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My Cousin Val Holding a Salmon I Caught on Lake Ontario












Early morning – 4am – looking at the world this early gives me a gracious sense of awe.  Perhaps sleep deprivation contributes to the feeling, but it really is an amazing time to look across the horizon and to the stars above and feel one with the world.  I wake up early (which for me does not come easy), I say a prayer of thanks, I get into the car, and drive to meet my cousin at the storage yard, where we will pick up his boat for a day of salmon fishing on Lake Ontario.

While driving and appreciating the special beauty that is our world at 4 am, I reflect on what the day is about to bring.  I am going out  fishing with my cousin Val, something that happens once or if I’m lucky,  twice a year.  Val and I have been doing this together now for the last 10 years or so – heading out to Bronte to take part in the Great Ontario Salmon Derby.  We started on a charter boat, but  Val has since set himself up with all the gear required, so he now invites me out to fish with him.   It is something we both appreciate and it means a lot to me that we do this.  Our dadushka (grandfather in Russian), was a fisherman, as was our uncle Tony and Val’s father, my uncle Nick.  They all had a great passion for fishing, so much so that my dadushka picked a cemetery plot out by the Thames River, to be close to a river for fishing in the afterlife.   I wonder what my babushka (grandmother)thought about that.  These men have passed from us now, but their passion sparked a flame for fishing in my cousin and me.  I can’t describe in a word what the feeling is I have when the two of us get together to share the experience.  It is gratitude and ancestry.  It is primal and instinctual.  It is relaxing and intense.  It is the bond between family and blood.  It is mystical and perhaps it is as close to touching divinity as we get during our human experience.

On the drive to the lake, I can’t help but think of our dead family members.  I believe that they would be happy to see my cousin and I together enjoying a day of fishing.  I am in reverie as I commune with my dead uncle, Tony.  It is with him that I did most of my childhood fishing as it is not something that my father enjoyed at all.  I invite his spirit to come along with us.  I believe that he hears my prayer and I believe that he will be with me, always, when I fish.

The day is a beauty!  Hot, summer sun beats down on us – we begin on the water marking fish on the sonar right away.  We have a couple of early strikes and we are pretty stoked.  The first few fish of the day are rainbow trout and they treat us to their amazing water walking acrobatics.  Bows are fun to catch, and better than skunking out, but we are after salmon!  After all, this is the Great Ontario Salmon Derby and we each have a ticket!  It would be nice if this becomes “Derby Winning Wednesday”.  There are hardly any other boats on the water compared to weekends.  We fish uncontested for a few more hours.  The fishing is slow, but steady.  We have a double header and land both fish.  I capture a bit of it on video until the second rod goes off.  A 25 lbs salmon for my cousin – big, but no derby winner- a 14 lbs salmon for me. (pictured in this article).

A few hours go by and the fishing has turned off.  We have attempted everything we know.  Fish are marking on the sonar, bait fish are marking on the sonar – but it is zero fish o’clock (see article One, Two, Three Fish O’clock).

The time is starting to drag – one thing that can happen when summer trolling.  I pull out some potato chips.  I mention something about eating and that’s when we’ll catch a fish to my cousin – he begins to tell me about Pat.

“When Pat falls asleep – we catch fish.”, Val says.  “He’ll just start nodding off to sleep with his head shaking up and down.  Sometimes he’ll pretend to fall asleep until I say FISH ON TWO, FISH ON TWO“.  I laugh and put my bag of chips down.  Val yells out again “no – FISH ON TWO, FISH ON TWO”  I laugh harder thinking this is still part of the story. It’s not until Val jumps up and grabs rod number two yelling about my inability to function when a fish has hit.  I’m rolling inside with laughter as I thought he was telling part of the story.  Then his phone starts ringing – “Oh that’s probably Walt (Val’s brother – also a fishing enthusiast), or Pat, getting back to me”, Val exclaims, too excited to answer his phone right now, not to mention he is fighting what should have been my fish.  The phone goes unanswered while Val keeps fighting the fish.  He is just about to get this one on the boat when the number 3 rod goes off.  Then the number 4 rod.  I grab the number 4 rod and start reeling in a fish.  After he gets the number 2 fish in and I get the 4 fish in, he goes to the 3 rod and reels in another small fish.  The number 1 rod got reeled in as well, sometime in between the 4 and 3 rod going off – as the 1 rod had wire out, and with a triple header, Val didn’t want any chance of cutting off on the wire.  When all is said and done, we have no rods left in the water and the two of us are laughing out loud about what is the first triple header on Val’s boat and how it started with the story of Pat and falling asleep.  After things settle down, Val remembers the phone call and checks his cell.  The missed call wasn’t his brother or Pat, it was Father Morin – the priest from the Russian church.  “Uh oh”, Val says.  I understand his apprehension as the two of us have buried a lot of family members through that church and Val’s mom has just had a wicked stint of pneumonia and there has been a scare that she might not survive the ordeal.  Close enough of a scare that there was question as to whether we would make it out together on this Wednesday for fishing, or if we would be burying Val’s mom instead.  The call from the priest has me tense.  Val calls him back immediately.

“Father, how are you today.  I am out on the boat with my cousin Stef, fishing”.  I listen intently, looking for any signs that the fishing is about to come to an end.  Val laughs though, and I feel a sigh of relief.  “What is that prayer?  Stef listen to this – Batushka has a prayer for us – he is calling to let us know he is giving us a blessing and prayer”.  It turns out that Val had spoken with the priest earlier in the week and had asked for a prayer for our fishing day.  As it happens, the priest had been calling to give us the prayer of the apostles, also fishermen, who in the eastern orthodox religion were celebrating a feast the next day – apostle day!  Holy apostles, pray unto God for us, is what the priest had called to let us know!  And at the same moment- we hit a triple header!!!  Val put it best.  He said “no one is going to believe this fish story”.  I agreed with him, although, I know that some people will.

We finished the day pretty much just after that, catching one more fish which was our limit.  10 fish landed!  6 hours of fishing, one double header and one miraculous triple header.  The fish o’clock disagreed with that triple header, saying that it shouldn’t have happened at zero fish o’clock, but with divine intervention, how could a simple chronograph know?  Other than the triple header, the fish o’clock o’meter was pretty accurate.  On the way back into the harbour, my cousin made a comment.  “I can almost see uncle Tony sitting up there watching us come in”.  Since my cousin and I don’t really communicate about such things – I thought it was a pretty odd comment.  “He probably is Val”, I said.  ” I spoke to him earlier today before we went out and told him we were going out fishing”.  “Oh really?”, asked Val.  “What did he say?”.  “He said thanks for the heads-up and he’d be sure to tell dadushka and your dad and invite them along too.”


3 responses to “Salmon Fishing and the Blessing of the Apostles”

  1. This amazing post, “Salmon Fishing and the Blessing of the Apostles | The Deprived Angler” illustrates the fact that u actually
    comprehend just what u are talking about! I definitely
    agree. Thanks a lot ,Justine

  2. Hello all,
    That is a really good post. Have you considered Salmon fishining in the Comox area of Vancouver Island?

    • Thank you for your comments!
      Some day I hope to make my way to BC for some salmon fishing! I’ll look you up if I get the opportunity to travel that way!


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