Of boys and the wilds of Canada: Learning about nature and reality

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Wawa, Ontario, May 28 2012—In the modern world , I fear, kids who grow up in big cities like Chicago come to believe that pork chops grow on trees and walleye filets come frozen and packaged by Mother Nature.

So it is a special pleasure for a granddad to go fishing in the wilds of Canada with grandsons ages 11, 11, and 13. To watch the hour-by-hour metamorphosis into real fishermen is a pleasure beyond words. When you hook a minnow onto a jig, pull in spawning walleyes beyond count, filet your catch on a remote shore, and enjoy a deep-fried walleye lunch while standing in a light rain, you have started to understand something about life and reality.

Mother Nature is really cruel only to the romantically naïve. The minnow or worm swallowed by the fish is a tragedy for the fish, but survival for the predator. In the beginning, at least, the fish caught meant survival for mankind, and in some places on earth still does.

This is written at 10:30 a.m. while waiting for the bush plane to get here from Wawa after a four-hour fog delay. The first flight on the day was delayed; we are scheduled for the second flight. (Bulletin: an Otter bush plane just landed on the lake a few minutes ago, meaning that I, my sons, and three grandchildren may get out on the second flight about 2 p.m. on a flight originally scheduled for 9:30)

Pine Portage Lodge is located on Lake Kabinagagami, some 70 miles from Wawa, accessible by float plane only. It opens shortly after the ice goes out in mid or late May, and it you are lucky it is still cold enough that you escape the black flies and mosquitoes. We were lucky this year.

This morning the departure temperature is about 55 degrees, while it will be 92 in Howell and 88 in Gaylord when we reach there. I am prepared: walking shorts and a short-sleeved shirt under heavier outer clothing. Like Superman, I will strip down for action when it becomes necessary.

I was delighted when sons Dan and Steve decided to bring their sons, Steve’s Drew, 11; and Dan’s Paul, 13, and Adam, 11. They will take back something precious from this taste of the wilderness. They didn’t get to see the mother bear and three yearling cubs that regularly hang round the camp, and the wolves are too wary to allow themselves to be seen, but a fox did pose for Drew’s camera, and the boys got to see a lordly bald eagle, reminding us all of America and Memorial Day.

At this time of the year, the walleye are running at the mouth of the river where we fish, and we caught (and released) literally hundreds of them over two days of fishing (we missed our first day because of bad weather). An occasional marauding pike went for a minnow and jig, glaring malevolently at the fisherman as he shook the fish off the hook and returned him to the water.

There are a lot of lessons here for the young ones. Maybe it is enough for them at this age to understand  that something about nature and survival, that the minnow that is devoured by the pike means another hour of life for the pike, while it is, of course, a tragedy for the minnow.

Or maybe it is enough that the kids just had fun—and they did.

About Stan Latreille 65 Articles

Stan Latreille is a novelist, blogger, lawyer, former newspaperman, and a retired Circuit Court judge. He is the author of “Perjury” and is working on a new novel, tentatively titled “Absolution.”