Not long ago, I was challenged to photograph a stranger. Someone I don’t know at all. Not hard for a professional right? I photograph people all the time that I don’t know. But this challenge was different, it was to take myself out of my comfort zone, and approach someone out of the blue, to photograph at that moment. This, if you know me at all, is very much out of character for me.
Between appointments last week, I had some time, and while I wasn’t outfitted for it, I was in need of an escape from the city. Christmas break saw my family in Oro, enjoying the snow and clean air found at the side of Lake Simcoe. Returning to Scarborough served to contrast the beauty of where I was, and where I am. Spying a few fishermen on the ice promised a fresh perspective.
When I lived in Port Sydney, there were always fishermen on the ice of Mary Lake, their huts huddled together as though around a camp fire at night. It wasn’t a past-time I understood, but instead was an annual fixture on the lake, blending into the background of my life. This day, on Frenchman’s Bay, would be a good day for a walk on the ice.
It was by a small hole in the ice that I met Ryan and his Colleague Charlie; Sometime co-workers, and friends. Charlie was introduced to fishing on the Rouge by co-workers, and it was with reluctance that he took up the winter past-time of ice fishing. Bundled in thick, one-pice snowsuits and heavy boots, these men patiently showed me some of the ropes of what they do.
“You’ll find everything here” they tell me. Perch and Trout aplenty. “You can fish a whole lake and find nothing, but in one spot you’ll pull them out all day.” Says Charlie. Ryan sets a bait in one hole, then starts another with his Auger. “Mind the Auger” says Charlie, “It’s sharp”. It has to be to cut through 4″ of ice in seconds.
They use some specialized equipment, Ryan has his Fishfinder setup off of a D-cell battery pack and measures the depth to be 7′. “It gets deeper further out.” Says Charlie. He sets his 2 hooks in his own hole a little further out. He has a weight that sits on the bottom, and the hooks are set on the same line far enough apart to avoid them tangling. I talk some with Ryan and find out he’s from downtown Toronto, while Charlie comes from Stouffville. “Tommorrow” he says, “There’ll be 20, 30 guys out here.” Tomorrow would be Saturday. A weekend hotspot, with a community of its own. A common escape from their urban lives, to a different world atop the thin frozen waters that border the city. The men share a little of how they have made new friends on the ice in its own community, and that born into that community is the competitive spirit to catch the most, if not the biggest fish. A ringing of bells causes Charlie to snatch up his rod. “Fish on” I say, using the only bit of fishing lingo I know.
He pulls out a small colourful fish. I make a feeble guess that it’s a small mouth displaying even more ignorance. He laughs, “It’s a perch. Really good to eat, they’re delicious.” He says with energy. “This one’s a couple of french fries.” “You’ll keep it?” I ask. “Oh yah” He says, “They’re really good.” Ryan drops in some more live bait to attract something of his own.
Not long after, I beg my leave. I have to get to another appointment, but my time on the ice has reinvigorated my day. I remember that food comes from many places outside of a grocery store. I remember that only on the doorstep of the city of Toronto, there is found a different world, with men who still know how to sit patiently in the cold, stoic in their resolve to catch the next big one.