My Uncle Maurice taught me chess when I was nine. I became enthralled with the game and taught it to my friends so that I would have opponents handy. Later I learned that the Vancouver Chess Club met on Tuesday night of each week on Hornby Street just off Robson.
When I expressed a desire to go to the club, my Mom gave me the fifty cent bus fare required to get me from North Burnaby to Vancouver city centre and back, and off I went. I found the club in a run down tenement. The building reeked of stale tobacco smoke. I pushed open the door to the room and discovered men bent over tables, pushing pieces around chess boards embossed upon card tables. Since they had probably never had a nine-year-old show up at their club looking for a game, the members regarded me as a novelty and made a real effort to welcome me.
If I’d been born fifty years later and had the same inclinations, I’d be playing chess against players from all over the world via internet and sharpening my game by analyzing with, and playing against, super computers easily downloaded for free after a short Google search and capable of thrashing Garry Kasparov.
When I was in my teens, I had a keen interest in the music of the Renaissance, in particular the music of most popular instrument of that time, the lute. For examples, I had to search the bins of record stores for European recordings of lute music and burrow through guitar music catalogues in search of lute music transcribed for guitar. Today, thanks to that miraculous bit of cybertechnology called YouTube, I can find videos of every great lutist performing all the major repertoire for every kind of lute.
Naturally, YouTube has countless videos related to my other avocation, fly fishing, including superb instruction on how to tie flies. A week ago, while searching for an example of the wonderful Scotch fly tier, Davie McPhail, dressing a Spey fly, I noticed a video of Oliver Edwards on the sidebar.
I knew of Oliver from his book Oliver Edwards’ Flytyers Masterclass, a superb production containing the most uncannily realistic renditions of aquatic insects you will find anywhere. There is no picture of Edwards in the work, but the video showed a middle aged Englishman standing thigh deep in a rocky stream in the highlands, wearing tweeds, just as I’d imagined he’d look.
The work was clear and to the point, exemplifying the proper way to present the wet fly. It was an extremely helpful short demonstration. I rode the electronic surf to the next video, one that had Edwards standing in amidst the current-bent weeds of a chalk stream. Presentation is everything in these limestone streams where the trout are notoriously fussy and easily spooked. He demonstrated how to pick up a dry fly without disturbing the surface. This clip, too, was a concise and helpful bit of useful instruction offered well.
Below this video was one by Scott Howell. Scott is a fine guy and accomplished fisherman who, when he was working for Tony Sarp in Alaska, and teamed up with a bombastic steelheading blond named Raquel, spent a few falls and winters in Terrace under Dave Elkins’ roof, soldiering forth each day to chase steelhead. After Scott and Raquel parted ways, he met Alex Hamilton, a charming young woman who worked for this paper. The two are married and have two kids. They live in Oregon where Scott runs a guiding business.
Scott, wearing a hat with a Nike Swoosh and T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a San Francisco tackle company, went on to extoll the catching properties of his new invention, a fly he calls The Squidro.
I have some friends up in BC, says Scott, who are crunching them on this fly, he says holding up a six inch long lure that looks like a lurid hoochie, the latex squid imitation favoured by commercial trollers.
Scott is confident that the primary food source of steelhead during the marine phase of their life is squid. This assumption, though widespread among anglers from the Western US, is by no means certain. Still, it was the idea behind the creation of the Intruder style steelhead flies, all of which are huge lures with heavy bead eyes articulated shanks, and short shanked salmon hooks trailing behind.
The contrast between Oliver Edwards’ videos and Scott’s was dramatic. Where Edwards humbly laid out useful information for the edification anglers, Scott’s clip was an infomercial driven by branding and marketing intended to promote the Brand that is Scott Howell and sell product. One emphasized fishing. The primary concern of the other was catching.