again." I bit down hard and patted him on the shoulder. Sadly, he was right.

Derricks last fish was caught on the Bonaventure River, in September of 2011. It was his bucket list trip and he got the fish on the last full day of fishing. A large Hen Salmon that any fly fisherman would have been proud of. He passed away on August 18th, 2012 at the age of 48.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Did We Become The Enemy?

I have fished Salmon since the age of 18. I am not the most avid of salmon anglers, nor the best. In recent years, after a few years away from salmon fishing, i rediscovered my passion for it. I got to hold one in my hands again for a brief moment. Like I do with any fish, I appreciated it for the gift it gave me and watched it swim away. With reverence.

Now it would appear that me and others like me, have been identified as the enemy. My sport, the downfall of the species. We, in 2012, are interfering with the native food fishery, so we are told. Now we are no longer allowed to fish for them. They say "for now", but no one really knows. The threat to the sport so many of us have passionately pursued, is very real and fly anglers in Nova Scotia are shown the value they hold in the eyes of DFO. None.

At the risk of making my wife angry, let me give you all an idea of what Salmon fishing means to an economy, just from me. I own thousands of dollars of gear. Rods, reel, lines, flys, waders, jackets, shirts, boots and so much more. All of it purchased from fly shops and fly fishing manufacturers. In 2011 I fished for Salmon in Quebec and Nova Scotia. I spent part of 12 days on the water. I spent more than $900 on gas, $1000 on accommodations, well over $1000 on food, drinks, diners, coffee, restaurants, farmers markets and corner stores. I am one guy who does not get the time to fish Salmon nearly as much as I want to, but I spent in the area of $5000 in the pursuit of my sport. There are 2500 licensed Salmon Anglers in Nova Scotia. Do the math. Salmon fishing is a $130 Million industry that employs 4000 people in Eastern Canada, and it's existence is being threatened.

Even more important we took a good friend who has cancer on the trip of a lifetime and created memories we will all never forget.

And now, we are the enemy. The truth is, the angler is the protector of the species. While the aboriginals and DFO might want to stake that claim, no one has done more to protect fisheries of all sorts, than those who sport fish for them. Most of us only catch and release. Our presence on the river is saving it from poachers, and organizations have taken on projects from building fishways, to liming dozers to enhance and protect the habitat. And now, we are the enemy.

Maybe it is time to assert OUR rights. Maybe it is time to step up and make a stand for OUR passion. Maybe it is not right anymore to be treated like second class stakeholders in OUR rivers. Maybe, just maybe, we are not the enemy.

I urge any salmon anglers across this country, and anyone passionate about fishing to write your MP's, MLA's and area Councillors. Tell them as salmon anglers we are the greatest friend the species has. Tell the we are NOT the enemy. I welcome your feedback and anyone who wants to make a blog post about this, email it to me at djphill@eastlink.ca.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012, Here We Go

It has been a while since I posted here. Too long. Things got busy though. As I posted here before I am the distributor for Vision Fly Fishing in Canada and that undertaking has been a lot of fun,time consuming and very rewarding. So I have a few posts to make about 2011 and what it was for me. I fished in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Finland in 2011. The most memorable year in my angling history so far.

I learned a lot about the passion of the people who make the products I sell. I learned about the Finnish passion for hockey which is Canadian like. I also learned the passion for fish I never caught before, including the Northern Pike and the love of them in Finland.

I learned about the Gaspe. The potential high cost and the amazing rivers like the Bonaventure, maybe the most eye catching watershed I have ever seen. I learned about friends and why they are important and how they come together in good times, in bad, and in the face of worse case scenarios.

I also earned a new appreciation for the fishery in Nova Scotia. While it has it's problems, it also has pockets of special fisheries. I am lucky enough to have a camp in the middle of one of them. I also saw a North Shore Salmon fishery that had a very promising year, as did the Margaree.The problems are not gone, but all is not lost. We have a resource worth protecting.

Lastly, I learned a greater appreciation for life on the whole.  Good food, good drinks, good friends, and an amazing family. I reaffirmed that life should be celebrated at every turn. It came from a lot of different sources, including my own wife. Life is too short to live it any other way.

So as the new year arrives, my wife and I have travel plans (including bonefishing) in the Bahamas, I will be going to Finland again, and I will continue the work to make Vision a player in Canada, and of course I will fish May Fly at my camp. I don't believe in resolutions, but I do intend on seeing that 2012 will exceed 2011 in every way possible.  I hope you all do the same.

So look for new posts all week so I can get 2011 in the books, and look ahead to 2012.