Looking back to move ahead

The wind’s howling, blowing snow from tree to lamp post, up to the eaves and back down again. The odd house finch flits between the dormant honey suckle vine and the bird feeder on the greenhouse in the blustery back yard.

It’s the kind of day when the best thing you can do is tie a few flies for friends and the son-in-law. Maybe even a couple to replace the double-copper-bead stonefly nymph and grey goose dropper I lost on the Crowsnest just last week. It wasn’t that the rainbow broke me off. She came to the surface long enough to see she had some heft, but then as quickly was back in her safe spot near the far bank. Truth is, the knot on the point fly wasn’t snug enough to hold her. You’d think after 40 years of doing this, I’d at least be more diligent.
Memories like that, from a short time ago, come easily. Even the ones from long ago aren’t that difficult. I can recall rather vividly one of my first attempts at fishing, well more like untangling the line on an antiquated casting reel just below Elbow Falls west of Calgary where I grew up. But I can also clearly see the six-inch cutthroat at the end of the line. For a six year-old, that was pretty cool. I can see the detail in the stretch of Lynx Creek in the Castle drainage where a friend handed me his fly rod with a size 12 royal coachman on the tippet.

As a 20-something, I became hooked instantly to flyfishing when another cutthroat grabbed the fly on the surface. I’ve been at it ever since.

In my 40s, friend and fellow journalist Mike Lamb and I decided to publish a fly-fisher’s guide/map to the Crowsnest River. That was over 20 years ago, and it spawned this website, which has been up in one form or other for more than 15 years. The text in the map of the River, with river background, access points, fly chart and other tips, was written from our own experiences on the river. But more so, we relied on tales and a ton of information from people like Don Townsend, Clyde Park, Don Anderson, Joe Coccioloni, who taught me how to nymph fish, Jerry Avoledo, who you’d find forever tying flies behind the counter of his general store in Bellevue, Edo Scodellaro, Gino Makin, Gino Maruca and Lorne Fitch. They’re all credited in the map, which initially was sold in Southern Alberta and Montana fly shops. Now, it’s available through this website.

On the website, you’ll see references to the places people who have bought the map are from. It’s a very small, incomplete list, but basically covers many of the states in the U.S. and a few countries in Europe. A couple of years ago as I was fishing Little Beaverdam Lake above Payne Lake near Waterton with a couple of friends, Don Sheppard told me he had bought a map when he lived in Ontario. BTW, on the same trip, I couldn’t bring myself to bonk a brookie I had caught for shore lunch, so Ian Gazeley paddled over to my belly boat, took the fish and gave it a whack with his hunting knife handle. On a second attempt, the knife slipped from his hand. I doubt it has been retrieved from the bottom of the lake. Just another memory.
Anyway, what you won’t see on the website are statistics like the number of people who visit it. This year, so far, 4,483 unique visitors, 8,371 total visits. In 2008, the numbers were 2,489 unique visitors, 4,952 visits. The growth has been steady the past five years. Before that, the site was stored with a different web-hosting service, but all I can recall is feeling good about the site receiving 40,000 hits, not a good indicator of how many people visited. It’s now 73,000 hits, indicating the number of files accessed, for what it’s worth.

By far, the most-viewed page is River Conditions. People seem to want to know year round what’s happening in and on the river and how it’s fishing.
The website makes no money. Map sales don’t cover the small cost (yearly about $130) of maintaining the site and crowfly.ca domain name. No matter, it’s a way of connecting with people with similar interests and providing some information for them.
This new feature, a blog, sort of, should enhance the connection, and document more memories. And be a place to go on a wintery day that’s just too cold to fish. Or even to just be outside.