(the bohr-ee-al-ist)

STAY

Posted on November 20, 2013

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Two weeks into winter and I’ll already be thinking about spring. The snow melting. Long days of sunlight. Hungry pike feeding in the shallows.


Springtime will find me standing in a boat chasing pike but my mind will turn to the upcoming summer. The bugs dying down. The greening of the land. Casting smaller flies to rising fish.


And then in summer walking along a grayling stream in the middle of August, sweltering in the heat, the afternoon sun beating down, I’ll inevitably find my thoughts wandering to crisp fall mornings, bird dogs, and the return of ravenous fish.


But the only thoughts I have in autumn are about how I wish it would last forever.


Never does though . . . never does.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Posted on November 5, 2013

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On that particular day, we hunted the home quarter. More of an appeasement walk for a pent-up dog than anything else, but the gun and the game bag came along, in the off chance we came across any grouse. We walked the forest section without any sign of birds and then cut out to the field on the return. The field being a less demanding route, so we’d be home in time to catch the hockey game.


As we walked back along the fenceline, the dog stiffened, her nose working the ground with purpose. An odd sight. It was no place for ruffed grouse and I hadn’t seen a sharpie here in years.


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Unbeknownst to me, some misguided and enterprising soul had begun a “put and shoot” pheasant preserve, up here in the north. A place mostly inhospitable to and completely devoid of pheasants.


Unbeknownst to the pheasant, the place he’d managed to escape to, the one that looked so enticing, with its long grass, scrub brush and cover to hide him from the cold and coyotes – that specific place was inhabited by a bird dog in need of some outside time.


Imagine our collective surprise – the bird’s, the dog’s and mine – when the dog charged into the long grass, flushing out a brightly colored rooster.


The rest played out the way we like it to. A downed bird. A gentle retrieve. All smiles (mine) and tail wags(hers).

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While cleaning the bird, I noticed a band with an engraved phone number on his ankle. A quick phone call filled in the blanks on how exactly we’d came to encounter each other on that particular day.



THE REMEDY

Posted on October 16, 2013

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The dog and I went to the valley as the usual haunts weren’t producing.


Sure, we were flushing plenty of birds but connecting with any of them had thus far proved an elusive feat. So we committed an age old sin and “left birds to find birds”. We abandoned the familiar in favour of other, under explored locales. It was a frivolous attempt to change our luck, much like a winger in a goal scoring drought who changes one stick for another, knowing full well that the stick has nothing to do with it.


A naive and ridiculous notion, but a clean slate nonetheless.


And if the birds didn’t show, there’d at least be a view.


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But the valley placed a new hitch into the game.


Inclines.

In addition to being busted from the miles, scratched by the thorns, tripped by the underbrush, chilled by the wind, disorientated in the dense forest and frustrated by a dog with an inkling to go off script. I would now be subject to the usual, beautiful misery with the additional perk of doing it all while traversing up and down the valley hills.


All in search of birds who more often than not, leave me startled and humiliated as they disappear behind the trunk of an aspen tree.


And as I trudged up that first hill, the wind blowing the leaves around like big golden snowflakes, I gasped for air and it became painfully obvious that I needed more hills in my life. That a life on flatland, no matter how active, was not sufficient.


The rest of the day would reveal the remedy . . . there is nothing that makes hills easier to climb than a little extra weight in the game bag.


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GONE, GOING

Posted on October 11, 2013

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For the third year in a row, there will be no Sharp-tailed season around here.


Zero bag limit.


The leks have been dwindling for some time now. There are numerous factors to blame. The most detrimental though is the perceived need (or economic reality) to cultivate every square inch of every square mile of every single field. If it isn’t listed on the commodities market, it gets plowed under in favour of something that is. Unfortunately, there’s no money in willows or young poplar or native grasses. The windbreaks and fence line thickets of the past are gone and with it most of the good Sharp-tailed cover. These agricultural practices have left their population a mere shadow of what it used to be and a hunting moratorium has been put in place.


So once again, we will not hunt the scrub brush alongside the fields or walk the tall grasses. It will only be the dense aspen thickets and coniferous stands we search, looking for Ruffed and Spruce Grouse.


While hoping for a Sharpie resurgence.

THE START OF THE END?

Posted on October 2, 2013

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My hands were numb and my core trembled, as I stood at the edge of the Peace River. Slogging up the muddy banks, casting streamers and searching for willing fish. Thinking that I should’ve worn a toque and warmer clothes.


Just yesterday we sat outside drinking a pint in the sunshine, formulating plans, just in shirtsleeves and thinking that the indian summer might last forever.


Today however, the threat of snow hung heavy in the air.


“This north wind can fuck right off”


I turned downstream to see Chauncey walking towards me, carrying beer, cursing the wind and reading my mind.


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With the dog laid up and grouse on hold, the plan was to hit the big river for walleye. The river doesn’t really clear up during the summer. First muddied by spring runoff, then early summer rains, then dam releases, it stays that way for most of the year.


By fall however, the river is clear enough to fish properly and this time of year the walleye fishing can be phenomenal.


Today, however had been a bust. A late start, forgotten equipment, a lack of provisions, a bitter wind and walleye that would follow tight to the bank but never eat.


So we sat on the bank, drinking spiced ales, ruminating on winters passed and trying to find excuses to stay out, instead of cowering back to the heat of the truck.


I drank the last of my beer, clipped off the current fly and tied on a big articulated red and yellow streamer, hoping to salvage something.


Three casts and the line came tight. And by the singing of the reel, it was quite obviously not a walleye.


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release

And as I sat crouched, watching the pike swim off, Chauncey had already packed up the gear and was headed downstream to the truck. He called over his shoulder


“Well, that’s a good place to end it. The heaters singing its song to the unacclimatized.”


I smiled in agreement.