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Making Fishing Memories

Gord and Liam out on the water fishing and enjoying quality time together.

There's no better way to start spending time with your family and friends—why not make fishing when you spend quality time together?



Almost every fond memory I have as a kid growing up, has me holding a fishing rod. Oh, for sure, there are some with hockey sticks, footballs and baseball gloves, but the fishing memories—they are eternal and priceless. Nothing can take them from me. 

I’ll have to confess something else, too: Psychologists and mental health professionals tell us that when life is straining and you are feeling at wits end, you need a special place in your mind where you can go to chill out and relax. My special place is a little speck of water in the Haliburton Highlands of central Ontario, where my family had a cottage. When the world is unravelling around me, I can close my eyes and be on that little body of water in a heartbeat, in my 16-foot aluminum boat with the smoky 12-horsepower outboard motor, casting and trolling for walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, muskies, and pumpkinseeds.

Even today, just the slightest whiff of gas fumes mixed with humid air on a warm summer morning takes me back to that old boat.

Want to know something else? Many of my early childhood fishing memories have no fish in them. If that sounds contradictory, it really isn't, because what they do have are mind-boggling fishing experiences.

Like the time I decided to traipse into a distant backwater gem that the local Department of Lands and Forests at the time had stocked with speckled trout. I coaxed my dad into coming along with me: we motored across the lake into a large shallow, weedy bay, where we tied up the boat to shore and headed off on our fishing adventure.

I couldn't tell you today if we caught a limit of trout, or even a single fish. But I do remember that when we arrived back at the bay where we had secured the boat, we were on the wrong side. Yep, I'd taken a bad compass reading and we'd drifted off course. We had two options. We could spend the next hour walking around the cove, or take off our shoes and wade across the bay, like commandos, in water up to our arm pits.

To this day, I will never forget how carefree I felt when I stepped into the water in my socks and felt the ooze squish between my toes. Won't ever forget the smell of that black muck either.

I'd be lying, of course, if I said some of my fondest recollections didn't involve fish. But they were often of giants that I hooked and never landed. Like one of the biggest muskies I have ever seen.

I was no more than seven or eight years old and we were visiting my uncle Jack's log cabin on Lake Scugog, back in the days when people talked about going "up north" to the Kawartha Lakes.

My brother and I were so young at the time that we were only allowed to row out the leaky cedar strip boat 90 metres or so from the dock, where we would drop anchor and cast for hours using short four-foot long, pure steel baitcasting rods and noisy level wind reels spooled with thick black nylon line.

To both my shock and surprise, one of the biggest muskies I have ever seen struck my crankbait and I set the hook with all the force I could muster. Immediately, the fish dove and then, like an aquatic bull, charged the boat.  My brother and I were screaming like, well, little kids, and I was turning the handle on the reel to regain line as fast as I could.

That is when the two most implausible things happened. First, my father came out of the cottage running, down on to the dock, yelling "Give it line! Give it line!" And I remember thinking, Is he crazy? Give it line? I want to land this fish! So, I clamped my thumb on the spool to stop the fish from taking any more line and watched my steel rod bend over and snap in half. 

Then, the muskie went under the middle of the boat, came up on the other side, and leaped out of the water over the bow, snapping my line in the process. Who needs video games?

The details of each of these joyous fishing adventures are indelibly etched into my memory bank. I am betting you have scores as well. But for any number of reasons, usually work- and family-related, far too many years have passed since you picked up a fishing rod. It is possible, too, that you have always dreamed about going fishing but never had the opportunity or instruction to do it. Don't you think it is time to change all that?

Trust me when I say this: it has never been easier to start making fishing memories. It has never been more trouble-free to learn how to cast, hook a fish, drive a boat, or prepare shore lunch in a picture postcard setting. As a matter of fact, it is among the most affordable, rewarding, and entertaining things you can do either by yourself or with family and friends.

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