The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: Fishing Page 1 of 3

Three’s a Crowd

The muskie landed smack into the canoe, exactly between Jim and me.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 7, 1945.

“How’s about a little side bet?” inquired Jimmie Frise.

“On?” I inquired.

“Who gets the first muskie,” said Jim. “After all, this is an auspicious occasion. It’s the first time we’ve been muskie fishing for five years. For you and me, it is the fifth freedom.”

“Then,” I submitted, “it is too sacred an occasion for betting. This fishing trip ought to be, actually, a sort of religious rite.”

“Aw,” scoffed Jimmie, as we shoved off from the summer hotel wharf and started paddling, “you always mix up your sport and your politics. Or your philosophy. Let’s just go fishing.”

“Okay,” I said, scanning the reedy shores eagerly. “But I don’t want to do any betting on who gets the first muskie. I just want to soak in this feeling of being fishing again in my native lakes. I could be dead five years, killed by a bomb on the road to Dunkirk, instead of sitting here in this canoe looking for good spot to cast. I could have been blown to bits by shells in Italy, by machine-guns in Normandy; I could have been torpedoed 50 times at sea, or crashed into the Atlantic or the Mediterranean in thousands of miles of flying…”

“And I,” cut in Jimmie, “could have died of pneumonia in the raw winter of ’41 or got an infected toe during the hot spell we had here in 1942….”

“Jim!” I said indignantly.

“But it’s true,” assured Jim, from the stern of the canoe. “We waste too much time thinking about life instead of in living. Every man can have his choice. He can either do what he likes or what somebody else likes. He can live the way he wants to live or the way his wife and family want him to live. He can do with these few hours, days, weeks, months and years that are allotted to him what he wants to do, or he can be bullied, wheedled, coerced, chivvied and jockeyed by society around him into wasting it all.”

“Wasting?” I snorted.

“Look,” said Jim. “The general impression is that society is organized by the majority of mankind for the general benefit of mankind. If that were so, why are so many people poor and distressed and harassed? If that were so, why are so many people living silly lives, like squirrels in a revolving cage, spending their one, only and very brief life doing what somebody else wants them to do, instead of doing what they themselves would like to do?”

“Life,” I explained, “is a co-operative enterprise. The perfect society would have all mankind living for all the rest of mankind.”

“Poppycock!” cried Jim, swinging the paddle. “That is the sort of bunk the smart rulers and owners of the world have been pushing, through schools and teachers and preachers, for hundreds of years. A few thousand years ago, when the big boys discovered that all the little people, if ganged up, could destroy them, they founded schools and colleges and churches and institutions for a stable society and began controlling the little people of the world not with clubs and swords but with ideas and ideals. You can bludgeon a million people far more easily with an idea than with a club.”

“Jim,” I expostulated. “This is treason. This is worse than communism.”

“Sure,” agreed Jim. “It is the next thing after communism. Communism is old stuff. It is just the latest scheme to keep the masses of the people happy and under control of the big fellows.”

“Who,” I demanded indignantly, “are the big fellows?”

“Whoever,” explained Jim, “wants to run the rest of us for their profit or amusement.”

“Amusement?” I protested.

Plan For the World

“Certainly,” said Jimmie, “When it becomes dangerous to try to run the mass of us for profit, the ambitious guys among us abandon that motive and adopt instead the motive of their own amusement. It’s the sense of their power they wish to enjoy. The old-fashioned and easy way of feeling power was by means of money. But the masses have got ugly. It is no longer safe, it isn’t even possible to convert your sense of power into money. The masses have got it all taxed and super-taxed. So, the ambitious guys among us adopt ideas and ideals instead of money. So long as they can be boss, so long as they can enjoy the sensation of their power, they are happy.”

“You make it look very horrible,” I muttered.

“It is horrible,” agreed Jim.

“Okay, then,” I countered hotly, “what does your new, super-communism suggest we do?”

“Kill off anybody who exhibits the symptoms of having the feeling for power,” said Jim. “Don’t just imprison them. Don’t just make laws to try to circumvent them. Kill them. The way you would kill rattlesnakes, tigers or malignant germs that might threaten the life and well-being of mankind as a whole. Destroy all the would-be leaders. Wipe out the people with initiative, ambition, and greed. It is all the same thing.”

“Why, Jim, you would bring the whole world to a standstill!” I cried.

“No,” corrected Jim. “Nothing mankind can do can bring the world to a standstill. That is the one little thing we have always overlooked. We have produced an endless and bloody series of Caesars, emperors, kings, protectors, dictators. Each has tried to impose his idea of the perfect life on the world with sword and fire. Each has gone down to dust and even his marble statues are mere disfigured remnants in museums. Museums in some land other than his own, as a rule. But the world goes round and round. Every day, the sun comes up the same as it did for Augustus Caesar or Hitler or for you and me this morning.”

“Yet each of these great and ambitious men,” I pointed out, “for all the blood and ruin of his passing, pushed the world ahead another step in its slow advance from barbarism.”

“You mean?” inquired Jim, steering for the shore, where a very inviting bed of rushes extended out by a rocky point – an ideal spot for a feeding muskie.

“These ambitious men, these Caesars, kings, protectors,” I offered, “each do something to forward their own selfish ends. They organize their own people. They develop science. They build roads, improve agriculture, build factories. They first exert their sense of power to improve their own nation in order to be strong enough to impose their power on surrounding nations. Thus science and industry are advanced.”

“At what a price!” exclaimed Jim.

“Then, to beat them, to destroy, them,” I pursued, “all the surrounding nations, and eventually the whole world, has to come abreast of the conqueror’s nation.”

“Then you approve,” demanded Jimmie, “of conquerors and of war?”

“I approve,” I said cautiously, “of that instinct in human nature which causes most men to compete with one another and which naturally brings forth a few men, as the result of the competition, who are extra-competitive, who are over-ambitious, who get out of control and sometimes, in their avid sense of power, bring trouble and often ruin on their fellow men.”

“You approve of them?” cried Jim.

“I said I approve of the instinct,” I corrected hastily.

“It’s the same thing,” said Jim.

“No. I think we can some day master the instinct of competition,” I submitted, “without destroying it, just the way we mastered the horse without destroying it. Back in the dawn of time, when men found that they had to kill and destroy most other animals, either to eat them or else to protect themselves, they found the horse. It was not particularly good to eat. It was not particularly dangerous, as were tigers or wolves. So they tamed the horse. I think we can tame the competitive. instinct in mankind. Some want to leave it wild, like a tiger, preying on us all. Some want to destroy it, like a tiger. I prefer to think of it as a wild horse, which we can tame and breed for our very great help and use.”

“You’ll never tame it,” said Jim. “It is the basic wild instinct of human nature.”

“We’ve nearly got it tamed now,” I declared.

“And you can say that,” protested Jim, “at this moment of the world’s history when the bloodiest war of all time is barely over!”

“With Europe a mass of ashes, ruin and nameless graves,” I proposed. “I think some profound ideas are bound to emerge. It was out of ruin and agony in the past that all our greatest ideas emerged.”

“Behead everybody,” cried Jim, “who shows the symptoms of ambition!”

“Behead us, then,” I triumphed, “for being so ambitious as to try to catch a muskie!”

“That’s different,” said Jim. “That’s just having fun.”

“Not for a muskie, it isn’t!” I pointed out, laying down my paddle and picking up my bait casting rod.

“How do we know a muskie doesn’t enjoy fighting us on the end of a line?” countered Jimmie, slowing the canoe and setting it sideways on, for me to cast towards the inviting rocks and weeds.

A Feeling of Power

“We’re here, Jim, right in this canoe, in this spot,” I reminded him, “because of that initiative deep in human natures, because of the competitive spirit in human nature. You and I are really here because we wish to compete with one another. We are here because we are tired of the dull routine, of our everyday lives. We want a little excitement. We want to exert our little sense of power, such as it is. I have power over this rod, this reel, this line. I have power to cast this lure. I have power and cunning to know just where to cast it, in the best hope of getting the biggest reward. I wish to exercise that power. I wish to feel that power. Baffled and beaten by my normal life, frustrated by editors, haunted by creditors, my life under control of hundreds of people around me over whom I have no power whatever, I come fishing here in order to exhibit what power I have.”

“Cast right in past that boulder there,” suggested Jimmie.

“Listen,” I said. “Leave this to me. This is my power I want to feel. You wait till your turn, and then feel your own power.”

“Okay, it’s exactly five minutes to ten,” said Jim. “I paddle you until five minutes to eleven. Then turn about, hour for hour. Let her go.”

I cast.

Those of you who don’t know the delights of a bait casting rod will have difficulty following me here. There is no sport like the bait casting rod. Unlike golf, in which you hit a ball and have to walk after it, with a bait casting rod you cast a lure and then reel it back to you. Like golf, bait casting is an exercise of skill in both distance and accuracy. You like to be able to cast the lure a long distance, when necessary, as in golf you like to make a good long drive. And as in golf, you like to make your approach shots and putts with skill and precision. More than three-quarters of golf is approach and field shots. More than four- fifths of bait casting is the making of accuracy casts at a certain rock, a certain log, a certain open space among the lily pads or rushes.

And you don’t have to walk after them.

You reel them slowly, enticingly back. Aw, bait casting has it all over any other sport you can think of. To be a practical bait caster is to experience that sense of power to its full. And you don’t have to hand in a score card, either. And you don’t even have to have somebody with you, some partner. You can get in your own boat and cast in solitary joy. If you catch fish, it is luck. The fish happened to be where you knew they should be. If you don’t catch fish, it isn’t your fault. The fish simply weren’t where they should have been. Your sense of power, of self-respect, is not damaged as it is in golf by a bad score.

“Take off that spoon,” said Jim, in the stern, “and put on a yellow and white plug.”

“Mind your own business,” I said, feeling my first cast slowly and letting the little spinner sink. My lure was a small brass and nickel spoon, on a seven-inch piano wire shank, with a weight of lead moulded right on to the piano wire to make it weighty enough to cast smoothly. Behind the spinner was a bucktail colored streamer concealing the good big bass hook. A hook that would hold the biggest muskie in the lake.

“On a day like this,” said Jim, “the muskies won’t be very active. They won’t be roaming around looking for food. They’ll be snoozing down amid the weeds, in the shadow of lily pads. You want a good bright, lively plug that will create a commotion and stir up the sense of power of the muskie. Irritate him. Challenge him. Employ your sense of power to awaken the sense of power of the muskie.”

“Now you are beginning to understand nature,” I applauded.

“Me, I’m going to use that jointed flap-doodle-bug, plug,” said Jim, “the red and yellow one with the silver spangle paint on it. I’m going to startle the muskie into feeling his authority is being flouted. A muskie rules, his bay or section of shore the way a dictator rules his nation. With endless vigilance, with tireless alertness. Let him see some creature ignoring his majesty, and the muskie takes a bang at it whether he is hungry or not.”

“I wish you understood human nature,” I said, “as well as you do muskie nature.”

“Take off that sissy little spinner,” said Jim.

“Mind your own business,” I replied.

“Hey, cast over past that little spur of rock sticking out,” hissed Jim. “There’s a deep shadow behind it. I bet it’s a pool 10 feet deep. The perfect spot for a royal snooze.”

“Look, Jim, you just paddle, see,” I said. “I do the casting. I do the picking of the spots. Your turn is next.”

However, I cast past the little spur of rock. It was, an ideal hole for a muskie. Behind the spur, the rock dropped sheer into a dark shadowy pool sheltered from the sun by rock and tree and the bush beyond. All around, for hundreds of yards, were stretches of lily pad bed, rushes and rocks where the dictator of these parts could find plenty of minnows, frogs, crawfish and the dainties of a muskie’s voracious appetite.

My lure sped in a smooth arc through the air. The little spinner spat lightly into the water a foot beyond the point of the rock spur. I commenced to reel almost at the instant the lure touched the water. As if it were some little frightened creature that had inadvertently fallen off the rock, I reeled it excitedly past the tip of rock and, stopping the reel for an instant, I let the lure pause and stagger on the very edge of the deep pool. A frightened, excited, bewildered little lure…

Action Stations

With a surge that washed waves three feet up the spur of rock, an enormous muskie rolled up out of the depth. His back, seeming a foot broad, arched out of the water, his back fin curved like a stallion’s neck. His vast reddish gleaming tail lifted and smote the water with a slap like a paddle. He dived. I struck.

With a sharp, slick snap-back of the rod tip, I set the hook in the muskie’s jaw.

“Glory!” roared Jim, starting to back the canoe away from shore.

We were about 30 feet out.

“Back, back!” I yelled.

When my hook jagged home in the huge fish’s jaw, he seemed to pause and hang suspended in the water the fraction of an instant. He shook his head. I was holding a tight line.

Realization dawned on that muskie in a lightning flash. He knew he was hooked.

“Baaa…” I screamed.

Through the water, straight for the canoe, came a great surging wave. I reeled madly. Jim backed madly.

But straight under the canoe raced the big fish, barely missing the bottom. We could feel the hump of his passage under us.

I had reeled. Not quite as fast as he had swum.

I felt the line tighten.

The muskie, feeling the sudden tension, rose for the surface and leaped.

My line was so short, his leap brought him round in an enormous, muscular curve of gnashing jaws, thrashing tail, every ounce of his many pounds of green and bronze energy flailing for its life.

Up and round he came.

Smack into the canoe, exactly between Jim and me.

His first gigantic convulsion threw my tackle box overboard. His second savage thrust pitched the lunch basket four feet in the air and overboard.

“Hey… hoy… who.. !” roared Jimmie.

“Ho, hi, wha…!” I joined.

But the thing was fated. The muskie lifted three feet in the air, and landed at my heels. He lifted four feet in the air and landed crossways within six inches of Jim’s knees.

His next crocodilian spasm upset the canoe.

Canoes always upset as if they had been built to upset. Smooth, slow, perfect.

I was still hanging on to my rod as we clung to the canoe and pushed it ashore. But when I reeled up, the muskie was gone.

We had lost our lunch, both tackle boxes, our clothes. Jim’s rod had stuck under the thwarts.

As we sat on the rock, looking at the soggy canoe and the quiet water glimmering in summer beauty before us, Jimmie raised his wrist watch. Shook it. Listened to it.

“Hmmm,” he said, “now we won’t know when my turn starts.”

Editor’s Note: Back when Jimmie was drawing for the newspaper, original art was not considered valuable. He would create these illustrations for the weekly series, or his Birdseye Center comic, and after the printers were done with them, it would be returned to him. More than likely, his early work (1910s-early 1930s) would just be thrown out after use. Later in his career, when the art was returned to him, he would often give away these originals to people who visited him at his office. A reader has sent me a picture of the original artwork for this story, where you can see the vivid colours.

Original Art, 1945

Trout Fishing Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be–Not This Year!

Swish, thump! Out came a ten-inch beauty.

The Thrills Prove Chiefly to Be in the Anticipation – Farmers’
Minds Seem Hopelessly Confused on Some Things, But One of Them Breaks All the Traditions of Trout Fishing and Catches Three Beauties in Ten Minutes.

By Gregory Clark, May 29, 1920.

When you go trout fishing, take along a good supply of magazines, novels, an indoor baseball outfit and a ouija board.

For, about 2.30 o’clock of the afternoon of your first day on the fishing ground, you will begin to yearn for one or the other of the above forms of recreation.

Trout fishing consists, in the finer aspects, of anticipation and retrospection. There is no finer thrill than in picking early spring model fishworms in your backyard and visioning the swift stream and the flashing speckled jewel you will catch with each squirming wormlet. The planning, the talking it over, poetically, dramatically, with your friends, the packing, the first railway journey of the season – Ah! It is romance!

And the telling of it afterwards. In June, the eleven poor little trout you caught have multiplied to twenty-five. By midsummer, they are, fifty speckled beauties. By autumn, when a sportsman is at his best, from a literary point of view, that stingy little eleven has grown to many creels-full, with a whacking big realistic, dramatic lie attached to every fish.

There are three trout streams to the average trout expedition. The first is the brook you had in mind when you started on the trip. It is fished the first day, when enthusiasm is still high, and before the truth of the old adage about anticipation has sunk in. This first stream, the scene of all your spring dreams, yields three small trout of doubtfully lawful size.

The second stream is the one about four miles away which the natives inform you is full of fish. You visit it the second day, and after landing five three-inch chub, in one hour, you retire to a sunny bank and wait for the gang to re-assemble.

The third type of stream is the fabulous brook in which trout under one pound in weight are seldom if ever caught. The farmers and residents assure you that it is the real thing in trout streams But it is ten miles inland. And its a dirty and difficult stream to fish.

This third type renders up not even a chub. It runs cold and swift, full of dark, log-bound holes where beautiful trout should be lurking. But the most skilful sneaking of your bait in under these shadowy pools results in merely hooking a log.

At least, this was our experience up Lake of Bays way last week-end. We aren’t grouching, understand. We had our share of sport in planning, in the thrill of the journey, the arrival at Huntsville at 2 a.m., and the departure by boat from Huntsville at the still frostier hour of 7 a.m. But we hadn’t along any magazines or baseball kit.

The trout fisherman is advised to fish in the parts of the stream hardest to get at, because the easier places have been fished out. We tried that. We fought through acres of underbush and swamp and then found our rods were too long. They caught the line on all kinds of unexpected twigs. It is all nonsense to say that trees have no intelligence. After one day’s trout fishing, anyone who would say that all those branches grew where they were merely by chance is lacking in spiritual perception. Trees, especially alders, have a sense of humor, too.

Well, well! So we shortened our rods, and then found we couldn’t reach the best holes. About then, we began to yearn for a snappy detective story.

The confusion in the minds of the farmers and residents in the trout neighborhood is alarming. In the same family, father will say it is too cold for the trout to bite; son will say, it is too warm. At one farmhouse on the third or fabulous stream, where we were to get nothing but, one-pounders, the farmer said the trout hadn’t come up from the lake yet, and five minutes later, his wife assured us that the trout hadn’t come down from the spring sources yet.

Over near Baysville, I fished the second day until I had landed four chub out of a 500-yard stretch of creek. Not a trout did I flush. Not a fingerling. So I retired to a sunny bank and smoked, awaiting the gang’s return.

Down to the corduroy bridge came a young farmer and his small boy and a dog.

“Gettin’ any?” he asked, amiably.

“No. Not biting to-day. Too cold” I replied.

“Well, I’m counting on a couple for supper,” said he.

From behind a stump, he drew from concealment a seven-foot alder pole with a hook and line on it. Out of his vest pocket he produced a worm. The little boy scampered up and down the creek, peering and yelling into the pools I had so warily stalked. The dog excitedly followed the boy, barking at the creek. Dad threw his bait in and – swish, thump! Out came a ten-inch beauty. In 40 yards, be performed this deed three times, whistled for his boy and his dog, replaced his pole in hiding, bade me good evening and went home to a trout supper.

As soon as he was out of sight, I arose from the sunny bank and fished that stream inch by inch, carefully, carelessly; sneaking up to it one time, and standing boldly exposed the next; even yelling like a small boy and barking like a dog. But all I got was one pallid chub.

Where’s the sense in this, anyway?

However, the second phase of trout-fishing, retrospection, sets in early. When we got on the boat to go back to Huntsville, the purser asked us if we had any luck. And without collusion and nary a blush, we jovially assured him we had never had better sport, and we led him to believe our hand-bags were full of trout. By the time we reached the town, among the forty-odd passengers, we were pointed out as ardent trout experts returning from the kill. And thereupon began to form in our minds next autumn’s thundering tales of grand battles amid the alder groves of gleaming brooks.

At the hotel in Huntsville, we found two Presbyterian ministers standing beside a wooden box that was leaking water on the floor. They had ordinary 50-cent brass-jointed bamboo rods tied with string.

We manoeuvred into converse with them.

“Fish?” we asked, glancing at the big leaky box.

“Yes,” they said. “Speckled trout. We only had a couple of days, and we only got seventy. And now, it the ice doesn’t hold out, we’re afraid they might spoil.”

They were ministers. We had to believe them.

There is Millions in It!

I saw Jim’s head shining at me, silvery, gleaming…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, May 3, 1947.

“What’s all this?” demanded Jimmie Frise indignantly.

“My fishing tackle,” I informed him.

“For Pete’s sake!” cried Jim. “Two packsacks, three haversacks1, a valise and what’s this?”

“That’s my rod case,” I said wearily, “and well you know it. You’ve seen it every year! Jim, do we have to go through this every opening day?”

“Look at my tackle,” said Jim proudly. “All in that one small haversack. Everything.”

“Skip it,” I assured him, as we loaded my gear into the car. “Some men are proud of how much tackle they’ve got. And some are proud of how little tackle they’ve got. So let’s skip it.”

“Holy smoke,” gasped Jim, trying various ways of getting my rod case into the car. “How many rods are you bringing in this case.”

“Four,” I informed him coolly. “I’ve brought my heavy Thomas rod in case it’s windy. I’ve brought that little three-and-a-half ouncer, in case we get calm weather and small trout. And then a couple of spare rods, just in case of breakage or anything.”

“Mm, mm, mm!” remarked Jim. “Four rods. And all I own is one that I’ve had for 10 years.”

“It’s quite all right with me,” I said loftily. “If a guy wants to spoil his own sport. If a guy wants to fish for little trout with a great big pole heavy enough for salmon…”

“My rod,” advised Jim, “is under five ounces and is delicate enough to handle the smallest trout it is legal to keep.”

“Fine,” I agreed, “if a guy wants to limit his sport to little tiddlers. But suppose we get strong winds or run into a flock of two-pound trout – a fine time you’ll have trying to drive a line into the wind with that stick of spaghetti…”

“With that rod,” snorted Jim, getting a little hot, “I can cast into a wind as slick as you can.”

“Ah,” I submitted, as we climbed into the car, “you’ve got an all-purpose rod, eh? Well, I never saw one. I like to have a set of rods intended for the various conditions we have to meet.”

“You go at fishing,” said Jim bitterly, “the way a mechanic goes to a job, with a whole litter of tools. You go at trout fishing the way a dentist goes at a patient, with trays loaded with all kinds of drills and picks, and pliers and toad stabbers…”

“Would you play golf,” I cut in, “with one club? Say, a number three iron? Jim, I’m tired of this holier-than-thou attitude of you guys who have a minimum of fishing tackle. Half the fun in any sport is the gear. Guns, golf, fishing – they’re all the same. The gear, the tackle, is half the fun. If fishing consisted of nothing more than catching a bagful of fish, then why are you a fly fisherman? Why didn’t you stick to a gob of worms on a two-for-a-cent hook, with a nail for a sinker?”

“People,” explained Jimmie, “are nuts.”

“Just because they buy fishing tackle?” I protested.

“Look,” set forth Jim. “I am told that the fishing tackle industry alone in Canada and the United States is capitalized at 300 million dollars.”

“It couldn’t be,” I declared. “Maybe you mean the sporting goods business – guns, baseball, golf, tennis.

“No, sir,” interrupted Jimmie. “Just the fishing tackle. Maybe my figures are wrong. I’m not too good at remembering figures and telephone numbers and that sort of thing. But you look at all the factories, the warehouses, the wholesalers, the retailers – it wouldn’t take long, when you consider all the cities and towns of North America, to run the capitalization of an industry into three hundred millions.”

“It seems an awful lot to me,” I muttered, thinking of my own collection a little guiltily.

“How many fishing tackle stores are there in North America,” pursued Jim, “from Boston to San Francisco; from Vancouver to Miami? How much is invested in the property itself, the store and the fixtures? How many thousand dollars worth of stock does each tackle store carry? You see? It soon mounts up.”

“Well, if that’s silly,” I countered, “how about the jewellery business? How many billions is the jewellery business capitalized at, counting the factories, the importing houses, the wholesalers and retailers? All of them full of diamonds and gold? Man, if you’re going to try to prove people are nuts, just start thinking about the billions that are invested in gewgawa2.”

“But fishing tackle perishes,” pointed out Jim. “I know people who spend $75 for a fly rod, $40 for reel, $12 for a LINE. The rod soon wears out. The reel gets bust. The line goes tacky in two seasons.”

“That’s true of everything we buy,” I protested.

“Not diamonds, not gold,” triumphed Jim. “If you spend money on diamonds and jewels, you can get it back any time. It’s a real investment.”

“Now, that,” I scoffed, “is one of the things I’d really like to debunk. It’s a pretty theory. But how does it work out? A man spends, in his life time, say, $2,000 on diamonds and jewellery for his wife. Rings, brooch pins, watches. He dies. Then she dies, an old lady. When they sell all the old-fashioned junk her loving husband lavished on her, would they get $2,000 for it? No, sir. The diamonds are cut in an outmoded fashion. The jewellery is out of date, but not out of date enough to be an antique. I bet they wouldn’t get $300 for it. Anyways they never do sell it. They divide the junk up among the children and grand-children, and it’s stuck in a drawer and scattered and forgotten. Over the years, it just dwindles and perishes away, all that $2,000 worth of diamonds and jewellery. Just dwindles and perishes away like everything else men waste their money on.”

“I suppose,” mused Jimmie, as he steered onto the open highway and hurrah for the opening trout season. “I suppose that’s true. Everything a man buys dwindles and perishes. He builds a great house, and day by day and year by year, it depreciates and diminishes in value until, in time, it’s just so much junk, to be torn down to make way for a factory or a block of flats.”

“All money is wasted,” I remarked, “if you look at it philosophically. The only thing money can buy is for USE of something. Therefore, as regards fishing tackle, all I say is – get plenty of it.”

“And use it,” added Jim.

“Exactly,” I said.

“Well, then,” chuckled Jimmie, “how many trout flies do you own?”

“Well… uh…” I explained.

“You’ve got,” accused Jim, “hundreds of trout flies. Maybe thousands. You’ve got aluminum cases full of them all in neat rows clipped inside. You’ve got plastic boxes filled with them loose. You’ve got tiny little size 18 flies that are no bigger than a grain of rice, with a hook so small you can hardly see it. And great big flies the size of a mouse. Now, my friend, how are you going to USE all those trout flies?”

“Jim, you know as well as I do,” I protested, “that different weather conditions, different qualities of sunlight and shadow, different seasons, different types of water, whether small brook or big river…”

“Stuff and nonsense,” laughed Jimmie. “You know that the very best fly fishermen use only four or five patterns of trout fly, regardless of season, weather, and kind of water.”

“Aw, I admit,” I admitted, “that an expert fly fisherman restricted to half a dozen patterns of fly, can catch more fish than a dub fisherman with a hundred different patterns of fly…”

“Are you a dub3?” inquired Jim.

“No,” I asserted.

“Then,” crowed Jim, “what are you doing with all those bags full of trout flies back there? How many flies have you brought with you today, now? Be honest.”

“A few boxes,” I said.

“Five boxes?”


“Ten boxes?”

“Possibly,” I muttered.

I LOVE trout flies. I have collected them for 30 years the way a stamp collector collects stamps. Or a butterfly collector collects insects. It’s a hobby. And a beautiful one. Nothing can be more artistic and delightful to the eye than fly boxes filled with row upon row of delicate, tastefully arranged trout flies of all sizes. In fact, I HATE to use them. I carry one old battered fly box with about five patterns of cheap commercial flies – Montreal, Par Belle, Grizzly King, Silver Doctor and brown hackle4 – and these I have used for years and years. But I wouldn’t DREAM of going fly fishing without almost my entire collection of beautiful, precious trout flies. They are for looking at. They are for show. They add a spiritual quality to fishing. They dignify it. Dignify an otherwise absurd pastime.

“Jim,” I said, “the day will come when you will be very glad of my trout flies. One day, we will be stumped. We’ll find the trout won’t rise to a single pattern we are accustomed to use.”

“Then I’ll go for a chub tail,” assured Jim, “or a worm.”

“No,” I smiled, “we’ll find what they WILL rise to among my beautiful collection.”

And that day came a lot sooner than I expected. It was, in fact, the minute we arrived at Duck Chutes. We drove off the highway, and the 12 miles into the village, and a mile down the bush road to Duck Chutes and were happy to find nobody ahead of us at this beautiful stretch of big, rapid water.

Jim got in first and cast with a McGinty squirrel tail, that is, a black and yellow-bodied fly with a wing of fur off a squirrel’s tail.

“WOW!” he bellowed above the roar of the rapids, and I stumbled down the bank.

“A two pounder,” he yelled excitedly. “And I missed him!”

He cast again. I watched intently. Among the rolling rapids, I detected that bulge of a big, shining body as it reached at Jim’s fly. Jim struck. The fly came through the air. No fish.

I waded a few yards down stream and began casting with two flies on my leader – a good-sized Zulu on the end and a claret hackle for a dropper. The team of flies hadn’t swung two yards down the rapids before I, too, saw the steely shape of a big trout arch and flick spray with its tail. I struck. The flies came flying back. No fish. But I too yelled WOW.

Jim shifted a few paces upstream. And I, a few down. About every second cast, we had the rise of a big, lithe trout. But not one of them connected.

So we waded ashore and changed flies. I changed to something lighter-colored and smaller – a Par Belle at the end and a Grizzly King for a dropper. Jim changed to larger and darker – a big streamer with a badger hackle and a crimson body,

Immediately we had results. Up slashed the big trout of Duck Chutes, arched and rolled at our flies, flicked spray with their tails. But did not connect.

“Okay,” I said to myself, wading ashore, “there is only the one answer. A polar bear streamer.”

This is a big fly, with glossy white polar bear hair for a wing, and a body of vari-colored wool.

I used it alone. I cast it across and let it swing down, tugging my rod tip lightly.

A trout struck it with that curious elastic thud with which a tennis ball strikes the racket.

I struck. The fly came loose. My line wobbled feebly back through the air, minus the fly.

I staggered ashore and sat down abjectly on a rock. Jimmie had seen the strike and hurried down to me.

“What did he take?” he shouted excitedly.

“A polar bear streamer,” I announced, already fumbling with trembling fingers through my fly box dedicated to streamers. There were only two polar bears left!

“Ah,” said Jim, bending.

So I gave him one and I tied on the other.

I waded out and cast. Before the fly had drifted one yard, the same huge pluck of the curving trout, the same inexorable drag of a heavy fish, the strike of my rod, and the same awful sensation of the leader parting and the line coming ragged and flyless through the air.

I went ashore and watched Jim.

Jim struck. His rod arched. He staggered backward towards shore. The line parted. The rod straightened. And there was Jimmie fallen limp and heart-broken on the boulders, moaning.

I went and stood over him.

“It was a three-pounder,” he hissed.

“So was mine,” I agreed.

“Any more polar bears?” he asked, looking up at me haggardly.

“Not one,” I muttered.

“Anything else like it?” he begged. “Among all those hundreds and hundreds of flies?”

“Nothing,” I said. “We could look through them. But…”

And then I saw Jim’s head shining at me, silvery, gleaming, glittering…

Well, gentlemen, it wasn’t a matter of minutes before we both had a new fly, the nearest thing to a polar bear you ever saw. We christened it, rather artistically, I thought, the Cheveux de Frise. With my fly-tying wallet, we did up a couple of flies with wisps of Jim’s hair.

They were sensations. The first trout, logically enough, fell to Jim, a two pounder. Mine was a three- pounder. Then Jim got a three-pounder and I lost my fly in a bigger one still. Naturally, Jim had to come ashore while I trimmed him for a new one.

Well, between catching trout and wading ashore to provide either Jim or me with a new fly, a very happy two hours of Duck Chutes fishing was enjoyed until we reached our legal poundage of fish and Jimmie looked like a leper.

But it just shows you, you can’t have enough fishing tackle.

Before we reached our legal poundage of fish Jimmie looked like a leper.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. The deference between packsacks and haversacks are usually just the amount they hold. ↩︎
  2. Also “gewgaws”, known as worthless trinkets. ↩︎
  3. In this case, “dub” means “a fool or incompetent person”. The same as a “duffer” in golf. ↩︎
  4. All different kinds of flies. Greg was so into flies and fly fishing, that he even has a fly that he developed named after him, Clark’s Deer Hair Nymph. ↩︎

The Last Lunge

As Ellery’s launch was slacking up to the dock, Old Methuselah suddenly leaped three feet in the air off the end of the wharf.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 7, 1946.

“Well, it’s a sad business,” sighed Jimmie Frise, standing on the cottage veranda in the cool September evening and gazing fondly over the bay, the islands, the channels.

“Sad or otherwise,” I stated briskly, “for once we are going to be on time when the launch calls for us.”

“Aw,” said Jim, “you put too much importance on things like that. What does it matter if we keep a launch waiting a few minutes?”

“A few minutes!” I expostulated. “Last summer, Jim, you started to varnish the outboard skiff half an hour before the launch was ordered for.”

“Yeah, blame me,” retorted Jim. “You wouldn’t let me help put the shutters up last year, because you said I left cracks that the mice got in. Well, who was still hammering at the shutters after we’d loaded all the baggage on the launch?”

“We can’t have mice in the cottage, Jim,” I protested.

“Well, anyway,” said Jim, “here we are all packed the night before. All our bags packed except the last little things on top. Most of the shutters up, only four to put up in the morning. The ice-house all padlocked. Boats put away. Everything tidy.”

“And the launch ordered,” I reminded him firmly, “for 8 o’clock in the morning. Instead of 10 or noon, like in the past.”

“Why, the sun will hardly be up,” snorted Jim.

“We’ll have an early start,” I pointed out. “We’ll be at the Landing before 10. We’ll be on the highway before 10.30. And we’ll be comfortably home in the city before all the week-end traffic has started to boil its way down.”

“You have very little love or affection for your fellow man, have you?” remarked Jimmie. “I think you’re a natural born Tory. A poor man’s aristocrat, that’s you…”

“Because I don’t like stewing all the way home in a week-end traffic jam?” I demanded indignantly. “Don’t forget, Mr. Frise, this week-end is the end of summer, the homecoming week-end for tens of thousands of families. All the kids getting back for school. It’ll be a madhouse on the highways.”

“Well, it’s a festival,” argued Jim. “It’s the triumphant return of tens of thousands of families from their lovely summer vacation. All browned and tanned and full of health and strength for another year in the dusty city. You should rejoice to be among those crowds, you should get a kick out of feeling part of them…”

“Heh, heh, heh,” I replied.

“If we Canadians had any imagination,” went on Jimmie, “all the towns along the highways should regard this week-end as a festival in its own right. They should have the town bands out, playing all afternoon and evening of this week, along the edge of the highway, to salute the passing multitudes of homing cottagers.”

“What a hope!” I scoffed. “They’re all glad to see the last of us. From now on, a dog can cross the road in those towns without risking his life. Mothers can rest easy, whenever the children are out of their sight. This week-end is regarded by most of the towns and villages along the summer-resort highways with a great heave and a sigh of thanksgiving. Garagemen can take a long and well-deserved rest. All the storekeepers can sleep in from now on. THEY can go on holidays.”

The Practical Shepherd

“You forget,” reminded Jimmie, “that without the swarming multitudes on the highways, half the towns and villages along those highways would be little lost hick towns, half the size they are now, half as active. Why, if it weren’t for the summer resort and tourist throngs of July and August, those communities would starve to death.”

“Even so,” I stated, “they feel mighty glad to see the last of us.”

“They should hold this week-end,” declared Jim, “as a public festival. They should decorate their main street with flags, bunting and colored lights, the way they do for Old Home Week. They should have the town bands out to play us through. Those little towns have no imagination and mighty little gratitude.”

“They’ll feel gratitude Monday,” I chuckled, “when that great, sweet, lovely silence descends on them for another 10 months.”

“You’re,” asserted Jim, turning from viewing the sweet landscape, “you’re nothing but a misanthrope. You dislike your fellow man. You impute the lowest motives to him. You look upon all your fellow men as lugs.”

“I don’t dislike them,” I countered. “I just see through them.”

“I bet you come,” continued Jim, “from a long line of petty aristocrats, tax collectors, deacons, school inspectors…”

“I come,” I informed him, “of a long line of shepherds, from Banffshire in Scotland. My name, Gregory, comes from Latin and means shepherd. Grex, gregoris. Of the flock.”

“A fine shepherd you’d make,” laughed Jim. “Kicking the poor little lambs ahead of you…”

“Ah, no,” I corrected. “You misunderstand shepherds. A shepherd takes the kindest care of his lambs. He goes out on the hills afar and finds the lost lamb. Why? Because as soon as it’s grown, he’s going to fleece it. Then, when the market is right, he’s going to knock it on the head, skin it, and sell it in the market.”

“Now, just a minute,” protested Jim hotly. “That isn’t the picture of a shepherd I’ve been brought up on.”

“There has been a lot of bunk about shepherds,” I agreed. “But if you stop to think for a minute, you’ll see that a shepherd takes the gentlest care of his silly, brainless, dopey sheep, for the simple reason that, while they are weak and foolish and easily hurt, they fetch a good price in the market.”

“My, you’re cynical tonight,” muttered Jim, turning again to gaze on the sunset. “On this night of all nights, our last at the cottage for another long year, you should be mellow.” You should be sentimental. You should be filled with sweet and kindly thoughts.”

“Just because I’m not a sap,” I replied, “is no reason for supposing that I’m not capable of tender thoughts. I love this place as much as you do or any man living. We’ve had a great summer here. We’ve fished. We’ve picked blueberries. We’ve walked over the wild rocks and seen partridge, fox, deer, raccoon and mink. We’ve soaked up about a million candlepower of sun. We’ve breathed out of our systems thousands of cubic yards of the evil air of cities.”

“See?” said Jim. “Your reasons are all mercenary, all based on practical gain. If you love this place, it’s because you got something out of it.”

“What is love?” I posed, paraphrasing Pontius Pilate.

“The way I like to see the world,” said Jim, relaxing in one of the two chairs I had left on the veranda. All the rest had been stored away. “The way I’d like to see the world, would be a world full of people who have ideas, ideals and sentiments based on something other than gain.”

“So would the Communists,” I explained.

“What I mean,” mused Jim, sentimentally, “is this: why do people all fight one another all the time? For example, we don’t fight children. We love our own children. And we have a natural feeling of affection for most other children.”

“When Philosophers are Kings”

“A lot of them are brats,” I mentioned.

“Precisely!” cried Jim. “There’s the point. But suppose you are driving your car and you see a little kid run out on the road ahead of you. He looks like a brat. He is a brat. But do you run over him with your car? No, sir. You practically break your neck swerving to avoid him.”

“So what?” I demanded.

“Now, as soon as that brat grows up,” went on Jim, “into an adult brat, your whole attitude changes.”

“I don’t run over him deliberately,” I replied warmly.

“No, but in all other things but your car, you run over him,” declared Jim excitedly. “Our whole social system is based on the theory that those who are born smart or clever or gifted are entitled to live off the dumb majority. Of course there are adult brats. Of course there are adults who are as lazy, as spoiled, and unlikeable, as crafty, as evasive and essentially selfish as any brat of a child.”

“Admitted,” I agreed grandly.

“My question is,” concluded Jim, “why don’t we reorganize all our social ideas and oblige those of us who are born smart enough to live easily to look upon our fellow men who aren’t born that way with the natural affection and understanding with which we now regard all children, good, bad and indifferent?”

It took me a minute to feel the force of that question.

“You see,” pursued Jimmie intently, “only a small percentage of human beings are born smart. The great majority have to depend on those few to originate the work, to set up the work and to manage the work. But there is one thing wrong. Those who originate, set up and manage the work want to look upon all the rest of their fellow mortals the way you say a shepherd looks at his flock. To be cared for, within reason, but to be shorn, slaughtered and sent to market.”

“Hardly,” I protested.

“They have no fellow feeling for their less smart or gifted fellows,” insisted Jim. “We don’t really LOVE all children. Plenty of children give us the feeling that we’d like to kick them. But in all of us there is a natural feeling of affection, forgiveness, toleration and sacrifice for children. Why can’t that feeling be expanded into the adult world?”

“Plenty of religions have tried to do that, Jim,” I suddenly recollected. “The whole Christian principle is based on the fact that God is the Father and all men are his children. Therefore, we are all brothers.”

“Brothers be hanged!” cried Jim. “Plenty of brothers fight each other worse than they fight strangers. What I’m getting at is not to treat our fellow men as brothers, but as children. That is, the smart, the clever, the gifted, be obliged to adopt an adult attitude towards those not born smart or clever or gifted.”

“Hmmm,” I pondered.

“In the schools, the colleges, the universities,” rounded up Jim, “there should be special lectures, which all men, both clever and dumb, would be obliged to take. In these lectures, it would be explained that no man is clever in his own right, any more than that any man is born. And some will become adult. And others will remain children, naughty, lazy, selfish to the end of their days. Therefore, the adults – that is, the smart – must adopt and maintain an adult attitude to the end of their days.

“It can’t be done,” I asserted.

“It can be done,” retorted Jim. “Because we’ve done it with children. It is simply a case of our smart people growing up. A hundred years ago, little children were slaves in mills and mines. Today, every child MUST go to school until he’s 16. And childhood is revered and respected even by the most hopelessly stupid people.”

After Methuselah

Jim had me. There was no comeback I could think of. So we both sat watching the last soft light of day fading from our well-beloved and familiar summer scene. The rocks, the earth, the sea and sky – to the artist a form of religion, as they said at George Moore’s burial.

So, with the launch coming at 8 a.m., and we having to be up at 6 to have breakfast and tidy up the last remnants of our habitation in the old cabin, we went to bed.

And we got up at 7.10, as Jim turned the alarm clock off in his sleep, so he says. I KNOW it wasn’t I. And we hastily bolted a pot of tea and some toast. And at 7.40 we were hammering up the last four shutters. And at five minutes to 8, just as Ellery, the taxi launch man, hove in view around the island, we were carrying out valises and dunnage-bags and tackle-boxes to the wharf.

And at precisely 8, as Ellery’s launch was slacking up to the dock and my arm extending to save the bump, Old Methuselah, the big muskalonge that Jim and I had fished for, week in, week out, for five summers past, suddenly rose off the end of the wharf, leaped lazily three feet into the air in a gorgeous arc, leered at us, and fell back into the water with. a splash that made Ellery’s boat rock.

The last time we had seen Old Methuselah was in late July, out off the point of the little rocky island facing the cottage. He was well over 30, maybe close to 40 pounds. In 1943, Jimmie actually had him on the hook, but after a brief fight, Old Methuselah had simply jumped in the air, rolled over, fell on Jim’s line, and broke it like cotton thread.

We had both, at various other times, seen him jump, and had seen, in the cool of the evening, his colossal swirls out in the bay as he gulped down some wandering pike or bass.

Ellery’s boat bumped. Jim dropped the dunnage-bag and tackle-box he was carrying. I looked at my watch.

It was one minute past 8 a.m.

Ellery leaped out of the launch and made her fast. Jim began unpacking his rod and getting his reel out of the tackle-box.

I ran for the boathouse, with the key of the padlock in my hand.

With Ellery at the oars of the square stern skiff, we proceeded systematically to comb the shore. Starting at our wharf, we worked south a couple of hundred yards. Then we worked north. Then we crossed the channel to the best lunge-fishing shore in our district, a shore of large boulders interspersed with gravel.

I looked at my watch. It was 10.20 a.m.

“Ellery,” I asked, “haven’t you got any other calls to make today?”

“Plenty,” said Ellery, taking a firmer grip of the oars and turning to spy out the next course. “I shoulda been at the McCormac’s at 10. But they’ll just figger my engine broke down. It’s been going to break down all the past week…”

“But when you don’t come… ?” I remonstrated.

“When I don’t arrive with you on time,” explained Ellery, “they’ll dig up another launch some place for the McCormac’s.”

He started to row vigorously for a small rocky islet that is the second best place for muskies.

“And,” he added, “for the Brown’s at 12. And the Henry’s at 2. And the Henderson’s at 4. And so on.”

And so on!

At any rate, we arrived at the Landing at 6.45 p.m. and drove all the way to the city in the worst stinking, boiling, stewing traffic jam ever.

And of course we never saw so much as a ripple from Old Methuselah.

Editor’s Notes: Old Home Week is a practice to invite former residents of a town – usually people who grew up in the area as children and moved elsewhere in adulthood – to visit the “Old Home”.

George Moore was a novelist and art critic.

All This Frittering

The fish fought hard, leaping, diving and jerking…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 25, 1936.

“To tell the truth,” said Jimmie Frise, “I’m getting a little tired of this week-end business.”

“My dear boy,” I said, “on a day like this?”

“On any kind of a day,” stated Jim. “We work like maniacs all week. Why? To get away over the week-end. Then we drive like maniacs for two hundred miles. Why? To reach some distant point, where we work like maniacs again to enjoy ourselves a few hours Saturday evening and part of Sunday up until about three p.m. Then like maniacs we drive home again, two hundred miles. Why? To be on time to start work again like maniacs for the next week.”

“It does sound funny,” I confessed.

“It is funny,” said Jim, not laughing.

“But isn’t this swell?” I asked, looking around at the ripe fields wheeling past the car windows, the bright summer sky, the sense of being alive that filled the whole earth. “Suppose we didn’t work like maniacs, but only took life lazily all week and then took the week-ends lazily, sleeping all Sunday, would that be any better?”

“How,” said Jim, “about working like maniacs all week, week-ends and all? How about working like maniacs straight ahead for ten years? In ten years you and I could make enough jack to retire for life.”

“And die,” I suggested, “of over-exertion the year after we quit?”

“Nonsense,” scoffed Jim, who was driving; “that’s one of those notions set at large by the big shots to keep a lot of us from trying to be big shots, too. Look around you. Look at the people that are having the good time. Everyone of them are birds who had enough sense when they were young to realize that the only way to really enjoy life was to work like fury and gather in the dough. And then they could coast.”

“It’s the old problem,” I sighed. “To enjoy life as you go along or to toil in the vineyard and store up treasures in heaven. Or your fifties.”

“My fifties,” said Jim, “are creeping pretty nigh.”

“You’ll still be fond of fishing.” I assured him.

“And Russian pool,” sneered Jim, “and horse races and sailing and rabbit shooting and duck shooting and poker and…”

“I don’t know anybody,” I laughed, “who has as much fun as you.”

“It’s just frittering,” declared Jim heatedly. “Frittering, that’s all it is. I play pool in a pool room. I go to the races and stand in the jam. I have an outboard motor. I go down around Lindsay to shoot a few rabbits. I go and sit in a frozen bog in at lake where the ducks have been shot off forty years ago by the millionaires who used to own it. Do you know what I could have, if I worked and saved my dough?”

“Stomach trouble,” I said. “A sour puss. A mean disposition.”

“I could play pool,” said Jim, “in a swell club, with a marker in a white coat standing by to hold my cigar butt for me. I could sit in the members’ enclosure at the races on an ornamental bench, with nobody standing in front of me. I could own a yacht, a sailing yacht, and go on cruises down the St. Lawrence.”

The Whole Secret

“Would you invite me?” I asked.

“Instead of frittering a Saturday,” said Jim, with an expression so hard that I knew my old friend, if he ever changed, would invite a far better class of people than I on his yacht, “instead of dashing down to a swamp near Lindsay to shoot maybe one rabbit, I could go to the Rockies on a six-weeks’ hunt for grizzles and mountain sheep and moose. Or maybe on safari to Africa after big, dangerous game.”

“Look at Hemingway,” I said. “Hemingway used to just be a plain newspaperman like us, working on The Star Weekly, and he started to work and wrote novels, and now look at him. Shooting elephants.”

“Lions,” said Jim. “And for duck shooting I could take a month in December and go down to the Gulf of Mexico to an exclusive club and shoot a thousand mallards.”

“By the time you had made enough money to do all this,” I explained, “you would be changed. You wouldn’t want to do anything so silly as shoot and fish and go to races. You would only want to do something sensible, like building a bank or buying a mine or a railroad.”

“You can’t take out of a man,” said Jim, “the things the Lord put into him first.”

“That’s the whole secret,” I agreed. “And the Lord put little pleasant things in us, like wanting to be happy and fish and go motoring in the country like this. Or shoot rabbits. If the Lord had put into us the desire to shoot lions or sail yachts He would have fitted us up with the steam for making big money.”

“Right there,” said Jim sharply, “I disagree. It is all a case of taking the easiest course. You and I could make money as easy as any broker or shirt maker. But we would have to work. We’d have to give up all these silly week-ends. We’d have to sell our rods and guns and stuff. We’d have to buckle down.”

“With a goal in view,” I agreed, “I could work as hard as any man.”

“All my life,” said Jim, “I have smiled at these big shots who work like fools, scorning the little amusements of life. But now I am beginning to think the smile has been on me. How many fish have we got this year for all the trips we’ve taken?”

“It’s been an off year,” I admitted.

“It’s been an average year,” stated Jim. “I bet we haven’t got forty trout apiece, and so far about fifteen bass apiece.”

“I nearly got a muskie week before last,” I reminded him. “Remember the fellow who got that twelve-pounder just ahead of me? If he hadn’t been there I’d have got that muskie.”

“We fished trout every week-end in May and June and bass and muskies ever since,” said Jim. “Do you realize that if we had the spondoolicks we could go to places where we, could catch forty trout in an evening and fifteen bass in one hour?”

“It would be illegal,” I pointed out.

To Be Big Shots

“What would we care, if we were big shots? No, sir. Down where we can get on our frittering little trips everything we want has been gone years ago. But out in the distant places, far beyond the reach of anybody but the rich, there is everything we want. Grizzlies in Alaska. Lions in Africa. All the wide sea to sail in. Lovely, strange countries we will never see. Secret, lovely places like Greenland; and we feel excited going to Muskoka in January. Places that make you cry just to look at them, like Rome. And we get a big kick out of Niagara Falls.”

“I guess the ones born in Rome don’t cry,” I supposed, “and when they get a picture postcard of Niagara Falls they put it up on the wall and keep it for thirty years.”

“You have been filled,” declared Jimmie, “with the bunk that is taught by the big shots for the purpose of keeping you happy and out of the running. Suppose we all tried to get rich? How would the big shots like that? So they teach us to sing ‘There Is No Place Like Home.’ And they go to Africa.”

“Jim,” I accused, “you’re a Communist.”

“I am only sore,” said Jim, stamping on the gas and shooting the car recklessly past a string of slow-goers, “at all this piddling around and never getting anywhere. I’m sick and tired of it. I feel as if I never wanted to go on another week-end. I feel like cutting out all this trifling and getting down to work. I’d like to have about two hundred thousand dollars.”

“How could you make that,” I inquired, “in ten years?”

“By working,” said Jim. “And saving. And putting every cent away except what I really need to live on. Capital is the secret. Capital begets capital. Money works. The more I saved the smarter I would get at making it. The more money I had the more I would mix with men who make money and they would inspire fresh ideas in me. I could think up marvellous advertising art. I could presently found a company for producing advertising art of a new and sensational kind. The money I make I would invest in other companies that I would know, from my wealthy friends, were money makers. We’re saps.”

“I could write novels,” I submitted, “and movie scenarios. I’ve heard of men making a hundred thousand dollars out of a movie scenario. Two of those and I’d have two hundred thousand. And in less than ten years.”

Jim drove in silence, with a fierce expression on his face. I sat thinking of writing two movie scenarios.

“All right,” said Jim suddenly. “I’m set. I tell you, this is the last trip. If it weren’t for you I’d turn right around now and go back home and head straight for the office.”

“Don’t mind me,” I assured him. “If you really are convinced, Jim. I would be only too glad to join you. These great resolutions come like this. It’s a sort of spiritual thing. You suddenly see things clear and plain. Turn at the next corner.”

“Are you with me?” asked Jim, his face strained with the depth of his feeling. “Do you feel as I feel? Are we fools? Shouldn’t we cut out all this frittering and get down to work? Shouldn’t we make hay while the sun shines and be free men, in a few years, to go where we like, to the ends of the earth, to where there is fun and beauty and life?”

“Turn at the next cross-roads, Jim,” I said breathlessly.

Seeing a Great Light

“What a sap I have been,” groaned Jim, shifting restlessly and gripping the steering wheel with excitement. “Don’t ever speak to me of week-ends again,” he cried. “Don’t ever try to show me a snapshot of a fish.”

“I’m changing, too,” I reminded him. “Not more snapshots.”

We came to a cross-roads. Just a country concession road. Jim put out his arm to warn the long parade of week-end traffic. He swung the car into the little dirt road. “Take your time,” I warned. “No gap in traffic in sight yet.”

“Here’s a car coming out,” said Jim. And he drove his car a few rolls farther down the dirt road to let pass a gaudy-looking green car that was coming out to the highway.

But the outcoming car halted and a man stepped out of it.

“Are you going in to Camp Cumfy Duck?” asked this gentleman, who was sunburned and jolly looking and wore a linen cap.

“No, sir, we’re not,” said Jim politely, but in the manner of a man who knows his own mind.

“Sorry,” said the linen-capped gent, eyeing our fishing tackle and gear. “Going fishing?”

“No, sir, we’re not,” said Jim, in the same presidential manner.

“I’ve come away,” explained the tanned gentleman, “with the favorite lure of the head guide at Camp Cumfy Duck, and I was hoping you were headed in there to save us a nine-mile drive back. Ever been to Camp Cumfy Duck?”

“Never,” said Jim, as if the interview were now ended.

“Greatest muskie water in Canada,” said the genial fellow, heartily. “You look like a couple of sports, or I wouldn’t mention it. Wait a second.”

He skipped around the back of the car and lifted the lid of a rough box leaking ice water.

He hauled forth a, muskie of at least twenty pounds. It was jade green. It was barred with deep shadows of darker jade. It was square-built and powerful. Its immense jaws were fanged with pearly white scimitars. Its baleful eye was proud and fierce, even in death.

Jim got out one side of the car and I the other.

“How much?” asked Jim.

“Twenty-one pounds,” said the sportsman, and his partner, a lean man, got out and joined us at the back of the car.

Out of the ice packing our new friend drew forth five more muskies, eight- pounders, ten-pounders, twelve-pounders.

“All taken,” he stated proudly, “on the Tipsy Giggler. A very sporting bait. Single hook.”

“Very,” Jim and I both agreed, hefting the fish. “Very,”

We laid them out on the grass by the roadside. We admired them and measured them. We lifted them up and laid them down.

“Camp Cumfy Duck?” said Jim. “I never even heard of it.”

“You never hear of the good places,” said our friend. “The only places you ever hear of are the ones that have to be heard of or else nobody would go, since the fish are all gone.”

“That’s true,” said Jim, as if seeing a great light. “By jove, that’s a fact. You said it.”

“As a matter of fact,” I said, “we were looking for some likely spot to spend the week-end. I wonder would there be room at Camp Cumfy Duck for us?”

“My dear sir,” said the new found friend, “I’ll give you a note to the proprietor!”

So while Jim and I lifted the fish reverently back into the ice box the man in the linen cap wrote a note on a scrap of paper.

And down the side road we drove, eight bumpy, swampy miles, to a pleasant old summer hotel on a quiet reedy lake where islands and patches of rushes showed where the muskies rolled and fed of an evening.

We had a quick supper. We shoved off in a skiff. We coasted past the first patch of reeds. I in the stern, Jim in the bow, casting. With Tipsy Gigglers.

“There was really no use turning back,” said Jim, “not when there were muskies so handy. But this is good-by.”

Jim sped his lure like a bullet deep into a pocket among the rushes. I cast mine high and true across the far end of the reed patch. We started to draw the lures home. A sound like a calf falling in the water attracted my attention to Jim’s lure, where an enormous boil in the water indicated trouble.

“Sock him!” I shouted. Jim socked. A huge crocodilian form of jade green leaped tumultuously out of the reedy water.

“Jim,” I roared, “It’s the fish of your life.”

I felt a violent jag at my rod. I looked. Another vast boil in the water appeared just about where my lure would be. I struck.

Out, waggling heavily from side to side, came another monstrous muskie, his jaws agape, to flounder with my Tipsy Giggler dangling from his lip.

“Farewell,” roared Jimmie. “Hello!”

And of the perils we met and mastered, the dreadful rushes of those simultaneous fish, their dives into the reeds, their leaps high into the air on the end of our fragile lines, the times they went under the boat, the times they sulked and the times they raced, I will not detail; because matters of this kind are of interest only to those who wield the dainty four ounce casting rod in the face of the tiger of all fishes.

But we got them. We got them. Jim gaffing mine, holding his doggo meantime then I gaffed his. And we shook hands a score of times and shouted and sang, and rowed back to Camp Cumfy Duck, vowing never would we leave it for any lesser kingdom of the blessed.

And when, long after gutting and icing our great fish, we retired to bed hoping for tomorrow, I said to Jimmie:

“Look here: how about this frittering business? This conversion? Going after big money?”

“Fate,” said Jim, sleepily, “must have overheard us.”

Editor’s Notes: As has been established elsewhere, Jimmie likes playing pool, specifically Russian Pool.

“Spondoolicks” is slang for money.

$200,000 in 1936 would be $4,280,000 in 2023.

Gaffing in fishing is a secure with a hook. “Doggo” at the time meant “keeping quiet, in hiding”, but it does not seem to fit how Greg is using it.

This story was reprinted in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

Are All Fishermen Liars? Are Fish Stories Ever True?

Halfway through those raging rapids with the bass following me in great triumphant leaps, my canoe overturned.
The entire crew take hold of the rope and yank the lunge in hand over hand

Did a Fish Ever Fight or Are All Yarns of Battles Pure Fiction? A Tale of the Only Bass That Ever Put Up a Real Struggle.

By Gregory Clark, July 7, 1923.

Fishing is full of fictions.

In fact, after a careful study of the whole subject of fishing over a period of a quarter of a century, I am convinced that fishing is largely fiction.

At times during my intensive study of the subject, I have come very definitely to the conclusion that there is no such thing as fishing, and that fish themselves are only a delusion.

But there is a weakness in human nature which some call gullibility and others call credulousness, which demands for the human spirit some outlet other than that provided by the perusal of cold facts. It manifested itself in olden days in the legend of the griffin and in the unicorn. Fables grew up about these strange beasts.

In modern times this outlet is provided by fish. And mankind lets loose these restless longings for the mystic and unknown and the incredible through the fabulous tales of fishing.

To go thoroughly into the whole matter would require more than a short story. And a short story is what the editor demands.

I shall take, therefore, only one aspect of fishing: the fable of the fighting fish.

You will hear men commonly arguing with great animation as to which fish is the gamest and fights longest.

“Give me the lunge,” says one. “Give me a lunge of ten pounds or over and I am set for life. There is no fish that swims to compare for gameness and furious fighting spirit with the lunge.”

“Inch for inch, and pound for pound,” says another, quoting I know not what authority, “the small mouth bass is the gamest fish that swims.”

“A trout,” says another, “is never beaten. I have fought a one-pound brook trout, with light tackle, fine and far off, for three-quarters of an hour, and when, through utter exhaustion, I was forced to put the net under him, that trout was as fresh and full of fight as the moment I hooked him.”

That’s the way they talk.

“One hour and twenty minutes it took me to land that twenty-two pound lunge,” says the lunger. “A battle royal all the way.”

Here we are in the very core of fiction.

The lunge fisherman usually drags a stout rope behind a rowboat, at the end of which dangles a large metal trolling spoon set with gangs of hooks one inch or more in size. Similar sets of hooks are used by life-savers when they are dragging for drowned humans. When the poor fish seizes the metal bait, the entire crew of the rowboat take hold of the stout rope and yank the lunge in, hand over hand, like a log. With a whoop and a roar, the lunge is slammed into the bottom of the boat and clubbed to death. The whole operation takes from twenty to forty seconds.

But fiction demands a story about the fish. So the fishermen stretch it into a battle of forty minutes.

About ninety per cent. of the lunge caught in this fishermen’s paradise are thus caught on a rope in a few seconds.

The remaining ten per cent., I find, are caught by real sportsmen, who use a rod to troll with. It is a stout steel rod, strong enough to hold a bull. The line is tested to hold twenty pounds, and the biggest lunge that swims weighs, in the water, only three pounds, owing to the laws of specific gravity. So the odds are slightly in the fisherman’s favor.

When a lunge is struck, the first thing they do is look around to see if anybody is in sight. If there is nobody around, the lunge is reeled in, quite as effectively and a little more safely than by the hand-line method. If anybody is within sight, they spread the battle over three or four minutes. The poor fish wonders what has happened. It wiggles and yanks. But in it comes.

That battle took an hour and six minutes, “by the watch.”

Bass fishermen use a hand net, and as soon the bass is hooked, so alarmed is the fishermen for fear it will escape, he drags it alongside and dips it out of the water with the net.

Trout fishermen are the fictionest fishermen of the lot. Never yet have I met a straight out-and-out worm fisherman. Ninety-nine per cent. of trout fishermen are loaded up with fly hooks, leader boxes, light fly rods and little landing nets. Ninety-nine per cent. of them have a can of worms secreted about their person.

When in sight of their friends, they whip the stream with files. But you will notice that trout fishermen always like to get away by themselves.

“You fish up stream and I’ll fish down,” says one, selecting a cast of files with loving care.

And the other promptly agrees.

The minute they are out of sight of each other, off come the flies, and one of those known as a Gardenia or garden hackle goes on. The cast of flies is hung handy in the hat, in case anyone should be met on the stream.

You see a trout fishermen sneaking very softly up a stream. They tell you the reason is that trout are very wary and have to be stalked. Not at all. Another fish legend. They are sneaking so softly not for the trout, but listening for other fishermen, lest they be caught fishing with worms. I have seen a couple of country boys standing in the water under a bridge snaring trout with fine wire. And the trout flittering about their feet. Trout wary? Trout fishermen wary!

The way ninety-eight per cent. of trout are caught is this: The fisherman hooks it, and with a violent swipe slams the poor little thing high and dry up on the bank.

The other two per cent. are caught in the presence of other fishermen, and for fiction’s sake the catcher has to play it around in the water for a moment, with his heart in his mouth, before scooping it up in the net.

The only authentic case I know of where a bass put up anything like the legendary scrap was a personal experience in which that bass far exceeded any fiction tale I ever heard.

It was up on the Muskosh River, just above the rapids known as Brown’s Cookery.

Evening was falling, and a purple haze hung like a magic curtain over the grey rocks and the dark green firs.

I drifted in my canoe about seventy-five yards above the head of the swift rapids. I was using frog bait and casting to the shores on either hand. In my canoe I had seven of the eight bass the law allows, all of which had put up remarkably good battles, considering that it was only fiction.

I had dropped my bait fair in the middle of swirl of current, when a giant bass leaped and took it. He came fully four feet clear of the surface in that wonderful rush.

With a steady rush that took all but ten feet of my hundred and fifty foot line, he passed me upstream, leaping every few feet and shaking his beautiful bronze body. At the end of the rush, when I had despaired, he turned and rushed as madly down stream, still leaping, and entered the rapids. There he had the swift current to aid him, and he took all but a foot and a half of my line. So intent was I on the battle that I did not notice I was drifting towards the dangerous rapids, which no man had ever shot, except in fiction.

Feeling the stern, if hopeless, pressure on my hold, that bass turned again, raced up stream, and again I was facing north. Leaping every four seconds, by the watch, which I was using to time him, in the interests of truth, he fought over that river.

To my horror, I suddenly saw white water at my side.

I was in the rapids. Would I relinquish that fabulous bass and seize the paddle in the vain effort to save my life? Or would I go to my doom like a good fisherman, holding grimly to my catch?

I decided to die game. Halfway through those raging rapids, with the bass following me in great triumphant leaps, with the dim shades of night upon us, my canoe overturned and I was thrown down, down, deep into that boiling rapids. I lost consciousness. I know not how I escaped from the ragged rocks of that furious stream. But when I came to, I was lying on the beach, three hundred yards below Brown’s Cookery, and morning was breaking. And that bass was still leaping and racing out in the pool below the rapids, with only two and one-half inches of my line on the reel. It had safely come through the rapids with me, and had fought me all night. But unconscious though I was, I held him.

When I dragged it ashore, along about noon, I was utterly exhausted. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the bass had missed his regular feeding time, I never would have got him. He weighed, if I remember rightly, seven and a half pounds – the largest bass ever caught in Ontario. I didn’t enter him in The Star competition, not did I tell my friends about him. For if there is one thing I detest, it is that air of incredulity with which a man’s fishing stories are received.

I tell the tale now, only by way of proving the rule that most fishing stories are fiction. Exceptions prove the rule. This case I have recited is the only instance I know of where a bass really did fight. Most bass are hauled in like an old boot.

I have similar tales to prove my contentions about lunge and trout. Once I fought a thirty-eight pound lunge which I had caught inadvertently on a three-ounce trout rod. It took me four days to land It. Owing to bad weather, I have no photos to prove it. And on another occasion, I hooked a two-pound trout which fought me a distance of seventeen miles up a stream near Caledon. Mile after mile we struggled, the creek getting smaller and smaller. My frail tackle and the delicate fly hook were almost frayed out. If it hadn’t been for the fact that at last we came to the headwaters of the stream, which were a small spring about two feet in diameter, I never would have landed that beauty. When I put my net under him in that small pool of crystal water, I was scarcely able to see. But the trout was just ready to make the seventeen mile journey back to where we had started.

It is cases like these which go to prove, by exception, just to what extent fishing is a legend, a fiction and a pure fabrication.

What the Blazes!

With our pitiful little containers we ran and we chucked and we ran and we chucked while the bush fire let go its age-old war cry, a kind of crackling thunder.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 1, 1946.

“Hand me up the hammer,” commanded Jimmie Frise.

But I was busy looking. Looking out across the bay in front of the cottage at a launch towing five canoes.

“HAND ME UP THE HAMMER!” repeated Jim.

“Oh, parn me,” I said, handing him up the hammer.

“Asleep?” inquired Jim, politely.

“No,” I said, “I was just looking at that darn launch. Look at it. Towing five canoes.

That’s the third gang that has gone up the river this morning.”

“They’re after walleyes,” explained Jimmie, up the ladder. “Pickerel. They’re probably going up to the Falls to camp.”

“But Jim,” I cried, “we’ve never seen anything like this before. Here we are on our annual cottage repairing trip – a month ahead of the holidays… why, it’s hardly the first of June…”

“We generally see a few fishermen at this season,” reminded Jim as he banged the hammer on the window screen frame.

“Yes, a few,” I protested. “But already this morning there have been three big loads of fishermen go up the river. Why, that’s more than you would see in July!”

“Probably Yanks,” said Jim.

“I’ll bet all three loads have been Yanks,” I asserted. “Jim, we are facing an invasion this summer. I bet millions of Yanks are coming to Canada this summer. Millions.”

“They’ll bring a lot of cash with them,” suggested Jim.

“Fresh cash,” I admitted.

“Strange cash, new cash,” elaborated Jim. “Not cash we have been shuffling around among ourselves.”

“And they’ll leave it,” I considered.

They’ll leave it,” agreed Jim, “and take nothing out with them. It’s a gift.”

“All they do,” I pondered, “is breathe a little of our fresh air. Catch and eat a few fish. And leave a few hundred million dollars fresh cash behind them.”

Jimmie banged the screen frame firmly home and came down the ladder. We stood on the rock beside the cottage and watched the launch with the five canoes slowly vanishing behind the point, up the river.

We could see the launch crowded with humanity. A wisp of song drifted across the quiet water to us.

“You see,” said Jimmie, relaxing and sitting down on the sun-bathed rock, “for several years now, there really hasn’t been much outdoor sport for the Yanks. Or for us either. Apart entirely from the men overseas – that is a million Canadians and maybe 10 or 15 million Yanks – even the folks who stayed home have had gasoline rationing, tire rationing and everything else to keep them from going afar into the woods and streams. This year, we’re going to see the pent-up desires of all these countless men let loose.”

“It’s going to be an abnormal explosion of outdoor energy,” I supposed.

“Correct,” said Jim. “Thousands of men who normally would do their fishing and camping nearer home have been saving up their money and their energy to take a real, far-off holiday. All the dreams and frustrations of the past four or five years are going to bust loose on us this summer.”

The Invasion Has Begun

“I’m told,” I put in, “that in the last six years Americans have gone outdoor MAD!”

“The way I heard it,” said Jim, “there is more American, money invested in fishing tackle, guns and camping equipment than in all other American sports combined, including golf, baseball, football, horse-racing…”

“Whoa, now,” I protested.

“Including horse-racing,” reiterated Jimmie, “with all its millions. Do you know how many Yanks annually buy a gun license in the States?”

“It would be millions,” I guessed.

“It would be just under 12 millions,” announced Jim. “At that rate, how many millions go fishing?”

“Say…” I muttered. “We’d better watch out! What if that tidal wave of fishermen were to start in this direction!”

“They’ve started,” said Jim quietly, pointing.

And there, around the island, came another large launch towing two rowboats and four canoes.

We recognized the launch as Joe Perrault’s from the Landing. Joe is one of our busiest guides.

We gazed across the twinkling water as Perrault’s launch slowly chuff-chuffed across the bay heading up the river. We could see short fishing rods projecting over the stern, regardless of the towed rowboats and canoes.

“Why, they’re fishing already,” I cried. “They’re trolling!”

“Well, you get some walleyes along there,” explained Jim. “At this season, the walleyes are coming down the river from the Falls and the sand bars and gravel bars near the Falls where they’ve spawned.”

There must have been 10 men in Perrault’s launch.

“Look. Jim.” I submitted. “Can our fish stand to this kind of invasion? If four big up. loads of them have gone up the river already this morning, and it’s only the end of May really, how many will be passing up the river in July and August?”

“They don’t all get fish,” reminded Jim.

“No, but they try,” I insisted. “And they get a good many fish.”

“Actually,” mused Jimmie, lying back on the rock, “in every 10 men who go fishing, there is only one or maybe two at the most who are good fishermen, who get fish. The rest are men more interested in being out in the open air, in the wilds, than in fishing. They are more interested in escaping from the city they dwell in, the country they know, than in fishing. They are more interested in escaping from their wives and kids. How can a man walk out on his wife and kids for two weeks? Why, by pretending to be an ardent fisherman.”

“Mmmmm,” I said, cautiously.

“That’s a fact,” declared Jim. “Some men take up golf. That is his excuse for getting away from his work and his family for a few hours at a time. Instead of having to come home every afternoon – now that daylight saving is on – and spend several hours listening to his wife yammering and his kids yelling, why, he pretends to be an ardent golfer and goes off by himself and wanders over the pastures. Escaped.”

“But fishing!” I suggested proudly.

“Ah fishing,” gloated Jim. “Fishing gives, you a real escape. You escape from your office, your job. You escape from your familiar city and surrounding country. You escape from your wife and kids. You escape from civilization itself. You put on old clothes, you dress like a beachcomber. You don’t have to shave. You don’t even have to wash. You can be the natural bum that all men are at heart.”

“All by pretending to be an ardent fisherman,” I chuckled

“That is why, it’s a mistake,” explained Jim, “to look on all these tourists as expert anglers who will tear the stuffing out of the game fish resources of this country.”

We heard distant shouting. We, glanced across the bay to where Perrault’s launch was heading into the river. But the launch was slowing down and turning. From it came confused shouting and we could see the figures of the passengers moving excitedly around.

“I’ll get the glasses,” I exclaimed, running for the cottage.

Through the field glasses, Jimmie and I watched the entrancing scene. One of the sportsmen in the stern of the launch had hooked a fish. We saw Joe Perrault swing his launch well out into the bay again where he stopped it to drift. We saw Joe drag one of the rowboats alongside the launch and he and the sportsmen got into it. Joe rowed clear of the launch and we watched the battle that ensued between the sportsman and what must have been a very big and active fish.

It was a walleye, all right, a big pike-perch. or pickerel as we call it in the east here. The Yanks call them walleyes. Probably the best eating fish of all.

A Smell in the Air

As Joe Perrault heaved it aboard the rowboat with the landing net, we caught a glimpse of it through the glasses.

“Eight pounds,” yelled Jim, who had the glasses.

“More like 10,” I said with the naked eye. And the crowd in the launch cheered.

“Well,” said Jim, sitting up. “What are we doing sitting here? Why aren’t we out fishing right now?”

“We’ve still got seven more screens to put up,” I reminded, “and when are we going to get at the dock? It will take three or four hours to fix that dock up.”

“Look,” said Jim firmly. “Four loads of Yanks have gone up that river since breakfast. Goodness knows how many loads of them went up before we woke. Goodness knows how many have gone up the last few days. Maybe there are 200 Yanks camped up at the Falls and on the river higher up. They are catching walleyes. They are eating walleyes. Right now, I can almost catch the smell of walleyes cooking in frying pans over camp fires…”

I sniffed.

“By golly,” I said, “I believe I can…”

So we got our tackle together and lifted the minnow trap down by the dock and got five good plump little minnows out of it.

And in the canoe, we set out along the shore towards the river to follow the pilgrimage. We did not troll, but anchored out in the fast current in the river, wherever it narrowed, and cast our minnows out to sink down into the deep water where the walleyes lurk. It is about three miles up the river to the first Falls where some of the best walleye fishing is to be had after May 15.

We poked along, pausing for a few casts here and there without any luck. As we paddled, another launch, towing three canoes, passed up river. We were close enough to see by the gabardine sport coats, fancy hats and horn-rimmed spectacles that the passengers were all from south of the border. We all exchanged cheery waves.

When we got within half a mile of the Falls, we could see a regular encampment was established. Boats and canoes were anchored out in the swift water below the Falls, and from the shore on both sides, figures were clearly visible in the act of casting out into the swift water.

There were big tents and little tents, open front shed tents and army pup tents.

“The war,” submitted Jim, “has certainly provided the Yanks with all kinds of new wrinkles in camping gear.”

Heading for a sand bar we knew to the west of the Falls, and well apart from where the visitors were fishing, Jim and I anchored and cast our minnows across the bar. And in 10 minutes, we each had a very nice walleye of about three pounds.

This is enough,” said Jim, as he knocked his walleye on the head. “Let’s go ashore on the point and cook them for lunch.”

That suited me fine. Our favorite point was practically our private property. Nobody else ever camped on it. It was a little balsam and pine and birch clothed point projecting out from the shore with bays on either side. In summer, those bays are full of good bass. We had a small familiar stone fireplace discreetly hidden on the point where we had cooked many a shore dinner of fresh caught fish.

We landed the canoe and gathered sticks for a quick hot fire that would burn down to bright coals for grilling the fish. While I got the fire going, Jim started on the walleyes, skinning them and taking off the fillets. They have a silver sheen all over them when freshly skinned. You put these fillets in a wire camp grill, with a slice of bacon over and under, and then toast everything over a small, low. bed of bright wood coals. Arrrnnnhh!

I got the fire going strong. I took the usual precautions of clearing away the dead leaves from the neighborhood of the fire. When the dead sticks were blazing fiercely and the larger dead sticks for the coals were piled on, I went down to the water’s edge to help Jim skin the fish.

“Look,” said Jim, “another load of them!”

Just nearing our point came another launch towing small craft.

And as we watched, the guide steering the boat stood up and waved at us and yelled.

“Hi-ya,” we yelled back.

But the guide signalled frantically and turned his boat towards us.

At which same instant, Jim and I heard a rising fierce crackle and a kind of whoosh. We leaped up and looked behind us.

To the Rescue

A spark from our dead stick fire had, leaped across the rock and had set fire to the dead leaves. The brush was afire!

Jim grabbed the tea pail and I grabbed my hat.

We dipped water and ran.

“Oh, oh, oh.” I moaned,” in front of all these visitors.

“Old timers,” gasped Jim, “like us…”

And with our pitiful little containers we ran and we chucked and we ran and we chucked while the bush fire grabbed hold of a little pine and a couple of small balsams and let go its age-old war cry, a kind of crackling thunder.

The launch with the strangers slid in and bumped hard. Out bailed the occupants, armed with pails and one of them with an axe. They didn’t talk or shout. They just went to work.

The tallest of them, with a Deep South drawl caught me and asked: “Do you know the lay of the land behind here? Can you get me around in the canoe…?”

I realized he knew bush fires. He ran to the canoe and I jumped in and paddled him. He had a big axe and I had one of their large canvas buckets.

As we shoved off, I happened to glance towards the Falls. Two launches were already half way to us, loaded with men. Small boats, canoes were streaming from the Falls in our direction.

We nipped around behind the fire, and landed 50 yards inland.

“We’ll catch sparks first,” said the Southerner, “until the gang gets here.”

And the gang got here, all right. In five minutes, they were landing all the way down the point, some with axes, some with pails. No shouting, no confusion: with their pails and axes, they were damping out the big floating sparks; with the axes, they were switching off the lower branches of balsams that were on fire at the top. I saw some of them cut down stout little balsams, in about five swift strokes of the axe.

In fact, in 20 minutes the fire was out. And only a tiny little tip of the point was damaged. Still they prowled, with their pails, seeking out and damping down every smouldering ember.

And still none of them had anything to say.

None except the one they called the Senator. He was a big, powerful fat man, wearing gabardine pants, gabardine shirt, knee-length hunting boots. From his pockets projected all the gadgets you’ll see advertised in the outdoors magazines. He had a 10-gallon hat on.

And he was the director of the whole operation, apparently. Everybody took orders from him.

He came wading through the burned debris and shook hands with us.

“Senator,” I said, “I can’t begin to thank you gentlemen for coming the way you did. This whole point would have gone…”

“The whole point,” boomed the Senator, “and maybe down the shore to the Falls.”

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are…” I repeated.

“What the hell else could we do?” demanded, the Senator. “We don’t want our favorite camping ground burned all up.”

“But…” I stuttered.

“It’s all right, son,” said the Senator. “All I want to say is, you want to take good care of this country. You want to watch your fires and don’t let any holocausts get loose. Remember, son, this is America’s Playground.”

And we all shook hands round and round, as they got into their boats and canoes and returned to their fishing.

And finally, just Jim and I on the point, we shook hands too.

Fishing is so Easy to Give Up

“I was just thinking,” said Jim, “that it would be no sacrifice to give up fishing after all.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 3, 1941.

“Do you suppose,” inquired Jimmie Frise, “there is anybody fishing in Germany?”

“If there is not,” I replied, “I bet there are plenty who wish they were.”

“Maybe so,” said Jimmie, “but for every man that isn’t fishing in Germany, there ought to be a man not fishing amongst us. Sooner or later, we are going to have to get it through our cheerful skulls that war is a game like any other game, and you have to have the same number of players on our team, as well trained as the other team and equipped with as serviceable equipment, if we expect to win.”

“I’ve seen rough country teams… ” I began.

“The greatest heroes in the world,” interrupted Jimmie, “can be beaten by the biggest cowards on earth, if the cowards have Tommy guns and the heroes have baseball bats.”

“The justice of our cause…” I started.

“Justice is a funny thing,” cut in Jim. “High as my opinion of our system of justice in this country may be, I still wouldn’t like to be a poor man, with the most just cause on earth, up against a billion-dollar corporation. Two poor men can get justice between them. Two billion-dollar corporations can get justice between them. But so long as justice costs money, those with money are going to be able to carry on from court to court and leave the poor man behind. What were you saying about the justice of our cause?”

“I forget,” I admitted. “It was something about the war.”

“Ah, yes,” said Jim. “Now let’s suppose this war is a hockey championship. Whichever team wins each member of the team is going to get a million dollars, plus ten thousand for each goal scored.”

“That’s a game I’d like to watch,” I exclaimed.

“You are watching it,” said Jim. “Now suppose our opponents are the Chicago Black Hawks and they have been in training all winter. They have been playing games right along. Winning them all. And we know our game against them is due on a certain date.”

“Where’s our team?” I inquired.

“We haven’t got one,” explained Jim. “We don’t believe in hockey that much. So we plan, the night of the game, to pick a team from the audience.”

“Don’t be silly.” I scoffed. “With $1,000,000 to each player?”

“Oh, we’ve got plenty of courage,” said Jim. “We feel hockey is a Canadian game. Everybody just naturally plays hockey in Canada, whereas the Chicago Black Hawks are foreigners. Besides, they’re professionals. We’ll pick a team from the audience, and by sheer sportsmanship and by sheer natural merit we’ll win…”

“That’s an absurd analogy to the war, Jim,” I protested.

“Okay,” said Jim, “you give me an analogy. To what extent is the average Canadian household in this war? The average Canadian man, woman and child thinks the war is a radio program.”

“Jim,” I said, scandalized.


“Well, we’re planning to go trout fishing tomorrow,” stated Jim. “All over the country, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island, men are planning tonight to go trout fishing tomorrow.”

“What could we do if we stayed home?” I demanded. “Could we make one shell? Could we help assemble one tank? Is there a single thing we could do tomorrow, by staying home, that would have the slightest effect on the course of the war?”

“Yes,” said Jim, “there is. A mighty and powerful effect on the war. We would be sacrificing something we really care about. We would be sacrificing, actually, for the first time.”

“Tens of thousands of Canadian homes have given up sons and husbands,” I asserted.

“The average home,” retorted Jim firmly, “is undisturbed. All the baloney about our individual war effort in soaking money away in war bonds and savings is just so much taffy to a lot of people who are kidding themselves that they are in the war. They are not losing. They are gaining.”

“Any number of modest, decent people,” I declared, “are depriving themselves of luxuries and even necessaries in order to save for the war.”

“Being thrifty,” stated Jim, “whether by instinct or as the result of exhortation, is not sacrifice. Sacrifice means losing something. For keeps.”

“Like a season’s fishing,” I submitted. “If I live to be 60, I have only 11 fishing seasons left.”

A Real Sacrifice

“Your private life and the even tenor of your way,” declared Jim, “must be upset before you start to function on a war basis. Everybody else in Canada has to give up something they love as much as you love fishing. And then watch Canada go to war.”

“Well,” I sighed, “I had everything packed. My rods and packsack are stacked in the vestibule, waiting. I’ve got my fishing clothes all hung ready in my closet. My fishing boots are greased. I put a red bandanna in the hip pocket of my old fishing pants. I put a handful of matches in the right-hand pocket. I spent the whole of last night getting everything ready…”

“I’m glad,” said Jim. “Now you will feel the loss more keenly. It would be no good if you gave up fishing without a pang. Whatever we give up, we should give up with bitterness. Then we’ll function.”

“As a matter of psychology, Jim,” I proposed, “don’t you think it would be even a greater sacrifice if we gave up fishing after the first trip of the year? So that our suffering will be all the keener?”

Jim reflected.

“You’ve got something there,” he mused. Which explains the fact that you might have seen us driving heartily northward over the week-end along with all the rest of the angling fraternity for the opening of the trout season.

Jim and I agreed not to mention the war from start to finish of the trip. We would pretend it was just the same glorious old opening as ever. But deep in our hearts we would know that this was the end. That every jewel of an hour spent on the streamside was one hour nearer the end of our sport for a long time to come. Anyone seeing us wading the stream and casting our flies would little dream that we were participating in a psychological ceremony the purpose of which was to make us bigger and better citizens.

The opening of the trout season is to an angler what Christmas is to a saint or the last day of school is to a schoolboy. It has religious elements in it as well as a sort of elemental joy that cannot be reasoned out. A man is at best a poor captive to civilization. It was fear that drove men into communities in the long, long ago; but sparks of courage still linger in the ashes of men’s hearts, and when those sparks fly a man feels an almost desperate desire to escape into the open to do primitive things.

It was a lovely day when we left the city. There was what the Scottish anglers call an “airt.” That means the atmosphere is so soft and humid, you can almost feel it between your thumb and finger. It was a day for birds to sing, for flies to fly, for bees to fall on the stream and for fish to rise up from the wintry bottom of their home and take a slash at the sky.

But when we crossed over the Caledon ridge a few miles north of the city, there came a change. The trees were not so advanced in bud. The fields had a sad and wintry look. And there was no airt.

And far ahead the horizon had a solid bank of gray cloud, as though April had not yet given up.

And when we reached the trout country itself, we had come under that gray bank and you might have thought we had driven two weeks back into time.

“Should we try to set up the tent?” I asked Jim, “or should we go right in to the farm and get Roy to put us up in the spare room?”

“I hate suddenly descending on a farm,” said Jim. “It isn’t merely that they have to get the room ready for us. They are upset in all ways. They feel they have to get to work and cook up special menus. Visitors on a farm are a matter of ceremony.”

“Maybe we could sleep in Roy’s barn,” I suggested. “The hay would be comfortable.”

“Let’s put up the tent,” urged Jim. “This is good-by, to trout fishing. Let us do it up in the traditional fashion.”

“It will be mighty chilly when night falls,” I pointed out.

“And it might even rain,” admitted Jim.

Might even rain! Ten miles this side of the river the rain began in a fine drizzle. By the time we reached the sideroad into Roy’s it had started in earnest. The clouds sagged down as they only can in May, as though to wake the earth with their kiss. The rain pelted. The road, rutted and filled with big holes, became a little river itself. And when we reached the creek we hardly recognized it. It had overflowed its banks and was running the color of church social coffee.

“How about, Roy’s?” I demanded.

“Let’s sit and enjoy the rain,” countered Jim. “After all, this is one of nature’s moods. We love them all.”

So there we sat in the car, with the windows up, while the rain pelted in slanting streaks and the whole earth became flooded and the stream steadily rose until the fences in the fields were waving in its current and the road had tides, across it.

For an hour the rain pelted. Then a patch of blue appeared and we put on our rubber boots and ventured forth.

“There isn’t a dry spot big enough for the tent within miles,” I declared.

“The tent has a waterproof floor,” reminded Jim. “Come on. Let’s do this up like men, not like sissies.”

He dragged out the tent in its bag and we walked up the road a few paces to study a little hillock of sand.

“Dry as a chip,” cried Jim. “Once we get the tent over it, she’ll be as cosy as a fox’s den.”

“It looks like an all-night rain to me,” I professed.

“Come on, grab hold,” said Jim.

So we spread out the tent on the soaking herbage and started to look about for a couple of poles. And suddenly the blue patch above vanished in a thick brown cloud and down came the deluge again. We rolled the tent up hastily and ran back to the car.

Now the rain really came down.

“To Roy’s,” I voted firmly.

Jim started the engine and went into low gear. The car shifted violently down on one corner.

“Now we’re done for,” I informed him.

The shoulder of the road had given way under our weight and the grab of, the car wheel. The more Jim tried the deeper we sank into thick mud.

“We’ll have to get Roy after all,” I submitted.

We walked along the flowing side road in the whirling rain and up to Roy’s farm, where there was nobody home but a little girl who said her father wasn’t expected until supper-time.

The next nearest farm,” I reminded Jim, “is that bird we had the row with last year about fishing on his part of the stream.”

“Tell your Daddy,” said Jim to the little girl, “that Mr. Frise is expecting him down at the stream.”

“Let’s wait here,” I suggested, looking out from the warmth of the house to the sweeping rain.

“This is a fishing trip,” replied Jim, “and I’m going to at least wet a line.”

Back to the car we trudged. From beneath the wet and bedraggled tent, which we had not restored to its bag, we fished out our rods and fly hooks. With heads bowed, we fastened on our reels and threaded up our lines; hitched on the leaders and tied on a couple of big, gaudy flies that we thought might catch the eye of a trout in that soup-colored stream roaring by.

Jim fished up and I fished down. It was ridiculous to cast a line at all. Great sticks and roots sailed along in the flood. It was impossible even to remember the shape of the stream or where its banks and familiar holes were.

It was growing dusk and with the rain came a new chill in the air. I quit and fought wet brush out to the road and came back to the car, where I found Jimmie on the running-board emptying his boots and taking down his rod.

“I think I heard Roy drive in,” he said wetly.

“Jim,” I declared, getting into the car, “what is there about fishing that attracts intelligent people like us? It’s always the same. It always turns out like this. What is the delusion we are under about the joy of fishing?”

“I was just thinking,” said Jim, “that it would be no sacrifice to give up fishing, after all.”

“You’re quite right,” I agreed. “We’ll have to study up some other sacrifice.”

So when Roy arrived over the fields with a team of horses to haul us out, we declined his ardent invitation to spend the night and said that as the stream would not be down to normal for a couple of days at least we might just as well go on back home to the city.

Which we did.

An Axe to Grind

Old Colquhoun was waving an axe around in circles, cutting capers of glee.

By Gregory Clark, illustrated by James Frise, August 24, 1946.

“Well,” sighed Jimmie Frise, “summer is practically over.”

“The heck it is,” I protested indignantly. “We’ve got all September and …”

“September isn’t summer,” declared Jim bleakly. “September is autumn.”

“After the 21st,” I insisted firmly. “We’ve got nearly another month of summer. Don’t make it seem any shorter than it is.”

“It isn’t me that makes summer seem short,” said Jim doggedly. “It IS short. In Canada, we don’t get two months of summer.”

“Jim, you’re very ungrateful. Think,” I reminded, “if we lived in a country like Bermuda. Summer all the time!”

“Oh, boy!” gloated Jim.

“But no contrasts,” I warned. “No feeling of appreciation. Every day the same, year in, year out. Summer, summer, summer.”

“It would suit me,” declared Jim.

“I’d die,” I submitted, “of sheer boredom. What I love about Canada is its versatility. When you go to bed in Canada, you haven’t the vaguest idea what kind of a day it’s going to be tomorrow. Man, that’s adventure. That adds zest.”

“One thing I know,” asserted Jim somberly. “In about two months, it’s going to be cold and bleak and the leaves are going to be tumbling ahead of the wind on the ground …”

“What a thought on a day like this!” I snorted, looking out from the cottage veranda over the keen, sparkling water.

It was one of those rarest days of summer in Canada. A hale west wind blowing. A fine mid-August westerly. All the trees in the full health of leaf and bough, bending in the wind and making a strong clear rushing sound. By mid-August, the tree foliage is leathery and tough and made to bathe in these fine tangy winds from the west.

“Do you realize, Jim,” I demanded, “that this week and next are the two finest bass fishing weeks of the whole year?”

“I don’t recall any famous catches at this season,” said Jim.

“The records prove it,” I stated. “For 30 years, The Toronto Star maintained a prize contest for the biggest black bass. And with few exceptions across those 30 years, the winners were caught in the latter part of August. The six-and-a-half-pounders, the seven-pounders.”

“Coincidence,” suggested Jimmie.

“Not a chance,” I corrected. “It stands to reason, Jim. Big bass are big because they have been successful in escaping death at the hands of anglers. Big bass are big because they are wily and cunning. In July, when the season first opens, the weather is mild and fine. A smart bass can detect the approach of the fisherman’s boat 100 yards off. The weeds are young and easily seen through. The big bass may be hungry, but he knows he has all summer ahead of him to feed up. So he uses judgment and tact in selecting his food. He doesn’t grab hold of the first bait that passes him, as younger fish do. So he grows big and old and wise.”

Bass Goes a-Hunting

“And how,” inquired Jim, “does he fall for it in late August?”

“This hale west wind,” I pursued, “suggests to the bass what it suggested to you a few minutes ago. It suggests that summer is blowing to its end. That autumn is coming. And the big bass, remembering other years, decides it is about time he started feeding up against the lean months.”

“I can follow that,” agreed Jim.

“Yes, sir,” I went on. “So the big bass leaves his hiding place beneath sunken log or behind rocky shelf, and under the influence of this fine wind, beating the water into a turmoil, he goes ahunting. He grows a little careless, as all men do when urgent need drives them. He comes along these wind-beaten shores, stuffing himself with minnows dazed by the waves, gorging on his favorite food, the crawfish, which have been washed from under the rocks by the continued pounding of the waves. There are fine pickings along the shores these days for a big bass with an eye to economy of movement.”

“It’s sort of harvest home for the bass, too.” suggested Jim.

“I,” I submitted, “could do with a real feast of bass. We will skin them, fillet them, and fry the fillets in an iron frying pan on a good hot stove.”

“With chopped parsley right on them as they fry,” contributed Jim.

“And no vegetables,” I menued, “but plenty of toast, some slightly bitter leaf lettuce – not that awful, watery, head lettuce! …”

“And,” rounded off Jim, sitting up smartly, “a large plate of cold, ripe, sliced tomatoes!”

“Ah, that’s better,” I exclaimed, as Jim got to his feet full of resolve. “That’s more Augusty. I hate to see a man gloomy in August.”

“Have you any suggestions as to where we’ll fish?” asked Jim alertly, facing the wind and catching a big lungful.

“Any place,” I suggested.

“No, sir. I’ve got an idea,” said Jim. “You know that old settler up the road? Old man Mose, the kids call him?”

“Certainly: an old acquaintance of mine,” I stated. “Name of Colquhoun.”

“Colquhoun, is it?” said Jim. “Well, I saw him on the road a couple of days ago, and I said to myself-there’s an old guy knows every nook and cranny of this country like a book.”

“He does,” I admitted cautiously. “He does. But in the 40 years I’ve known him – and he was always old -he never imparted any of his knowledge to me. Or to anybody else in the summer resort, as far as I can find out.”

“A hermit, is he?” asked Jim.

“Well, no, not a hermit, exactly,” I explained. “A hermit is usually a little queer, maybe religious, maybe shy. Old man Mose, as the kids all call him for the past half century, isn’t queer, isn’t religious, isn’t shy. The way I heard it, he made an unfortunate marriage when he was a young man and simply ran away and hid up in this neck of the woods. He built a cabin, intending to live by trapping and poaching. It was when we summer resorters came along and found this heavenly spot that old Colquhoun took a scunner against us. He hasn’t spoken to any of us within my memory.”

“By golly, that’s true,” said Jim. “I greeted him the other day and he never let on. I thought he was deaf.”

“Nothing deaf about him,” I assured. “He Just doesn’t like tourists. He hates summer cottagers. They’ve ruined his trapping and poaching.”

“Well, I guess there’s no chance of getting him to tip us off to some secret, choice bass fishing spot,” surmised Jim.

“He’s a mean old cuss,” I certified. “He’s tight as wax. I doubt if he’s ever given anybody – even the other settlers around – so much as nail in his life. He’s famous for his meanness.”

“Rather an interesting old cuss,” mused Jimmie. “I like mean old characters. There’s always something curious and attractive about them. When you get to know them, you find the secret of their meanness, and it’s fascinating to discover how gnarled and twisted, and knotty and grainy human nature can become over some trifling little thing…”

“But not old man Mose,” I chuckled. “He’s just plain cussed.”

“Did you ever try to get acquainted with him?” demanded Jim.

“When I was a young man up here,” I recounted, “I went a long way out of my way to try to cultivate the old skinflint. But no use. He was laid up with flu one summer and I took him a whole carton of supplies–bacon, jelly, oranges, bread … He not only didn’t so much as say thanks, he just lay in bed, behind his beard, and studied me with shrewd, mocking, suspicious eyes. I tried to sit down and have a bedside chat. He pretended to have a bad coughing spell and then shut his eyes. I left.”

“Well,” cried Jim, “maybe the poor guy was sick. You don’t base your opinion on…”

“Oh, no,” I assured. “For the next two years, every time he saw me on the road he’d dart into the bushes to avoid me. Finally, I asked one of the other settlers what old Colquhoun had against me. And he told me the old boy was expecting me to hand him a bill for the groceries I brought him while he was ill.”

“No!” said Jim.

“He just can’t believe anybody is good-hearted,” I explained. “I have hundreds of examples. He’s quite a character.”

Bearding the Lion

“I’m going to pay him a visit,” said Jim with determination.

“Select some day when you have nothing better to do,” I suggested. “Let’s go bass fishing today.”

“I’m betting.” declared Jim, tightening his belt, “that that old character knows every bass hole in this country for miles around. And if he has never told anybody where they are – imagine the bass that’ll be in them!”

“You’re wasting your time,” I said.

“It’s only 15 minutes up this road to his shanty,” Jim calculated. “The walk would do us some good. I’ll be back in half an hour with old Colquhoun.”

“Yes, you will,” I laughed.

As I had a new line to put on my bass reel and one or two other little odd jobs, I went down to the boathouse while Jim headed up the rocky backwoods road around the end of the lake where old Colquhoun’s cabin occupied, by long odds, the finest point for a cottage in the whole countryside.

And you can imagine my astonishment, when I looked up from finishing reeling on my new line, to see, coming down the road together in full stride, Jimmie and old Colquhoun, in hearty converse.

Jim brought the old boy down to the boathouse and introduced us, neighbors for 40 years, man and boy, us if I were a newcomer to the district. Old Colquhoun looked at me with kindly interest as if he had never laid eyes on me before in his life. He shook hands firmly.

“Mr. Colquhoun,” announced Jimmie beaming, “knows a bass lake less than five miles from here that he says is simply teeming with great big five and six-pounders…”

“Where’s that?” I asked narrowly.

“Oh, it’s a little secret of me own,” said Mr. Colquhoun hoarsely but jovially. “A little secret I’ve had these past 50 years. Never a tourist into it.”

“In which direction?” I inquired cautiously. “I know most of the lakes within five miles.”

“No tourist would ever find it,” confided Mr. Colquhoun. “We can get there in your car. The road ain’t so good. But it ain’t so bad. A nice little light car like yours…”

“You mean my open job?” I asked sharply. “Why not take your car, Jim? A light car isn’t as good as a heavy car on these backwoods roads …”

“A heavy car,” put in Mr. Colquhoun, “would sink in the bog.”

“Any car,” I stated suspiciously, “would sink in the bog.”

“Oh, it ain’t that bad,” said Mr. Colquhoun. “Take whatever car you like. But all I say is, be prepared to have to pry her out of holes here and there…”

“Jim,” I cut in sharply. “We don’t have to go to any remote neck of the woods for some bass. We can get a feed of bass by taking the rowboat right out in front here…”

“Six-pounders,” announced Mr. Colquhoun “Seven-pounders even.”

“Well, I’m certainly going,” declared Jimmie. “I’m not going to pass up a chance of a lifetime…”

“I wouldn’t of tipped you off,” explained Mr. Colquhoun, “exceptin’ I am getting old. No use keepin’ secrets to the grave, is there?”

I looked at him steadily. He looked back at me, and if ever I saw just plain malignance in a human gaze, there it was. Flickering.

“I’ll go in my car, if you don’t want to come,” said Jim.

“I’ll come,” I said gloomily.

And we went in the cottage, leaving Mr. Colquhoun outside, to get our gear for the trip.

Tackling the Backwoods

“What did you do to the old bird?” I inquired of Jim inside. “Give him some kind of a sulpha pill or something? Maybe one of these new penicillin lozenges…?”

“As usual,” stated Jim, “your prejudices, acquired in early youth, have been robbing you all the rest of your life. I found him a decent, gnarled old boy. He was sitting thinking on his front step when I walked up. I asked him, matter of fact, if he could tell me of any good bass fishing off the beaten track…”

Well, wonders will never cease, I find.

So we got in MY car, the open job, with old Colquhoun in the back seat directing us. We drove up the road past his place, and on another couple of miles of very poor backwoods road, over rock and through deep pitch holes and around bald boulders. Then we turned off into what was nothing but a bare track over the waste places.

“Can’t we walk from here?” I protested.

“It’s another good two miles,” said Colquhoun, “and you’ll find it good going in a minute.”

It was never good going. It was awful going. The track disappeared for 100 yards at a stretch. Some ancient tote road of lumbering days, possibly. We wound through woods, we rode over bald rocky hills and we stumbled through swamps where vestiges of corduroy road still persisted. In all my years up in this country. I had never come across this trail before.

“This lake,” said old Colquhoun, “has got eight-pounders in it. I’ll be bound. But I never had the proper tackle to tackle them.”

He said this just as we reached the worst possible spot we had imagined. It was an old burn around swamp. You could see water in the swamps. But eight-pound bass are something to break world records with. I crawled ahead in low gear …

The corduroy collapsed. I could feel my back wheels spinning in muskeg.

Old Colquhoun jumped out of the car and ran up the hill, looking. I supposed, for a rail or something to pry me up.

Jim got out and took a length of dead tree in hand.

And then we heard old Colquhoun whooping.

“Here she is!” he exulted. “Just where I left her last fall.”

And he was waving an axe around in circles cutting capers of glee.

“Right where I left her!” he yelled, “Nobody found her. Nobody touched her. Exactly where I knowed I left her, in a stump…”

And he came bow-legging it down to the car, cuddling the axe in his arms.

“Boy!” he breathed deeply, as he laid the axe in the back seat, “is that ever a relief!”

“How far is the lake from here?” I demanded coldly.

Old Colquhoun scratched the back of his head, pushing his hat forward to do so. He studied the muskeg around. He gazed a little this way, a little that.

“Well, sir, I figger,” he said, “we’ll be there in another two miles, maybe two and a half …”

“And does the road stay like this?” I snorted angrily.

“I’m afraid the road,” said old Colquhoun, “don’t go any further than here. My memory kind of played me false…”

“You told me,” accused Jim, “that it was not half a mile off the road past your place. We’ve come four miles …”

“Distances,” stated old Colquhoun, “are very deceivin! You’ll find that out more as you grow older.”

“Can we walk from here?” demanded Jim.

“My walkin’ days are pretty well over,” said old Colquhoun “I could give you the directions and wait here…”

But something about the old man’s expression – out of the SIDES of his eyes, as it were – decided us to use what time and energy we had left in getting out of the swamp.

Which we did, with rampikes, rails, pieces of stump, stones and my jack. My car is at least two years older, in wear and tear.

But old Colquhoun has his axe. And Jimmie has one thing less to discover about old well-established skinflints.

Editor’s Notes: “Menued” is an odd word, but basically means providing a menu.

Old Man Mose” was a song written by Louis Armstrong in 1935, and re-recorded by many artists.

“Took a scunner against us” means “took a strong dislike to us”.

Sulfa Pills was a generic name for anti-bacterial drugs.

A corduroy road was used in pioneer times by placing logs, perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area.

“Cutting capers of glee” means “doing a happy dance”.

A “rampike” is an upright, dead tree.

Saga of Lost Lake

We pushed on, over ridge and gully, around swamp and over ten thousand dead trees.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 21, 1937.

“This,” said Jimmie Frise, “is the worst year for fishing we’ve ever had.”

“Is it any wonder,” I demanded, “with fresh thousands taking up fishing every year and fresh miles of highway being built farther and farther into the wilds every season?”

“All our old haunts are ruined,” said Jim.

“Yet we,” I accused, “thought it was swell when they completed the cement highways to all our favorite spots.”

“Even Algonquin Park has a highway into it now,” sighed Jim.

“Canada’s richest asset,” I declared, “is the tourist traffic. It’s the strangest export business in the world. It brings in three hundred million dollars per annum net cash. And all it takes out is snapshots.”

“We’re selling our birthright,” pronounced Jim solemnly, “for a mess of pottage. When we have ripped our country wide open for the tourist trade, when we’ve criss-crossed it with highways and looted all our lakes and made hot dog groves of all our forests and nothing remains but an empty fraud, and all the annual three hundred millions have vanished, as millions do, into thin air, what will we have left?”

“We’ll have had a good time while it lasted,” I pointed out. “Three hundred million a year is mighty sweet money.”

“We’ll have rotting highways running through barren and useless waste,” said Jim. “Our tourist trade goes into a country unfit for anything but playing in. It has no soil for farming. It is no good for reforesting. When the fish are gone and the wild aspect vanished, the tourists will leave us holding the empty bag.”

“Why, Jim,” I laughed, “within ten years, the American tourists are going to be working their way into our Arctic. Already, hundreds of Americans are going every summer into the Albany watershed, running into Hudson Bay. Already, thousands of Americans are taking hunting trips into the Yukon and the northern Rockies. Our tourist trade is good for another hundred years, with that wild, unexplored Arctic up there.”

“And what about us poor guys,” demanded Jim, “that can’t afford to go two thousand miles north? Is fishing in Canada only to be for wealthy Americans?”

“Oh, they’ll stock up the local waters,” I assured him. “It’s all a question of demand. As soon as the fishing gets bad enough, there will be a violent uproar, and the government will go nutty planting fish. They’ll plant fish the way they have been building highways lately, or the way they do anything else to please the public. A government’s real job, after all, isn’t governing. It’s pleasing the public. They govern for a couple of years. Then they wake up with a violent start and realize that pleasing the public is the whole thing. That’s the way we’ll get fish down around these parts. The day is coming when it won’t be safe to go for a paddle on any water in the older part of the country. The fish will be a menace.”

“Tame fish,” sneered Jim. “Liver-fed fish.”

“You’ll be glad enough to hook them,” I assured him.

“I’ll be an old man,” said Jim. “Too feeble to go fishing.”

Reaction in Pioneering

“If we had any gumption,” I stated, “we’d not be sitting here letting the Americans have all the fun going up to the Albany and the Winisk. We’d be going ourselves. What’s the matter with us Canadians? Why do we insist on puddling around near home, when there is simply incredible wild fishing a day or two north? Are we getting soft? Where is the pioneer spirit that, only fifty years ago was part and parcel of every Canadian’s character?”

“I guess,” said Jim, “that there is a sort of reaction in this pioneer spirit business. Pioneering gets kind of exhausted after three or four generations. We belong to one of the two or three generations that are resting up after the ordeal. Then maybe our grandchildren will feel the pioneer spirit creeping back into them again.”

“By which time,” I pointed out, “the good fishing will be exhausted in the Arctic.”

Then our grandchildren,” said Jim, “will run across to fish in Siberia and northern Russia as carelessly as we go up to Lake Nipissing.”

“Ah, boy,” I sighed, “I wish I could go to a lake my Uncle Ed took me into when I was a kid. I was about sixteen, I guess. Talk about bass fishing.”

“Where was the lake?” asked Jim.

“It is the most lost lake,” I declared, “imaginable. In fact, we called it Lost Lake. It’s still there. It is miles from any human habitation. It is a twenty-mile walk over the wildest, rockiest country anywhere in Canada.”

“Twenty miles,” said Jim. “Whew! Your Uncle Ed must have been a tough guy.”

“Tough is right,” I agreed. “He was a pioneer. I can see him yet, with his great big packsack on his back, full of tent and grub and tackle, climbing over those wild rocks like a goat. I’ve never been so weary in all my life, yet I was a strong husky kid of sixteen.”

“What about the fishing?” asked Jim.

“Lost Lake,” I began happily, “is about half a mile wide and four miles long. It is a great bed of glacial gravel set down amidst the most God-forsaken rock in the world. It never was lumbered because there isn’t anything but scrub will grow on it. There isn’t half an acre of soil within 30 miles. Yet that long, narrow lake, full of bright gravel and boulders and reefs, is simply alive with bass up to six pounds.”

“Oh, oh,” said Jim.

“Jim,” I said,” my Uncle Ed was a fly fisherman. No bait, no worms, crawfish or frogs for him. Just common trout flies, on little four-ounce rods. He taught me to fly fish. We made a raft of cedar logs. We drifted about that heavenly lake for five days. Every cast, with those tiny little trout flies, a great whacking big bass, from four to six pounds. We put on two flies. We got two bass to a cast. We filed off the barbs of the fly hooks. We caught hundreds of bass and threw them all back except the ones we needed to eat. We never even brought any out.”

“Have you never gone back?” demanded Jim.

“I intended to go back the next year,” I said, “but I started to Varsity. Then I kept putting it off year by year, as I got into that silly age around 20, when you never seem to be able to keep your mind on anything really important. Then the war came. And then Uncle Ed got rheumatism.”

“Engraved on My Memory”

“Is it far away?” asked Jim.

“Far enough,” I said, “You go to Sudbury, and then in by train about 30 miles. You get off at a section man’s house and then walk in 20 miles. No road, no trail. Just across the wild barren rock, working by landmarks.”

“You’d have forgotten them,” thought Jim, “by now.”

“Never,” I cried, “to my dying day. It’s engraved on my memory like the path I took to school as a child. Every once in a while, over the long years, I have renewed my memory by going, in my imagination, over every foot of that trip. First you head for a distant sort of ridge or pinnacle of rocks, far in the distance. You can’t go wrong. Then, from this pinnacle, you can see, miles ahead, a series of great muskeg swamps with broken ridges of rock rising between them. You follow that series of ridges between the muskeg swamps as straight as Yonge St., and they bring you smack out on to Lost Lake.”

“Boy,” said Jim grimly. “Let’s go. Let’s go.”

“Jim?” I cried, “will you?”

“Let’s go,” repeated Jim with a sort of anguish.

“It’s a terrible walk,” I said, “twenty miles. With all our duffle. Tent and grub and tackle and pots and pans.”

“Man,” shouted Jim, “a lake like that, lost amidst all this exploitation and ruin of lakes. A lake like that, within an overnight journey in a sleeping car with hordes of people going hundreds of miles beyond to fish waters already overrun with other fishermen. How do you know it hasn’t been found out by now?”

“How would it be found out? I demanded. Nobody but Uncle Ed and two other men knew of it. And who would walk 20 miles nowadays in this age of satin-smooth highways and motor cars and outboard motors? This is a soft, padded age. The modern sportsman won’t go any place he can’t sit on a cushion all the way.”

“One good fill of fishing,” crooned Jim, “one regular orgy of fishing, and I’ll be content to hang up my rods and let my grandchildren go to the Arctic.”

“It’s a go,” I announced.

And we sat straight down and proceeded to examine the calendar and then drew up lists of duffle and supplies.

We decided to spend four days on the lake. One full day to walk in and one full day to walk out. We debated whether to take Jim’s little wedge tent or my big silk one, and we concluded that as we were no longer chickens, it might be as well to be comfortable.

“This business of going light,” said Jim, “is all very well in your twenties. But at our age, we’ve got to get our rest.”

So we wrote and rewrote our camping lists, which, as anybody knows, is the better part of camping. The tent and our two sleeping bags would go into a joint dunnage bag which we would carry between us. Each of us would have our packsacks, containing clothes, tackle, and all the things needful to a happy outing. Pots and pans we would distribute between us pro rata. The grub we would divide equally and stow in our packsacks.

And Saturday night, we left for Sudbury by sleeper, arriving early in the morning and continuing by day coach some miles out to the section men’s shack where the unmarked trail to Lost Lake began.

The section man’s shack, which had been young and red and fresh when I was sixteen was now no more than a worn old shed in which some railway ties were stored and even the rusty old tin cans in its neighborhood looked as if this had been no human habitation for many a long year. It was no longer even a section house, just a relic of a shanty, faded and old.

“Jim” I declared, as the train sped off leaving us alone with our duffle bags, “this is wonderful. I feared we might even find a village where this section house had stood. But look – it’s only a ruin. Lost Lake has stayed lost, for sure.

From a little rocky eminence handy, we could see the remote whitish rock ridges or pinnacles far to the northwest, just as I had described them.

“It’s a good ten miles to them, Jim,” I said. “By keeping to ridges and high ground, we never lose sight of them. We’ll take all morning, just to reach them.”

But it took more than the morning. I don’t know how far a lumberjack carries his packsack. Probably from the railway station to the boarding house, maybe. A distance of 75 yards in most lumberjack communities. Even the pioneers didn’t carry packsacks. They used oxen. Certainly, no pioneer ever carried a packsack ten miles. Or else why did it take a hundred years for the pioneers to work north a hundred miles?

As I said before it was a wild and rugged country, and a number of swamps had moved or side-slipped, during the past 30 years, for I found any number of swamps where there had been none the last time. A swamp is a thing you have to go around. And often you have to feel your way around it, making many false tries, this way and that.

At noon, the delectable white pinnacles were still white and remote. We halted for lunch and got out our sleeping bags to lie on for a little rest. We rested until four o’clock and then pushed on. By six p.m., the pinnacles were less distant and less white, but none the less too far away for a couple of pioneers without oxen to reach by dark. So finding a pleasant little swampy pond in the middle of a muskeg, we made camp and boiled muddy tea and went to bed on ill-made brush beds, and muttered each other awake all night. In the morning, we went through our packsacks and made a cache in a tree of all the articles, many of them costly if not valuable, to lighten our loads and to be picked up on the way out They are there forever, I fear.

Thus lightered, we struck camp and pushed on, over ridge and fully and around swamp and over ten thousand dead trees until at noon we reached the high ridge from which, stretching far to the west, we beheld, as I had foretold, the series of dark swamps between which wended bare bleak wastes of rock. But these wastes of rock were open and grim and barren and easy, and in slow stages between heavy rests, during which our eyeballs protruded and our kidneys ached and our legs grew numb and our arches fell and our toe-balls scalded, we went out across them, hog-backs of rock amidst endless wasteland swamp, straight as a ship sails towards Lost Lake.

“It’s a Mirage – a Delusion”

At five p.m. from the highest of these heaves of rock, we glimpsed a bit of blue.

“Water,” I cried, “It’s Lost Lake.”

And with a sort of spiritual, if not physical, second wind, we pushed on. Jim holding one end of the tent bag and I the other, and clanking with our pots and pans like Mrs. Finnigan’s Cows, and over seven last great hills of rock we came at last to the very last, and there at our feet, half a mile wide and four miles long, lay Lost Lake.

“What’s that?” gasped Jim, softly lowering his packsack from his long and limber back.

It was music.

We eased our weary baggage down and listened.

“It’s ‘Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em,'” I said, “This week’s number one the Hit Parade.”

“Look,” said Jim pointing.

In the gloaming, lights twinkled at almost regular intervals along the distant shores of Lost Lake.

“Cottages,” I said huskily. “It’s a mirage. It’s a delusion. We’re suffering from explorer’s exhaustion.”

Around the point we stood on, a canoe came, and from it the music we had heard rose with increasing volume.

It was a boy and a girl with a portable victrola between them in their cushioned ease. When they beheld us in the semi-dark, frozen beside our packsacks and dunnage bags, festooned with our pails and pans, they too froze, staring.

“Hello,” I called hollowly.

The boy paddled cautiously nearer.

“Is this Lost Lake?” I demanded hoarsely.

“No, sir,” said the boy. “This is Golden Sand Lake.”

“It used to be called Lost Lake,” the girl piped up, “before the highway came by. I’ve heard my dad speak of it by that name.”

“Highway?” croaked Jimmie.

“The highway,” said the boy, “just along the other side, see?”

Three cars, lights just turned on, sailed smoothly along the far side of the lake, headed inexorably northward, northward.

“Any bass in this lake?” I asked lightly.

“Not now,” said the girl, “but my daddy has one stuffed in our cottage, he got the first year we were in here before I was born, and it weighed six pounds.”

“Do you suppose,” I inquired, “we could get a lift across the lake to the highway side?”

“I’ll go and get our launch,” said the boy, immediately. “I’ll take you across and you can get a bus. There’s a bus every two hours. both ways.”

“That’s swell,” said Jim.

So we sat down on our duffle and waited for the launch, watching the car lights streaming past on the far side, and not speaking at all, but just thinking and thinking.

“Is this Lost Lake?” I demanded hoarsely. “No, sir,” said the boy. “This is Golden Sand Lake.” “It used to be Lost Lake,” the girl piped up.

Editor’s Notes: The Winisk River and Albany River are in the Kenora area of Northern Ontario.

Varsity was the old name of the University of Toronto.

Railroad section men lived in section houses, and were responsible for the maintenance of a particular section of the railroad. These jobs were phased out over time.

I’m not sure who Mrs. Finnegan’s cows were.

“Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” may be referring to the song “Love Me or Leave Me“.

The story was repeated on August 19, 1944 as “Found – Lost Lake”. The image at the bottom is from that reprint. It is also reprinted in The Best of Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise (1977).

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