From Ottawa to Big Rideau Lake, Sir Bryan made with Ghillie Bob, his stalwart keep,
Their quarry was the Laker... elusive denizen of the deep.
Bob led the fearless duo ‘cross Ontario’s verdant plains,
To launch at Hudson Bay, of famed explorer named.
Bob threaded worm and hooked the bait... pan fish of sun and crappie ilk;
While Bryan pulled harness and calmed their mount to purr of silk.
A faint morning sun was slowly sapping life from mists of dawn,
As silver steed sliced through steely grey in her flecked-foam wake of haste towards the Northern Shore.
The Northern Shore is a bastion, ramparted by ochre rock,
Of timeless age, a granite shield raised to glacier attack.
Wind-scalped pines align these haunted bulwarks where doe and fawn belie.
Here shadows of ancients beckon with echoes of raven and wolf;
Splash of paddle recalls voyageur quests for beaver pelt and western gold.
Here fevered Irish blood was spilled in Scottish stoneman’s thrall:
Both bent their backs and Rideau’s mighty will to By’s Victorian call.
Here osprey spears fry with talons razor sharp;
And here dark loon, diver of abyss, wails curse of death on all who would assail.
The western sky was clouded high with mountains of turbulent white;
A distant funnel of grey flashed and rumbled warnings for stormy flight.
Past buoy sentinel to laker lair, they rode on, course charted by human star;
Tailed baited Johnny Greens and silver threads they laid into murky fathoms there.
As a blooded sun rose from eastern cloud towards its noontide zenith,
The fates of several lonely greys were sealed in Ghillie Bobbie’s creel.
But then a strike that veered the steed; Neptune’s challenge was at hand!
Sir Bryan reigned in and calmed his raging, silver mount,
Ghillie Bob withdrew his armour from the plain of battle blue.
The silver thread grew tight and taunt and throbbed with tug and pull,
Smoke burned from screaming clutch cinch as from a dragon of yore.
Time hovered on that fulcrum of capture and escape,
As Ghillie Bob lowered the snare, his hand it did not shake!
The monster head rose from the depths, bare-jawed with teeth agape.
The barb was sunk; the blood line flowed, and still the body wrathed.
But Ghillie Bob no quarter gave and scooped it to its grave.
The gulls above gave requiem to the death of a mighty foe;
The fearless duo in silence sat before the photo show!
A Context for “A Laker Saga”
The Rideau Canal Waterway (http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/history/hist-canal.html) is a 202 kilometre (125 mile) long National Historic Site of Canada, a Canadian Heritage River and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It consists of a series of hauntingly beautiful lakes and rivers connected by canals stretching from Kingston, at the foot of Lake Ontario, to Ottawa, Canada's capital. Maintained by the Canada's Parks Service, it is arguably the most scenic waterway in North America. Opened in 1832, it is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. Its construction was conceived after the War of 1812 when American threatened to invade Canada. It was intended to provide a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston by way of the old voyageur fur trader route up the Ottawa River, thus avoiding the vulnerable St. Lawrence River route. In 1826, Lieutenant Colonel John By of Queen Victoria’s Royal Engineers was assigned to supervise the construction through a wilderness of rough bush, swamps and rocky Canadian Shield terrain. The system of 47 masonry locks and 52 dams is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and a tribute to the craftsmanship of Scottish stone masons and the sweat of Irish “navvy” labourers, many of whom died from complications of swamp fever, a form of malaria. Big Rideau Lake is one of the larger lakes whose water level is maintained by the Rideau Waterway System. Big Rideau is famous for excellent bass, crappie and lake trout fishing and is surrounded by forested deer yards and the fertile valley of the River Tay at Perth to the north.
Bryan Cook and Bob Presland went lake trout fishing on Big Rideau Lake at dawn on July 20th, 2010 from the launch at Hudson Bay at the westerly end of the lake near the Long Narrows Lock, cutting past the main channel marker buoy and following our GPS for depth, direction and speed to what is locally known as the north shore cliffs. The traditional fishing technique is very slow steel long- lining with a “Johnny Green” curved spoon with a pan-fish tail mounted on a treble hook and bounced along the bottom.
Several lakers and one trophy inspired Bryan to write “A Laker Saga”. It is in mini epic, saga style with tongue in cheek; somewhat freeform with hints of Chaucer, Spencer, Beowulf and Service but no pretentions to match such lofty prose. It’s meant to be recounted like any good fishing tale. We just had fun fishing in our little, aluminum boat and 9.9 horse motor!
Ghillie (edited from Wikipedia) is Scottish for an attendant on fishing, fly fishing or a hunting or deer stalking expedition, primarily in Scotland in the Highlands or on a river such as the Spey. A ghillie may also serve as a gamekeeper employed by a landowner to prevent poaching, control unwelcome natural predators such as fox or otter and monitor the health of the wildlife on his lands. The ghillie was the most knowledgeable person about the location, availability and habits of the quarry, be it fish or game.