Fishing, yes something that most people would expect a lad born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Canada would have mastered instinctually. And yes Tatamagouche is a real place in Canada’s east coast. I was born there but moved to Ontario in the early 1950’s, finally settling in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada in the late 1970’s.
I had always wanted to fish, always watched with silent envy those who fished. I think I was embarrassed to ask. Knowing that people would have, in my way of thinking, expected this would be a natural ability, but sadly it was not. But all that changed when I turned forty. Something about that age drives people to do all sorts of things they had always wished they had done, like owning a Corvette, driving a motorcycle, skimming the water in a speed boat. Well you get the idea.
It was a Friday morning; my co-workers and I were sitting around the table in the coffee room at work discussing the upcoming Salmon Derby, the best lures, rods, reels and fishing lines. This time instead of sitting there and nodding my head and interjecting a ’yes’ or ’you're right’, every now and again, I opened my mouth and let them know that I had never fished a day in my life, but sure wished I knew how.
That was the changing point in my fishing life, the "A-ha" moment if you will. I let people know that I wanted to learn how to fish and not down the road but right away. I wanted to be a part of this year’s Salmon Derby or at least attempt to fish. A dear friend took me under his wing and showed me the ins and outs of fishing from the river bank. I should also let you know that I have an extreme fear of water, especially when in a boat, canoe, probably compounded by the fact that I never learned to swim until I was in my thirties and then in a YMCA pool with a life guard close at hand.
He told me what fishing supplies to buy and then went further by showing me how to cast and how to reel in a fish, if one was caught. I listened and watched and adsorbed it all. Saturday morning I was up at four o’clock, dressed, ate breakfast, packed a lunch and thermos and had gathered together my new fishing gear. I could hardly contain myself as I drove down to F. H. Clergue park. This was the day I had anticipated for so many years. It was now going to become a reality.
Climbing down the river bank and then standing on the edge of the St. Mary’s river bank my inner self was vibrating: I was so anxious to get this ‘thing’ started. Would I catch a fish? Others around me that morning had had some luck, others had not. Which category would I be in at day’s end? I had convinced myself that if I didn’t catch a fish today,I would keep on trying until I did. I would not give up.
With that thought in my mind I cast my first line and slowly reeled it in. I could see my line in the distance, displayed by the moon’s glow as it hit the still, silent waters. It was hard to imagine that I was standing there on the banks of the St. Mary’s river. Having lived here for almost twenty years and this was the first time I had come near it, or had even taken the time to notice it. Standing there that morning I was in awe of it. A river that offered a magnificent view from where I stood, sporting fun to boaters and sea-doo enthusiasts, a means of transportation for industry, a source of hydro electric power, and probably so much more. And now this morning it was offering me the opportunity to satisfy one of my life’s goals.
Suddenly I felt my line gently being tugged. I began to reel in my line, ever so slowly. Was it a snag? Sure felt like it; I gave my line a tug and the line tugged right back. Sure enough it was a snag, I was caught on something or so I had convinced myself. A gentleman next to me came over near me, coaching me to take it slow, reel it in slow. The gentleman made my heart leap when he assured me that this may not be a snag, but the real thing, most likely a fair sized salmon.
After what seemed like forever, but in reality was only about five to ten minutes, the hook on my line revealed itself--well not really. The hook was not visible, but instead was covered by the mouth of a wrestling salmon. Once landed, a word I learned the meaning of that morning, I was able to stand proud. Who would have believed it: my first cast ever and it landed me my first fish ever. The St. Mary’s River had sent me my first fishing catch and not the last one I might add. I went on that year to catch on average five to six salmon each morning for about a week.
I will always be grateful to the St. Mary’s River for being there, right in my back yard. Just like in the east coast I had the Atlantic Ocean, here I had the St. Mary’s River, a river that fulfilled my dreams far beyond that year and the years to come. Something that the Atlantic Ocean never could do. Thank you St. Mary’s River.