One Fine Morning


You know how it is. Morning wakes brisk and crisp and the dawn’s glow washes out the stars with a pale orange light and wisps of mist rise from the slate-still lake. Now, what matters most is being out on the water before the fog rolls in like a curtain.

This September morning rose breathtaking and brisk as John and I, Bill and Gord, boarded my boat, plotted a GPS course through the cold pre-dawn fog, pulled our hoods and hats lower and headed up the lake. The boys at the camp had been doing well all week, catching limits of bass, walleye, the odd monster pike or lake trout, and I needed to get on the water for some long-anticipated fall fishing. When the island broke through the mist ahead we cut the engine and let the cool breeze push the boat over the drop-off, I knew it would be a fine morning.

The first fish hit hard. Gord’s rod bent with the weight of the fighting walleye before my jig even hit bottom. A healthy seventeen-inch walleye was soon rolling in the net, reflecting gold and yellow and blue. I repositioned the boat closer to where Gord hooked his fish, a little higher up the shoal, and dropped anchor. The shoreline and islands were shrouded in white, the birds alive in song, the day waking, and four men anxiously awaiting the next strike.

20180907_092600The second fish felt warm, almost hot, to my cold hands as I gently removed the hook and release the walleye back to the lake. There was no need to measure. It was well above the upper size limit to keep. The next fish, John’s, was even larger. He knew the minute he felt the weight on the line and proclaimed, “I got a good one, boys.”

Between casting lines and playing fish, we watched the lake change colours, saw the way the sunlight broke through the mist, marvelled at how the trees—pine, cedar and spruce,—changed to a glossy green and how the solitary maple had turned a deep, autumn red. We let the sun warm our faces and dry our hands. The men talked of fishing trips long past, the time the big trout broke free, when they would fly into a bush camp and sleep in tents, and how there would always be blueberries. And how this morning would become a story too, one day.

20180907_110022There was some playful argument as to who deserved the landing net when both John and I were playing fish. I could feel the slow shake of the walleye’s head as I held hard and knew my fish was one to be live released. John’s, I told the guys, was just a baby compared to mine and we laughed. Boys are like that.

The walleye bite slowed and we talked about trying a different spot, a new island or off the point, there. We had caught our fill of walleye and now the morning was about exploring new water, trying new places. A rock outcropping would be cast to or a shoreline drifted. The guys landed a fish here, another over there. We moved out to deeper water, to where the sun was warm and the view splendid, to where the largest walleye of the trip was lurking, twenty-seven feet below, a few feet above the rocky shoal, mouth open and inhaling a swimming leech. I saw my slip-bobber sink, counted to four, then watched as it popped back to the surface; then, slowly and certainly, the float was pulled under. The hook was set and for the next few moments, the great fish was mine. Through the clear Kipawa water we saw the flash of white on the tail and the big fish rolled and again headed deep and the struggle continued. Finally, in the net, the line was cut, the walleye measured and photographed, then released. Another story to be told one day.20180907_103320

Later, John reeled in his line and said, “Well, boys, what you think?”

We knew we had been given an exceptional morning, that not all fishing excursions are memorable like this, that not all will become stories to be told to friends and grandchildren. But this one will.

And later, when the boat had pulled into the lodge dock and Bill lifted the stringer of the smaller fish we kept for our dinner, Julie called from the shore above, “How as your morning Dave?”

“It was fine,” I answered. “It was a fine morning.”