As always, I try to keep these installments of our Beaverland journal somewhat interesting and unique, notwithstanding the fact that it’s indeed a herculean task, because let’s face it – we’re not all that interesting and/or unique to begin with - and as a result, I don’t have all that much raw material to work with.
So what, or who in the hell are the Paraprosdokians?
Paraprosdokians are in fact a “what,” and are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and often times humorous.
Where there's a will, I want to be in it…
Winston Churchill apparently was very fond of them and found them to be both humorous and could very useful when he decided to take a shot at someone.
Therefore, when endeavoring to come up with a theme for this years trip in our year of the COVID, I wanted something that would be representative of our groups approach to life and living in general, and in keeping with the bent sense of humor that defines these annual gatherings – and fortunately, this hit the nail on the head.
So, without further ado, let’s get this party started, and always bear in mind that:
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target!
Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak…
Although this year’s theme is not in any way COVID related, good old #19 did in fact impact our trip in a number of ways.
- First and foremost, and in case you didn’t notice, we came north in September, rather than May/June which has been the case for the past 40 plus years.
- The gang arrived earlier than usual because they were unable to stop and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, in that the restaurants en route were only offering take out.
- They're early arrival wiped out my much anticipated quiet time, where I had planned to enjoy a cocktail or 2 and a bowl of chips before the troops stormed the beach.
- All of my “day 1” chips got eaten before I could really get into them.
- We had frost, or to be more precise, ice on the pumpkin (and boat seats) for the first part of the week, and
- The fish decided that because we didn’t deign to show up in May/June, they would screw with us and play hide and seek.
Our numbers were down to 8 rather than the usual 10 for a variety of reasons, but we did pick up a new recruit in the form of Cousin Dave’s son Michael, who happens to be a professional baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinal’s organization.
Michael can eat more than any human being I have ever met – even his dad in his prime - so when I knew he was coming, and after Cousin Dave explained that he was known to scarf down several racks of ribs as a light snack BEFORE dinner, it did cause me a few anxious moments when trying to decide if we should cut down on the groceries given our depleted ranks – which btw didn’t happen.
Thankfully he’s not an NFL lineman, although he did say there was a time when he used to eat more than he does now.
While the weather was unsettled, we did manage to get everything packed away and the boats launched before the skies opened up, following which we attacked the welcome cooler, caught up, and BBQed a big mess of Gary’s incredible Sawgeeg patties.
To compliment the Sawgeeg, Lynn cooked up a pan of Letcho that when spread on top of a patty, was a little bit of heaven on earth.
Although he normally incorporates a tomato into the mixture, and did in fact ask if he could use one of our tomato’s, I reluctantly had to turn him down, because all of our rather limited stock was earmarked for other uses.
But no worries Lynn, because:
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad - or in this case the Letcho…
Our pal Donny, who hails from the Niagara area, and spends much of the season at Beaverland, dropped by and made a point of telling us that conditions were different in the fall, and it was not going to be like spring fishing - duh - therefore if we were planning to catch any, our tactics and approach would have to undergo some serious modifications.
He mentioned a spot that had been producing located just west of the camp, where you fished an underwater hump that could be found by lining up with a rock the locals called the ”loaf of bread,” a wooden bench, a sign on a tree that once said “No Trespassing” but no longer had any lettering on it, a wooden cross (or something that sort of looked like one) and a particular rock on the far shore that should be easy to spot.
Well ok then. I think a couple of the guys gave it a shot the next morning but were unable to lock onto Donny’s rather byzantine coordinates.
As is now commonly the case, when the party starts in earnest around 2pm, the midnight oil is rarely ignited, and I’m not sure anyone made it much past 10pm – I know I didn’t.
I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you…
At 6am I was rudely awakened by what I had first thought were a couple of gunshots. My initial impulse was to stay under the covers and wait to see if the shooting would continue, but not surprisingly no one else appeared to give a rat’s ass, so I crept out of bed to investigate and see if we were under attack.
I needn’t have worried though, because those loud bangs were nothing more than Lynn releasing the brakes on his hand cart when he was moving from place to place while getting breakfast ready.
For the rest of the week we started off each day with a BANG, that not only made it easy to tell when he was up and on the go, but as an added bonus, gave everyone a pretty good estimate of how much time they had left to lie in the sack before the breakfast bell rang.
It’s worth mentioning that unlike May/June when the sun had already put in an appearance by 6am, this was not going to be the case in September, so we made a deal with Lynn that he wouldn’t fire off his starters pistol until 6:30am at the earliest.
The temperature dropped like a stone during the night, and we awoke to something of a winter wonderland as everything was covered in frost, and while it sure looked pretty, especially with the sun reflecting off of it, it made walking on our deck and the dock rather treacherous.
That being said, Mother Nature did treat us to a spectacular sunrise, which I enjoyed while grilling our breakfast steaks outside in the cool morning air.
Once breakfast had been devoured, and everyone’s bait wells and buckets were locked and loaded, we set off on a beautiful, bright sunny day – albeit a chilly one – in search of some fish.
Because Cousin Dave and Michael had fished here in September of 2019, with considerable optimism and very cold noses and ears, we decided to have them lead us to the promised land.
Our first port of call was Bruce Lake, and rather than fish our traditional, relatively shallow spring locations, following our guides advice, we concentrated on the deeper parts of the lake.
To say it was slow would be damning it with faint praise, and while we caught a few Walleye throughout the course of the day, in terms of size, our minnows would have given them a run for their money.
All manner of theories (and excuses) were rolled out to explain our lack of success - too cold, too sunny, too calm, too stupid, too late in the year, bad guides, lousy captain - but the stark reality was, by days end, only one fish was brought in. It was so small that Mike the “Wicked Pickle” Moffatt, our resident fish cleaner, would have found it much easier to clean using a scalpel rather than a fillet knife.
When questioned by the Cabin 14 Piscatorial Standards Committee why something so small had been kept, the anglers, who shall remain anonyms, explained that it had swallowed the hook and would have likely been toast anyway. Waste not want not as they say, and not unlike that fish, I guess they expected the committee to swallow something as well.
Chicken and ribs were on the menu this evening, and Michael did himself proud by proving that when someone is purported to have a hollow leg, it was not just an urban legend.
When we are in camp at the “usual” time, the NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing. As a rule, we head over to the Rec. Hall (which was closed due to COVID this year) to watch the games on what may be at best a 28” tv, which in the case of hockey, made it virtually impossible to follow the puck.
Often times we have threatened to bring along a big screen tv but have never followed through – until now that is – with Michael coming up big time.
He brought up a large, expandable screen, together with a projector, that when connected to his computer, let us stream hockey, football, basketball and baseball games – all 4 at once if they were playing at the same time – in the comfort of our cabin!
Did I happen to mention that our resident pro ball player hates to watch baseball on tv?
With all 4 sports going full tilt this September, it kept Lynn, who runs the Cabin 14 Off Track Betting Parlor, busy making up and selling all manner of pools throughout the entire week. This enterprise turned out to be a rather lucrative one, at least for the Desjardins brothers, as they walked away with the majority of the winnings. If memory serves Lynn won 4 in row!
We may have to get the Lottery & Gaming Commission involved next year.
We may be losers, but we do perform a valuable public service, because without us, how would anyone know who the winners are?
Lynn’s starters pistol went off at precisely 6:30pm, and we awoke to bright sunshine, and another thick coating of frost.
Cousin Dave and I were next to hit the deck, and after setting the table, I poured a cup of coffee, sat back, and watched Lynn, with Dave’s able assistance, whip up another in a series of very tasty breakfasts.
And speaking of coffee.
For as long as I can remember I’ve brought along a timer for the coffee pot that we’d set before going to bed, with the result that our coffee would be ready and waiting come morning. Regrettably, the original timer gave up the ghost last year, so sparing no expense I went out and dropped $13.95 on a new unit.
Once the packaging had been removed and the instructions deciphered by committee, much to my surprise, and likely everyone else’s, we had fresh, hot coffee waiting for us that first morning.
Because our breakfast hour was being changed, the timer had to be adjusted, and thinking I had it figured out – although as Gary would say: “your first mistake is when you start thinking” – I set it for a bit later, or so I thought, but when I checked the pot the next morning it hadn’t yet fired up.
Without going into further detail, over the next couple of days I managed to brew an entire pot around 8pm, and but for Lynn’s quick intervention, almost did it a second time.
The boys gleefully gave me the gears for the rest of the week, despite my very reasonable explanation that I’d come across an article that claimed coffee tasted much better once you let it age for about 10 hours.
While we headed back to Bruce, Nick and Russ, aka Chief Constable Criddle, based on some intel they had dug up from someone in camp, decided to give Big Marten a try.
Fishing in deep water, and marking fish suspended around the 60 ft. mark, they put on their “Dipsy Divers” and managed to catch several Lake Trout – one of which was a decent size – and if I remember correctly, a 22” Walleye that because it was in the slot size, lived to fight another day.
Our luck was no better than it had been the previous day, with only a couple of very small Walleye to show for our efforts.
Although it was still a little too early to panic, I started doing a mental audit of what we had left in the way of groceries, in the event I had to cobble together a meal to replace the fish fry we optimistically planned on having later during the week.
It was a clear night, so I set up the camera and took some shots of the star filled sky, and while several of them came out ok, they weren’t as sharp as I had hoped.
Finally, its worth mentioning that although we had come to the end of Day 3, the Welcome Cooler had not as yet been emptied. Why? I really don’t know and will leave it to greater minds than mine to solve this complex, and one might say rather troubling puzzle.
Having said that, the real test will come tomorrow when we have chili for dinner. If there is any beer left in the cooler after that, then Houston – we definitely have a problem.
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong…
We were greeted by yet another frosty morning, and unlike yesterday the suns appearance was to be intermittent throughout the day, which made it feel a bit chillier than it actually was.
Mike, who together with wife Lori own and operate the camp, quipped that if these freezing temperatures kept up, he may have to start using his snowmobile to pick up the garbage and empties from the cabins sooner rather than later.
Because Bruce had so far been a disappointment, we decided to take Russ and Nick’s lead and give Big Marten a shot, and in particular the area around Pickerel Island. There was some spirited debate as to which island was actually Pickerel Island, but a consensus was eventually reached that it could be none other than the one we had always called Blueberry Island.
No wonder we only had one fish in the freezer.
The intel that Russ and Nick passed along was that the “can’t miss” spot was the drop off between the island and the shore, where it gently slopped down from 12 to 40 ft.
If that was such good intel, then why were Nick, Russ and even the “Pickle,” fishing about half a kilometre away in the middle of the lake? Something was very fishy – I wish – about that, but we persevered and were eventually “rewarded” with one very small Walleye, and an even smaller, Smallmouth Bass.
Motoring over to where they were fishing to thank them for the tip, we were warned to be cautious on approach, because there was a mid - lake shoal that came up to less than 5 ft. from over 100 ft. in one hell of a hurry, which if you were not careful, could cost you a prop, or if travelling at speed – your lower unit.
They hadn’t been doing any better than us, so we left them to their tips, intel, lake maps, “Dipsy Divers” and such, and being gluttons for punishment, made our way back into Bruce.
Cousin Dave suggested we fish his secret 25 ft. hole adjacent to what we call Uncle Harry’s Rock, and but for another very small Walleye, and seeing a small cluster of Moose, comprised of 2 adults and a calf, it was not looking too promising.
Personally, I’d had enough of this crap, and not wanting to face the prospect of having nacho’s and left overs rather than fish for dinner, (with Michael around there likely wouldn’t be much in the way of leftovers anyway) I decided to take control and fish some new water, rather than slavishly stick with those spots that had produced for Cousin Dave and Michael last year.
Keeping to the deeper water – around the 20 ft. mark – I started a drift from the shoal at the back of Bruce and on through the narrows, and while we didn’t set the world on fire, we had a hit on virtually every pass.
They were biting so light, that often times you didn’t realize they were on until there was a tiny bit of extra weight on your rod, so you really had to be focused and on your game.
We caught 9 Walleye, most, in our estimation anyway, being worthy of the frying pan, and while I’ll admit that we would have tossed a few of them back under normal circumstances, these were not “normal” circumstances, and decided then and there that we would take what the lake gave us, and stop being so damn picky.
And besides, Moffatt had been having it far too easy up until this point, so we figured why not give him something to keep his skills, and fillet knife well honed.
Not surprisingly, the Cabin 14 Piscatorial Standards Committee had much to say about the quality of our catch, but backed off somewhat when we suggested that until they brought in some fish of their own, they could both put a sock in it, and be prepared to eat nacho’s and leftovers (if there were any) while we enjoyed a fish fry.
The Welcome Cooler finally met its demise today. I suppose that if the chili had been served earlier in the week it would never have lasted this long, that, and the fact that frost on the pumpkin and ice cold beer is not the best combination, likely contributed to its longevity.
To conclude the day’s festivities, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Chief Constable Criddle claimed he had finally buried the hatchet with the camps pet fox, aptly – and somewhat predictably - named “Foxy,” and they were now best buds.
A couple of years ago Russ said he was stalked, and barely managed to escape being attacked by this wild beast on his way back from the Rec Hall one evening and swore he would exact his revenge when the opportunity presented itself.
Fortunately, and now that alcohol was no longer a factor, cooler heads prevailed, and he managed to make peace with both Foxy, and her many progeny, who could, from time to time, be seen following him around camp – perhaps just waiting for the right opportunity to …
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research…
It was to be a truly perfect day, weather and fish wise.
After plugging in the coffee pot – ya I know, my bad – paying Lynn off for winning his 3rd consecutive pool, and breaking our fast, Michael, Cousin Dave and I – followed closely by Gary and the “Wicked Pickle,” made a bee line back to Bruce.
But before that, I had to deal with some Gremlins that were screwing with the trim on my motor. The trim had been operating sporadically for a day or so, but the issue always resolved itself once I looked into the battery compartment, swore, and gave the wires a wiggle – but not today.
Checking to make sure the connections were tight – which they were – I then removed the locking nuts and cleaned up the battery terminals and wire connectors. That seemed to do the trick, but I was not ruling out more swearing and wire wiggling in the event the Gremlins decided to make a return appearance.
We had sun, warm temperatures, moderate winds and more importantly - lots of fish!
Using the same drift pattern as the previous day, we caught over 20, not counting 2 Perch and a Pike, and brought in 10. Not only that, because of the way they were biting, we missed a bunch as well.
Often times you would see teeth marks on the minnow – which is what they were clearly feeding on, although worms did work from time to time – meaning that you had to be very patient, and wait until they had both the minnow AND jig in their mouth before setting the hook.
The “Pickle” and Gary stuck to us like shit to a woolly blanket, but the more the merrier if it meant they could put some fish into their boat – and our frying pan – which they did by bringing in 1 nice Walleye.
All of this camaraderie stuff aside – which as Gary will tell you is his main reason for coming to Beaverland in the first place – I was tempted at one point – just for fun ya know - to reposition the markers I had dropped to frame our drift line, and see if they would go for the bait and move with the markers, but my chance never came because they never let us out of their sight.
Nick and Russ gave Donny’s secret spot another shot, but unfortunately put up a zero, although Russ made a point of telling us that he managed to lose at least 15 jigs, which in his opinion anyway, was entirely Nick’s fault.
With what was brought in today, we normally would have more than enough for a fish fry, but the “Michael” factor made this far from certain.
After dinner we watched “Sunday Night Football” on the big screen, and during half time, demolished about 10 pounds of nachos that had been smothered in left over chili, salsa, jalapenos, and at least 5 different kinds of cheese.
Well, I’m having a great day. Woke up this morning, got out of bed and went to the bathroom. In that order!
We were to enjoy a second consecutive perfect day – although the wind had picked up somewhat – and once the coffee pot was plugged in, breakfast consumed, and Lynn paid off for win #4, guess where we went?
Go on – guess.
We stayed on the same drift, catching 10 Walleye and bringing in 4. Fortunately, they were increasing in size, and several of them actually attacked, rather than just sniffing at and then gently mouthing the bait.
On our first drift I got a massive hit, and whatever it was – probably a Pike – put a real bend in my rod and began taking line at an impressive rate. It was only on for a few seconds before breaking me off, and I have to admit, it would have been nice to at least get a look at it.
One of the Walleye I caught today, together with another I landed on Thursday, were pretty much lacking in the traditional black and gold pigmentation common to this water system. They were primarily silver in colour, and I have no idea if this was just some kind of a “fall thing” or what the deal was and look forward to seeing if any turn up when we come back next spring.
It slowed down at one point, so I suggested moving to the back of the lake, and although that’s a traditional spring location, with depths of no more than 10 to 12 ft., the wind had been blowing in there for the better part of 2 days, that, and the surface temperature at 58.7 degrees was only 1 degree warmer than what we recorded in the narrows – so why not give it shot?
Why not? Because there were no fish in the shallow water, that’s why not - although we did see a Moose, and some Merganser ducks.
We noticed that while we were washing jigs at the back of the lake, Gary and the “Pickle” had moved out of the narrows and were fishing the quiet water on the north/east shore.
Having had enough of the wind ourselves at that point, we decided to pay them a visit, and picked up 2 more Walleye, one of which tagged along for the ride back to camp.
Nick and Russ went back to Donny’s secret spot this afternoon, and their persistence finally paid off. They caught a number of fish, including what turned out to be the biggest of the week, Russ’ 27 ½” Walleye. They also brought 4 in, meaning that not only did we have more than enough for a fish fry – the “Michael Factor” notwithstanding - but could start putting some aside for those who would like to take a few home.
Russ’ 27 ½ also came with a rather hilarious story, proving beyond a doubt that some fish are simply destined to be caught.
At the best of times the interior of Nick’s boat resembles an unmade bed, and although I was going say landfill, that would be just too cold.
There is gear everywhere, and it’s a wonder there is room for anyone to actually move around and fish. That said, the vast majority of the stuff is scattered around behind the front casting deck, which as it so happens is where Nick does most of his fishing, while perched on a chair high above all the clutter. Smart.
As the story goes, once Russ hooked his fish and called for the net, it was temporarily out of commission because a planer board had somehow managed to get all tangled up in it. Why there was a planer board in the boat – never mind in the net - I have no idea, but in any event, during the ensuing struggle to free the net, Nick misplaced the trolling motor remote.
As a rule, that wouldn’t have been a big deal, but for the fact that he hadn’t shut the motor off and they were bearing down fast on another boat that was fishing the area. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to pull the plug, thereby avoiding a potential seafaring disaster.
But at the end of the day it was all good because despite the challenges, the fish was netted, measured, suitably admired, photographed and then released.
Tonight, Michael managed to pull up a baseball, hockey, football AND basketball game on the screen simultaneously, and even though the audio would only steam for one game at a time – it was an impressive display nevertheless.
Although we went through over 20 cabbage rolls and 5 dozen perogies at dinner, a couple of hours later I cooked up Gary’s Atomic Buffalo Turds - they taste much better than they sound - and but for one lonely turd that someone had thoughtfully set aside for Lynn, who was having a siesta at the time, there were none left over for the sweeper.
The chatter would be a bit different around the breakfast table tomorrow, because Mr. Moffatt finally brought Lynn’s streak to an end by winning the pool, although I have no idea what sport we were actually betting on.
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back…
Today was going to be a carbon copy of yesterday, only a bit warmer.
Because Nick and Russ had finally cracked the code on Donny’s secret spot, both our boats headed over there first thing, and we landed 5 “keepers” in very short order. Unfortunately it shut down right after our 5th fish, and according to Nick and Russ, stayed that way for the rest of the morning.
Not wanting to call it day just yet, we blasted over to – go on – guess.
We fished the narrows for another couple of hours, and in addition to several small ones, Cousin Dave caught a 20” Walleye, which was our boats biggest fish of the week.
Much to our collective disappointment, the time had finally come to head back to camp, pull out the boats, pack, and settle up.
Even though we had fewer guys, and had to pay full price for things like steaks and cabbage rolls because our usual purveyors were shut down because of COVID, it only cost each of us $454 which was not a great deal more than last year’s total of $392pp.
After our fish fry – there wasn’t a peep out of the Cabin 14 Piscatorial Standards Committee btw – a 40 plus year tradition was kept alive by playing a game of Chase the Ace, won by none other than Chief Constable Criddle.
To celebrate his victory, I made up another huge pan of nachos, because as everyone knows, fish is a bit like Chinese food, and you tend to get hungry again shortly after you eat it.
You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice…
Everyone was up and around by 7am, and we finished packing, and divvyed up the remaining fish and leftover groceries.
All was right with the world once again – at least the part being occupied by the Desjardins brothers - because Gary won last night’s pool. Hmmm…
As there weren’t very many breakfast options available on the way home, other than drive-throughs, which were not really a viable option for those of us towing boats, and because Lynn had closed down his kitchen until next year, Nick and Russ hung back and cooked up some eggs for themselves.
It was a beautiful drive, and other than some fog patches here and there, the fall colours were spectacular and on full display.
So, to wrap things up, I’ll leave you with something a little bit different, a new segment that I’ve decided to call:
Cabin 14 News and Views
- Brownie, “T” and Ivan – we missed you this year and hope to have ya’ll back in 2021.
- Despite the long and winding road we had to navigate to finally get here, at the end of the day it was, in my estimation anyway, a great trip.
- Next years dates are May 29 to June 5, 2021. (fingers crossed)
- Although it was a bit chilly at times, and it took a few days to get on fish, September is not a bad time to visit Beaverland, if for no other reason than there was not a bug to be seen.
- The grocery list will undergo some slight revisions next year in regard to the distribution of who buys what.
- Suggestions regarding the list are, as always, welcome, including any proposed changes to the menu itself.
- Speaking of the grocery list, I’ll be adding one box of Cornflakes and some oatmeal. Both are apparently very good at preventing vapour lock, which was something of a problem for a couple of guys throughout most of the week.
- We got a chance to catch up with Albert - of Albert and Dorothy fame, the camps previous owners - who was there helping Mike move a rather large, wood fired heater.
- Congratulations to Chief Constable Criddle for catching the biggest Walleye of the week – and for that matter Lake Trout - and although there was no big fish pot this year, his name will be inscribed on the Harry Brettell Memorial Trophy for posterity.
- Donny, thanks for the tip, because once we deciphered the code, it turned out to be a very productive spot.
- With any luck, by next year Lynn will have figured out how to operate the timer for the coffee pot – because I’m done with it!
- Cousin Dave, good job on the grill, and don’t forget to bring along your meat thermometers next year.
- Thanks to the “Pickle” for doing a great job cleaning the fish, especially the smaller ones, and by once again ensuring that I got the only fillet with a bone in it for dinner.
- Michael, in the event you can’t join us next year because you’re playing ball – please send along the screen and projector together with detailed instructions.
- Nick, the Caesars were deeelishous as always, and although I never got around to trying one, from all accounts, so were the Mojito's.
- A special thank you to the Tigerrr for the peach jam, coleslaw and pickled eggs – they were fantastic as always.
- Lynn, muchas gracious for starting each morning off with a BANG, and preparing delicious hot breakfasts, and
- If the deal goes down, it would appear that we will have to break in, what for many of us, will be our 5th set of owners next year, as Lori and Mike have decided to try their hand at something new. They ran a great camp, and we wish them the very best and much success in their future endeavours, whatever they may be, and wherever life takes them.
In conclusion, Michael, Me, the “Pickle,” Gary, Nick, Chief Constable Criddle and his new pal Foxy, Lynn, Cousin Dave and the rest of the Paraprosdokians, whoever the hell they may be, bid you all a fond farewell, stay safe, and please always remember:
Never argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience…