We meet at the Northern Motor Inn, Claude, Jean Pierre and I. The waitresses deal us a fine Canadian breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee.
Bien, say Claude and JP as they daub their lips with a serviette at the end of their petite déjeuner. When they get up to leave I notice they don’t leave a tip – not a sou.
They didn’t tip you? I ask Karen as JP and Claude cross he parking lot to the truck they’ve rented.
Karen looks at me sheepishly,
No they didn’t Rob, she says, I think they think the tip is built into the price of the meal, like it is in France.
Probably so, I say handing her a ten dollar bill, but when in Rome, or Thornhill, I think to myself, do as the denizens do. We drive up the Copper River Main, JP, Claude and I. I’m at the wheel because I insist on it. The rental truck has no radio and because of this, has no business being on an active logging road, but I have thirty years’ experience navigating such roads, and, therefore, a better chance of avoiding the grill of a logging truck than do the neuro surgeons.
We dodge four trucks before reaching the Clore confluence. Apparently there are no more trucks above that, so I breathe a sigh in relief. My clients seem oblivious to the danger we have left behind.
We’ll start here, I tell them after parking next the Red Rock Pool. The choice being easy since every pool before that had fishermen.
The fishing, as my good friend and rabid Canuck fan, Steve, would say, is stupid. The fish are busting through the surface after mayflies as if they are trout. This happens seldom, almost never, but it is happening now, happening in spades, and these two French doctors haven’t a clue to how lucky they are or a clue to how to fish the extraordinary hatch. After watching them fumble the ball over and over again, I am forced to grab one of their rods, tie on a dry fly, and hook a steelhead at the end of a long free float. At this gesture they are persuaded to clip the foot long leeches off their tippets and join the program.
At day’s end, they’ve done well. We clamber aboard the rental truck and I promptly bury the right side wheels in a soft shoulder. The truck won’t budge and the Frenchmen are Frantic.
What will we do? asks the older of the two.
We’ll wait, I say, getting an inkling of the despair city dwellers feel in the bush. This pair of Parisians live in the paved over, crowded, completely artificial and arranged environment of urban Europe. Travelling long distances and seeing nobody makes them worry about breaking down. Things we take as a commonplaces, like flat tires or driving icy roads, or getting stuck in ditches, they see as dangerously chaotic.
I try to calm them. It’s ok, I say. Someone will come, but they continue to babble in rapid fire French, and, if anything, they get more worked up.
A fisherman in a beat up Toyota sedan that shouldn’t be driven on logging roads pulls up. I ask him if he has a rope. He says, no.
I don’t think you have enough stuff to pull out a truck this big anyway, I say. But thanks.
At this les deux médecins are on the verge of apoplexy, but before their heads explode, a ragged pickup carrying a tidy tank and driven by a pair of fallers appears and pulls alongside.
Looks like you got trouble, observes one, his wool shirt flecked with saw dust.
Got rope? I ask.
Nope. Gotta chain though.
The Doctors seem mystified by the laconic exchange. As one faller connects the chain to the back of their truck and stoops down to connect the other end to the rental truck, the French stare in wide eyed wonder. As the chain tightens and trucks start to move they inexplicably began screaming in their mother tongue and waving their arms. The driver stops and looks back at me.
I shake my head and twirl my index finger round my right temple, the international gesture of lunacy.
Ignore them, I say.
In moments the rental is back on the road.
Thanks, man. I say.
It’s all good, he replies.
After a huddle the doctors tell me that they will drive back. I beg them to reconsider, but in vain. One climbs behind the wheel and races toward civilization at over 80 clicks as I wish I believed in a god so that I could pray.