WILKES-BARRE — My annual fishing trip to Canada will be over by the time you’re reading this, but I wrote this before I left.
Every year around the middle of May, my friends and I travel some eight hours north to Ontario to seek out walleye and pike, and we always catch fish.
When I tell you it is the best of times, I am not exaggerating. From the time we leave to the time we return, this trip is filled with fun, excitement and anticipation.
There is an old prayer that goes:
Grant me the serenity to accept the size of the fish I catch, the courage not to lie about it, and the wisdom to know that none of my fishing buddies would believe me anyway.
That prayer pretty much sums up the group I go fishing with, and I kid you not.
Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of going to Canada to fish. My neighbor across Reynolds Street in Plymouth, Alex “Ecky” Kraynack, would make an annual trip to Canada with a bunch of his fishing buddies. They would go to Sharbot Lake, a place I’ve seen signs for, but have never been to. Some day I will go over just to see that lake.
All I know is that Mrs. Kraynack would tell us neighborhood kids that Ecky would be home soon and we would wait on the corner of Reynolds and Second streets for him to return with the bounty. When Ecky and his buddies did return, they would take several silver coolers from the back of Ecky’s silver-blue Ford stationwagon and set them on the ground.
All of us would just stand there, wide-eyed, waiting to see what was inside. There were walleye, trout and pike on ice staring back at us. Ecky would let us pick them up and look at them. Every year — usually in mid-June — this would be the highlight for the neighborhood kids.
And each year I would dream of one day going to Canada to catch those big fish. I never got to Canada until the year 2000. That’s when I was asked to go with this group of fishers to a place in Quebec called Lake Kipawa. When we got there, after a 14-hour drive, the lake looked magnificent. However, the fishing was not so magnificent. We never returned to Kipawa.
We then went to Lake Clear in Ontario, and things were much different there. We caught fish. We always throw the pike back. We keep legal-sized walleye and devour them up there. There’s nothing better than walleye and eggs in the morning.
Then there’s the fun, which at times is non-stop during our trip. One time on the water, I was fishing with my pal Jim Grinavich when I noticed that, when he would cast out, you could see the spool on his reel. I told him that he was almost out of line, to which he responded, “That’s okay, if I catch one he won’t go far.”
Those pearls of wisdom are aplenty in Canada. On another occasion, I was in a boat with Chuck Peterman and Dave Lowery. On this day, Dave was absolutely on fire, catching fish after fish on “Original Smitty” — a stick bait, orange, black and gold in color, that pike and walleye alike were hitting on almost every cast.
As we pulled into the “Honey Hole” one morning — a place where we always caught huge fish — Dave’s line was dangling in front of me. Dave was facing forward, I was facing the other way. I motioned to Chuck that “Original Smitty” was right there and Chuck gave me the nod. I removed the lure from Dave’s swivel and held it in my hand.
As luck would have it, as we coasted to a stop, one of the oars dropped and banged against the boat. Dave immediately turned around and saw that his deadly lure was gone.
“Oh no,” he lamented, as I nearly burst out in laughter. Chuck asked him what was wrong and Dave said, “It’s Smitty, Chuck, he’s gone.” Dave asked Chuck to turn the boat around to go look for the lure because, “It floats before it sinks.” Chuck refused, causing Dave to consider diving into the 50-degree water to retrieve his prized lure.
In one last plea for help, Dave said, “You don’t understand Chuck, it’s Smitty.”
It was then I asked Dave if he was looking for this, showing him the lure in my hand. What followed cannot be printed here.
The irony is that Dave did find the lure, only to lose it an hour later when he snagged it on something.
That’s what fishing in Canada is all about.