by Trevor Walker
My grandpa was a strong, proud man right up until his death on a cold December day last year. Only two days shy of his 94th birthday he gave up his struggle and left us. Born out of strong northern Ontario stock, he had a long and prosperous career with Ontario Hydro, and enjoyed a full and healthy retirement with my grandma. He loved to fish. He loved it as much as anything really, and when he and his brother, Jack, got together there was sure to be at least one outing for pike or speckles. We fished together quite a few times when I was young, and I still remember trying to mimic him- the way he held the rod, when we trolled, and gave it a twitch every so often to impart a certain, magical action, or the way he would squint into the sun and declare that it ďwasnít a bad day to be outĒ. Over the years I learned a lot from him, things that were quietly transmitted to my brothers and I, like how to hook a minnow for perch and how to grab a pike. We learned the value of that certain look, too. The one he would give, in conjunction with a well chosen excuse, to disarm even the most tyrannical of cynics. It takes decades to perfect, Iím still working on it.
Grandpa loved to troll. I think the lull of the motor and the rhythmical rocking of the boat gave him great comfort, I know it did for me. I would sit and watch grandpa as we trolled along; trying to imagine what kind of fish we would be if we were re-incarnated. Grandpa would be a pike, I thought, he just had that look- he was lean and strong and had a steely glare. He had a temper that made him potentially dangerous and he would be fast and free, and would swim deep and invisible. Yes, I liked the sound of that, and I would be a trout, I thought. Maybe a lake trout because they live so long and inhabit deep, cold and pristine lakes. Maybe I could be a speckled trout because they are so handsome, and they remind me of a wild and free place. On the other hand, they arenít the smartest fish, and everyone likes to eat them. And so went our adventures, with grandpa deciding where we would fish, and me deciding what fish we would be. It was a good match.
I still have grandpaís rod and reel; he gave them to me several years ago because he knew he wouldnít use them again. Itís a lively, red fibreglass rod with white wrappings, stainless guides and a cork grip. Iíve checked it over and it has no make on it, but itís still in good condition and has that feel that you can only get from a fibreglass rod. It seems fitting that this was his rod, graphite wasnít my grandpaís style. His reel of choice was a Zebco 33, a closed face, stainless spin-caster. I can just imagine him buying that reel- first he would squint at it from every angle, ask what the "%#&$" all these knobs and dials were for, then give it a few good raps on the counter, just to see how solid it was, ultimately deciding, in his nonchalant way, ďItíll doĒ. He was a practical man.
Some day, when we build a family cottage, Iíll retire grandpaís rod to a special place above the mantle, but for now it silently keeps company with all my other rods, biding itís time until the pull of another pike or the tug of just one more laker. Perhaps it dreams of a special fish, one that swims deep, one that it already knows- a friend from days gone by.
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