The Not So Great Lakes

I like to call myself a fisherman though I am less so than in my younger years. This past summer I had fair luck here on Lake Huron providing my family with several Bass and Perch meals. I do have my share of luck, for instance it was I who caught fifteen fish and my nephew one on one excursion; he’s two and a half. Outside of that I don’t carry with me any extensive knowledge or talent.

This year I was at the lake before anyone else and found myself on the water alone last night. The seas were rough relative to my light aluminum canoe. I hooked into a beautiful Smallmouth Bass after only three casts and was expecting a bountiful night. At the rate I started I was sure to fill my canoe. The odd wave splashed over the edge of my unnamed boat and I had to brace myself by knee to one of the gunnels to cast my beautiful lure with the wind. After a while I pulled out my smokes and enjoyed what would be my last from that pack. I also pulled out my Ipod. I have never fished to music and at the moment I am unsure of what possessed me to do so. I pulled anchor from the rocky shoal and was drifting quickly past the boulders that make the fishing so excellent. It really was idyllic but like many things in life – change is inevitable.

With a breeze on my cheek, a rhythmic motion to the canoe and music to tie the scene together I couldn’t have wished for more other than fish. In slow motion the boat listed to starboard, my heavy tackle box slid and everything entered the water to the side of the fish swimming on my stringer. The fish was as big as any I had ever caught and I am want to blame it for my capsize but there must have been other factors which lead to me with my head bobbing beneath my canoe. The song played on as I was banged by my floating tackle box, two paddles, a net and my Smallmouth Bass. None of it seemed real as the music floated through my head as if nothing was different. I quickly righted my canoe to save my fishing pole from the bottom and suddenly realized I had nothing to bail out the hundreds of gallons now occupying the inside of my canoe. I clung to the side and counted my possessions certain something had passed me and my life vest to the bottom. It seemed to all be floating in the canoe just fine. I took off my flip flops and tossed them in with the flotsam and made my way to the back of the canoe. I hugged what was either the bow or stern and tried to yank my life jacket from around my ears. And the band played on.


My fifteen minute paddle and ten minute drift had left me further from land and home than one would want to be in sixty-five degree water. Adrenaline kept me warm as I kicked my way to shore. I can’t say it was a pleasant thirty minutes but I was alive. Outside of expense I wished I had my Iphone rather than music, regardless, I didn’t have the Coast Guard in my Contacts anyway. It was a struggle kicking a canoe full of water through the waves but I had Lady Gaga for inspiration. I wouldn’t recommend this activity for aerobic exercise but I was without the sore ass that follows my yearly session on the stationary bike.

I could see figures on shore as I made my way in. One couple who I’m sure saw my low lying canoe with a head bobbing at the back seemed uninterested and carried on down the beach. And the music died. I intend to write Apple and commend them on how their non-waterproof Ipod actually performs quite well while submerged in a pocket underwater. I stowed my now defunct headphones in my pocket figuring they were shot with the waves that lapped at my head and also to ensure that in the event of rescue I wouldn’t appear as a stereotypical self-absorbed teenager lost in music.

I was keeping a close eye on my bobbing tackle box hoping a wave wouldn’t sweep it from my canoe. I was getting tangled in my fishing line and was too tired to enjoy any form of body piercing so I retired from my exercise and reeled in my lucky lure and stowed my pole underwater in the canoe. As I propelled closer to shore I had a good view of my bass, its fins were out of water like a shark and I was grateful to not have to deal with anything like that. I was however becoming resentful of my finned friend as it was clearly alive but made little effort in the direction of intention. When I finally hit a sandbar and could walk I was relieved but only momentarily as I passed over it and into the depths again. A family of several generations had gathered and sauntered over to my landing. “You’re supposed to ride in it.” My purple lips failed to form the curse that rose from my exhausted body. A man my age came a couple of feet into the water to assist me. He noticed my fish and was instantly enthralled. He tried to undo my stringer and asked his daughter to get a photo. I removed the fish and held it up for a picture. Neither of us was smiling and I was disinterested in recording the moment. I dragged my normally heavy and now completely filled tackle box to shore and tipped a few gallons from its seams. We removed everything else and tipped the water from my vessel. He asked if I had far to go and I replied “No, I’ll just walk her home.” And so I began to pull my mainly dry canoe and contents along the shore towards home. I was still barefoot and soon tired of walking on stones and bravely stepped back into the canoe. I was spent and probably looked like a three year old as I struggled by paddle against the wind. I was more than relieved when I made it to the beach in front of our place. ImageI pulled the canoe to shore forgetting about my exhausted fellow passenger. He slid across the sand as dead weight still having less intention of making it to the cottage. Maybe I should have offered him a ration of rum once safely home and he may have hung in there.

Back at the cottage I was beginning to tremble, not much energy remained. Mom helped me remove year’s worth of tackle from my box and we laid it out on newspaper. We agreed it was excessive as we punctured our fingertips. I followed through with my promise for breakfast and filleted my fish under the outside light. With that out of the way I took an inventory. I had lost my favourite hat, a half pack of smokes and two pounds of body fat. My Ipod was inoperable as was my lighter so I lit a cigarette from a new pack with the BBQ flame thrower. I soon after went to bed and spent my first hour and a half shivering uncontrollably despite blankets and a thick hoodie pulled over my head in the July heat. I awoke in the morning clinging to my pillow like I had the gunnel of my canoe. I heal quickly and I will probably head out again tonight if she calms down a little but I will not have music and I will take someone with me. These moments are best shared and two set of legs would be like owning an outboard motor.