Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Us, Poachers? Part I

I went fishing this weekend for the first time in about 15 years. Bought a rod and a saltwater reel and three casting lures (including the Buzz Bomb, a classic of my youth, and my new favourite, the Gulf Islands-born MacDeep) at a tackle shop on Hastings Street, about 10 blocks from my office. Walking down an East Vancouver sidewalk with a fishing rod feels a bit punk rock: “That’s right. I know how to use a spinning reel.” If you're the sort of urbanite who long ago stopped changing their own oil filters, try it sometime; it gives an impression that you’re someone who could dismantle a carburetor.

The gear was for a weekend trip my wife Michele and I took to Galiano Island in BC's Gulf Islands. We stayed in a funky cabin owned by a French-Canadian couple, Bernard and Line Marie, who spend several months of the year sailing a fifty-foot ketch. These are people who actually can rebuild a carburetor. Bernard gave us two options for paths on their property that led down to the water, each one likely spots, he said, for lingcod. (Three day saltwater license for non-salmon finfish: $11.55)


The first day we picked our way down the southern path to a sandstone point. While edging down the slope on my backside, rod in one hand and a fistful of tough yellow grass in the other, I spooked a fat and resentful sea otter from his perch overlooking Active Pass. I'd never seen a sea otter before, and I couldn't get the words out of my mouth fast enough to tell Michele to look before he leaped in. My brain could only retrieve the word beaver, which I knew was wrong. "Look it's a- a - a--" and he was gone.

Galiano is legendary for snagged lines and sure enough I lost my Stingsilda lure-- another classic that looks like a slender, four-inch oolichan— in the first half-hour. We didn’t reel in anything but kelp that day, or the next, when Michele’s cast caught short and sent the MacDeep to its final resting place among some nearshore rocks. But both days we got lucky with the weather and saw bald eagles, mottled grey-black harbour seals, and some incredible tide-pool anemones and sea stars. We felt like we were twelve years old.

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