If You’ve Ever Been Stuck on a Bad Fishing Trip, You’ll Relate to This Hilarious Story

Why fishing excursions were a family fixture remains a mystery all these years later.

Born and raised on the far side of northern Ontario, my early life was spent surrounded by countless miles of virgin wilderness and beautiful lakes and rivers. Four generations of our family called this part of the world home. Gold miners, loggers and pioneers yes, but fishermen they were not, despite the passion that several members of the family dedicated to this peculiar sport.

The most devoted to catching the “big one” were my father, Jim, and his older brother, Chuck. The elaborate fishing excursions they put together each summer were a wonder to behold. These expeditions would begin with a two-hour car ride deep into the bush. This was followed by an arduous hike through uncharted wilderness to a remote body of water that they were convinced would be teeming with the largest pickerel and trout the world had to offer.

Sowing the seeds of doubt

No one ever seemed to question the fishing prowess of these two senior family members. Like everyone else, I assumed they were as capable in this realm of life as they appeared to be in all others. It was only after accompanying them on one of their legendary trips that I began to seriously question this popular assumption. The seeds of doubt were first planted following an innocent conversation I had with my best friend, Glenn. I was ten years old and for the first time, I was going to be joining my dad and uncle on one of their jaunts into the wilderness. “The trick to catching lots of fish is using minnows,” Glenn informed me. “They’re way better than lures and worms. I always catch the big ones first thing in the morning, that’s the ticket!”

Relaying these observations to my dad was a serious error in judgment. The next morning, I was roused from bed at 5 a.m. Never before had one of their fishing trips started so early! “It’s dark outside,” I protested.

“Everyone knows you catch the biggest fish first thing in the morning,” he reminded me. Only later did I recall that the actual catching of fish on one of these trips had never seemed like much of a priority before. The challenge had always been the journey itself. I soon realized that an even bigger mistake was not keeping quiet about Glenn’s opinion on the benefits of fishing with minnows.

Mosquitoes breakerKwangmoozaa / Shutterstock.com

Into the wild

The ride in my uncle’s half-ton truck was a sleepy blur that morning. We spent two hours navigating desolate dirt roads. My dad favoured skid roads, carved from the wilderness by logging companies years before. Finally, the truck came to a bumpy stop, the logging road having petered out into a mass of impenetrable tag alders (shrubs). Out we tumbled and, from the back of the truck came the aluminum boat. My dad and Uncle Chuck shouldered a couple of packsacks, handed me whatever remained, then led the way through the most densely tangled mess of scrub brush I’d ever seen.

As expected, there was no trail leading back to this mysterious, unnamed lake—probably because no one had been there for several decades. Our route had been charted the previous day from topographic maps, fuelled by the assurances of a couple of cronies that such hardships would be well worth the effort once we started fishing. You’d think a wilderness trek like this would be done according to long-established protocols. To begin with, anyone making such a gruelling journey would probably consider bringing along the lightest canoe possible. Our vessel of choice on the other hand was a 12-foot aluminum boat! Secondly, any self-respecting “portager” from the Voyageurs on down have always been pictured carrying their vessel upside-down on their shoulders, one man up front, the other at the stern. Instead, our clunky old boat was dragged the entire way to the lake, at no time ever leaving the ground by more than a few inches, banging and scraping over every rock and stump along the way.

Our destination, probably no more than a mile-and-a-half through the bush, seemed ten times that far. In the cool early morning, the mosquitoes congregated mere seconds after we’d stepped from the truck, crawling into every conceivable crevice of our clothing, biting, chewing and sucking till we were an itching, blood-crusted, miserable mass of humanity. Surprisingly, our arrival at the lake did little to improve our grim circumstances, yet at first glance the lake didn’t seem so bad. It was a quarter of a mile across, with its entire shoreline enclosed by 30 feet of swamp.

After the boat had been deposited into the shallow water and our supplies loaded on board, I was told we’d be catching our own bait that morning. To this end, a bucket and a long, fine-meshed fishing net were produced. The plan was simple. My dad and uncle would wade into the shallow water, one on each end of the minnow net, then drag it slowly through the waist-deep water. Initially, I was quite impressed by their resourcefulness. If Glenn was right, using minnows for bait might actually give us a fighting chance of landing a few “big ones.” Besides, the sun was up, the temperature was beginning to warm and even the mosquitoes had eased off somewhat. My spirits began to rise.

The stuff of nightmares

Dad and Uncle Chuck removed their shoes, rolled up their pant legs, then boldly waded out into the murky water. I immediately realized that what they were doing was something I would never, ever do, not for a million bucks! I could see that the bottom of the lake was nothing but muck, not the solid, sandy bottom of our lake back home. It was so disgustingly soft that the two minnow-catchers sank almost up to their knees in the black oozy mud.

As kids living on the shores of a northern lake, we grew up with a horror of bloodsuckers. We swam only in areas where they were scarce, and loved to entertain one another with wild tales of the world’s largest leeches. We also knew, without a lie, that the smaller ones were the most dangerous because they could stick to you without you realizing it and stay there for days, sucking out your blood by the gallon. You might imagine then, my heart-stopping horror when my dad and uncle emerged from the water and every square inch of their legs were covered with bloodsuckers! What really grossed me out was how they completely ignored their predicament, taking their own sweet time unloading their catch and folding up the minnow net. Even when they sat down on a piece of driftwood and started picking off the leeches, they chatted the whole time about what kind of fish they expected to catch with the minnows. In retrospect, I’m thankful I didn’t find out until later that some fishermen actually use leeches as bait. Now that’s a concept I’m sure my dad would have found irresistible.

With two dozen minnows joining our expedition, we pushed the boat out onto the lake.

The day was memorable for at least one positive reason—I caught my first fish, a one-pound perch, which my father immediately tossed back. “Can’t eat perch, they’re too bony,” he informed me. “We could have had it stuffed by a taxidermist,” I sulked.

Thankfully, the rain held off until we’d been there for a couple of hours and, when it did come, I was initially grateful as it drove away the last of the mosquitoes. An hour later, when we were thoroughly drenched, we retreated inland. As we were poling our way into a narrow inlet, however, we broke one of the oars! It was this latest disaster though, that really brought out the best in my two fishing companions. Even as they checked out the broken oar and pondered its ramifications, their eyes lit up, and at that moment I knew exactly what they were thinking. Circumnavigate the entire lake through the bush, lugging a 75-pound boat! Now that’s certainly a challenge we hadn’t anticipated. Fantastic!

“Good thing we didn’t catch any fish this morning,” my uncle remarked quite seriously as we began our hike back to the truck. “We’d just have to carry them out of here, too.”

The fishing trip from hell

Twenty-five years and a succession of fishing disasters later, my son, Jason, was finally granted the opportunity of accompanying his grandfather and great-uncle on one of their infamous excursions—this one complete with an electrical storm. Jason still refers to it as “the fishing trip from hell.”

Why such fishing excursions were a family fixture remains a mystery all these years later. My father, for instance, spent almost his entire life living beside one of the most beautiful lakes in northern Ontario; a body of water known far and wide for its bass, trout and pickerel. Yet never, not even from the end of our dock on the first day of fishing season, did I ever see my father cast a line into this all-too-convenient lake. I also never saw him catch a single fish—not even a bony perch!

Next, check out 75 funny family jokes that are sure to make you smile.

Originally Published in Our Canada