GilV

Now here is an Atlantic Salmon fisherman!

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This was on a rock at the edge of the Margaree River at the Cranton Pool. It Reads, "Jim was a veteran fisherman of the Margaree. On the morning of Aug 12 - 08 he hooked three fish in this former pool. He died an hour later a fulfilled man".

 

pool1.jpg

Edited by GilV

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Some years ago I was steelhead fishing in an unusual estuary on the west coast.  I was anchored, in a small, individual sized pram, in a line of 10-11 fisherman in similar craft lining a channel populated by a large laid up school of fish, a mini version of the "hog lines" of old.  The prams were anchored fore and aft to hold them steady in orientation, spaced a rod length apart from each other, as we cast, counted down the sink time to get the fly to the depth of the school, and then started a creeping slow retrieve.  The group consisted of fishing partners, old regulars, and a few new faces, and the conversation, in the close space, was congenial, funny, and shared by all.  The fishing was slow for this spot, a fish hooked by someone every ten minutes or so.....which translated into fabulous fishing for just about any other steelhead hole on the planet.

 

Across the estuary and in direct line of sight, our still water channel ended against a small, tidal island, a second, smaller channel, the mainland bank rising to the access road.  A few shore fisherman cast their gear into that smaller channel which held, we knew, a few transient fish coming and going, nothing like the invisible mass silently resting....until hooked....in front of us.

 

Time passed, continuous conversation, a steady slow pick of fish, the quiet tableau of the island and the smaller channel.

 

A fisherman parked on the road overlooking the  near channel, the island, and the bigger channel with our hog line.  From his trunk he pulled out a small, inflatable raft, toy oars, and a fly rod.  He struggled to pull down or carry his sparse collection of gear to the water's edge., stood.....unsteadily......surveying the small channel and the island, and clumsily launched himself, nearly flooding the small raft and soaking himself.  He rowed, one oar style to the island, pulled up the raft, and began to flycast, facing the few gear fishermen, his back to us.

 

"There aren't many fish in that channel", someone observed.

"Nothing's been caught there all morning."

"He'd do better over here but he can't sit or stand up in that raft", another added.

 

Hooking a fish, with the attendant distractions, every 20-30 minutes or so kept us individually entertained, so the group focus only peripherally monitored the out-of-place fly fisherman on the island.  He was, in fact, without waders and initially stayed dry, out of the 55 degree water.

 

An hour passed, fish were caught,  guys came and went in their prams from the hog line, pulling anchors and rowing away, and others trickled in to fill the spaces, greeting known acquaintances, sliding in to spaces, dropping anchors in careful alignment.

 

Eventually, after a slow stretch, focus returned to the isolated fly fisherman, who had, with time, moved, stumbled actually, up and down the island casting into the open water between the gear fishermen.  His casting was haltingly erratic, although he didn't have to cast far, his gait slow and careful, his posture when still.....swaying and constantly corrective.

 

"There's something wrong with that guy.", someone finally observed.

Then we all paid attention.  And it became obvious, continuous erratic, halting movement.

 

After about two hours the fisherman began trying deeper water, wading....in his shoes and pants..... into soft bottomed muck to reach across the slow flow of that channel.  Inevitably, feet sunk into the mud, stuck. Stumbling, thrashing to get free before he could fall completely into bone-chilling water, bent over stopping to rest between exertions, falling once but landing on dry bank, only partially wetting his upper torso.

 

"Wow,.......just...... wow."

 

It was painful to watch, once his disabilities were clearly identified.  But he never stopped casting, moving, trying.  Wrong place, wrong gear, probably wrong fly and technique, even maybe wrong body, but he was silently resotute.

 

Eventually I had my two fish limit, got tired of catch-and-releasing mint-bright, explosive steelhead on the preface of their life-ending (for that river) spawning experience.  I too pulled my anchors and rowed off down channel....back to real life.  Lawns to mow, groceries to shop, wife and kids to attend.  A freezer to fill.  This fishing, then, for me, would continue like this for weeks until the migration moved on.  Literally hundreds of fish would be caught, day after day, a few hours of fishing time out of the heartbeat of a life.  

 

The next day at sun up I rowed into the gathering line, said my greetings to those I knew, picked a spot, dropped anchor, chose the sink rate line and fly, and began again the by now unconscious routine.

 

Eventually. the fishing-catching hit a slow spell.  Concentration wandered.  The familiar scene of the island and the back channel now liflless again,

 

"Did that guy who was there yesterday ever get a fish?  He was sure committed, wading wet and everything."

"I never saw him catch anything, but he was still there when I left."

 

Silence from the group...staring across the water.....hiding so much beneath the surface.

 

The the voice of someone I did not know.  from a face I cannot recall.

 

"I went over to see if I could help him.  Turns out he was desperate to catch a steelhead on a fly.  Had never gotten one his whole life.  Doesn't have much time left.  He has Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS.."

 

Silence.

 

"I offered to bring him out here with us.  I have an extra pram.  He didn't think he could manage it.  And he had other things to do.".

 

 

.

 

.  

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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I have a friend that is in the later stages of ALS. Passionate fisherman. We fish the salmon river together for years and as ALS took his strength he would still head up there to fish. Jerry was “lucky” his disease started as PLS, which has a slower progression. He’d take his walker to the handicap section near the estuary and fish from there. In his later stages, when he was wheelchair bound, we got the folks at the DSR to let him bring his ATV, so he could travel up and down the river with us. He got a guide “Rocky” that would fish with him. I saw a picture of him holding the last steelhead he landed with Rocky the other day, while visiting. Jerry is being robbed of his last years, never in all the years of fighting this horrible disease have I ever heard him complain, toughest guy I’ve ever known.

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