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Fish Camp: Part IV - "Let the Fishing Begin!"

Part IV? this rate, I'm going to have to refresh my "Roman Numeral How-to's".  A quick "thanks" to those who have e-mailed or left replies on my personal Facebook page or on our  Up North Captured Moments Facebook page.  Everything from "this should be a book" to "I don't want the story to come to an end."  I remember years ago as a young girl, a family friend of ours sent us detailed, typed letters of his family's sailboat journey.  We relished each story and couldn't wait for the next adventure to arrive in the mailbox.  I can only imagine how much fun Wayne Rideout would have had with the instantaneous technology of today.  I know that twelve years ago when my husband and I went on a three month journey to Texas via the Air Force, we would e-mail back our experiences to those on our "friend list", each taking a turn writing about the particular adventure of that week. It was loads of fun and even then we heard from people saying, "You guys should write a book". Ok...namely Phil, but when they said, "guys"...I think I was included. :-)  All that to say, thanks for letting us have some fun by sharing our real life experiences with you. Below is Part IV of Fish Camp where the fishing finally begins.  It's a wee bit long, so grab a cup of Joe, sit back and join me for a day in the remote, beautiful wilderness of Canada.  Enjoy~ Shannon

"Let the Fishing Begin": 
Finally...time to do what we planned, lugged stuff, organized, came to do...Fish!  Well, sort of, I still wasn't sure just exactly what my role/purpose was supposed to be other than the adult legal female family agent who helped get two excited boys into the country and hopefully get them back out again...which I found ironic that it's the "getting out" that is often times the hard part.  Anyhow, that was way in the future and Sunday morning the boys were ready to head out to Nature's Sanctuary.  The first night in our airstream bullet proved to do its job of keeping us safe and dry...with no heat and night time temps in the low 40's, however, we were forced to use the items from our "winter gear bag" namely our knit hats and wooly socks.  (Score! least we've used some of the "stuff" from our lugged up cargo!)

The morning broke clear, sunny and bright and with each hour the temps continued to rise until we were at a balmy 74 degrees!  Breakfast the first day consisted of a bowl of cold cereal and fruit which is among one of my favorite things "to make" for the first meal of the day. A quick lesson on "how to wash dishes at Fish Camp" was an easy first things first task.  I loved how no one was "assigned" a particular duty...the "job at hand" just sort of got done by many willing hands.

By 9:00am, the first group of fishermen (noticed I didn't say, fisherwoman) were packed up and ready to go.  Hunter immediately jumped at the chance to fish with Uncle Brian. Ethan surprised the daylights out of me when he came swaggering by with his gear in hand and announced that he was fishing with Dan and Denton. What?  You mean the guys you just met 24 hours ago? hide behind my skirt little one?  What a welcoming streak of independence this was!  Go, Ethan!  Last but not least, Tom and Jerry--that's right...just like the cartoon--set about filling their boat with their needed wares.  All this taking place with much laughter, back slapping comments and good kidding. Like kids being sent off to school, one by one the boats were loaded and headed out, each to seek their own "honey hole" of luck.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or should I say, campsite, Dad and I took this opportunity to take a walk around the campground with tour guide Paula.  It helped to get the lay of the land and seek out its many offerings.  Another butterfly sighting side note...butterflies were everywhere!  Not real ones but plastic, wood, name it. They were affixed to the sides of trailers, sheds, trees, nestled in landscaping, etc.  The whole campground was like being in the butterfly house on Mackinac Island.  I had a grin a mile wide as I walked along--a really BIG thanks, God!

Walking along the dirt road of the campground, we were greeted by the sights and sounds of families, dogs, ATV's and generators...all making for a happy hymn of praise on this glorious Lord's day.  We learned that many of the people at the campground used their sites as "weekend cabins" and returned to Chapleau on Sunday night for the next work week.  I was surprised to see so many kids--my favorite was the little girl in the pink butterfly t-shirt on her dad's ATV. :-) As we approached the General Store that we had passed on our way in, Paula pointed out the new showers.  Taking a peek, I was greeted with not what I have pictured but rather tasteful, private rooms complete with lights, hot and cold knobs, shower curtains, hooks, chairs and sinks...just like home!  I never did see the washer and dryer Brian had mentioned, although after seeing the showers, believed that the picture I had of that might be a bit off as well. :-)

Next was a walk through the General Store...everything from fishing lures to fly swatters, slurpies to soft drinks and everything in between. And then, right there in plain site was a computer that I was informed you could use for no charge to send/check e-mail. I also learned that I could have brought my laptop and signed on to their generator powered wireless connection!  Hmmm...while "on the spot reporting" would have been fun...sitting by the lake or campfire ring and using old fashioned pen and ink whilst scribbling thoughts on to paper in a spiral ring notebook was fun, too. All in all our adventure around the campground again made me feel right at home and as we returned to the airstream, while dad took a nap, I put on my "Suzy Homemaker" persona and began finding a home for all that precious "stuff" we brought with us--all I needed was a red checkered tablecloth and vase of flowers and we would have looked just like the Reminisce Magazine Cover*! *See Fish Camp, Part III

Before long, the fishermen returned bringing with them the first of many fish tales and oh...a few fish!--a couple of walleye and small mouth bass.  Hunter couldn't wait to tell us that he and Brian saw a mink!  He did his best to get pictures.  Ethan came back telling about the fun he had walking around on an island that they pulled up to and with the likeness of a Robinson Caruso expedition explored the wild, rugged landscape.  Needless to say, Fish Camp-Trip #1 was a smashing success.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing.  Naps were in order for most, while Hunter, Brian, Dan and Denton decided to go check out the lake for swimming.  YEA! Another Score!...the beach bag stuff is put to use! Little did I know that swim would be the last "water dunking" aka shower/bath that Hunter would partake of for the rest of the week!  Ethan, in the meantime, became "Chief Minnow Engineer" for a bucket of the wiggly things that had been given to Mike from one of the locals who had to head home to work for the week.---his mission, to keep them alive!  This was easier said than done and it required a lesson on the "how to's" of running Mike and Paula's generator to run the aerator which supplied fresh oxygen to the minnows.  A big important job for a growing up way too fast--at least in my eyes--little boy. A responsibility that would serve him well in just a few short days...that of caring for a new puppy. But alas, I'm getting ahead of myself...that's a blog topic for Phil to tackle!

Late afternoon brought Chef Tom into the airstream baring the likes of a homemade chicken pot pie! He had made two of these at home, baked them and brought them to camp fully frozen and just in need of heating in the propane gas stoves in the airstream and trailer.  Add a side dish of green beans and I felt like we were living high on the hog as I woofed down each delectable bite. If this was a sampling of the upcoming Camp Menu for the week...I was in heaven!  Maybe it was the result of filling my still rubber band unwinding stomach with comfort food coupled with the result of a good nights sleep after a stressful day--I may never know--but when it came time for the late afternoon/early evening fish, I heard myself say something like..."I'm in!"

Armed with my small point and shoot camera, I was fully prepared (and happy I might add)  to sit and watch and capture the moment when someone else in the boat caught "The Big One."  So...with camera in hand and fishing license in my pocket--just in case--I climbed in Brian's boat along with Hunter and Dad.  Tom and Jerry made their way out once again and Ethan stayed with his original team of the day, Dan and Denton. Mike and Paula chimed in and headed out in their boat with the grace and ease of those who had spent their summer here doing this every day.
Once settled in our boat, I was once again awed at the raw, natural beauty of this rugged place.  Interestingly, as we headed to the other side of the lake, I was surprised to see not one shore but many...lots of little islands with all sorts of nooks and crannies just filled with deep holes for fish to sleep in.  As the other boats disappeared to find secret spots of their own, we settled in a nook and cranny where Brian switched from the boat motor to the trolling motor and turned on the fish finder.  (This beat yelling out, "Here fishy, fishy!")  Experienced fishermen Hunter and Dad grabbed their poles, chose their lures and cast away.

While I reached for my camera to capture these National Geographic moments, I heard Brian ask, "Shannon, what kind of pole do you want to fish with?" Uh, me? Fish? Do you know just how many years its been? Oh, well, I uh, guess, uh I could, uh, do that. After all, I have a $39+ 8 Day Conservation license that says I have permission to so...Why not? It would! (There was THAT word again!)  "Fine", he said,"What kind of pole would you like to use?"  Hmmm...kind?  Reaching as far back as my memory would serve me I thought, Bamboo? Stick and a string? The kind with the thingy where you pushed a magic little button?  With a "oh boy" look, he handed me a pole that had a "bail" on it and gave me a quick lesson.  The goal was to hold your finger on the line, pull the bail down, place the pole over your head and cast it forward, put the bail back up---all this without a.) strangling any of the other boat occupants and b.) without unraveling the entire line into a pile resembling a ball of yarn left by a deranged cat.  Simple enough and with a practice throw or two (ok...or three or four)...I finally understood that euphoric feeling of having landed a juicy lure right in the spot that held a hungry fish who was just waiting for dinner to be served.

With that no small undertaking under my belt, I was also quickly taught important fishing lessons #2 and #3.  DO NOT hold your pole directly straight into the water with your line straight out from it--should a fish say, "Yes, I want that lure" this position, it's a good probability that he'll get the lure...for he/she snaps your line.  Next, hold your tip up and at an angle.  Ok, I'm getting this, I can do this...this is...dare I say it again so soon?!  Suddenly I thought, "Oh no, I blew it, I must be on bottom." Tug, tug, tug...darn, I'm about to flunk first night of Fish Camp #101.  As I started to reel in my line, I realized I wasn't stuck on bottom at all but rather something was stuck on in a fish!  Saying the first thing that came to my mind was, "Oh! OH!! OHHHHH!!!!!" (Think "Olive Oil" in the "Popeye Cartoons") To which, Brian and the rest of the boat participants, laughed as I reeled in a nice small mouth bass. Not one that was deemed quite "wall mount worthy"  but a good one at that...Brian's next words of advice were well taken, "Shannon, when you catch a fish, you don't say, 'Oh! Oh!' but rather...'Fish On' or 'Got One'.  Ok?" Got it!  Hmmm...Can I go back to taking pictures now?

Still in Bass Angler Master Yoda mode, Brian proceeded with an expert eye to survey the landscape and said as he pointed to a particular spot, "Shannon, cast your lure...right...there." (Yea, right...I can't hit the broad side of a barn and you want me to land my lure....right...there.) I gave it my best girl scout try and surprised both of us by getting pretty darn close to where he had pointed.  Success! Within seconds of my lure hitting the water I felt the now familiar "tug, tug" on the line and reeled in my first pike.  With arms crossed, Guide Brian gave his head shake, smug grin of knowing approval--told you so! Now it was my turn to feel a bit "in awe" at the fishing prowess of my always older than me big brother.

The rest of the evening provided more laughs, more gaffes and even some fish.  Hunter seemed to have the Angler's touch.  We found a "honey hole" of small mouth bass and he was landing them faster than I could take pictures.  We also enjoyed a Wild Kingdom moment when what we thought was a moose but turned out to be a wolf swam across a small inlet located between an island and the mainland.  Brian said this was a first for him in all his years of coming to Canada.  Neat!  We also enjoyed other wildlife of an eagle, a beaver and lots of loons. Silently kicking myself for having only my small camera with me, I thought...this is the first day, I'm "sure" I'll have more opportunities to get this close to these magnificent creatures again. (HAHAHAHAH!) Note to self...DO NOT leave shore without your long lens again.

With the sun beginning to say its final good-byes to this beautiful day, I heard Dad say, "I'd give .50 Cents for a cup of coffee."  Code speak...I'm done fishing and ready to head in.  About 30 minutes later, Hunter--who I thought could fish 'til midnight said, "I'm cold"...I think that was his code for he was done fishing as well. --now being the "mother figure" I noted, "Of course you're still have your swimsuit and flip flops on! I told you to put long pants, shoes and socks on before we left."...once a mother, always a mother--even in Canada.  By now, dad had upped his anty for what he'd give for a cup of coffee to $1.00.  I knew just by looking at Brain's set jaw that coffee was still the farthest thing from his mind, the hunt for the big one was still first and foremost on his fun meter. Somehow, I was able to contain my own growing thoughts of, "Can we be done now?"  Finally with offers of $2.00 for a cup of coffee, Brian turned the boat toward "home".

One by one, like lights on a deserted highway, each boat could be seen skimming the waters and heading for a now pitch black dock.  The results of "Day 1, Fish 2" were quickly summed up with each boat lifting their stringers.  Denton seemed to be the "angler of the night" with his 20 1/2 inch Small Mouth Bass--caught on his first cast with a new lure fresh out of the wrapper...High Five's!  Tom clocked in with a 19" small mouth bass and Hunter was close behind with a 181/2 incher. A successful first day to be sure.

By the time we made our way up the now darkened steps with our poles and gear, the fish cleaning station set up at Mike and Paula's was already in operation with what looked like gifted surgeons dressed up as fishermen wielding sharp knives making precision cuts quickly separating nice, clean fillets from guts and gills.  The clean stuff going in  empty butter tubs to get ready for an upcoming fish dinner, the "other stuff" in the bucket to be lugged down to "The Fish Hut" were all the odiferous--least favorite part of fishing--junk was transferred to a campsite catch-all barrel.  I loved how the boys didn't mind this adventurous, all be it--downright spooky-- flashlight walk with whoever drew the short straw that night. (I did make my token run before weeks end...still gives me the heebe jeebies--don't bears LOVE fish guts--and those carrying them?)

With the fish chores finished, now it time was for snacks and fish bench racing around the huge Boy Scout built fire.  Paula delighted the boys--including the big ones--with HUGE marshmallows for roasting.  With the stars once again blazing overhead, I felt that familiar, "aaahhh" feeling in my stomach as I reflected on this awesomely perfect day.  The last strains of Fernado Ortaga's song, "This Good Day" settled in my heart and mind..."This good day, it is a Gift from YOU."  Indeed...Thanks God.   One by one we made our way back to our "home sweet home's" for the week. With temps beginning to dip once again, we added extra blankets, once again donning our knit hats and wooly socks. With lots of "Good Night John Boys" from both the front and back of the airstream" we all fell into a deep sleep to dream of the adventures that awaited us all tomorrow.
A page out of our completed "Fish Camp" Digital Storybook