As Sir Paul McCartney once famously said, “Merely to succeed is not enough.  Others must fail.”  Hosts Tony Izatt and Anne DesLauriers must have had this in mind when holding the event during a full moon.  They couldn’t have foreseen the stiff northerly wind, though.

Tony had scheduled the thing to begin at 7:00 a.m.  What fish is awake at such a ghastly hour?

So there we were around the gas dock at Indian Lake Marina at the crack of dawn, waiting for the only sane members of the crew, Jeff and Greg, who had apparently slept in.  Eventually they came slumping down the dock.  We were a motley crew, but the fishing tackle was good.

As the designated “ringer” for this event I realized that my duty was to bring my particular skill to the tournament: the ability to make the fish stop biting whenever there is any pressure of any kind for the anglers to perform on cue.

So I dialed up CONSERVATION mode as Les Parrott, unsuspecting, joined me in the boat.  The others apparently decided their best bet was to get as far from me and my jinx as possible, for at the start they all blasted off to various points of the compass.  I moved over to A-dock on the trolling motor and began to cast.  Fishing in the morning is best off A-dock.

Surely enough, a chunky largemouth waited for my worm, immune to my jinx.  I stored him in the live well for his own protection.

Then we fished our way around Indian Lake.  Lovely body of water.  Perfectly fishless this morning, as well, until Les found another largemouth just off the Pagoda which had apparently missed the memo.

Hiding from the wind, we worked our way up Indian, across Mosquito (fish very well protected there by the jinx) and into Pollywog Lake.  Pollywog bass are notoriously independent and a bit suicidal, if provoked.  Most of the belligerent ones tore our bait off the hook and tangled us in weeds, but a couple of the unlucky ones ended up in the well.

Then we moved through Bedore’s Creek onto Newboro Lake and the jinx cut in with full force.  We cruised around more exquisitely clear water, cast a variety of choice weed patches, and had a few strikes best characterized by their inaccuracy.  Some occurred as much as 3′ from the actual bait.  According to Les these strikes say: “Get out of here and leave me alone!”

But no Newboro Lake bass were unfortunate enough to land in the live well.  My jinx seemed to work well enough on the north side of Scott Island.

To put it to the test we moved over to the bay known as “The Boathouse”.  Tony and Jeff were already there, straining the weeds frantically with long, looping casts.  Tony tried to wave me out of there, but  I lobbed a cast under a tree on the outskirts of the bay.  A solid largemouth took the worm, fought valiantly for a while, then tossed the hook back past my ear.

“I’ll bet that just cost us some money,” I muttered to Les.  The jinx continued.  An inaccurate cast under another tree led to a missed strike and a lost worm, then I took into a run of tangles in trees which led to the exploration of a lot of overhanging limbs while I removed a series of hooks from branches.

Back at the dock Tony conducted weigh-ins with a large plastic pail and digital scale.  Things proceeded normally until a protest from the group forced the host to drain the water out of the pail in which he was weighing his team’s catch, reducing the weight from 22 pounds to seven.

Turns out my jinx had been pretty effective after all.  The five bass we had put into the well for safekeeping weighed a total of 9.9 pounds and turned out to be the catch of the day, beating the entry of Morgan Pickering and Brad Wilson by a half-pound.  The fat laggard from under A-dock at 2.8 pounds won the largest fish by a couple of ounces, as well.

So Les and I faced some baleful glares, but we got to hold the Bob Steele Memorial Trophy for photos and have the right to display it in our homes for the winter.

Maybe I’d better ease up on the jinx next year because a passing cottager complained that the mouth of every bass on Newboro Lake seemed to be sealed up Saturday morning.

Host Tony Izatt presents Bob Steele Memorial Trophy

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Saturday evening I set out in my little aluminum boat without a fishing rod.  It was time to take a look at the boat’s new home, the Newboro waterfront.  We made our way over to the lock where the Land Trust Festival was in full swing. The sizable crowd seated on chairs for the classic rock concert seemed older and more orderly than the revelers of earlier years at the Chaffey’s Locks Corn Roast.  The spacious Newboro Lockstation seems well suited to hosting an event of this sort.

The green enamel security fence around the grounds was an impressive touch.  I guess there must be miles of the stuff left over from the G20 Summit in Toronto and Huntsville, so it might as well be put to use.

Two young men in a triangular craft laboured through the water below the lock.  They struggled to a gap between the cruisers on the 48-hour dock and were helped ashore before they sank.  Out came the unpainted plywood dinghy.  One of the instant boats had obviously survived the afternoon competition for another voyage.

I drifted over by trolling motor to inquire.  Neil McGuire and Thomas Jordan crew The Unsinkable Rideau Ferry.  Michael McGuire and my former S.F.D.C.I. student John Jordan rounded out the build team.  Their creation placed second in the afternoon competition, but as John’s sister Helen explained, the winners were experienced boat builders, so The Philosophers had an unfair advantage in their use of the three sheets of plywood, a few 2X4’s, some trim and a few tubes of caulk provided for the competition.  John added, “They also gave us a pound and a half of assorted nails.  No screws were allowed.”

The Unsinkable Rideau Ferry seemed to have a lot of support from the group of boaters on the 48-hour dock for the weekend.

Finger docks have produced many more spaces for cruisers below the lock at Newboro.  This is good for special events and day-to-day use because the steady breeze makes this a pleasant summer destination.

Quite a few runabouts had come in off the lake to drift in the bay and enjoy the music on the calm evening.  Over next to the resorts, though, the docks were still alive with fishing boats running in and out.

I made a mental note to get over to The Poplars for lunch.  As a transient guest you eat whatever they are serving that day, it’s always fun in the informal atmosphere of the fishing camp, and where else are you helped into a slip by dock attendants when you arrive for a meal?

On Water Street the new owner of the cottages on the point has done a very classy renovation of the small dwellings, definitely raising the tone of the Newboro waterfront with unified architecture, landscaping and docks.

Over at the foot of Bay Street her neighbours are delighted with the return home of longtime resident Mrs. Rose Pritchard after a long and difficult recovery from a fall.

Several times I have talked to a fellow from Ottawa who fishes the same area Tony and I do.  He mentioned building a house on Swallows Lane over the winter.  I finally worked my way down that way to have a look.  That’s a lot of house.  I think the guy builds better than he fishes.

I’d spent a half-hour earlier in the day on Tony’s new deck under a huge oak tree at the end of Bay Street.  It’s always a surprise how comfortable the air along this Newboro shoreline feels with the breeze pushing down the lake from Bedford Mills.

Of course weeds and debris pile in with the wind, but at least the boats are sheltered by the hill from a northerly gale.  Speaking of debris, Thursday evening something really gross drifted in.  I knew Tony and Anne had a family event planned for the next day, so the dead thing had to go, but I didn’t even want to look at it, let alone touch it.  So I started up the outboard and strained the mooring lines as I pushed the unidentifiable thing with a sizable mat of weeds out of our little harbour and around the stern of The Big Chill, Tony and Anne’s cruiser.

But then the weed patch responded to a gust again and headed in towards the launch ramp.  Oh well, it was out of my space and no longer my problem.

Turns out it then landed next to the boat of local volunteer firefighter Bob French.  Bob apparently thinks differently than most, because instead of passing the dead raccoon on down the line as many had no doubt already done over the previous week, he pulled the thing in, bagged it up (wow!), loaded it into his van, hauled it away and buried it.

I guess Bob looked at the carcass, thought of the trouble it would bring to the people down the shore, and took action.  That’s what firefighters do.  They think of everybody. You’re a better man than I am, Robert French.

Note:  I haved moved this file from this “post” to a “page” on my blog where it is easier to update.  Just go to https://rodcroskery.wordpress.com and look in the right margin for the up-to-date version.  Rod

January 20, 2010: After a promising start to the winter, the ice has received a major setback with a couple of weeks of mild weather.  Yesterday Otter Lake was open in the middle.  This morning I noticed that it had frozen over.  Woe betide the snowmobiler who tries to cross that thin skiver of ice!  Chances are it will open up again the next mild day.  Yesterday was mild and overcast, so I looked around for a potential ice fishing site.  Portland showed deep ruts in the slush from an ATV grinding out to a fishing shack.  Opinicon Lake at Chaffey’s Locks has a lot of open water, as it usually does, though with little current.  The big surprise was the pair of trumpeter swans which buzzed the cedars at the end of the point.  Man, are those birds big!  I counted seven of them in all on the ice at Chaffey’s.

Without a week of very cold weather the ice will remain no good.

January 5, 2010: There’s ten inches of ice in the bay at Portland, but the middle of the Big Rideau is still open.  Ominously, the opening in the middle of Otter Lake seems to be growing larger as snow accumulates on the ice.  To judge by the lack of tracks, people are staying off the ice so far.

December 20, 2009:  A couple of test holes on Newboro Lake a hundred feet out from the village shore show five inches of ice.  While helping my friend adjust his bubbler so as to allow the northern boat launch ramp to freeze properly, I noticed that there’s a decent gravel bottom along shore once a bit of the sediment is washed away.

December 18, 2009: The Big Rideau at Portland and Otter Lake seen from Hwy 15 both showed full ice cover as far as I could see this afternoon.

December 16, 2009: The run of cold weather is firming things up.  Apart from the spots of open water caused by bubblers under docks, the Newboro end of the lake seemed to have formed a nice sheet with a little snow on it.

December 12, 2009: The ice is back, folks.  I noticed that Morton Creek was mostly frozen when we drove by on Hwy 15 yesterday.  Ice formed overnight in the bays and the village end of Newboro Lake.  Indian Lake wasn’t frozen over when I looked earlier today, but we broke a half-inch or so of ice to make way for a bubbler on a dock on the Newboro waterfront.

The photo shows four people stuffed into snowmobile suits, mitts and helmets, standing along the edge of a frozen lake and leaning on a pair of old snowmobiles.  The shot could have been taken anytime, but in fact it is only a couple of years old.  It marked the final winter expedition to the cottage on Schooner Island.  That’s right.  Never again.  Both our wives insisted.

But the trip had gone well; it’s just that the weather changed a bit.

Tom and Kate get homesick for their cottage on the Island during the winter, and I can tell by the frequency of emails and phone calls about when the pressure will become unbearable for Tom, and up they will come.  Much planning is required:  ice reports are filtered through runoff records to determine if the ice is strong enough for a passage across Newboro Lake to the Island.

A few years ago in a fit of optimism I asked a snowmobile collector to locate me a serviceable Ski Doo Alpine, the two track, single ski behemoth which crowned the Bombardier line for many years. From the first time I drove it the thing intimidated me:  I could barely pull the starter cord on the monstrous engine.  It refused to turn without running into something.  Its suspension ignored my considerable weight, and only rode smoothly if I had a full oil drum on the back.  But it would float over any depth of snow, and could it ever pull!

Not to be outdone, Tom found a 1970 Evinrude Skeeter, also with reverse, which had been kept in its owner’s living room in Ohio since it was new. 

Tom and I decided to run out to the island without wives or luggage to make sure the ice was strong enough to support us.   Tom’s machine made a ghastly racket at its maximum speed of 25 miles per hour.  The Alpine is actually a lot faster than that, so I had to idle along to let him keep up.  Then Tom spun out on the ice.  This looked pretty funny, but the third time the machine flipped, tossing Tom clear and rolling until it had divested itself of its windshield.  Chastened,  Tom made the rest of the trip at a more modest pace.

Back at the SUVs we discovered far too much luggage to load onto the little sled I had brought, so Tom took it and I hitched the 5 X 8 trailer to the Alpine.  Down the ramp we went with everything but the kitchen sink in the trailer.

As long as the shore was nearby, our wives’ morale was high.  As we pulled out into the open lake, though, and the only reference points became the large bubbles of air just beneath the black, transparent ice, I began to notice a persistent vibration coming from the rear of the Alpine.  It didn’t vary with engine revolutions or speed.  In fact the shaking continued when we’d stopped.  Bet was shivering.   This did not bode well, but we were over half-way there,  so on we went.

The cold-weather camping was good fun at the cottage, and then the morning dawned to a five-inch drop of slushy snow, with clouds and wind which indicated more on the way.  Yikes!  The trailer!

The retreat from Schooner Island occurred  more quickly than our hosts would have liked, but we had to get off the ice.  With the wide track of the trailer I would have to maintain a steady speed until we hit dry land, or we’d be stuck.

We tossed the luggage into the snow-filled trailer, Bet clamped her arms around my waist, and I gingerly urged the rig along the  shoreline  until we had gained enough momentum to brave the deeper snow.

With a roar the Alpine hit cruising speed, and the next three miles was quite a ride. The open lake alternated between hard portions of frozen snow and liquid puddles of goo.  We plunged straight through them.  I didn’t dare look back.

Down the lake we went and up the ramp.  Newboro had never looked so good.  The Alpine shut down with a grateful sigh; I pried Bet’s arms free and staggered off the machine.  She still sat there. When I knocked on her helmet, an eye opened through the frosted visor and she gradually became aware that we had arrived.

She pawed at the visor a couple of times with her mitt.  I helped her open it and remove her helmet.  “I … will … never … do … that … AGAIN!”

I’d  sorta expected that, so I checked the load behind.  Nope, nothing there but a snowbank which had somehow slid up the ramp and into the parking lot behind us.

Tom  couldn’t get over the remarkable turn of speed the Alpine had shown on the trip across the lake.  “We were following in your track, but your machine was just a dwindling yellow dot, with a great big snowball forming behind it!”

Perhaps the governor on the huge Rotax engine responded to the weight it was pulling, or maybe the beast just sensed its master’s panic and ran for it, but the Alpine has never gone that fast since, and perhaps it’s just as well.