The dog is getting impish.
Relax, I tell her. As soon as the chores are done, we’ll go out.
By noon the tasks are complete. I make a lunch and stick it into the dry bag along with an extra pair of mitts and a bag full of milk bones, for Oona.
She’s a quick study.
Truck, I command.
She goes to it. I open the door.
Up, I say, keeping the commands simple.
She springs onto the passenger seat.
Good girl! I tell her, stretching out the uh in good and punctuating it with a treat to make the point forcefully.
We drive west on Halliwell. It’s cold. The sky is gray. Snow is falling high in the valleys. The Kalum is close. We have three hours to spend on the river, but that’s enough.
I drive the Deep Creek subdivision Road a far as the snow will allow and park. Oona spills out of the truck and begins working the place over with her nose. The day before the snow was hard. The day before that it was losing its carrying capacity. I take a few steps over it and jump up and down. It holds. The temperature is below 0. I decide to leave the snow shoes in the truck.
The sign warning of a hefty fine for ATV abuse that was at the trail head is gone. In its place is a smaller, more colourful posting that begs the vandals not to ravage salmon habitat with their hard rubber tires. The dog and I walk toward the river on the frozen tracks of an ATV.
There are other tracks. Deeply sunk ones recording trips made over softer snow, and snow shoe tracks. The dog fastens onto particularly appealing scents.
Come, I bark. Invariably she does, having earned many treats for this behaviour before. The tracks of a bull moose cross the trail. His glistening droppings indicate a recent crossing. I wait to see what the dog will do. I use a forceful NO! when she sniffs them. Moose droppings are like large rabbit pellets, but, as Doug pointed out, a dog shouldn’t get in the habit of scarfing down wildlife excretions because they could contain parasites.
The sound of the creek is in earshot. I find an empty coffee cup then an empty cigarillo package with a warning that smoke is poison on the front. I crush both then stick them in the front pocket of my waders.
We cross Deep Creek to the run of the same name. I haven’t fished it at all this year. There are tracks everywhere and a plastic bag with the brilliant pink remnants of roe cured with ProCure, the product made with sodium sulphite that has been proven lethal when ingested by salmonids. The kind of fishermen that leave refuse in the woods and fish bait illegally are products of this the Age of Entitlement which encourages the belief that a person should be entitled to rights without the burden of responsibilities or concern for others. The fate of juvenile salmonids is of no concern to these people.
I put the roe bag in my pocket and resent having to do it. Then I fish the run. I did well here in past winters, but not in recent winters. Since the subdivision development, the access is easier with the result that the place takes a pounding by folks like the felonious fisher with the cured roe. I don’t get a bite. Trout are fools for eggs, cured or uncured. Any trout or char that was there probably succumbed to bait.
I stop to eat my sandwich and sip tea. Then I pack up and make my way downstream. There is only one track. It was set down by a snowshoer. I follow it to where a side channel bisects the flat. It’s easily three metres to the bottom and there are no logs across it. The snowshoer’s track follows it. Clearly, he decided it wasn’t worth the effort to take off his snowshoes and struggle to the bottom of the channel then up the other side.
Oona and I can. We make our way to a spot where a bent alder allows us easy access to the bottom. Oona scoots across the ice. I crunch through it. We clamber up the embankment along a fissure in the snow. There are no tracks on the other side. We make our way to the run where Ron Tetreau drowned. There are no signs that it has been fished. I eagerly wade up to my ankles at the head of the riffle and send a fly out.
The water runs beautifully. My confidence increases, but something is wrong, something is out of synch. I realize my reel was silent when I pulled line from it. I look down. It’s free spooling. When I take it apart, I find the pawl has broken to bits. I haven’t a spare.
There’s nothing to be done, girl, I say. We’ve got to go home.