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Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

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Day four in Manitoba was all about fishing. We had been allowed to languish in bed until nine if needed and then the plan was to have breakfast, load up our gear, and head to the river. I was not what you might call an experienced angler. Up until I had married my ex-husband truth was I had never cast a line in the water. Actually, that is incorrect. I did catch a flounder as I recall on a rare outing with my first stepfather. When I had excitedly hauled my fish in the boat he told me flounders were bottom feeders not fit for eating and I would need to toss it back. I was to find out years later, flounder was not only tasty but good for you. I was nine. I caught a fish while he, an experienced fisherman, did not. We weren’t exactly close. I’ll save this story for my next therapy session.

My people really weren’t outdoorsy. The one and only time I ever went camping with my mother was in Yosemite. I was a freshman in high school. In order to coerce her outdoors, my stepfather had to rent a high end travel trailer which was where she spent 90% of her time during that week enjoying martinis in her wedgies. Meanwhile, my stepbrother and I were rafting down the Yosemite river, panning for gold, and watching the fire fall at sunset. My mother’s idea of roughing it would be to stay at a hotel without room service. She always described herself as a “hothouse flower” and that is fine. Everyone has their niche to fill. I adore my mum so whatever venue she chooses to make her happy, makes me happy as well.

So, at precisely nine fifteen I arrived in the kitchen at the farm to enjoy one of Chris’s excellent breakfasts. Not to disappoint, I found Ray and Bob J. already seated at the table shoveling in some really delicious looking Belgium waffles. Yum. After clearing the syrup from my lips, I applied lip gloss and sunscreen, grabbed a ball cap for extra coverage, and headed for the decided meeting spot by the barn door. The two Bob’s were already by the truck loading up fishing gear, a cooler, some folding stools, and a water cooler. Though still early, the sun, already hot against my back, was letting me know it was just gearing up for its day.

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The area we were going, as it turned out, wasn’t too much of a drive. The truck could only take us so far, however, after that I was told, we would need to walk in the rest of the way.  Parking under some trees for shade, we unloaded the bed. Bob P. said we had about a forty-five minute hike to the river. Since I was a girl I was given the lighter items to carry such as poles and the tackle box, while the men hauled the heavy cooler between them with the other items piled on top. Sometimes it pays to be female. The underbrush was quite dense in spots and insects were prolific. I had doused myself with insect spray before leaving the house which seemed to keep them at bay. At some points the drop off on one side of the trail was very steep. Several times I nearly lost my footing when stepping across loose rocks and gravel. Holding the poles in one hand and the tackle box in the other didn’t leave me much to balance with. Just when I was starting to feel tired the men signaled to me from up ahead we were going downward from the path. Oh. The bank angled straight down in this area. I could hear the water flowing below and see the river through the gaps in the trees so knew we were getting close to our destination, or at least to the river itself. Yay. Bob J. was first down the side of the hill with Bob P. following close behind. They slid more than walked down the slick slope with the cooler sort of careening along in the middle. Bob J. yelled for me to watch my footing. As the words reached my ears, I took my first step down the hill pushing through a matted patch of greenery.  I stepped into the air beyond where I stood, which was all that was available at the time to step into. Suddenly I was airborne, soaring like a flying squirrel floating from one tree limb to another. Both men watched in amazement as I sailed past them landing with a loud splat in the middle of the river. The impact, thankfully more frightening than hurtful, caused me to release what I was holding as well as all the air in my lungs. Lying there wet, embarrassed and gasping for breath I watched as the bait box bobbed and weaved in the current. Bob J. was quickly in hot pursuit as the poles were beginning to submerge where they landed. Whoops. The only thing wounded on me was my pride and a scrape on my elbow fortunately. After checking me out for injuries and finding me in one piece, the two men just shook their heads. Unspoken but hanging in the air were the words “women, right?”

After all our floating gear was recovered, we located a good spot along the river to set up “camp” for the day. The lush foliage around the water’s edge afforded us some shade, a blessing since the sun now high in the sky was taking no prisoners. Whew. Bob P. helping me load my hook with a fresh worm, I cast my line in the water and settled in to wait for a tug. I have to admit that eviscerating a worm is not my favorite pastime so whether it was more “girl” stuff or not I allowed the men to do the dirty work for me. My ex used to tell me the worms don’t feel a thing. Uh-huh. It didn’t look like it felt good to me, and I’ve never read an affidavit from a worm confirming that it did.

I caught three small fish that day.  When I pulled the first one in Bob P. said it was crappy. Pardon me? Turns out this was not an assessment of my fishing skills but that they were all crappy, or rather black crappie, a popular pan fish and quite delicious when tossed in a frying pan. About one o’clock we opened the cooler and helped ourselves to a lunch consisting of wonderful sandwiches Chris had provided for us. Secretly I was determined to bring her back to California with me to have her cook for me for the rest of my life. Delicious bread piled high with thin slices of meat and fresh vegetables from the garden. Along with her other gifts, Chris had a way with yeast and flour baking them into the most wonderful grainy breads. Our sides were potato salad, coleslaw and a colorful fresh fruit salad, which in the heat was a particularly welcome treat.  The Boys, tossed down a few cold ones and threw in a few fishing stories, while I stuck to the container of lemonade included in the cooler to keep me level headed for the hike back to the car.

Bob P. filled me in some of the missing spots of his life after a brew or two. His wife, Bob J.’s mom, had passed away some ten years back. Like Bob J. and Anna, he told me, he and his lovely Lizzie had been married right of school.  Actually, she was married right out of school with Bob P. leaving school in tenth grade to help his parents with the farm. He had done his time in the military during “Nam”, as he put it, but didn’t offer any further information about his experiences there. A silence fell over him on mentioning that period of his life. Guess that said enough. Sometimes a lot can be revealed in silence. I can still picture the military cemetery where my father was buried. White crosses spreading for miles in every direction. So much loss.

Bob P. knew nothing but farming, and didn’t seem to care to. This land, these crops, his family were to be the patches in the quilt of his life. No more, and no less. That seemed, to my eyes at least, to be sufficient for him. He talked about the rough times, when crops were ruined by weather and money was tight, or when Lizzie got sick, and then when he lost her, but when he spoke of the farm and the land a sort of peace settled over him which I found quite lovely. I would hope I could find that kind of contentment in my life at some point.

A breeze came up as it had every day since my arrival making the trip back to the car less arduous. The three of us talked easier in the cab of the truck on the drive home. Sharing part of you with others helps to form the beginning of the bonds that bring us together as friends. At the ranch the little girls were waiting for me when we drove in the yard. Eva slipped her hand into mine and said she would take me to the much promised puppies. Dawn, not one to be ignored took my other hand and the two girls guided me to an old shed behind the barn. Pushing open the wooden doors we stepped inside. A fan was whirring loudly in one corner where a blanket had been laid out. What looked to be a large hound dog or similar breed lay on top of the blanket next to seven or eight tiny fat bodies all feet and tails looking to be enjoying their afternoon siesta. How sweet they were. The mama, I had been told, was named Ariel after the Little Mermaid. What a gentle lady she was. Checking me out thoroughly and seeming not to find me wanting, she allowed me to kneel down and pick up one of her babies and cuddle him to me. How I love puppies with their little blurry eyes and their sweet milk breath. I wished I could tuck this little man in the folds of my suitcase and take him on the plane with me. The puppies had no names yet, Eva informed me. Chris explained later they name them when they personalities begin to emerge, a ritual the girls are very much a part of. Eventually homes will be found for the majority of the litter. If one stands out as a good working dog he or she may be kept for the farm. Dogs are not pets on a working farm apparently. They are treated well, and loved as part of the group but they do not come in the house and put in their hours along with everyone else. Several cats were present in the yard as well. The felines were there for rodent control and only one, Sam, almost sixteen could be seen languishing on a chair in the family room or enjoying his evening meal in his bowl in the kitchen. He had put in his time working and was now free to take pleasure in his retirement.

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Another wonderful day was put to bed along with tired and well browned me. The day to following would be busy so sleep was essential and it didn’t take long for my eyes to close after turning out the night. I was heading into the midpoint of my trip. Day five was on the horizon.

 

 

 

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My internal alarm woke me up at 5:30 this morning. I poured a cup of coffee and sat out on the deck enjoying the gray light of the encroaching dawn in the company of a plump squirrel who was busy scurrying around the base of our palm tree and a few buzzing no-see-um’s hovering about my ears. It was a Folger’s moment.

Our lake is packed this weekend with holiday water lovers so lights twinkle from houseboat windows here and there and at night it sounds like a tribe of warring Sioux have set up camp on our hillsides. It doesn’t bother me, the noise that is, I could sleep through the house sliding down the hill and into the water and still only turn over on my opposite side and catch another hour or so.

My enthusiasm for the early morning hours is not shared by my other half, and certainly not the inordinate amount of energy I seem to possess at that time of the day. For him, putting away dishes at 6:00 a.m. is, at the very least annoying, and although he can’t find it on the books he’s convinced there’s probably an ordinance prohibiting such a primitive practice. As his head often doesn’t hit the linen until after 2:00 in the morning we often share a cup of coffee in the wee hours and then he goes off to bed while I begin my day.

I walk two miles every other morning at the dam close to the house. This morning was no exception except that since I was up, I arrived just after 6:00 a.m. rather than my normal time of 7:00. There was a slight breeze coming off the water and the promise of a sunny day was evident in the orangey yellow glow just behind the ridge. Absolutely peaceful and great for getting your head on straight before the world and all it brings with it catches up with you.

Two options as far as view are available across the dam. On one side the lake and the foothills surrounding it, and on the other side the deep drop down to the valley floor below and the Feather River and beyond that a view of the valley that seems to stretch straight out to the Pacific Ocean.

Fisherman were obvious in the distance even this early with their running lights reflecting on the water. One boat, closer to shore than the others, sent a murmur of conversation through the air from time to time as I made my way along the path. At one point a flock of geese broke the silence in a V-formation then headed off noisily in a northerly direction. Other than that, there was no sound but that of my feet moving along the asphalt.

I miss fishing. Sadly I don’t even have a pole anymore. My first fish was hooked when I was thirty-eight. As a little girl in Nova Scotia literally surrounded by fishing villages with fishing boats everywhere you looked I never dropped a line. My people were not really the outdoorsy type, although my grandfather loved the beach and we would spend hours walking there. I mean the type of humans that would wake up at 5:00 a.m. and wade through cold water and reeds to go duck hunting.

In my early thirties my second husband and I owned a lovely A-frame cabin in Bass Lake, California which is about 25 mins. from the Yosemite basin. I cast a line from time to time off the deck there, but nothing beneath the water showed much interest in doing anything about it and I probably didn’t either, so we let it go as a draw and that was that.

In 1989 I found myself unexpectedly living in Longview, Washington which is just across the Oregon border on the southern end of the state. Silver Lake was an easy drive from Longview, and is touted as one of the best large mouth bass lakes in that part of Washington. The lake sits in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. When we were there you could see the trees scattered like pick-up sticks all along the hillsides. It was an eerie feeling, giving you a real understanding for what those inhabitants who were close by had to deal with when the mountain decided to show its muscle.

My third husband (please refer to your scorecards) was from Texas and an expert fly and fresh water fisherman. No woman of his was going to be ignorant about casting a line or sharing the experience of floating quietly in a boggy marsh before the sun shows its face and, it seemed, I was to be no exception. Anything to do with the water has me signing up right away, so very early on a Saturday we packed a lunch, our fishing gear, two rods and our Shih Tzu, Sushi (no, she was not extra bait) and headed toward the lake.

Launching the metal boat with the small I/O was easy, and before long we were enjoying a hot cup of coffee in our thermos lids and floating silently among the rushes. He taught me much about fishing. In truth I’ve always been dreadful at impaling the poor worm, but I must say I love the lazy movement of the bobber on the surface of the water as a fish teases the bait and the feeling of setting the hook and bringing in your catch. It kind of makes you feel like you could survive if you needed to on what was provided for you to do so. We threw back what we didn’t need and kept the rest for the grill that evening.

That day we caught Crappie and bass and that night we fileted them and well seasoned they presented themselves on our plates with slices of lemon and sprigs of rosemary. Yum, truly.

This recipe I reserve for special occasions as saffron is an expensive ingredient. It’s worth it though believe me.

Special Occasion Scallops

1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. curry powder
1 shallot, finely diced
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 oz. white wine
1/2 tsp. tarragon
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 1/4 tsp. lime juice
1 qt. sour cream
3 1/2 lbs. scallops, muscle removed
1/4 cup water
1 oz. chicken soup base
3 strands saffron
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Combine water, soup base and saffron and heat separately.

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add curry powder and shallot. Cook over low heat about 5 mins. Whisk in flour and cook an additional 5 mins. Add wine and blend well. Allow mixture to thicken. Stir in soup base/saffron/water mixture. Add tarragon, and both peppers. Add sour cream in 2 cup increments heating between each addition. Put through fine strainer, add parsley and cool.

Place scallops in casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Pour sauce on top and place in refrigerator to marinate for 24 hrs.

Remove from refrigerator. Sprinkle with cheese. Place in 500 degree oven for 10-12 mins.

Serves 8.

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Nova Scotia, as I’ve said many times in my writing, has some of the most incredibly beautiful coastlines, as well as sleepy fishing villages seemingly untouched by the passing years.  I grew up there until my ninth year and have visited many times since still to find these small, colorful villages much the same as when I first saw them through my young eyes.  People that I’ve met on my travels who have taken the opportunity to explore what the province has to offer, have always sung its praises, as I frequently do.

My grandfather was a urologist with a busy practiceMy grandmother ran the house with a heavy hand.  All linens were pressed, and cloth napkins were expected at the table.  Cooking was her passion, with the kitchen being the pulse of our home.  She never drove, but road trips were her favorite form of recreation, and we went as often as my grandfather could pull himself away from his patients.  I can’t speak for her, but I can imagine that being unable, or perhaps seriously unwilling to drive a vehicle would at some point become very confining, so she embraced every opportunity for us to hit the road. 

Summers were often short-lived in Nova Scotia, and certainly did not reach the temperatures that we experience here on the west coast of the U.S.  My grandfather was with me the first six years of my life, dying young at the age of sixty-five. Often during our summers together he rented a small cottage on Hubbard’s Beach.  The cottage was rustic and its wood well weathered by the sea air.  There was a large front porch and deck area with stairs leading to the sandy beach just beyond. I loved it there.  At night as I closed my eyes the salty smell of the Atlantic sifted through the screens and the sounds of the waves crashing along the shoreline lulled me to sleep.

During the day we took long walks along the beach gathering shells and driftwood to take home as mementos of our time there.  Some days my grandmother and I would gather wild blueberries in tin baskets which she would later blend into sweet muffins for breakfast. 

My grandfather outwardly an austere man, was actually imbued with a well-honed sense of humor.  Although not prone to laughing out loud he would chuckle quietly when his funny bone was tickled. The seriousness, I would suppose, might have come from a physician, or maybe just the nature of the man himself.  From the moment he first held me, my mother says he was hooked, and I adored him right back.  When he took my small hand in his larger one, I never felt afraid or alone.  Blessed with an innate kindness and humanity which he shared easily with his patients and fellow beings that I haven’t seen in many others in my lifetime, and certainly rarely in the medical professionals that I deal with today.

I love the water, so my first order of business was to get into it.  Living in such close proximity to the ocean in Halifax, I was taught to swim as soon as I gave up my pacifier.   Not having a raft available, my grandfather gave me an inflated “donut”, a device they he used to provide comfort for hemorrhoid patients.  It worked for me, what did I know?  Bathing suit on, donut under my arm, I waded into the cool water under the watchful eye of my grandfather who was sitting under a beach umbrella. I rose and fell in the swells enjoying the warm sun on my face.  I noticed something floating in the water close by that looked to be a large flower. Suddenly as if appearing out of nowhere there were hundreds of flowers all around me.  As one blossom drifted closer to my donut, I could see it was not a flower at all, but rather a large diaphanous jellyfish.   They filled the sea around me like an army of alien creatures.  There were so many of them, and quite beautiful to see.  Alarmed yelling came from the direction of the beach and I looked up to find my grandfather wading towards me uncharacteristically undignified with his pant legs rolled up and straw hat askew.  I was plucked up into his arms and taken out of the water to safety.  From what I understand their stings are similar to a bee sting, but I must say being in the middle of this school of them was quite an experience. 

People ask me often where I find stories to write, I always answer “they find me”. 

My cousin gave me this recipe.  It is reserved for company at our house because the saffron is expensive, but essential to the color and taste.  Enjoy.

Fishermen Scallops

1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. curry powder
1 shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 oz. dry white wine
1/2 tsp. tarragon
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
4 cups sour cream
3 1/2 lbs. scallops, muscles removed
1/4 cup water
1 oz. chicken soup base
3 strands saffron

Combine water, chicken soup base, and 3 strands saffron and heat separately.

Melt butter in large saucepan. Whisk in curry powder and shallot. Cook 5 mins. over low heat. Whisk in flour gradually and cook 5 mins. more. Add wine and mix well continuing to cook over low-med heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in water, chicken soup base and saffron mixture. Add tarragon and pepper. Add sour cream 1/2 at a time, heating between each addition. Strain and cool.

Place scallops in lightly buttered casserole dish. Pour cooled sauce over the top and marinate for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bake on center rack for 10-12 mins. Serves 8. Yummy.

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