August 11th, 2008

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

A Kid Learns to fish and other stuff
By Roger Murray (Gnu Bee), British Columbia

Hurrah! Finally, its Friday afternoon, we're finally going to fishing at Penask .

Penask lake for those who don't know is the holy grail of trout fishing. If you can't catch a fish there it is because you just fell down breaking your fishing rod and your casting arm at the same time. Where I live you could fish in the river canal for a whole summer for just a few small trout, catching only about one a day if you are lucky but at Penask there are hundreds of trout. It's the best lake in the world for Kamloops trout when you are a kid. Even now 2008 it is still full of 12-14 inch fish. Cousin Ken and Uncle Ray are taking me and Bobby Tabata with them for the whole weekend.

Me & Bobby are going to fish for three whole days man I'm so excited . You can get 50 fish at Penask! Each! Limit is 25 a day x 2 days = 50 fish. We always bring home a limit from Penask! I wake early in the morning on Thursday wishing it was tomorrow at 3:30pm that's when my cousin Ken and Uncle Ray get off work.

I Gotta pack My tent, sleeping bag, stuff to eat, knife, rods & lots of stuff, last time we forgot matches and had to bum some off the fisheries guy. Worms! gotta get lots more worms this time cause we ran out last time. I need 75 cents for the boat rental, 50 cents a day 3 days. split two ways 75 cents each. Wish we had $1.50 a day for a motor but that's almost $5.00. I never ever had $5.00 to spend. Heck I can buy a new rod and reel for $5.00 I had all my gear packed by 10:00am Monday morning 5 days early. Its like waiting for Christmas, dragging on and on.

Friday itself drags on forever and ever. Mom makes me eat a good breakfast then go to the store. Bobby Tabata finally shows up around ten o'clock to help me dig worms. There's no more worms in our garden because we have been digging and re-digging them up all spring. Mom says we should help out Old lady Jennings by digging her garden for her. The thought scares the hell our of us because Old Lady Jennings is a freaky old lady the neighborhood kids all know that Old lady Jennings is a Witch!

My Mom tut tuts us on that one saying you're going over there if I have to drag you by your earlobes. She would do it too! bobby and I knew that without a doubt. I am more scared of my mom than any old witch! So reluctantly we go.

Mom comes with us. She asks Mrs. Jennings if she'd like us boys to dig her garden for her. Suprisingly she wasn't really a witch at all. Just a nice kinda lonely old lady. Old lady Jennings even gave us home made fudge. Bobby digs me in the side and whispers she made that in her witches pot. I try not to laugh, my Mom heard him and is not amused. That makes me snicker. I was not going to try the fudge just in case it did turn out to be a spell or something then my mom shoots me a you had better if you know whats good for you look. I try a piece, man it was awesome! It was even better than my moms, and my mom made good fudge.

It turned out to be kind of fun digging Mrs. Jennings garden and it made her so pleased. Plus it made that long long long day go by a bit quicker. There were tons of worms so we had lots. Bonus! She told us that last year for the first time ever she couldn't have a garden because she couldn't dig or rake anymore. She said that she missed having the fresh vegetables. We took the hint and raked it as well. When we went home for lunch We told that story to my mom. Yo! big mistake! Cause Mom sent us back with some leftover vegetable seeds and tomato plants to finish the old ladies garden with. That's how we got stuck raking and planting the whole garden. She gave us each a soda pop and a doughnut. We didn't tell her we had just done it for the worms.

Looking back I guess she knew that anyway. Anyway for th e next few seasons until she passed away both Bobby and I planted her garden for her. Funny how once we used to live near an old lady who used to be a witch and who turned out to be nice Mrs. Margaret Jennings our neighbor. I didn't know it at the time but Bobby and I learned something very valuable that day while digging worms. We told all the rest of the kids that she wasn't a witch. They treated the news like we were nuts, go figure.

It's finally the night before Penask. I lay awake till way after midnight playing the weekends fishing again and again in my head. Where I'm gonna row to first, the bait I'm gonna use, which spinner combo to use, must remember to put the net in the boat, forgot it last time, things to bring, things not to forget this time, till I finally somehow I get to sleep. Woke up it was still dark only 4:oo am try to get back to sleep no chance.I get up and light the woodstove to get the icy chill off the kitchen floor. Dad yells at me to get back to bed quit wasting wood. I try to be quiet, sorting my tackle box, from their room I hear my two sisters yell Mom! Dad! He's still up make him go back to bed. I hate Girls!

Finally At last, just when you thought it would never get here, it's here !! There's the truck! It's a mad scramble to throw all our stuff into the back. Yo! take it easy slow down no need to hurry says my Uncle Ken, Uncle Ray has to work late we got an hour . Oh no! another hour to wait!

Allan Raven calls over the fence, where you going? Fishing at Penask Yahoo! Penask! Man I sure wish I could come . We all three look over at my uncle Ken hope in our eyes. Well all right but you'll have to ask your Mom and ride in the back with Roger and Bobby.

Allan runs for his house. You got five minutes! yells Ken. Then turning to us he says he's only coming because Uncle Ray isn't off for another hour. Just then Richard Tabata, Bobbys older brother, rides his bike into the yard. Where ya going?

Penask, we say, Wow Penask Man I wish I could go. Again we look over to my uncle. Ya, Ya why not? Go ask your mom says Uncle Ken. I can't believe it my Uncle is taking us all. I look over at him. He answers the question in my eyes. Well you need an even number for the boats don't ya? I hadn't thought of that, two per boat, you need four people. No way were any of us kids were ever going to get to go in the motor boat with Ken and Ray. Motor boats are for grownups don't ya know? Allan returns, says its ok I can go. Yahoo! This is going to be the best trip ever.

At last no more waiting. We are on our way, the four of us in the back of the truck speeding down the highway. Its 30 miles by highway and 25 miles by gravel road, the last 4 miles are legendary for their roughness. It takes an hour to go the last 4 miles! (Now 50 years later and it still does.) We bounce back and forth in the back holding on for dear life. I lose my ball cap in the wind but I don't care, we are going fishing at Penask. An hour of bumping around tossing back and forth in the back of the truck. Four times we have to get out to help push the truck through a mud hole. Once we seek help from a 4x4 with a winch to get thru the biggest puddle. At last we round a turn and finally we see the Penask lake provincial park sign.

We made it! Hurrah we're here! We jump out of the truck and race to over to Fenwick's Boat rentals anxious to rent our boat for the next 3 days. If you get there too late you might not get a boat! Luckily we are in time.

Hey you guys get back here! yells uncle Ray come help unload the truck. We scramble up the bank and help lift the boat off the overhead rack and down to the lake. Loaded to the eyeballs with gear and beer, my Uncles motor away. We see little of them for the next 3 days. They didn't come here to fish with kids. They came here to drink beer and fish. In that order, If the beer runs out, we leave early its that simple. Us kids hope they brought enough beer. Thankfully this time they did. You could have followed them around the lake just by following the floating empty beer bottles. (Can you spell redneck?)

Excited we grab our rods and head down to the boats. Fenwick calls out, Hey you kids where the heck do you think you are going with all that spinning gear.

"Don't ya know its fly-fishing only now?" It's a joke so we all laugh and continue towards the dock." Hey! I'm not kidding get over here!" Still thinking it must be a joke I am elected so I climb the short hill and read the notice expecting Fenwick to begin laughing at me and with a ha ha got ya dummy! I read in disbelief the Official looking Fisheries sign. The Evil sign says FLY FISHING ONLY!

I must have read it wrong so I read it again. There is no mistake, It is an official government sign. They have made it fly fishing only. We don't have fly rods, we don't have flies. We got worms and willow leafs and spinners. We don't have flies! I can't believe my eyes. Penask lake is Fly fishing only! I fight back tears but one starts to roll down my cheek. I pretend to yawn and wipe it away turning my face from the guys at the same time. Guys don't cry. Well okay, maybe if your arm got broke or something like that you could cry but not for a crummy sign. My life has been shattered and I don't know what to do.

When I finally am able to turn around, the guys can see by the look on my face, that it isn't a joke anymore. I manage to choke out, Um, ya, he's right, Ah guys he's not kidding its just fly-fishing we can't use worms. We wuh ah will have to go home.

I am shattered my uncles are gone for the afternoon and we can't even fish. When they get back, We'll have to go home. Worms are what you catch fish on flies are for... well something but not catching fish with.

Not to worry says Fenwick I can loan you some gear and I got flies for sale. It is a glimmer of hope where there was none before and I snatch at it. Uh okay I guess. It occurs to me that everybody knows that flies don't work. We all tried them in the creek using split shot and some royal coachmen and didn't catch anything. I am at a bit of a loss when Fenwick says don't you kids worry, it's really easy. I guarantee you'll catch even more fish than you do now with those spinners you use.

I'm grasping at straws now, left with no other choice I reluctantly agree. I wonder how much the flies are cause I only got $2.25 left after the boat rental. A dime each or 12 for a dollar he says. I can loan you some rods with sinking line so you don't even need sinkers. Just 50 cents rent on the rods for 3 days and if you don't catch more fish than you did with your gear it's free he says with a grin. I hand over a buck for 12 Black Doc Spratleys and a buck and a half for the rod rent. Fenwick grins and says put your money away I was just kidding about renting the rods. I wouldn't charge you kids its just a buck for the flies. Whew $1.50 was a lot of money in the early 1960's minimum wage being just 65 cents an hour.

With a chuckle Fenwick says, these Doc Spratleys are the best flies on the lake. They are so good you have to hide them in your pocket or the fish will jump in the boat after them. I tie them myself while you guys are out fishing. He shows us how to tie a cinch knot to secure the fly to the leader. That's kinda neat because we used to just do about 10 thumb knots in a row . Ugly knot but it never gave out .The cinch knot was like magic and easy to tie. We all buy some flies except for Allan, who I know is broke. Can you loan me a dime for a fly? He asks me. I'm still feeling good about not paying rent on the fly rods so I give him 50 cents, Bobby gives him a quarter and says you don't have to pay me back. So I say you don't have to pay me back the 50 cents either. Beating Bobbys gift by 25 cents, ha! I have won. ( Kids do that ) Fenwick takes the 75 cents, handing Allan a dozen Spratleys. Allen counts them and protests, but I only gave you 75 cents not a dollar, That's ok you kids are good customers so I'm giving you a break. How come we didn't get em for 75 cents? Don't press your luck Fenwick says. If you come back later I'll show you how to tie them. Of course we don't.

We leave our spinning gear with Fenwick and reluctantly take the fly rods that he loans us. We find the rods are longer and harder to maneuver in the boat, plus the reels aren't very fast. The sinking line is thick and clumsy and it's hard to tie the line to the leader. This is going to be stupid, we aren't going to catch anything is the general opinion of all four of us.

Bobby and I set off in one boat, Richard and Allan in the other. I make sure our flat bottomed boat has a keel attached cause last year ours didn't and we had a heck of a time with it till I complained. Fenwick turned the boat over on the dock to discover that the 1x2 inch keel had fallen off somehow. He promptly nailed another one on and our rowing became easy once again. It had taken us four hours to figure that one out but he didn't charge us for the boat that day so that was good.

I finally get my line out and I jam the rod securely under the seat. In our haste to get fishing as usual we forgot the rod holders again. I am letting Bobby's line out because He is rowing and we don't want to stop and get a snag. My line has been in the water for less than a minute when I am startled by my rod whipping about as a fish strikes without warning I almost lose it overboard before I manage to snag it and set the hook. Yahoo I got one I yell.

Quickly I hand Bobby his rod as I start to reel in my fish. I got it on a fly I yell excitedly, on a fly! Until that moment I didn't believe I was going to catch anything at all except by fluke.

Bobby is reeling in frantically to get his line out of my way when suddenly he yells Hey I got one too! These things really work! Damm we forgot the net and we got two fish on. Bobby's is closer to the boat so I slow down while he tries to get it into the boat, no luck he loses it. I try to get mine in but lose it too. I look over at Richard and Allan just as Allan nets his first fish of the day.

We forgot the net I yell at the other boat. You jerks! He yells back laughing at us. Losers! yells Richard. Hey we got ours on a fly! I know I yell back we did too. No you didn't yell Richard ha ha you didn't get yours, all four of us laugh our butts of at this.

We go back for the net and rod holders. Then fish for the rest of the day until it is almost too dark to find our way back to camp. We net and release fish after fish. It has been our best day ever. ( Us kids were not allowed to keep fish till the last day because they will spoil before they get home. Plus you can't keep them in camp because of the bears. ) We had learned about the bears taste for stolen fish the trip before when we lost 2 days catch.

Saturday and Sunday we fished our butts off catching and releasing more fish that I had ever dreamed possible all on the fly. We learned to drift fish, rowing all the way down the 5 mile long lake then letting the wind troll us back catching fish after fish as we did so. We fished, camped, caught butterflies, snakes, frogs and anything else that moved. Then we went out and fished some more. It was a magical three days that is as fresh in my mind as if it were yesterday.

Monday morning we pack up to go home, tired and happy with our 50 fish each. Yes gentle reader in those days you could catch and keep 25 per day with a 2 day limit = 200 fish for four kids. My folks would can them and we would get fish sandwiches all winter long in our lunchboxes. Back then the fish I caught, the deer I shot and the garden I was in charge of were a big part of my families budget. My uncles caught only about 10 fish each. Too much beer = BIG hangovers = no inclination to clean fish. On shore I was elected to clean their fish for them. As I did so I thought, gosh these fish are in really poor shape, soft and mushy they had been in the water slopping around in the bottom of the boat. I didn't think they were fit to eat.

I thought how much fun we were having at the same time and place as my kinfolk who did not seem to be having the same good time.

We bounced back over the same rough road we came in on. Got stuck in the same puddle as I had lost my hat in. So I got that back. We finally arrived back in town. Dropping Uncle Ray off first, I watch him and as we drive away he drops his string of fish in the garbage can. He tried not to let us see but we did. They had begun to smell a little in the hot sun. How sad I think. We drop Allan off, his mom says how this will help keep the grocery bill down. I reflect how their dad has been off work and wish we had taken him with us somehow. He used to take us to copperkettle lake when he still had his truck.

Cousin Ken helps us unload. He opens his cooler, sniffs the air and says, well these are sure ruined. I offer him a dozen of mine which he takes willingly. Thanks kid, I guess mine got a little warm. It makes me feel like a King being able to give something valuable to my older cousin.

The truck drives off. Richard says to me, "that was stupid giving him some of your fish, he sure doesn't deserve it." Someone else says "ya they were just a couple of drunks all weekend." Ya says someone else "they fished illegal all weekend, lucky for them no one caught them". Yea I know that , maybe, but their still my family and they took us fishing to Penask same as last year. The guys reply, "Ya I guess, Yep they did, guess they're ok ." Uh huh. I leave it at that.

We all grab our stuff and proudly troop in to show off to my mom and dad. Showing them the fish and telling about all the neat stuff we did adding in a few white lies about ones that got away. We tell of how many we really got but had to throw back because of the limit. I add a hint about how cold it was and how I need a better sleeping bag which falls on deaf ears. We receive all our praises and then off to Bobby and Richards for more bragging. Can life be much better than this?

I still fish Penask with my son and my Grandson. And a couple of years ago I was able to take my old friend Bobby back once more to Penask to re-live that summer. Richard has passed on to a better place and we lost track of Allan. I miss those days back when I was 12 . From that one magical trip I learned that old ladies aren't witches, some gardens need planting for free, You don't need to drink beer to catch fish and have fun, Flies do catch fish, There is always room for another kid in the back of your truck.

That guy Fenwick was an ok fellow, all of my life I have always regretted not spending more time talking to him . I wished I had let him teach us how to tie flies. I subsequently learned that he was a master flyfisherman and fly tier.

He was then and is now My personal hero. I try to take as many kids as I can fishing with me, sort of a pay it forward homage to a man who's first name I never even took the time to learn. ~ Your Friend Roger

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