It seems that for as long as I can remember I have loved the outdoors. Playing in the forest, fishing off a dock or sitting around a campfire all seemed to relax and refresh me. I am definitely not unique but I do think there a backstory on how this came to be.
It starts with family. My parents along with their parents emigrated to Canada from Scotland in the late 1950’s/early 60’s My Dad’s family gravitated toward the Beach area of Toronto, my Mom’s family to Scarborough. However, a love of the outdoors, or particularly the love of the outdoors of my Maternal Grandfather is really where the story starts.
John Cochrane loved nothing more than to fly fish. He spent his youth and his formative years sneaking into various private streams and “lochs” with his father to fish for trout, mainly to help feed his family through the Great Depression. They also hunted and shot fowl to “get something for the table”. As he grew older and started his own family he could still be found fishing on the banks of the River Clyde or casting with a spey rod into the mouth of the Firth not far from his home in Dumbarton. He often remarked he would never eat another trout for as long as he lived as he had existed on it almost daily during those incredibly tough years.
When my Pop or Coke as he was known came to Canada and learned that someone could fish anywhere, for so many different species of fish simply by paying a few dollars to get a fishing license it was to him the greatest thing in the world.
The picture above is of my Pop and I on a family camping trip in Lakefield, Ontario. A place where my extended family of Scots spent their weekends every summer. About a year after this picture was taken my parents, my Grandparents and a few Aunts and Uncles decided that they wanted a more permanent summer spot.
One of my earliest memories of the trailer was going fishing with my Pop. Early in the morning there would be a light knock on our trailer door. My brother and I had been waiting for the signal and out we went with Pop. Most mornings he took us to the Rosedale bridge on Balsam Lake. We fished with worms and bobbers at first but eventually we started to learn how to fish with lures. While we were plugging away my Pop did his best Brad Pitt impression casting muddler minnows or poppers with his favourite 4 weight.
My Pop was a stern taskmaster, I swear I knew how to tie an improved clinch knot before I could tie my shoes. We had to fend for ourselves, we baited our own hooks, took off our own fish and eventually bought our own lures. It was heaven
We didn’t only fish, my pop loved to take us through the small set of woods not far from the trailer park. He loved to spot birds or some animals trail and educate us. I can even remember him teaching how to tie and set a snare “I used to do this to feed us back in Dumbarton”
Additionally, I had other enthusiastic mentors who shared their love of the outdoors – my folks. Both my mum and dad loved to camp, fish and sit around the fire. . My Dad had an old 16 foot Peterborough with an ancient 85 Johnson. Driving that boat was amazing – until yours truly threw it from wide open into reverse to chase a lost hat. I can still remember the smell and the smoke from that experience. The motor was replaced and we spent endless afternoons and evenings in the boat – water skiing, fishing and just going for a boot around the lake.
As we grew older and entered our early teen years - sports, girls and growing up seemed to get in the way of heading north; but then my older brother switched the narrative. With money he made in two summers he bought a 14 foot Lund Big Fisherman with a 25 horsepower Johnson. All of a sudden the lake was ours and we spent every spare minute fishing Balsam Lake (with the odd trip to the Burnt River for the elusive muskie). Soon several of my friends were joining me – first for the freedom and independence our own boat provided and then even more so as they learned to love fishing. I am pretty sure I taught a number of my friends how to fish in that boat. Just like my Pop taught me
To this day I still remember the lessons I learned and I truly believe that when I do get the chance to be in the woods, or on the lake or cook jiffy pop on a fire, the pleasure I feel is a connection to those memories. To Friends. To Family. To Pop.