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.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Four Friends, Forty Ounces, And The Funniest Tarp I Ever Met


It's May, 1999. Steven F and Derrick have already made the trip to the camp, before there was a camp of course. They will set up a campsite, and Steven B and I will join them. Work, once again, has gotten in the way for us.

Steven and I take off Friday at 6:00 pm. Our only stop is the liquor store. A pint and a forty of rum and we are on the way. Now keep in mind. We had no camp. No set meeting spot, no cell phone service. We got there at 8:00 pm, and it is dark. Too dark to walk anywhere, and we didn't even know where. Steven cracks the pint and in a few short minutes, it is only a memory. From there we are unsure of what to do. My Toyota truck was a single cab. Can't sleep there. We could set a tent up near the truck, but we have no fire, no stove, nothing. I honk the horn of the truck, hoping someone hears. I honk a few more times. Ten minutes later, Steven F. comes out of the path with a flashlight. We are saved. Sort of.

We get to the campsite. It is a tent, a portable table for the stove, and a big campfire. A tarp was placed from tree to tree to give cover from the rain, which has fallen all week long and continues into the weekend. We open the forty. It is gone almost as quick as the pint. Needless to say, we are not sober. Not at all. We stand and tell stories under the tarp. Rain collects on it as we speak. From nowhere, the edges folds down and dumps a gallon of water on Derricks head. Laughing is not a great description of what we did. We lost composure. We laughed until parts of us hurt.

We fix the tarp, and Derrick wisely moves to the other end. Another 40 minutes or so pass, Derricks cigarette gets dashed by more water than dumped on him the first time. Again, we lost it. Worse this time.

That is about the last thing I remember from that night. Steven B and I set up our tent. I know that because we woke up in it. I also know we put waders on to keep us dry from the downpour. I know, because I woke up wearing them. We wake at about 5 AM. It is first early light hitting the tent. I can feel it tearing through my not yet opened eyes. I give Steven a nudge. "Time to get up". I get a mumble in return, and then a "yeah, lets go fishing".

I move my feet. I hear splashing. Steven moves his feet. We hears splashing. I move mine again. Same result. We look down, and we laugh harder than we did the night before with the tarp. We set the tent up near the edge of the lake. The lake has a marshy side and the bottom edge of the tent was down into a wet hole. When we looked down, water was over our sleeping bags, up to our waists. Our state the night before ignored or simply never noticed that.

We fished hard the next two days, and we did well. The rain hampered us but in the times it stopped, the fishing was hot. Occasionally this story still comes up around a drink at the camp. Four younger fools, who are now four older fools. A lot has changed since then. Some good, some not. I think another trip for all four of us at the same time is in order. It has been too long.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fiberglass Is Back - The Vision Cult Fiber


I was asked this recently while showing someone the Vision lineup. “Why fiberglass?”

There is more to it than marketing.It isn’t just a cool label to hang on something. The Cult Fiber was developed allow fly anglers to touch their roots once again. They are not “old school” though. Cult Fibers are light and responsive. They have deep, soft actions with a nice hidden reserve of power. Despite all of that, with all of the types of rods out there, and all of the technology, why fiberglass? The best way, was to fish one.

Two weeks back I got a Cult Fiber and test drove it before sending it out to a perspective shop. It was a 6’6″ 3/4 weight rod. I had a 4 weight GT reel and a 4 weight Attack fly line. The thing that stood out in particular, was the relaxed action. I took the setup to a small trout stream. Lots of Brook Trout from 10-12 inches. I caught 14 trout in an evenings work. It felt peaceful. The rod had a quiet, medium action with a nice throw of power on the 4 weight line. Light tackle all around made 10 inch trout feel like 15 inch trout. The rod handled them with care.

I fish a lot of rods in a season. All types of actions and sizes. Sometimes fast actions and long lines. On a Wednesday evening I fished a small fiberglass rod and a light line for small, beautiful Brook Trout full of fall colours. I will definitely being doing this often next season.

As for others, the Cult Fiber retails for $310 CAD. They will be available at new Vision Dealers coming this spring. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vision Comes To Canadian Fly Fishing


I am pleased to announce I have become the exclusive Canadian Distributor for Vision Fly Fishing through my company, Fish Brooks Tackle. Vision has been around for 15 years in Europe and have a full lineup of rods, reels, waders, clothing, accessories and fly lines. Vision are known worldwide for their fly lines, in particular the Spey Ace series of Spey lines. They are changing single handed lines as well with their Vibe series of lines. You can view the whole lineup at www.visionflyfishing.com. You can also follow and be part of the roll out of Team Vision, following the Canadian blog at http://visionflyfishcanada.wordpress.com/ and if you have facebook, follow us on our Facebook Page. Lastly, join us on Twitter to follow the latest developments.

We are looking for Pro Staff as well in all areas of Canada. You can contact me at djphill@eastlink.ca for more information on how you can help us promote Vision in Canada and the opportunities available.