We burnt out on the May long weekend a few years back, having been blown, rained and bugged out, even snowed-in too many times over the years.
But how could we resist being out in our special world when the end of the whole world was predicted for May 21st? Add to that the extended family planning a woodathon with chain saws and a log splitter, and we just had to go.
If that all wasn’t lure enough, a fellow stump rancher reported catching a 40 cm brown trout on a Crystal Bugger in the high, cold and cloudy creek, and claimed he saw a few March brown mayflies and fewer early brown stoneflies and that the presence of a few marsh marigolds should mean hatching green drake mayflies over on the North Raven River. On the fungus front, he struck out on morels, despite a laughable government publication that says our west country bursts with them at this time of year, but predicted recent showers should bring some on.
By nine a.m. world’s end day, Beau, my Brittany, barked, beeped at, and then pointed the first trespassers who were spin fishing the creek and having no luck. That is too early in the day to fish most creeks in most months in this country, because the water has not yet warmed up enough to activate aquatic insects and the trout that eat them.
Unusual for any long weekend out here, I did not see or hear one ATV, but our chainsaws and splitter may have been drowning them out. When our machines fell silent about mid-afternoon, it was so sunny and warm that I wondered aloud about trying a cast or two, which got the immediate attention of Brendan Marple, who had arrived with spinning rod set up.
Down at the Night Hole, the kid made several excellent but fruitless casts with a variety of lures into the most reliable hole I know — when it is not running high, dark and cold. On the way back to the cabin, Brendan told me he really wants to learn to fly fish, so I made a solemn promise. A man should pass on whatever he can before he dies.
The rime on the aspens of their new lime green leaves lures me down trails that can be treacherous at this time of year. We were starting down the hill on the trail to the Swimming Hole when someone down there waved us back. That someone had broken the family rule that you never start on such trails without making sure your rig is in 4WD and was royally stuck. He hiked back to the cabin and got my thick and stretchy 15 meter nylon tow rope, with which the other rig down there catapulted him out of the gumbo.
Late afternoon, the splicer of that magic tow rope and his spouse dropped by. They had been hunting morels and reported finding a few, but they were so tiny that the whole day’s harvest fit the palm of his hand; by contrast the poisonous false morels (Gyromitra esculenta) were everywhere and huge.
During dinner, it darkened, rained, and then quickly cleared. But it was a warming shot we intended to heed.
At 5 a.m. Sunday I woke to the same sound of the creek that had lulled me to sleep. Either I was in heaven, or the world hadn’t ended. Whatever, I got a coffee, and, with camera, went out and about. Deer of both species were everywhere as the sun rose, enjoying their greening world. I felt briefly sad for all the yearlings who are soon to be “orphaned” when their mothers drive them off in favour of their new fawns.
Beau and I were lured by those greening aspens down yet more of those treacherous trails. One neighbour had to saw his way in to his place, the result of recent high winds, and then found a huge falling pine had narrowly missed totaling a trailer.
Beside an old gravel pit, on public land, was a huge rural slum of random campers. The Mitchell Lake day use area was full of overnight campers.
When, oh when are we going to institute an annual licence fee for all public land users, campers, hikers, foragers, boaters, bikers, canoeists, etc., not just anglers and hunters, so that the funds are available for the enforcement of the laws protecting our public lands? We were back in Red Deer before noon on Sunday, and spent the afternoon engaged in that other May Long recreation — getting the “crop” in. Nice timing, it turned out; it rained all night and all Victoria Day. A friend waspishly observes that this may be the start of another of the monsoons of recent years which may or may not go on until July, yea, maybe even unto September.
And so it still does go on: world without end . . . Amen.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.