March 2020 is a time that many of us will never forget. The first part of the month seemed pretty normal to me, at least for me. Reports of a viral outbreak made headlines, but seemed far from my world. Winter fishing was underway and plans were made for the spring. A turkey hunting road trip was in sight, as was rainbow trout fishing and pike chasing with a fly rod. The summer dance card was pretty full and everything looked good.
So just like that, Canada – and the world – was on lockdown. Like millions of people, I immediately went from working in an apartment building to being seated at home on the dinner table. Travel almost stopped. Roads and highways were deserted as people stayed inside. There was toilet paper and hand sanitizer in local malls. It was one of the strangest moments I can remember, with a lot of ignorance and fear. All of these carefully crafted plans were suddenly in doubt, or threatened.
Over time, much of what I had planned for the spring and summer was canceled or postponed. Much of April has been spent indoors, with the exception of the occasional walks with my wife or forays to shop for groceries. Yet like many of you who read this magazine, I’m not meant to be indoors 24/7. I need the wilderness and the water for peace of mind and sanity. It was time to get out.
The first foray was not far from home. It was in McVicar Creek, the center of my childhood fishing adventures. Although Thunder Bay has great urban fishing, as an adult I tended to take the highway. So, on a whim, I grabbed my waders, fly rod and fishing bag and got into my truck for the short drive to the creek. There were a few anglers, but everyone got away from it all. The cove flowed well and sparkled in the sun. As I walked along the shore of the stream, I felt normal again. It was a huge relief. The fly line has been removed and a small green egg pattern has been attached.
After a few drifts, the familiar feeling of a rainbow was registered. Seconds later, a silver fish was spinning into the cove with a merry fisherman chasing it. It was a pretty fish about 24 inches, and I took a few quick photos of it lying in the water before letting it go. A little later there was another trout which took me further downstream. Another fisherman asked me if I needed a hand. “Can you take a picture? I replied. After a few shots the fish was released and the fisherman and I had a nice conversation. Human interaction felt good. All in all, it was a well-deserved break from the lockdown.
Due to concerns about the potential transmission of COVID-19, our family was physically distant. It was difficult, but we did it. Yet my father and I have always fished together in the spring. So we tried to figure out how to do it safely. Traveling in separate vehicles, and being on the opposite end of an 18-foot boat, seemed like a good bet. We also decided to fish closer to home and explore Lake Superior, the giant pond on our doorstep. Unlike some parts of Ontario, not all access to the lake was restricted.
So we waited for the ice to clear and a few days later we put the boat inside. It’s always a nice feeling to be on the water for the first time after winter, but under COVID-19 it was on the next level. Once again, the anxiety and worry of the day seemed to fade away, and it was great to be outside with the family, even from a distance. We even caught some fish including lake trout, rainbow trout and a slice of brook trout on a roller coaster. It was new water and an adventure. I’m pretty sure fishing closer to home will become something that will continue after the pandemic. This exploration would probably not have taken place in a ânormalâ year.
More free time also meant reconnecting with friends, even if it was from a distance. My longtime friend Geoff Coleman and I were able to fish in my boat thanks in part to the pandemic. We go back four decades and spent many days on the water when we were young and restless. Time went by, we raised families and negotiated busy careers, but we tried to keep in touch.
So, with gaps in our schedules, we made plans. It was great to reconnect and do it on the beautiful waters of Nipigon Bay, a place we had fished together decades earlier. What could be better than hunting brook trout and rainbow trout on the crystal-clear waters of the largest lake with someone with whom you share unforgettable memories? It was a lovely couple of days, and there was no time or agenda constraint. We just hung out on the water.
No, not everything about the pandemic has been so positive. Ontario’s tourism and outfitting industry has gained the upper hand and will recover for years to come. Likewise, small towns that depend on tourism, including fishermen, hunters and others, have also had to adapt to the reality of closed borders and reduced tourism. And it goes without saying that families whose loved ones have suffered from COVID-19 have had to endure unimaginable illness. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the battle against COVID-19 continues.
Maybe when we look in the rearview mirror at this unprecedented moment, it will be knowing that despite the losses, it has brought us closer as humans – and closer to the outdoors, which so many of us need. to prosper. in this life.
Originally published Nov-Dec. 2020 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.
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