FICTION

The best fishing hole in B.C.

My uncle flew forward like a large khaki angel; his reel whined like a mosquito. "Good-bye child," he called

VERNON HOCKLEY April 12 1958
FICTION

The best fishing hole in B.C.

My uncle flew forward like a large khaki angel; his reel whined like a mosquito. "Good-bye child," he called

VERNON HOCKLEY April 12 1958

The best fishing hole in B.C.

FICTION

My uncle flew forward like a large khaki angel; his reel whined like a mosquito. "Good-bye child," he called

VERNON HOCKLEY

I am afraid this has been a dull vacation for the little lady,” said my uncle, meaning me.

"You would scarcely know,” said my aunt: "you’ve been off fishing the whole time she's been here."

"That is just it.” said my uncle: ”I have been off fishing, so it must have been dull. But 1 intend to do something about that.”

"Do you actually mean to stay home lor a day?” said my aunt.

"No." said my uncle: "I leave again in the morning with Mr. Lichenty. but this time we shall take the little lady along and show her the best fishing in B. C "

il said 1 was thrilled. My aunt started to pack an overnight bag and then chose a suitcase. "1 had better put in plenty of things.” she said, "because there is no telling where Richard and Mr. Lichenty may take you.”

But surely.” I said, "Uncle Dick knows where he is going."

"No,” said my aunt; "if this is like all

the other times somebody has just told him of a new fishing spot and he won't have looked it up on the map yet.”

"A magnificent sense of humor.” my uncle said in the morning. "So rare in a woman." He helped me into the car. "It was what attracted me to your aunt in the first place." He settled himself beside me and unfolded a huge map.

The car lurched forward and Mr. Lichenty rapped my knee sharply as he shifted into second. 1 moved my knee over and Mr. Lichenty rapped it again as he shifted into third. "Mr. Lichenty is a good driver.” my uncle said. "He continued on page 32

B.C.’s Birthday Party

This British Columbia story — by a B.C. author — is part of Maclean's salute to the province's centenary.

continued on page 32

The best fishing hole in B. C

Continued from page 21

The proprietor eyed us curiously. "It’s a good spot — if’n you got the right tackle, that is”

once played first violin in a symphony orchestra and was famous for his tremolo. You will notice it on the curves.” “I have always been awed by the gradual break of day in these latitudes,” said Mr. Lichenty, peering up at the sky. “How different it is along the Line, where indeed the dawn comes up like thunder.”

I said that I had been along the Line and had noticed no difference in the dawn.

“Child,” said my uncle, “Mr. Lichenty is a traveled man. He means the equator. Also it will be well if he pays less attention to the dawn and more to that Greyhound bus coming up like thunder at nine o'clock low.”

We swerved past the bus and came to a stop under a set of road signs. “1 believe we should leave the highway here,” said Mr. Lichenty.

“Perhaps we had better,” said my uncle. “Someone may wish to use it.” The road we now took had been cut through millions of trees and past miles of flooded meadows, in one of which a strange-looking animal stood spraddlelegged with its head entirely under water. “That is a moose,” said my uncle.

“He’s dead,” said Mr. Lichenty. “He must be dead. I’m sure he’s dead. He hasn’t moved a muscle.”

“How could he be dead standing up?” said my uncle. “Maybe the moose up here are like ostriches. Maybe they think they can hide by shoving their heads under water.”

At this moment the moose raised his great head and shook showers of water from a clump of grass that he had plucked from the meadow bottom. He paid no attention to us as we passed. “He probably has never before seen human beings,” said Mr. Lichenty.

“Apparently,” said my uncle, “just as some human beings have never before seen a moose.”

I drowsed past more millions of trees and miles of meadow while my uncle and Mr. Lichenty puzzled over the existence of a low fence that now appeared beside the road.

“Obviously someone built it with a purpose,” said Mr. Lichenty, “yet it is half under water and encloses nothing.

It is like a house with one wall.” “Speaking of houses,” said my uncle, “we should shortly reach a small hotel, the Something-Mile House. Like most places up here it is named for the distance it is from anywhere.”

The hotel turned out to be part store, shelves sprinkled with toys, stuffed Santa Clauses and stockings. A banner across the room spelled out MERRY CHRISTMAS in big red letters. “This is the middle of June,” sa>id my uncle to the proprietor. “Are you six months early or six months late?”

"I’m right up to date,” said the proprietor. "First year I was in this country I had taken my Christmas stuff down in January. The Indians made me put it up again. Doggone Indians like Christmas so much they want to have it all year around. To me, sir, the customers are always right. If they say it’s Christmas, Christmas it is.”

“A brilliant whimsy,” said my uncle. "Perhaps then we might order a dinner of roast turkey and plum pudding.” “You sure might,” said the proprietor "Just step into the dining room, ma'am and gentlemen.” He swung open two large doors and exposed a table so long that its sides seemed to meet in perspective like the tracks of a railway. “We get a right smart of a crowd here at times,” the proprietor said.

“But where do so many come from?” said Mr. Lichenty.

“Oh, from here and there like,” the man said. "The Indian women are right partial to eating out.”

“I would guess,” said my uncle, "that you’re from the South.” The proprietor nodded.

"Oklahoma. I left to get shut of the wind. Doggone little old twister came across my place one day just a-fanning and a-furiating. Laid my buildings out like a boardwalk.”

"By the way,” said my uncle, “perhaps you could tell us why that long sunken fence was built back up the road.”

“Now there was a caution,” said our host. “Seems a big fur syndicate farmed those marshes for mink or marten or polecats, I disremember which exactly—.” “Let us say a small fur-bearing animal,” said my uncle.

“Anyway there were scads of them until somebody got to fretting about whether they might migrate. Some expert said they would, and that they’d move east, nowhere but east. But directly the fence was built they all moved west, clear out of the country. Another expert came up and looked things over, and guess what he said.”

“It was the fence.”

“Yes, sir. Those little cusses would boat around the marsh and directly they hit the fence they got a hemmed-in feeling. So they lit out in the opposite direction.”

“A highly moral tale,” said my uncle. “Now our curiosity has been satisfied along with our appetites, and we must be off for the best fishing spot in B. C.

I presume you have heard of Blackpool Rapids?”

The man eyed us curiously. ‘T have heard say there’s some right good fishing there,” he said. “If’n you got the tackle, that is.”

“Oh, we’ve got plenty of tackle,” said my uncle, “and Mr. Lichenty here is the second-best fly fisherman in the province.”

“Do tell?” said the proprietor as we left the hotel.

“I don’t like the way he said that,” said Mr. Lichenty.

WE have arrived,” said my uncle some three hours later. I woke with a start to the sound of his voice and the roar of rushing water. Just ahead of us a little boy rounded the corner of a log cabin and waved his arms excitedly.

“Hey, Pa!” he said. “A car, a car! Come quick, Pa. It’s a car.”

“What’s so wonderful about a car, son?” said my uncle as the boy ran up to us.

“Oh sir, but cars never come here!” said the boy. “We get all our stuff in with horses and wagons.”

“We are fishermen, son,” said my uncle. “Do you suppose we might catch anything at this time of day?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” said the boy. “You can catch fish here anytime if you have the tackle.”

“Excellent,” said my uncle. “Tell your father we shall be back shortly with some good fries for your supper.” He drew his waders and a large enameled box from the car.

“What is all this about tackle, Richard?” said Mr. Lichenty as we walked past the cabin.

“1 suppose it is merely that our modest manner misleads these folk,” said my uncle. “It is likely that they take us to be—.” He paused suddenly as a river came into view. Water foamed past hundreds of rocks and eddied furiously in black pools. “Great heavens, Lieh,” my uncle said in changed tones, “could any fish live in such a maelstrom?”

“One thing certain,” said Mr. Lichenty, “is that we cannot wade in it. We must fish from the shore.” He moved gingerly downstream away from us as my uncle set up his rod and swished it experimentally.

“1 see no place where a fish might lie,” my uncle said in a mutter, as if to himself. “Perhaps I had better cast to the centre of the current in the hope that some desperate trout may try to save his life by clinging to the line.”

He sent the line out with an effortless flick. At the same instant his feet left the ground in a sort of levitation and he flew forward like a large khaki angel. In the wink of an eye he was balancing furiously on a rock some eight feet out in the river. The reel on his rod whined like a mosquito. “Good-bye, child,” he said, leaping in the same fantastic manner to a more distant rock, “and be sure to tell your aunt that you are to have my copy of Swinburne in the calfskin cover.” By this time he was balanced on a third rock and aiming desperately for another. I ran along the bank and wrung my hands while he skipped from rock to rock far out in the torrent. After what seemed hours he suddenly relaxed and picked his way miraculously back to the shore as Mr. Lichenty came up beside me.

“I hooked the devil,” said Mr. Lichenty, “and he broke my leader. Ten-pound test too.”

“I can well believe it,” said my uncle. “I just hooked his mother, and she got away too.”

They turned somberly as the little boy from the cabin came running down to us. He glanced at their rods and shook his head. “Oh, sirs,” he said, “you’ll never catch anything with those. Please wait and I will get you some tackle.” My uncle nodded to Mr. Lichenty as the boy ran back to the cabin. Mr. Lichenty nodded to my uncle. They waited silently while the boy came back with an enormous shaft of unpeeled spruce.

“This isn’t a pole,” said my uncle, “it’s a mast.” The boy worked industriously over a coil of string.

“And that isn’t a line,” said Mr. Lichenty, “it’s a hawser.”

“It could be at that,” said my uncle. “He’s tying an anchor on the end.”

The boy finished with the line and laid his pole carefully across a huge rock. “Now, sirs,” he said, “if you will both be ready with the pole when a fish strikes—.”

My uncle and Mr. Lichenty leaped forward automatically as the boy tossed the line into the river. They strove with the pole, looking like soldiers raising a

flag over Iwo Jima or somewhere. Something heavy swished over my head and landed with a thud on the bank. The boy ran up to retrieve his hook.

“It is only a small rainbow,” he said. “About nine pounds. We will likely do better the next time.”

A LITTLE later my uncle and Mr.

Lichenty stood panting over a long row of magnificent fish, silver colored, flecked and striped with pink and purple, as long and sleek and round as newpeeled fence posts. I put my hands together and prepared to jump up and down in a way that always had seemed to please people, particularly middle-aged men. Then it occurred to me that my uncle and Mr. Lichenty looked strangely solemn. They reminded me of two pallbearers standing beside a grave.

“This is horrible, Lieh,” my uncle said suddenly.

“I haven’t even counted the fish we’ve caught.”

“I haven’t even counted the species.” “And we haven’t been fishing an hour.”

“Ghastly.”

“What is wrong, Uncle Dick?” 1 said. “Aren’t you happy to have caught so many fish?”

My uncle looked at me in a shocked way. Mr. Lichenty held his breath. “We must make allowances, Lieh,” said my uncle. He turned to the little boy.

“Could you and your father use these fish, son?”

“Oh, yes, sir. Pa could smoke them.” “That is a relief,” said my uncle, sighing deeply. “You will please ask that he accept them with our sincere good wishes.” He turned aside. “I do not wish to see the fish again,” he said. He pressed his hand to his eyes. “Forgive a moment of weakness,” he said. He walked away. “The memory of the words ‘We are fishermen,’ ” he said, “is like ashes over my head.”

We drove off with my uncle and Mr. Lichenty still in a state of shock. “We shall drive all night,” said my uncle. “There is a bit of lunch here for the little lady. You and I, Lieh, must fast.

I had counted on stopping at the Something-Mile Santa Claus Hotel for a snack of cold turkey, but the thought of being asked how the fishing was makes starvation seem a less humiliating prospect.”

I slept by bits through the darkness, waking once to a flurry of shouts and scraping noises when Mr. Lichenty himself fell asleep and drove into a field of boulders and stumps.

“Where’s the road?” said my uncle. “It was right there a minute ago,” said Mr. Lichenty. They clambered out and searched widely for the road, one to each side with a flashlight.

“You are the best driver in the world, Lieh,” said my uncle, returning to climb firmly behind the wheel. “A lesser one could never have got so far from the road over such rough ground.”

BY DAWN we had reached the streets of a large town. “I must have coffee or die,” said my uncle. “ This restaurant is still closed, but there may be cooks in the rear.” Leaving Mr. Lichenty asleep in the car, we made our way to the alley behind the restaurant.

“Don’t look now. Uncle Dick.” I said, “but there is a policeman watching us.” “Never mind, child,” said my uncle. “This town is policed by RCMP officers, every one a perfect gentleman.” He pounded on the rear door of the restaurant and tried the knob. The policeman, who had been standing across the alley, took a step forward. My uncle put his

knee against the door and shoved hard.

“What are you doing there?” said the policeman.

"1 am trying to get a cup of coffee,” said my uncle.

“You can’t buy coffee till the place opens,” said the policeman. “C ity bylaw. You’d better move along.”

“1 do not intend to buy the coffee,” said my uncle; “I intend to borrow it. There’s no law against that.”

“Yes there is,” said the policeman; “that would be begging. And if you don’t stop shoving against that door you may

be charged with breaking and entering.”

At this moment the door opened and a surly-looking man in a white apron peered out. “Who's making all that racket?” he said.

'This is the police,” said my uncle, nodding toward the officer. “We want three cups of coffee.” The policeman turned red in the face and opened his mouth but was able only to swallow.

"I’ll come in with you and get the coffee,” said my uncle, stepping forward so that the man backed into the restaurant. The policeman was still swallowing

when they disappeared. He looked down at me severely.

“Are you with that cheeky old chap?” he said. I said I was, and that he wasn’t a cheeky old chap, he was my uncle. The policeman lowered his brows. “You sure he just didn’t pick you up somewhere?” This seemed an insult to Canadian womanhood.

“Officer,” I said, “if you doubt me you can go out on the street and ask Mr. Lichenty, who is traveling with us. Mr. Lichenty is a cosmopolite; just in case you own a dictionary.” I was very angry

with the policeman. “Mr. Lichenty once led a symphony orchestra in Europe.” “Don’t get sore, Miss,” the policeman said. “I guess I was a little hasty. Somebody put a bomb in the Legion Hall last night and we’ve been out looking for suspects. Well. I guess I’ll just be getting along now.”

“Aren't you going to wait for your coffee?” 1 said.

“No, Miss,” said the policeman: “thanks just the same. You give the coffee to your friend with the symphony orchestra.” He walked off down the alley.

“A fortunate chance,” my uncle said as we drove away. He glanced at Mr. Lichenty, who was still asleep. “I had hoped for one cup of coffee, but scarcely for two.”

1WOKE in bed with vague memories of having arrived somewhere and of having unpacked my aunt’s suitcase to get a nightgown. It was still daylight. ‘Tm home,” I said to myself. But the room was wrong. It was made of logs, and there was no print of the Fathers of Confederation on the wall; only a flycovered calendar with a picture of an indecent-looking creature making muscles with her legs. “Hussy,” I said dreamily for lack of a worse name, "you can’t say there are no flies on you, anyway.”

1 might have gone on for an hour talking to the thing on the calendar if my uncle hadn't suddenly walked in holding a little bunch of surprised-looking fish. “What do you think of these, child?” he said. I tried to decide whether the light in his eye was a glint or a sparkle.

“There aren't very many of them, are there?” I said, going for the glint. My uncle held the fish very still. “I mean,”

I said, “they’re pretty small, aren’t they?” My uncle turned as Mr. Lichenty peeked shyly in from the doorway. “Lieh,” said my uncle, “come in and ask this young woman's opinion of your catch. You may find it illuminating.”

Mr. Lichenty looked uncertainly from my uncle to me and held up another little bunch of fish. “Why, they’re lovely,” I said. "They’re beautiful fish!” 1 put my hands together and bounced lightly on the bed.

“What did you mean by teasing me that way?” said my uncle, pretending to be angry. “For a minute 1 thought you were serious.” He held his catch higher and shook his head as if in amazement. "That big one there,” he said, pointing to the most surprised-looking of the fish, “must weigh nearly two pounds. Gave me quite a tussle too. I had him this way —” he made motions as if holding a rod “—then I did this—” he made another motion “—and then I did this.” He nodded to Mr. Lichenty. "That was the way I did it,” said my uncle.

"And 1.” said Mr. Lichenty, hurrying to speak while my uncle was busy drawing a breath. “I hooked one beside a rock. An immense fish! I leaped to the rock! He circled it. 1 spun like a dancer—.” “By the way.” said my uncle, looking suddenly bored, “we shall start for home immediately. Mr. Lichenty and 1 had to stop here to get the bad taste out of our mouths.”

“We have only a few miles to go.” said Mr. Lichenty, still panting from his memories. “It amazes me that we should choose to journey all over the province when right here at home we have—-.”

“—the best fishing in B. C.,” said my uncle.

IS YOL’R SUBSCRIPTION DUE?

Subscribers receiving notice of the approaching expiration of their subscriptions are reminded of the necessity of sending in their renewal orders promptly.