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Yellow Lake

4 June 2005

Yellow Lake
British Columbia

I've discovered a terrific substitute for Saturday morning TV, though it does take up a bit more room. It's called Yellow Lake, and it's outside Keremeos, BC. I'm sitting down close to the water with some coffee and a couple of snickerdoodles, watching the boat ramp through a screen of rushes. There's a little dock there, floating on four blue barrels, "donated by the Penticton Flyfishers".

The first fishermen showed up around 7 am, a couple of young guys in a rustbucket yellow-and-brown Chevy truck. The bow of a beatup aluminum boat stuck out the back. Apparently everything they needed was already in there, because they just dragged the thing off and plopped it into the water. The motor started up on the first pull. They set up a couple of aluminum lawn chairs inside, one in the stern facing forward, one in the bow facing back. In they got and off they went. Not much waste motion with these guys. The whole process took maybe 6 minutes, start to finish.

I suspect they'll catch their limit. Maybe a bit more.

Next up were what appeared to be a father and son. The son was over 50, with a paunch. The old man was one of those dried up wiry guys. Their boat was carried upside down on a small utility trailer. Hanging down from the prow was a little wheel that allowed the youngster to grasp the boat at the stern and roll it easily down into the water, turn it over, and slide it in. They made a slow circle with a trolling motor and put their lines in.

Canadians around here sound a lot like Minnesotans. The same soft voices, the same rising inflection at the ends of sentences, the same family humor. Half-heard stories, told tartly with pointed affection, about a hopelessly absent dumbass brother-in-law. Low laughter, floating across the sunlit water.

These guys came to talk. The fish can bite, if they want.

Mama Duck is out this morning, absent the ducklings. They must be sleeping in. Last evening she was leading a flotilla of 7 tiny floating featherballs. These little guys behaved themselves while entrained behind her, up to a point, but then some kind of signal unmeant for human ears announced Recess. Wahoo. Off they scooted in all directions, leaving little wakes, dipping their bills and picking up what I suppose were insects floating on the water.

A turtle is sunning himself nearby on a half submerged log. He might have been carved from it. Farther down, a small brown bird with little stick legs is goose-stepping around, inspecting and pecking at the soft wood.

Back at the dock, a slim fellow in a floppy hat is also hopping back and forth, from his truck to the boat and trailer, stopping, looking back, picking stuff up, setting it down. Little quick uncertain movements. What did I forget? Where did I put it? Dither, dither, dither. Completely outfitted for Darkest Canada, his progress is impeded by too much of all the right equipment.

I went up and got me a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie.

Yellow Lake is a dead lake in it's natural state. It has no inlet. It is very deep. One fellow told me there's a hole 900 feet deep out there. An expression of local pride, I suppose. The display at the rest area only claims 120 feet. Deep enough. It's a slot canyon filled with water, and not enough wind gets past the mountain to stir up waves and oxygenate the depths. In the old days, over winter, it iced over and most all the fish died.

Now they pump air down to the bottom, in effect turning the thing into a giant aquarium. Fish live through the winter. Fishermen fish.

Imagine that. A lake salvaged, rather than killed, by the actions of men.

I talked briefly with a retired fellow who takes "fatherless boys" fishing part time. He is alone at present, with one of the widest 10 foot boats I've ever seen. Deep V keel, looks almost square. He carries it atop his Suzuki Samurai.

He talked about wintering in "the Valley". He's not speaking about the Rio Grande Valley. He knows about McAllen, says he used to play slow pitch baseball down there. But he means the Valley a few miles downhill from right here. Last week it got up to over a hundred degrees down there.

This is Canada's only desert, supposedly an extension of the Sonoran, cut and somewhat cooled by the Okanagan river. Retired Canadians flock to Penticton and environs. Winters here are like back in Texas, maybe a couple of weeks of snappy weather in January. This is one of the few places in Canada people can be pretty sure they won't eventually freeze their butts off.


There's a kid waddling around on the dock right now looking like a miniature orange version of the Michelin Man, stuffed into a tiny life jacket. A duck walks up and gives him the eye. The boy tries to tell Grandpa about the duck, but the old man is grumpy, intent on something in the boat. The duck wanders on, intent on duck business. The moment passes.

Welcome to my first morning in Canada. I love having nothing to do. I think I was born to be retired.


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