Our daughter Hellene asked the other day if I would soon be working on some rods and reels generously donated to this column (and still available to any kids who need fishing tackle).
She likes working with fishing gear, sort of the way long ago writing master Gregory Clark used to fuss and fiddle all winter with his tackle and flies, whiling away the hours sharpening, sorting, and cleaning.
The Stray Caster explained to Hellene that this is not the time to be fussing with with tackle, unless it is to be placed into immediate use. No sir. This is fishing season. Time to be on the stream. Visions of the Legion Hole in Meaford and the High Banks on the Saugeen drifted through the mind.
So, on Saturday, the Stray Caster climbed into the car and headed for Grey County, a place he passes through to reach several fishing destinations. Anna, Hellene, and Matthew-Adam also climbed in. It was to be a family outing.
Alas, there was no room for our lovely noodle rod with its almost new float reel. No fishing vest accompanied us. Nor a fly rod.
It is a known fact (by serious anglers, anyway) that going fishing means much more than … oh … going fishing.
Sure, we love hooking into a rainbow or salmon that tears off yards of line and makes our reels scream. We love the feel of the bend in the rod and the awesome leaps some of the fish take before either breaking free or coming to the bank, where the Stray Caster and most of his angling companions practice catch and release.
No, fishing is also about standing in two feet of water and watching the sunrise burn the mist off the river. It is about watching kingfishers dive for a meal. It is about groggily driving back roads early in the morning, coffee in hand, and talking about the day’s prospects with treasured fishing companions. It is about watching rabbits and deer scuttle into the underbrush on the back roads as the car’s headlights flash upon them.
It is also about observing the local scenery. Which house seems to go with the property just driven past? Why did that house get abandoned? Why are there so many apple trees growing along the fence lines on the back roads of Grey County?
Going back to the writings of Gregory Clark, we noted that he, too, managed to note and sometimes pick an apple or three on his jaunts to the Pretty River, which is now a sanctuary, but was his favourite Opening Day stream for many years.
And that is why the entire Stray Caster family was in the car on Saturday. Old angling friend Wally Ward and the Stray Caster swap many a tale to and from the long, early morning drives, and the late night returns from the rivers. It was Wally who mentioned that applesauce made from wild apples tastes much better than the stuff not only bought in stores, but also the stuff made at home with store bought apples.
Which brings us back to Grey County and the trees that Greg Clark knew all those years ago. They are planted on fence lines, and lean into the ditch. Nobody sprays them. Nobody (else) picks them. They grow smaller and smaller fruit each year, and many of them must be approaching 100 years.
Matthew-Adam is the handiest picker. He can climb through the branches bending over ripe with fruit to get those out of the way apples nobody else can reach. We pick just over a bushel of them each year. Some are smaller than crabapples, and others still have the size of small apples sold in stores. Some have worms that have to be cut out. They are scabby.
But, when washed, cut, and cleaned, they make fabulous applesauce. Matthew-Adam always volunteers to cut them up. Eight-year-olds like playing with knives, but he cut crabapples this year, and stuck it out to the end, so maybe he will get his chance when we make sauce, too.
While cleaning and sauce making, a mindless task if there every was one, visions of big fish danced through the Stray Caster’s head. He can’t wait to get out and start catching big fish.
And, on the way home from apple picking, the Stray Caster took mental note of a large number of streams and ponds that have always intrigued him. Could there be a bass in there? A big bass?
While making the first batch of sauce this week, The Stray Caster had visions of rigging his noodle rod and hitting the Big Head River. He also had visions of shorter trips into Grey County to take a few test casts into those waters that might contain large bass, or maybe a pike. Or possibly a perch.
Possibilities are endless this time of year, which is why fall is the Stray Caster’s favourite season. His injured foot (he’s been limping for months) is now just about healed, and that means no more excuses. He is ready for some long days of fishing, hoping that upon his return home at the end of a wonderful day, there will be a nice pork roast waiting with all the trimmings – including Grey County wild apple applesauce.