4th of July Celebration, Canadian style

I celebrated the 4th of July closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border, spending about an hour fly-casting for Arctic grayling in shallow rapids.

I’m a patriotic sort of person. The Star-Spangled Banner means something to be at sporting events. I get a bit defensive when I hear others running down our country.

But last week I spent the 4th of July not with family at our home or family farm or even a nearby lake. I was in northern Canada, closer to the Arctic Circle than the U.S./Canadian border. I was actually up there most of last week, and on the 4th I spent the hot and very windy day casting flies for big northern pike and grayling.

Arnold Stene with a big northern pike I caught on a fly-rod on a 4th of July trip to northern Canada. Other 4ths have been spent fishing in the Yukon, Alaska and Panama.

Somewhere during the trip  I took a few seconds to count up the number of July 4s I’d been out of the U.S., usually fishing and visiting old friends I’d made during my feral days as a full-time freelance outdoor writer.

There was a trip to Alaska to fly fish for rainbow trout the size of salmon, and Jerrod was with me once in the Yukon as we fly-fished for lake trout, grayling, pike and a few other species. He was also along about five or six years ago when we headed to Panama to fly fish for 100 pound sailfish and mahi-mahi and use big, conventional tackle for tuna and marlin.

Three or four times I’ve been in northern Canada, fishing with guide/friend Arnold Stene from a lodge where we first met 25 years ago.

It’s not like I make one of these trips every year, let alone several per summer. I don’t request the 4th of July, though it is nice because it saves me a day of vacation. Dunno, it’s just when the airlines, and my friends, usually have some space and time.  When I can pair an invitation, with some funds to buy airline tickets,…I just go.

This year I celebrated the 4th of July flying to an outpost lake with Arnold, and making about a 20 minute boat ride to one of his favored spots, a line of aquatic weeds near a steep drop-off at a mid-lake reef.  Fish #2 of the morning was a northern pike of 40-inches that came up from within the weeds to take a quail-sized streamer.

Heavy winds, and 90-degree temperatures, made fly-casting difficult and tiring, especially after three days of the same. We took our lunch break at the base of some swift, shallow rapids where I got out of the boat and cast dry flies for very gullible grayling. More pike followed in the afternoon, including a 38 or 40-incher I worked on for 15 minutes, drawing three for four short-strikes, before it finally committed, inhaled the streamer, then took off for Alaska.

The famed over-sized dorsal fin of an Arctic grayling. Some are three times as big. The fish are suckers for about any dry fly floated down the rapids.

(Biggest fish of the trip was a 43-incher that pulled hard but put up no speed. Most memorable fish was a 38-incher that was using the boat’s shadow for cover and rushed out to take the fly as I was lifting it from the water, showering me at the strike. That fish had power and speed, taking me around the boat several times, and three times pulling “I don’t think so, see you later!” runs as I was pulling it to the net. Another good memory was fly-catching a dozen 18″-22″ walleye in about an hour.)

Sure I’d liked to have been home, with my All-American family in our All-American city for the cook-outs and the fireworks. But I guess being able to make such a trip was, in a way, celebrating our great nation.

There aren’t many places in the world where someone can take a career dream that started when they were six-years-old and turn it into a living, and then work hard enough to have the finances and personal freedoms to so enjoy the rest of the world.

God Bless America.