River Of Learning
Previously posted but I've included here as well -- hopefully seen as humorous?????
RIVER OF LEARNING
I guess we all have our favourite places to fish. Those familiar places. You have cast enough flies across the water there to know almost every rock, every ripple, and nearly every spot where the trout may be. How deep each pool is. Or which bank is undercut enough to hold that one big fish. Or any trout of any size.
Usually these are spots that we keep going back to. The places where we might have first come to. Somewhere that's not so far from home as to prevent frequent visits but "far enough" as to almost be a "different world" -- something out of the "ordinary" almost "magical" or "mystical" yet in its own way just the place you regularly fish. Not that it isn't some place "special". Just that it's your "place". Usually the place you "cut" your teeth on fly fishing. This is easily proven by the number of your flies that end up in the local foliage. Greater here than any other fishing spot you've cast a line. Especially that one tree that seems "adorned" with so many of your flies that you could almost refer to it as the "tree of knowledge", where you come to realize that the nice open lawn (or nice open pond) that you learned to cast on didn't take into consideration any trees getting in the way of your backcast. Maybe there's so much "iron" left in those branches, the leaves won't just change colour in the autumn, they'll just "rust". Which in my case isn't possible, partly because I don't use steel hooks, but mainly because my tree is a white cedar overhanging the edge of a pool. That cedar certainly could be a "magnet" for my flies. But then losing so many flies does teach one a lot about casting. Not to mention a lot about tying knots as you replace fly after fly, and more than occasionally even leaders. As well, it served as a good "reason" to learn how to tie my own flies from scratch since I was losing enough to that tree to finance a small Third World country.
The Credit River, especially the upper sections, is such a place for me. This is where my fly fishing for trout began -- but then is there any other type of fishing besides fishing for trout on a fly -- and where I "learned" my most important lessons about not only fly fishing, but life itself.
While my "career" as a fly fisherman may be forever tied to the Credit River, its roots lie elsewhere. I caught my first wild trout not far from these waters I now feel most at home on. (Those trout caught in the ponds at Glen Haffy Conservation Area -- at an even younger age -- don't seem to have the same importance; even if they were "trout", they were only "stocked trout". I guess I was becoming a "snob" fisherman back then, and since now that I fly fish almost solely I'm still sometimes seen as a "snob".) It was a big enough brown trout that a six year old would make his father turn around the family car and return back to his grandparents' home to retrieve "his fish", which had been left cleaned and wrapped in their refrigerator, just waiting to be eaten by a "proud" fisherman at home. This fish had been largely "forgotten" until the family was about half way home (a considerable distance as the drive home was over a hour long).I got my first "real taste" of trout fishing (not to mention of that trout once we did get home) in the Hockley Valley close to the home in Orangeville where my mother's parents lived. I learned to fish there, using a kid's rod and reel outfit with a worm on a hook, accompanying my grandfather as we "cruised" the backroads from likely fishing spot to likely fishing spot. One such spot was on a stream, passing under a rural bridge, that seemed to hold multitudes of fish -- all of which were "trout" to a starry-eyed kid, especially when he watched his grandfather mentor catch such "pretty" fish on a "bunch of feathers and fur on a hook".
I graduated to an adult rod and reel after we lost my junior "package" bouncing down the sideroad with a trunkload of manure bound for my grandmother's gardens in town. When my grandfather and I got to one of our favourite fishing holes, we discovered that my prized rod and reel was missing. Apparently it had been "bounced" out of the open trunk of my grandfather's car as it was jarred by the many ruts of the gravel roads we travelled on. The trunk had been left open to accomodate the baskets of manure for my grandmother's garden. Needless to say, my grandfather went up and down those roads fruitlessly searching for that rod and reel, desperately trying to appease a teary child, while cursing to himself (or so he thought), "Because of that 'blank-blank' manure, we've lost that 'blank-blank' fishing rod". Imagine the stunned look (not to mention surprise) on my grandmother's face when her rosy cheeked grandson pronounced, "Because of your 'blank-blank' manure, I lost my "blank-blank' fishing pole". She recovered her composure enough to "discuss" this matter in more detail with my grandfather. Shortly afterwards, I got my new rod and reel. And was forever sworn to remember from then on that whatever was said or seen on a fishing trip should be our little secret. Well at least if I had to "swear" to anything, it wasn't to ever be about manure again to my grandmother.
As I grew older, I came to broaden my fishing horizons. Not that much further afield from my first real "trout fishing" experience. And I started to fish using the "bunch of feathers and fur on a hook" that I saw my grandfather use years before. I became a fly fisherman. And I owe all that to the Credit River. I've fished other rivers such as the Grand, the Saugeen, the Ganaraska, and the Nottawasaga in southern Ontario, as well as other North American rivers such as the Bow, the Moise, the Miramichi, the Ausable, the Housatonic, and the Deleware. I've even been to Scotland and Ireland to fish rivers there. But always I return "home" to the Credit.
Years before, my family had taken a trip to the Forks of the Credit to sight see. I was amazed by the overall beauty of the spot (or maybe it was the ice cream from the nearby store). The roadway seemed to twist and turn every which way (especially around the ess bend, past the railway tracks before coming down along side the river itself). But more than anything else there was "trout" in these waters. The "pretty" fish of my grandfather's.
So it was inevitable that I came to fly fish the upper Credit River, particularly around the Forks. The memories of the past blend into those of today. And most of this occurs on "fly only" water. I fished for the first time with a fly rod on any trout stream, on the Credit River near the Forks of the Credit. After parking on the side of the river just over the Dominion Street bridge. Then further down that road, tramping along the Bruce Trail extension to the meadows where the river seemed to spill through. This is also where one autumn, I joined a number of other like-minded folks to do a fish count, including the "redds"that could be found along these sections of the upper Credit. This was co-sponsored by such organizations as the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, the Izzack Walton Fly Fishing Club, and Trout Unlimited. An example of giving back to something you believe in. Other such co-operative projects included putting in a "beaver baffle" on another section of the upper Credit (which also supported a healthy brookie population), further north on Hwy.10.
Just over from the Forks on the Old Grange Sideroad and McLaughlin Road is another section of the Credit that I've favoured. Another area where TU has been involved, in everything from bank improvement to monitoring the fishery. And not far from Flapjack's, my favourite place for a mid-morning breakfast. I spent many a great angling moment here. Partly now in private hands, but still with limited public access, this is where I learned how to better "read" the river. To be able to think more like a trout. On what is now private water, I remember a time when I came to a pool that (through polarized fishing glasses) seemed to literally "teem" with trout, just off the trail that skirted the river. Good sized trout at that. But try as I might (even creeping on bended knees), I could not "budge" one. Yet I never "spooked" one of them. No matter what presentation or pattern I attempted, not one trout moved from that spot. It appeared this was like a super highway of a ready food source, like a drive through fast food outlet. Except the food was being "driven through" past the waiting trout by the current. No waiting, all will be served. And the trout were obviously well fed and content. Fat and content.
But my favourite place is up off Hwy. 24, just outside Caledon, at the public fishing access near the municipal works depot. There I've spent most of my time fly fishing on this part of the upper Credit River. Above the parking lot where you go through a canopy of cedars overhanging above a section of moving water. Where I met a "floating log" that turned out to be a beaver. Or looking over the side of the bridge to the river below, watching good sized trout in the rippling waters underneath. Or walking upstream past the small drop-off into a deep, deep pool, contained by concrete remains of a previous dam or even possibly an early watermill. Up around the bend where small bright brookies rise to my dry fly lazily drifting past the logs up next to the bank. Near the pool in front of my "tree of knowledge". Where I "learned" the magic of fly fishing. On my "home" stretch of water. The Credit River.
So I believe that this one river has made a very big "impression" on my fly fishing and my life. But then many rivers have run through my life. But this one, the Credit River, especially the upper section, has had more of an "impact" on me than any others. More than just where I learned to fish for those "pretty" trout on a fly rod. My best memories are there. And many more memories yet to be had.
As this is the place I "started" my fly fishing career, this is where I would love to be able to end it. Fishing familiar waters, in favourite pools and moving sections of the Credit. This is definitely the place that most reminds me of the feeling of the book or the film "A River Runs Through It". Almost a microcosm of life itself. If I could possibly ever pass onto the next world while fishing, I'd hope it would be with a fly rod in my hand standing in the running waters of my favourite section of the Credit River. Or at least have my ashes spread over them.
The late Greg Clark was a Canadian humourist and storyteller, besides being a very dedicated fly fisherman. Greg spent many pleasurable hours with a fly rod. He once wrote: "I know nothing as instantly pleasurable as the bulge and boil of a trout rising to a fly, with the immediate consequence of the curiously senuous tug on the rod tip." As well, Greg originated the deer-hair nymph and even named the Mickey Finn streamer, created by John Alden Knight (who originated the solunar tables used by fishermen all over North America). Greg described his wish to be buried in a favourite fishing hole in a story "Everybody Happy" (co-authored by Charles Vining):
" I want to be dressed in my fishing clothes, waders, and jacket. Then I want them to lay me out with a rod in my hand and all my other rods and flies and reels spread around me. Then I want them to cremate me and all my things and put the ashes in the centre of a great big concrete boulder. The boulder will be dumped in the Hawthorn pool on The Mad River (Greg's favourite spot to fly fish). My fishing friends will come along and see the boulder and say, 'There's Greg out there -- let's try a cast there.' "
I'd put my boulder in that nameless pool on the Credit where I learned so much about fly fishing (and losing flies). The plaque would read, "Here lies a fly fisherman. Tight lines to you hopefully. But if not, try not to get your line tangled up on this boulder (like the one who lies here would have). And watch out for that tree over there too."
Somewhere on a river (hopefully?!?!?)
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