The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: Fishing Page 1 of 3

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.

War-Conscience

“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).

Case of Mistaken Identity

The farmer just stared. “A lot of queer ducks in this neighborhood,” I remarked.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 21, 1941.

“Here comes a guy,” muttered Jimmie Frise, “that might tell us where the fish are.”

“Maybe he’s the owner,” I muttered back, “going to kick us off.”

We went on fishing with that extra-innocent air that is used when what appears to be the landlord comes through the bushes.

“Hyah,” said Jimmie agreeably to the stranger.

“Good-day, gentlemen,” said the sinister-looking stranger. “I thought you might be cows.”

“Cows?” I said indignantly.

“I’ve lost four cows,” said the stranger. “They’re around here somewhere. You haven’t seen any cows lurking about, have you?”

He was certainly a strange looking man. His clothing was ragged and coarsely patched. He had a week’s growth of scattered tan stubble on his jaws. His eyes were close-set and he narrowed them curiously when he looked at you. It did not seem likely to me that such a man would own any cows.

“No, sir,” I said shortly, “we haven’t seen any cows lurking.”

“Two brown ones,” he said, and his voice was soft and his speech almost scholarly. “Two brown ones, one Jersey and one white and brown. Heifers.”

“This is a tough country to lose cows,” said Jimmie. “Why don’t you bell one of them?”

“I should, I should,” said the stranger thoughtfully. “Are you having any luck?”

“Not a rise,” said Jimmie, who is always ready to talk to the most unprofitable kind of people. “We’d heard this was a good trout stream.”

“It is good,” said the stranger softly, “but at this time of June, they gather in the pools that have springs in them. The larger stretches of the stream are getting too warm for trout. So they foregather in the spring pools.”

“Foregather,” I said, because the word seemed so funny coming from such a tramp.

“Yes,” he replied gently. “I could show you the spring pools, if you like.”

“We’d be very grateful,” said Jimmie.

“Go ahead, Jim,” I announced. “I’ll just fish along.”

“In one of the spring pools,” said the stranger in his quiet, prim voice, “I imagine I could show you a two-pound trout.”

“In this creek?” I scoffed.

“Unless someone has caught it since last Sunday,” said the stranger, “it ought to be still there.”

“Couldn’t you catch it?” I inquired.

“I do not try to catch them,” smiled the sinister man, veiling his eyes and looking me up and down. “I love things to be free.”

“Like cows,” I suggested.

“I do not bell them,” said the shabby man.

“Let’s go,” cut in Jim, “and see these spring holes.”

The Glorious Big Trout

And though I did not care for the stranger, I reeled up my line and followed, because a two-pound trout is a two-pound trout.

The stranger took the lead and with the bent legs of a man who knows how to stumble skilfully and loosely through the bush, as an Indian does, he wove in and out of the trodden path along the stream made by the feet of generations of anglers. He showed us two or three smallish spring pools, and sure enough there were trout to be seen.

“Don’t fish now for them,” said the stranger. “There will be clouds in about an hour. Come back and fish these pools when the clouds come over.”

“You won’t fish,” I smiled, “but you will show others how to fish.”

“I like everybody to be happy,” returned the stranger with a sinister smile. “I like the trout to be free. But I also like anglers to catch fish. I am not partisan. I love trout. But I do not therefore hate fishermen.”

He turned on his heel before I could think up any dig back at him. A most unpleasant, smooth, ragged man, I thought.

Through alder and cedar thickets he led us with almost animal-like craft, showed us pool after pool. including some large ones, dark and motionless, where he assured us there would be as many as a dozen trout of a pound or over.

“Trout,” he said, “like human beings or wrens or seagulls, or anything else for that matter, live according to a natural economic law. Where food is most plentiful, where the living conditions are best and where there is the most security, they are most plentiful. This pool is the biggest town on this river.”

“Is this where the two-pounder is?” I asked, getting my rod ready.

“No,” replied the stranger, when he got big enough to be the object of too much attention, he retreated into a suburban area, handy enough to the big town so that he can run in and gobble a smaller trout when the mood strikes him, yet secluded enough to be safer than in this busy traffic.”

“You’re quite a philosopher,” admired Jimmie.

“There is little else to be,” said the stranger, gliding again into the brush.

And 100 yards further down, he showed us the big trout. In a small deep ice-cold pool deep amidst cedar roots, where it was impossible to dunk a worm much less place a trout fly, the glorious trout lay. You had to lie down and peer amidst the stout cedar roots to see him. Flecks of sunlight dappled the four-foot depths of the pool, and to one side, on a golden patch of sand washed clean by some bubbling spring beneath the lordly trout lay fanning.

“Sir,” I said to the stranger. “I beg your pardon. This is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”

“Don’t mention it,” said the sinister one with a twisted smile. “But if you see my lost cows, you might let me know. I live in a rather tumble-down place just a hundred yards or so to the north of the end of this road out here.”

“If we see them,” said Jim, kneeling up from worshipping the great trout down below, “we’ll bring them home to you.”

“Don’t trouble yourselves,” said the stranger, “just drop by and tell me where they are. I think they’re out along this road somewhere.”

“Good-by,” we called, as he vanished again into the silent brush.

“What a queer bird,” I submitted.

“Some kind of a hermit,” said Jim.

“A poet,” I corrected. “Jim, there’s a man with a true touch of genius.”

“A little cracked, I think,” said Jim.

“This is Uncanny”

So we knelt and studied the great trout for half an hour. We went out to a clearing and caught grasshoppers and dropped them in. He ignored them. We stuck sticks down, and with great and noble laziness, he turned out of the way, to return to his golden sand throne the moment we left him alone.

“Some hill-billy,” I declared, “will bomb him out of here with stumping powder.”

“Well, anyway, there is no way we can catch him,” said Jim.

So we left him and, clouds coming along as the sinister stranger had foretold, we sought out the spring pools we had been shown and cast our flies and caught two fine baskets of trout. In the “main town” pool, Jim took three and I took two of the one-pound trout he had predicted.

And when, with heavy baskets and rods taken down we walked out to the road to our car, there, grouped around the car, cropping the luscious grass of the country backroad, were four heifers.

“Two brown,” cried Jimmie excitedly, “a Jersey and a white and brown.”

“Jim,” I agreed, “this is uncanny. We will have the pleasure of returning his cows to the man who gave us one of the best fishing days of our lives.”

So Jim cut a couple of gads and I drove the car. And as Jim herded the cattle ahead, I held the road and low-geared along to keep the four strays from turning back, as they constantly tried to do.

“A little wild, all right,” said Jim. “They won’t stray after another winter in the barn.”

As we moved slowly along, we encountered a gentleman driving a buggy, who drew to the side of the road to let us by. He surveyed us with a look of extreme astonishment. In fact, when we both greeted him with a cheery good evening, he did not even answer us. He just stared and then clucked to his horse and went off at a trot.

“A lot of queer ducks in this neighborhood,” I remarked.

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim. “I’ve often noticed: the better the trout fishing, the queerer the ducks.”

At the cross roads. we looked north and sure enough, there amidst the abandoned looking back country farmland, with its brush and sketchy fences, we saw the old roof of a house.

“Soooo bossy,” said Jim, slapping the cows lightly with his gad. “Gee, haw.”

And we turned them up the road and in a moment had them started down the lane. It was as sinister an old house as the man who owned it. Its windows were blank and deserted. Its gates and doors hung awry. There were weeds thick in its barnyard and no sign of any habitation.

Right Under Their Noses

We drove the cows into the yard and Jim lifted the gate which had not been moved for years, by the look of it. I tooted the horn loudly, and when the stranger did not appear, I got out and rapped cautiously on the door. There was no reply.

“A kind of run-down place.” I recalled. “Just north of the cross roads.”

“This is it all right,” said Jim. “Halllooo!”

We heard a car coming. We heard two cars. Two cars came tearing up the road and in the lane in clouds of dust. And seven men boiled out of them.

“I’m the county constable,” said the first of the seven to reach us. “What are you doing with these cows?”

“They are strays,” I explained, “and the man who owns them asked us to let him know …”

Them’s my cows,” cut in an elderly and agitated man, “and everybody here knows it.”

“We were fishing down yonder,” stated Jim, firmly, “and met a man hunting for stray cattle, two browns, a Jersey and a brown and white. When we came out on the road, there they were…”

“You took ’em right off my property,” cried the elderly man.

“They were on the roadside,” I informed him.

“Yes, right beside my own fields,” accused the owner.

The county constable and the others were standing in a circle around us, eyeing us with hard, alert gaze.

“What kind of a man did you meet down there fishing?” inquired the county constable.

“Why,” I said, “he was a most interesting man, knew the stream like a book, showed us all the best holes …”

“That would be him,” said all the others.

“What did he look like?” demanded the constable.

“Well, he was very shabby,” I replied, “and he was brindled and kind of odd looking, and he spoke in a soft, gentle voice …”

“That’s him,” they all cried.

“That’s who?” demanded Jimmie.

“The man that used to live here, in this farm,” said the constable. “He is the biggest cattle thief in history. Been to prison four times for cattle stealing. Can’t quit it, no matter what they do to him.”

“Does he live here?” I asked in dismay, looking at the abandoned house.

“Nobody has lived here since he went to prison 18 years ago, the first time,” said the constable. “But he comes back every now and then and steals cattle right under the noses of his old neighbors.”

Feeling Very Mystified

“How do we know,” demanded a rather pious-looking little farmer with a raspy voice, “that these men aren’t in cahoots with him? How do we know …”

“No, no,” laughed the county constable, “this is the perfect job. He’s probably hiding in the bush watching us right now and laughing. If Mr. Potts had not met these gentlemen driving your cattle off, they would have by now been pleasantly hidden back in the bush there: and tonight, a truckload of his prison friends would have arrived and carted them off.”

“Why, the scoundrel,” I exclaimed.

“He does it for the mischief of it,” said the constable.

“Mischief nothing,” I said hotly. “Why, we would have been accessories to a crime, and driven off and never even known. Look here: pinch him the next time you see him and we’ll come back and give evidence.”

“Pinch him!” said the constable. “Nobody ever sees him. He hasn’t been seen by anybody that knows him around here for 10 years. He creeps in and creeps out, usually with a bunch of cattle. We know who does it. But we can’t prove it. He’s like a mink in the bush.”

“What a strange life,” said Jim.

“He was a wrong one, even as a youngster,” said the constable. There was never enough to keep him amused around here, so he took to tricks.”

So we all shook hands and said good-by and we drove off, keeping anxious eyes on the shrubbery along the back roads until we got safely out to the highway.

“I knew he was a crook,” I stated. “The minute I saw him, I had a hunch he was a bad ‘un.”

“He sure knew his trout,” said Jim.

“Crook was written all over him,” I maintained.

“Yet he was as gentle as a child,” said Jim.

“I wouldn’t trust him with my back turned,” I insisted.

“He showed us more about a trout stream in 20 minutes,” said Jim, “than anybody has shown us in years.”

“Yet the whole business,” I cried, “was a frame-up to get us to help him steal some cattle. I bet he drove those cows around our car.”

“And him hiding in the thickets, watching us,” said Jim.

“It’s eerie,” I mused, “to think of lives so twisted up as that.”

“I don’t know,” said Jim very mystified. “I kind of liked him, I imagine he is a more natural man than all us human clothes pegs.”

Upon which it was dark enough to have to turn on the car lights and pay attention to the driving, and the conversation languished.

Laying Down the Law

At 50, we spun, escorted, a short distance out the highway and then up a gravel side road.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, May 31, 1947.

“Are you nervous?” accused Jimmie Frise.

“You’re hitting 60!” I gritted.

“I’m barely doing 50!” said Jim, slackening speed to look at the speedometer. “Look: 52.”

“In the first place,” I announced, “the speed limit is 50…”

“We don’t average 50,” countered Jim, “what with slowing down through towns, and for traffic on the road.”

“The law,” I stated, “does not concern itself with your average speed. It says you can’t exceed 50…on your speedometer.”

“Personally,” said Jim, airily, “I think the law is a little more intelligent than most people give it credit for. Common law is nothing more or less than common sense. I think the speed limit of 50 naturally refers to your average speed.”

“Well, then,” I shifted, “I think you are showing very little common sense in driving this old rattle-trap at anything more than 40.”

“Rattle-trap!” snorted Jim. “Why, she’s just nicely broken in.”

“She’s 10 years old, Jim,” I reminded him.

“Just,” he said, accelerating slightly, “nicely broken in.”

At 30 miles an hour, Jim’s car is a lot noisier than at 40. At 50, the various clanks, clucks, hisses and hums all blend into a kind of high whine which is not entirely unpleasant. In fact, it lulls you.

He got it back to 50, and as I sat taut and tense watching the speedometer needle slowly rise to 53, 55, I heard a new and rather alarming sound rising above the normal whine.

It sounded like explosions: I gripped the seat in expectation of the whole engine flying apart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what the new sound was.

It was a speed cop on a motorcycle, slowly forging alongside us, with one hand upraised.

“Cop, Jim!” I shouted above the din. “Pull over!”

“Of all the luck!” grated Jim, as he slacked speed and the cop shot past us and led towards the shoulder of the highway. “We’ll never get there now …”

We came to a steaming stop. The cop unlegged himself over the motorcycle and walked slowly back to us, feeling for his book.

“Let me see your driver’s permit,” he proceeded with the ritual.

He noted down Jim’s name: Took the car license number.

“What’s the trouble, officer,” inquired Jim humbly, with that innocent old Sunday school superintendent air we all assume in these situations.

“I paced you,” said the cop. “Doing 60. In this old crate. And on this piece of highway. Didn’t you notice this was a specially curvy stretch of pavement?”

“Officer,” protested Jim, very shocked, “I never go much over 40 …”

“You were going 60,” said the cop, “and we’ve had a lot of accidents along this stretch. We’re clamping down.”

He slapped his book and put it back in his pocket.

“Look, officer,” said Jim, can you give me any idea when this summons will be for? I’m going to be a long way off in the next couple of weeks…”

“Okay, I’ll take you before the magistrate right now, if you prefer,” said the cop agreeably. “It’s just in the next town, here.”

I nudged Jim sharply. We were going fishing right now. We were late as it was. This would delay us maybe half the afternoon …

“Fine,” exclaimed Jim. “How do I find the court house…?”

“Just follow me,” said the cop, walking to his cycle.

“Jim, you dope!” I hissed. “Here it is two o’clock. We’ve got a good two hours’ drive before we get to the trout pond. This ruins everything!”

“Do I want to come back,” snorted Jim angrily, “the middle of next week sometime, just to answer this summons…?”

“Maybe we could turn it into another fishing trip,” I suggested.

“We’ll get it over with,” muttered Jim, starting up the car, “and be done with it. It won’t take more than 20 minutes.”

“You’ll see!” I prophesied gloomily. “The fishing trip is ruined.”

“A fine fishing trip!” shouted Jimmie above the din, since the cop was leading us away at about 40, which is Jim’s car’s noisiest. “Bellyaching and back-seat driving all the way, and then … pinched!”

“All I say is,” I stated stoutly, “part of a fishing trip is the journey, the drive. A fishing trip should be leisurely, recreative, without stress or strain. If we drive like maniacs to get to the fishing spot, the trip is half ruined to begin with.”

“The evening rise will be over, at this rate,” ignored Jim.

“We present-day sportsmen,” I enlarged, in an attempt to take some of the sting out of the situation, “are destroying the very thing we seek. Fishing is called the contemplative man’s recreation. It is peace personified. Centuries ago, men wrote imperishable books about the healing power of angling. But never in human history more than now do we need the peace, the solitude and the escape of fishing.”

“If cops,” put in Jim, “would let us get any.”

“No, I declared, “we ourselves are destroying the virtue of fishing by pulling it into the hectic riot of the modern way of life. We GO fishing at 60 miles an hour, Izaac Walton WALKED to his fishing. Miles! And enjoyed the walk as much as the fishing. What do we do? After we get there, we insist on outboard motors, fast boats, expert guides to cut down the time wasted … WASTED we say! – in locating the fish. Hang it, locating the fish is more than half the mystery of fishing. Do you know what we have done, in recent years? We have, in the best tradition of efficient business, converted fishing into catching fish !!!”

“Hmmff!” said Jim bitterly.

“Business enterprise,” I philosophized loudly above the car’s row, “has taken the emphasis off fishing and put it on FISH.”

“Look at that cop,” cried Jim, “slowing down, so he can lead us in triumph through the town …!”

Glancing over his shoulder from time to time, as we entered the town limits, the cop slowed until he had us directly in tow. And thus we drove in to the court house.

He directed us where to park, then came and joined us.

“The magistrate,” he stated, “usually sits at two. It’s 2.20 now. If we haven’t missed him, okay. If we have, I’ll just forward the summons in the usual way.”

We walked into the court house, and in one of its dingy rooms we found the magistrate sitting at a desk with half a dozen prior customers.

We took the chairs indicated by the cop. And the magistrate glanced up and favored us with a nasty look.

He also gave the cop a nasty look.

The magistrate, in fact, was a pretty tough old customer. He was irritated, flushed and peevish. of maybe 60, with a weather-beaten face and wearing, to my way of thinking, pretty shabby old tweeds for a man of his rank and station in the community.

He was not holding court. He was simply in his office, settling certain matters out of court. The case in hand, when we entered, was a citizen charged with keeping chickens within the town limits in contravention of a by-law.

He was fined a dollar.

Next case: A man charged with keeping a vicious dog.

“Bring this up,” snapped the magistrate, “at the regular session of the court.”

“But Bill,” protested the accused, “you know as well as I do I can’t come in the morning!”

Bill was the magistrate.

“I want evidence,” chopped the magistrate. “Bring this up in the morning!”

“Well, doggone…” said the accused, flushed and angry. “At this season of the year, there’s no justice in this town …”

He jammed his hat on his head and stamped out, the magistrate following him with a malevolent look.

Two more cases presented their summonses, and with an air of fury, the little old magistrate jerked and rattled at the papers and burst into invective as to the type of people who can’t be content to appear in court in the normal course.

Jimmie and I exchanged glances. The cop sitting beside us leaned over and whispered:

“I guess we made a mistake, eh?”

I showed my wrist watch to Jim. 10 to three!

“Why didn’t you let the thing ride?” I whispered to Jim. “You’ll get the limit.”

“Silence!” roared the magistrate. “How do you expect me to attend to these things with everybody jabbering…!”

Jim gave me a reproving look.

At exactly three o’clock, by the town clock bell, the magistrate finished the business in hand, waved the defendants on their way and turned to us with indignation:

“Now, what do you want?” he demanded acidly.

“These gentlemen,” explained the cop standing up, “are charged by me with travelling at a rate in excess of 50 miles an hour, to wit 60. And as they will be out of the country in the next few weeks, they requested I bring them before you immediately. As not to have to come back later in response to the usual summons.”

“Indeed!” said the magistrate bitterly. “INDEED? For your convenience, I am to spend the whole day here fiddling… Constable, have you got a charge made out”

“Yes, your worship,” said the cop, sliding forward form he had filled out.

Jim stood up.

“Sixty miles an hour, eh?” grated the magistrate. “Do you plead guilty?”

“I would like to say,” began Jimmie …

“Unless you admit the charge,” roped the old gent, “you can’t settle it here. You’ll have to appear in court. Later.”

He tossed the charge sheet on the table and half rose, reaching for his hat.

“I admit it,” hastened Jim.

“H’m! 60 miles an hour?” said the magistrate. “You were in a hurry, eh? Well, so am I! 10 dollars and costs.”

“14 dollars,” said the constable promptly.

And he led us along the corridor to the clerk’s office.

“3.20, Jim,” I said gloomily, as we waited for the receipt. “And 60 more miles to go. There’ll be little fishing for us this trip.”

“Come on,” growled Jim.

We hustled down the hall and collided in the doorway with another hustling figure.

It was the magistrate.

“Hang it!” he howled, as we stood aside to let him pass out first. “You people still in a rush?”

He paused outside to adjust his hat and gave us an appraising stare.

He fixed his eyes on my hat.

“Hello?” he said, stepping up and lifting my hat off.

He examined the half dozen battered old trout flies I stuck in the band.

“Too big,” he said. “And too gaudy. I never use anything larger than size 12 at this time of year. And all drab, like the Greenwell’s Glory or a March Brown. Spider preferred.”

He put my hat back on my head, and reached up and took Jim’s hat off.

“You fellows are wasting your time,” he snapped, “using big loud flies like these. Hey! You two going fishing? Is that why you were in such a rush?”

“Yes, sir,” said Jim hollowly.

“Yes, sir,” I echoed.

“Well,” he said, “what do you suppose I’m in a hurry for? How far are you going?”

We named our destination, 60 miles off.

“You’ll never make it,” he cried, glancing up at the town clock. “The farmer who owns my pond phoned me an hour ago that the trout were rising like mad. You’ll never make it. It’ll be over by the time you go 60 miles.”

He opened the court house door again.

“Sam!” he bellowed.

The cop appeared.

“Jump on your bike,” he commanded, “and clear the road for us, out to the farm!”

“Yessir!” said the cop.

“Now,” yelped the old gent, “where’s your car? Make it snappy …”

And we ran for the car.

“My tackle’s out at the pond,” puffed the old boy, throwing himself in the back seat.

At 50, we spun, escorted, a short distance out the highway and then up a gravel side road.

At 4 pm, we lurched to a stop in a farm yard.

At 4.10, we were back of the barn, clambering into a punt.

At 4.12, the old boy had a half pound trout on.

At 4.12½, we all three had a half pound trout on.

At 4.12, we all three had a half-pound trout on.

It lasted until dark. And at dinner, in the farm house … (speckled trout and hashed brown potatoes) … the old magistrate laid down the law to us.

“In fishing,” he pronounced, “never, never be in a hurry!”


Editor’s Notes: Izaak Walton wrote one of Greg’s favourite books, The Compleat Angler.

$14 in 1947 would be $212 in 2022.

Rustlers!

With Jimmie on one side of the cow, the farmer on the other, and me shoving, we got the cow up the ramp.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 8, 1939.

How do you tell a cattle thief when you see one? Greg and Jim would like to know

“In the next few days,” said Jimmie Frise, “we’ve simply got to go and scout out a good trout stream.”

“The season is almost upon us,” I admitted.

“Remember last year,” warned Jim. “We left it so late, by the time the season opened all the good streams were leased up.”

“All the good streams are always leased up,” I corrected. “Only the fished-out streams are for rent.”

“No,” said Jim; “old men are always giving up their private brooks and men who were rich and idle last year are poor and very busy this.”

“Thank goodness for the stock market,” I agreed. “What a cruel world this would be if the market was always good.”

“It’s the bad luck of the world,” confirmed Jim, “that gives homely guys like you and me a chance at some of the good things.”

“Suppose,” I suggested, “we call up a few stock-brokers and get a list of some of the prominent men who have been ruined lately. Then we could check over and see if any of them are fishermen.”

“There’s a real idea,” cried Jim. “A sideline for brokers. Preparing confidential up-to-the-minute lists of people recently ruined. With data as to their tastes, style of life, personal possessions. Such lists would be invaluable to art collectors, antique dealers and sportsmen. I’ll bet we could pick up some real bargains in guns and sporting stuff of all kinds if we had such a list.”

“It ought to be a good way to locate a nice bit of trout property,” I agreed. “I know a couple of brokers. I’ll do a little quiet investigating.”

“We don’t want anything fancy,” cautioned Jimmie. “Just a nice little farm stream.”

“I have in mind,” I offered, “a stream that runs corner-ways across a farm, with plenty of woods and open fields, and a quiet pool, with logs in it, about every hundred yards.”

“With riffles,” said Jim, “and rapids in between.”

“And the whole thing,” I continued, “so situated that it can all be seen from the farmhouse. I have no use for trout streams that can’t be watched from the farmhouse.”

“Correct,” said Jim. “A good noisy dog is also a great help in keeping a trout stream in good condition.”

“And a bad-tempered farmer,” I added. “If anything ruins a trout stream, it is a good-natured farmer.”

“The best trout stream I ever fished,” related Jim, “was owned by a man who, whenever he looked out and saw somebody fishing his creek, he simply went and got his gun, stood in the doorway and hanged two shots, rapid, into the air.”

“Ah, that’s the kind of man we’re looking for,” I agreed. “Where was he?”

“Up in Simcoe county,” said Jim. “The last time I was chased off there must have been 10 years ago. He leased the creek to a couple of elderly doctors. By George, they may have got too old to fish.”

Two Shots in the Air

“Jimmie,” I cried, “do you remember how to find it? What do you say if we investigate.”

“Find it,” said Jim. “I could find it with my eyes shut. I could find it by the sweet odor of willows in bloom, by the music of the water of that little brook where it comes out under the log bridge on the side road.”

“Side road,” I lamented. “Is it far off the highway?”

“It’s only a mile off the highway,” said Jim.

“I wouldn’t care to take a chance at any country driving for the next couple of weeks,” I demurred. “The back roads will be awful.”

“We could walk in from the highway,” said Jim, “for that matter.”

“What is the stream like?” I inquired.

“It’s one of those narrow, deep, fast streams,” recited Jimmie raptly, “that winds through impenetrable tangles of alder and cedar and then comes rushing and bending out through meadows, forming deep pools with log jams, where great big trout lurk.”

“Good fly casting?” I breathed.

“In the thickets,” said Jim, “even a country boy couldn’t penetrate to fish with a worm. That means those bits of the creek are a haven for the trout. The stream can never be fished out. But in the open stretches the trout lie under the deep, soddy banks: and in the pools, they have the log jams and tree roots, all tangled for a hiding place. It is the loveliest place to cast a fly I have ever seen.”

“Jim,” I said solemnly, “how old were these doctors when you last saw them?”

“They were old, pottery fellows,” said Jim. “Maybe they’re gone now.”

“Let us devoutly hope so,” I said reverently. “When can you get away?”

“Tomorrow, if it’s fine,” said Jim, looking at his drawing board sourly.

And it being a fine day, with the earth fairly singing out of its prisoning bars, Jim and I slipped away after a long enough visit to the office to let all our editors see us very seriously hustling about; ten o’clock or thereabouts.

“Ah, Jim,” I cried, once we were well past the suburbs, “is there anything like April?”

“Me,” said Jim, “when I look out over those sopping black fields, I could get out and fall down, with my arms spread wide, and kiss the earth.”

“The world, Jim, the world,” I amended. “Kiss the world.”

“Men are lucky,” said Jim, “who are born with a love of fishing. It makes them do such silly things. Yet those silly things will be the only bright beads on the string when we are old and counting our memories.”

“Tell me now,” I said, relaxing after the poetry, “what kind of an old geezer is this farmer who owns the creek?”

“Well, I never got a close look at him,” said Jim, “or, to put it more accurately, he never got a close look at me. He must have been a middle-aged man, 10 years ago, because if he had been a young man, he would have chased me. All I recall is that as soon as I came out of the bushes, where I had been trying in vain to find a hole to drop my line, this fellow would appear at the door of his farmhouse and, pointing his shotgun in the air, would fire two shots. I would immediately start to leave. He would wave his hand in acknowledgement, and I’d keep on going.”

“Did you never get any trout?” I inquired.

“Never,” said Jim. “He was always too alert. I lived in hopes of some day having a few minutes before he saw me. But I wouldn’t be 10 feet out of the bushes before he’d spot me.”

“How do you know there were any trout in the creek?” I demanded.

“How do I know there is balm in Gilead?” retorted Jim. “I’ve seen trout a foot long scuttling up that stream before I could cast a single line.”

“Well, all I can hope is,” I sighed, “that the former lessees have gone to some better place.”

So, piously and tenderly thinking, we bowled northward on the all but deserted highway of early spring.

Through several towns, dull still with winter, we sped, and took a side highway for several miles, and then Jim began to slow down and study the country.

“I think,” he cried, “the next side road is it. If it has a frame church on the corner, it’s it.”

And to our delight we beheld, rising in the distance, a bleak and bony church, which stood sure enough at the corner of a side road lined with giant gnarled tree stumps for fences, and down which certainly no engined vehicle could possibly travel. The thaw was coming out in huge bulges and ruts.

“Okay,” said Jim. “Here we park, and walk in. The walk will give is an idea of the nature of the country. The farm we want is at the next corner in. We’ll strike the near corner of it just beyond that hill you can see.”

It was a beautiful type of country. Rolling hills, with a woodlot on the crest of each: and valleys full of cedar and alder shrubbery. The earth was black, but out of it nobbled great boulders, giving character and color to it. The first early crows flapped like black rags across the fields, and many kinds of small birds hurried in the bushes; chickadees sang their sweet spring call, not the “chicka-dee-dee,” but that faint, sweet call of two notes, like a young girl signalling from a small window, secretly.

Taking to the heavy turf along the side of the road, Jim and I stepped out boldly, with deep lungs.

“Can’t you just smell trout?” cried Jim.

“I can even feel trout,” I admitted, “in this soft turf, through my boots.”

It was glorious. We went heartily for half a mile and then breasted a rise in the road, over the top of which Jim proclaimed we would first behold the farm of the trout stream, and, in its folds, see the course of the little dark river.

“Aha,” said Jim, as we came to the top. “And there’s our friend, loading cattle.”

“It’s a kind of a bad time to talk business,” I suggested, “while he’s loading cattle. If he’s a bad-tempered man, nothing could put him in a worse temper than cattle loading.”

“There’s two of them,” said Jim. “We’ll just look the situation over when we get there. Maybe it isn’t for lease anyway.”

Lending a Hand

At the nearest corner of the field they had a truck backed to the fence. They had removed one section of the rail fence and erected a sort of corral and loading ramp.

As we approached, they quit work and lighted cigarettes and watched us draw near.

“Tiring work, gentlemen,” I hailed pleasantly.

“Mmmm,” they grunted, in the country tradition.

“We’re out looking for a trout stream,” I explained, “and we heard your place might be for rent.”

“It might be,” spoke up the older of the two. He might have been the father of the other.

“Too bad to call,” said Jim, “when you’re busy. Do you suppose we might have a few minutes with you later, sir?”

“After I get these cattle loaded,” said the farmer, “come on to the house.”

“Why,” said Jim, “we’ll give you a hand. Is there anything we can do?”

“No,” said the farmer. He turned his back on us and rounded up a cow and guided her to the ramp.

“Here’s our chance,” said Jim when bossie, with a bewildered sort of look, stepped off the ramp first one side and, when the farmer had run around to steer her back, then the other.

Jimmie and I sprang into action. With Jim on one side of the cow, the farmer on the other and me shoving from behind, we got the cow up the ramp.

“Is there anything else we can do?” inquired Jimmie pleasantly.

“Well, now,” said the farmer, “there is. There’s two heifers got away on me, and they’re down in that scrub, yonder. If you don’t mind a little mud, you might go down and shoo them up this way.”

“Certainly,” said Jim.

It was a muddy field. They had four cattle in the truck and three more cornered in the corral ready to be shoved up the ramp they had made with planks.

“We’ll get these on,” said the farmer, “and by the time you chase them two up we can go back to the house.”

“Come along,” said Jim, climbing the snake fence.

“Jim,” I said, quietly, after we got a few yards, “we’re not booted for tramping around muddy fields like this. We’ll get soaked.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “this may mean the difference between us getting the lease and not getting it. Use your head.”

So we floundered across the greasy field and down to the first little woods of alder and cedar.

Over a little rise we went to the next patch of small woods, and looked very carefully, without seeing or hearing any cattle.

“Jim, my feet are soaked,” I protested.

“Okay,” said Jim, eagerly, “over the next rise is the stream. You can have your first look at it.”

And sure enough, in the next small valley, with the dense thickets of a stream, we saw the two errant heifers.

“Gittem,” cried Jim. “Go that way and I’ll head ’em this way.”

A Sort of Sixth Sense

So we floundered in the coarse and swampy water meadow, in no time having caught the heifers’ attention and sending them anxiously headed back over the fields.

“Bang, bang,” went a gun.

“Look,” shouted Jim. “It’s him.”

From the farmhouse came a figure running furiously, and reloading as he ran.

“Hoy,” he roared.

So we waited.

“This is kind of funny,” said Jim, coming cautiously nearer to me but watching the oncoming figure.

“What’s going on here?” demanded the farmer grimly, looking us over. He had gray hair but his moustache was red. And his eyes close together.

“We’re helping the farmer round up these heifers,” I explained.

“What farmer?” demanded this one.

“The farmer that owns this farm,” said Jim. “The one up on the road with the truck.”

“What truck?” shouted the farmer. “Hey, you two follow me. Or else …”

And he brandished the gun.

He set us a terrible pace up over the hill and down the next gully and so up the last hill to the road.

The truck was gone. The ramp was gone. The hole in the snake fence remained and also the tell-tale tracks of cattle trampling about.

“Explain yourselves,” gasped the farmer, dangerously, standing facing us.

So we explained that we had heard of his trout stream and had parked our car and walked in to see about it. And finding two gentlemen loading heifers, we took them for the owners. And when they suggested we might assist them by rounding up a couple that had run away…

Did we get the number of the truck? No. What kind of a truck? Oh, just an old sort of a truck. What did the men look like? Like honest farmers. Just plain fellows. The older one had a moustache, but really we hadn’t taken much of a look …

“Well,” said the farmer, “you can come back while I call the police and you can give them what description you can, which is mighty little.”

“By the way, sir,” asked Jim, “is the stream for lease?”

“No,” roared the farmer, “it isn’t for lease. And if it was for lease, I’d be jiggered I’d rent it to a couple of half-wits that don know cattle thieves when they see them.”

“How could we know they were cattle thieves?” demanded Jim hotly.

“Oh, it’s a sort of sixth sense,” said the farmer grimly and he began looking Jimmie very intently.


Editor’s Note: There Is a Balm in Gilead is a biblical reference that was made into a hymn, basically meaning that he knew something was true.

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén