Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fishing With Tom

My brother Eddie glanced over from the passenger seat.

"You think I'm going to buy a stinking licence so I can fish for, what? 15 minutes once a year? Hah."

FISHING WITH ED: Everything we learned about the
sport, we learned from Tom.
He and I were two hours south of the cabin where we were meeting our two older brothers, Alex and Tom, for the fourth--and as it turns out final--"Carter Brothers' Annual Fishing Getaway."*

It was a summer Friday afternoon. Almost 20 years ago. In the context of the time, Eddie's comment was neither controversial nor surprising. Fact one: It was a new thing. For most of our lives up to that point, Ontario residents didn't need fishing licences. It just seemed a weird thing to have to think about.

Fact two: Ed's a realist. He knew, from a lifetime of fishing with Tom, the likelihood of engaging in any activity resembling fishing (much less catching an actual fish) was less than zero.

Me, I had my licence, but it might have been expired. I was pretty certain Alex's was legal and up to date. Turns out he thought so too. (This is an important detail to remember for later in the story when John Law shows up.)

Tom was carrying a licence, but it belonged to his son Hugh. Tom was not trying to trick anyone. Hugh at the time lived in Toronto and had renewed his licence but it had been mailed to his parents' home back in Elliot Lake. Tom was going to give me the licence to deliver to Hugh. I'm thinking Tom didn't have a licence of his own because he knew he wouldn't be fishing.

Ed, Tom, Alex and I arrived at the cabin just past suppertime Friday. Too late to fish.

CRIME SCENE: An artist's rendering (I did the drawing.)
So we had a few beer around the campfire and bragged about our nephews and nieces.

Next morning, I was out in the canoe, sort of fishing.

I was most likely not wearing a life jacket. And assuming I wouldn't need it because never in my life had I been asked to produce a fishing licence, I had left mine in my jean jacket pocket, back at camp.

I saw a small motorboat headed my way and knew immediately: Conservation officers.

They greeted me politely and asked where I was from and if I had a fishing permit. I said I did but it was back at camp. They said we'd go have a look see.

"Meet you back at your dock" they said.

For some reason, they didn't head directly to our camp, but headed across the river. I paddled as fast as I could and saw Ed fishing off the dock.

I yelled something like "Ed please go get my jacket so I can show the conservation officers my FISHING LICENCE!"

From then on, my memory's a little foggy. (The following play-by-play is a close approximation of what happened.)

Ed went up to the cabin to fetch my licence and Alex.

I pulled up to the dock; the COs arrived moments later, Ed and Alex came to the dock.

Tom, the wisest of the Carter brothers, stayed put 20 yards away, up beside the campfire.

I handed the COs my expired permit hoping for lenience, and Ed, when asked, handed over a piece of official-looking paper.

Meantime, Alex was happy that he was legit and proud that he had a licence but then the COs took him by surprise and told him it was expired. They told me mine was too and then said, "Tom what's your year of birth?"

That's not a mistake.

The conservation officer said "Tom, what's your year of birth?"

I didn't know why he was asking but figured Tom hadn't heard so I helpfully yelled "Tom! What year were you born?"

If Tom answered, I forget what he said.

But then it occured to me.

My nephew Hugh's name is actually Thomas Christopher Hugh and the CO was directing the question at Ed, who had handed him a fishing licence that said he was born in 1978, the year of Hugh's birth.

We all, save Tom, got busted.

It could have been a lot worse.

If the CO's wanted to, they could have confiscated our canoe and cars, but instead they leniently they just took our rods and reels and issued us a bunch of tickets for various infractions.

Our fishing weekend over, we packed up to head home.

Last thing I rememember was one of my brothers saying "Pete if you sell a story about this, I'm coming to your house and taking the money."

Something just occurred to me. Over the past however many years I've been alive, I learned a lot of really important life lessons while on fishing trips with Tom. I think I'm going to blog about a few more of them, soon.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Send a man out fishing with Tom, and you just never know. Stay tuned.

* No fish were harmed in the production of any of these expeditions.


  1. Now officially filed in the family archives hahaha

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