Along the Trail: Flies

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - CHUCK THOMP­SON

The past two weeks have been all about salmon: fish­ing and study­ing salmon. Mid­dle River has lit­er­ally been crawl­ing with those in­ter­ested in salmon: an­glers, bi­ol­o­gists, First Na­tions, and cu­ri­ous on­look­ers. It has been a very hec­tic two weeks and our lit­tle cabin has been burst­ing at the seams with those en­gaged with the an­nual run of salmon to the Baddeck and Mid­dle Rivers. Some of my an­gling fra­ter­nity have been part of the fall sea­son since 1983 with­out miss­ing a sin­gle year. It is strong tes­ti­mony to mad­ness.

As we spent one evening ty­ing flies, my me­mory drifted back to an evening many years ago when we were sim­i­larly en­gaged: ty­ing flies, telling lies, en­joy­ing a li­ba­tion or two. The li­ba­tion or two would prove to be my un­do­ing.

As we talked and tied and watched a ball­game on TV, all ex­cel­lent dis­trac­tions, I got busy ty­ing a “PINK GD.” In those days we used huge, barbed, dou­ble hooks. They were big enough and sharp enough to snare a whale. If you know any­thing about hooks, a 2/0 is a very big cre­ation.

With so many dis­trac­tions, the in­evitable hap­pened. It was my scat­tered per­son­al­ity at its pre­dictable worst. I had mis­tak­enly put the dou­ble with the sec­ond hook on the in­side of the vise, rather that the out­side. As I yakked and watched TV, sud­denly I had a bite! I had dragged my in­dex fin­ger across the pro­trud­ing hook and drove the barb deep into the fin­ger, deep be­ing the op­er­a­tive word. There was no way to ex­tract it, so it was off to the old Baddeck hospi­tal for pro­fes­sional help.

Dr. Genge was on call and was sum­moned to my res­cue. As I sat in the lit­tle, crowded wait­ing room, the very po­lite, mostly high­land Scots, went to great pains NOT to men­tion this pink thing wav­ing in the air. Most of the other wait­ing pa­trons had no idea of salmon flies but were much too po­lite to ask just how it came to be that I had a huge pink hook deeply em­bed­ded in my fin­ger. Some­one would peek over and if I saw them look­ing, would im­me­di­ately en­gage me in con­ver­sa­tion. “How’s Ann, is she work­ing?” “How is Emily get­ting along in school?” “Great stretch of weather…’’ “Busy at work your­self?” All the time, as I an­swered and em­pha­sized by wav­ing my hands, no one, ab­so­lutely no one, brought my at­ten­tion to the pink thing. It was “er­ror by omis­sion.”

Wait­ing rooms be­ing wait­ing rooms, it was a while be­fore Dr. Genge and nurse He­len Macrae got to ad­min­is­ter help to my now swollen fin­ger. As peo­ple came and went, the ex­change was re­peated time af­ter time. “How’s Ann” etc. To a man (and woman) no one ever men­tioned the very large, slightly blood soaked pink thing wav­ing at the end of my in­dex fin­ger. It was po­lite­ness in the ex­treme.

Fi­nally, the good doc­tor and nurse froze the fin­ger and pulled out the of­fend­ing, partly fin­ished cre­ation. Nei­ther the fly nor fin­ger suf­fered long-term dam­age. A lit­tle ban­dage and we were good to go. I don’t re­mem­ber if the fly ever hooked a salmon, but it hooked a lot of peo­ple for one long, dark evening.

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