Friday, August 2, 2019

Fishing with Tom II: Miracle of the loafers and fishes

The cops waved us over to the side of the road, walked to the back of our station wagon, opened the tailgate, loaded in I believe two cases of beer, and sent us on our way.

You read that correctly.

The policemen gave us back beer that they had confiscated less than an hour earlier and let us go.

Amazing but true.

I was 16. I remember because just a few months earlier, I went from being a skinny kid with no life to being useful! I had a driver’s licence. Once I could drive, I could be — although they hadn’t invented the term yet — the 
Me, Ed, Pat, Tom Sr., Tom Jr. or Alex going fishin' 
designated driver for my older brother Tom and his buddies.

I’ve always really looked up to Tom, who's about 11 years older than me, and I wanted to hang out with him and his pals Moe, Joe, Brian, Don, Tom, Gerard and the others. They owned cars and played guitars.  

They travelled and went hunting and had girlfriends. And they always seemed to be laughing. And singing.

They also fished.

So — and remember this was a long time ago —  with me behind the wheel of whatever car they were using, Tom and his gang could sit in the back and dri… I mean, prepare to fish.

 I got to go on all sorts of adventures I wouldn’t have otherwise been part of.

Trips that were fun and educational, too.

There was, for instance, one late May fishing trip to a fishing camp near a little crossroads called Gogama, about 100 clicks north of our hometown of Sudbury.

That trip, I learned how to tie a boat to a car roof rack in such a way that when you cornered just so, the boat would gently slide off the racks and down over the passenger side doors but not so far as to hit the ground.  

I also learned that sometimes in Gogama, in late May, it snows, and by the time you get to the fishing spot, it’s too cold to do anything but turn around and go home again.  

But that wasn’t the night the cops gave us our beer back.

The beer-back night, we were in my father’s 1972 Ford station wagon and headed to the Whitefish River about 50 miles west of Sudbury to do some smelt “fishing.”  

The reason for the quotes marks is twofold: First, going after tiny river-swimming creatures called smelt shouldn’t count as fishing because all you do is stand on the shore and dip a long-handled net into the water and pull it out again, full of little fishies. The only skill a person fishing for smelt needs is the ability to not fall into the water.  

The other reason for the quote marks?

When we Carters went fishing, it didn’t suck to be a fish.

In other words, somewhere, at this very moment, in a Northern Ontario lake, a couple of 45-year-old pikes are reminiscing about how frightened they and their pike buddies didn’t get when they heard through the fish grapevine that a Carter was going fishing.

But smelts? They had reason to fret.

Smelt fishing in those days, should have been called standing on the shore drinking.  The fun was in hanging around a fire and, as my brother Pat used to say, "trading lies." Dipping the net in the river once in a while was a distraction. Smelt was the only kind of fishing I (or any other Carter) was any good at.  And that’s what we were headed to the Whitefish River to do.

There I was in the driver’s seat while Tom and his pals were aft, drink…I mean warming up.

Just before we got to the river, a cop flags me down. I pull over, roll down my window and he asks where we’re going. I tell him, “smelt fishing.”

“Do you have any beer in the car?” He didn’t have to ask.

We opened the tail gate, the policeman removed two two-fours and told us to have a good time.

We drove five more minutes to the river.  I don’t recall whether anybody took time out from their busy evening to dip a net into the water; we pretty much got to the river and turned around to go home.

I think it was the first time in history that anybody ever got skunked smelt fishing.

A few miles later, the police — God bless them — flagged us down all over again and, believe it or not, gave the boys back their beer.

The fact that nothing bad happened verged on the miraculous.

Fishing with Tom is always one surprise after another. Unless you’re a fish.


  1. What great memories you have, and what story telling gifts you have ...

  2. The temps are better, the forage thinks so too, and sunlight/UV rays will be more dispersed. This is the most difficult time to find wiper, and you really need to put your time in and get to know a lake for its structure and tendencies. Often experimentation and time on the water will be the primary key to your success.