Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grayling

I scheduled a business trip to Calgary, Canada, at either the best or worst time possible.  I forgot about the Stampede that occurs in July each year, and although I’m a Texan, I never really cared too much for a rodeo.  They could be a lot of fun to watch sometimes, but my life was more involved with the sport of fishing.  I had two and a half days of meetings to push out of the way, and when it was over I was ready to go anywhere else.  Cowboy and cowgirl wannabes were about to drive me insane.

When we wrapped up the final meeting, I told the district manager I was going to fly out a day early.  In fact, I was going to the hotel to get my things and catch the next plane out regardless of its destination.  He laughed and said he would like to join me.  When I got to the hotel, he had left a message for me to contact him immediately, which I did.  He suggested we take a couple of days and go fishing.

I had never fished in Canada before, and I wasn’t certain of the regulations, but he assured me that he would take care of everything, and for the most part he did.  Since I wasn’t a Canadian citizen, I had to have a special license, and I couldn’t fish without a guide.  Enter Mark.  Mark was Larry’s (the district manager) friend, and he was a licensed guide.  Since this was going to be a short trip, he knew just where to begin.

The Bow River flows through Calgary, and the upper reaches of it were not too far to the west.  We would drive there for just today and give Mark an opportunity to examine my abilities as a fisherman.  Tomorrow we would travel elsewhere.

We drove west for a while then turned onto a narrow side road.  The side road was drivable part of the way, and not drivable the rest of the way, but we managed to force his jeep there anyway.  The Bow River Valley was beautiful country, and the river itself was like a postcard.  I threw a small spinner into the water and watched two fish knock heads together as they jumped for it.  Several casts later I brought in a small brown trout, and over the next three or so hours I caught a few rainbows as well.  I was having fun, but the time came to return to Calgary.

The next morning we were on the road by the time the sun found us.  About three hours of travel to the north and west brought us to a lake where Mark had stored a boat for his guide business.  By mid-morning I landed a nice rainbow.  This one was a leaper.  It jumped and thrashed until I felt sorry for it, but I brought it in anyway.   After two or three of these fighters, I was ready to hunt for something different, and Larry brought us a fish that was to be the focus of our attention for the rest of the trip.  It was a grayling.

I had heard of grayling, but I had never seen one before now.  It was troutish, but it had a dorsal fin that reminded me of a Mohawk haircut.  The fish weighed about three pounds, and overall was a nice looking fish with a bad barber.  Mark knew where to find more of them.

We motored over to a large inlet where a wide shallow river was emptying into the lake, and there we began our search along the weed beds for this interesting fish.  We found them quickly enough, and for the rest of the day, we brought in and released nothing but grayling, each weighing from two to three pounds.  Mark told us these fish usually group in large schools, and although they move about, they are always found in this area in quantity.

We stayed the night in the cabin of one of Mark’s friends, and early the next morning we were fishing again.  The grayling fishing didn’t get old or boring to me.  These fish with the strange dorsal fin were not easy to catch, but they were in abundance, and it wasn’t until that evening as were preparing to drive back to Calgary that I realized I had forgotten all about the rodeo.

The rodeo.  Back in Calgary I was riding to the airport in the back seat of a taxi when I noticed a cowboy hat blowing down the street.  Not far behind ran a cowboy trying in vain to outguess the wind’s effect on his hat.  Then I noticed where the hat would normally sit on the cowboy’s head was a Mohawk haircut.  I didn’t try to explain to the taxi driver what it was that made me laugh, but I’ve never looked at a cowboy the same again.

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