fishing lessons

On the lake we are learning to fish. My young cousin taught the girls patiently, and reminded me of knowledge I had years ago, fishing with grandfathers and uncles, on rivers and oceans, fishing for goldeye, rock cod, salmon. Our Finnish heritage is fine-tuned to forests and lakes, you can see us all settle in the way you do when you get home.


This lake is tiny and perfectly formed. It was named Teanook Lake by Emily Carr herself, who rode in on her buggy to paint it nearly a century ago. Can you picture her here? With a flask of tea, I think. I’ve been photographing its beauty daily, in all its Monet-like changes, and could go on for a lifetime. My tall girl wants a paintbox to continue the tradition.

fishing lessons

Getting the hang of angling isn’t so hard – and then, oh, what a pleasing game. The arc and whistle, the bobbing movement, the timing, the winding and watching. The tension of the line! Catching it with your finger, holding til you let go at just the right moment – I tell you, the knitters in my history met the fisherfolk, and they nodded in appreciation. Any sort of practice that requires silence, stillness, observation, a bit of skill, I love it. If this was your only opportunity for meditation, it would be enough.

fishing lessons

My tall girl got it quickly and landed a small fish on her first go – it was exuberantly celebrated and promptly sent back. In less than a moment the children fell in love with fishing on the lake, and they want their own tackle, their own rods.

fishing lessons

How I’ve longed to return to fishing! It took me a few tries to remember how, it’s been easily 30 years since my grandfather took me out for my own fishing lessons on Winnipeg river. We’d stay in a spot for a matter of minutes; if there weren’t any bites we’d move on to another. My father would nap, hat over the eyes. Once, as a small girl, I caught eighteen goldeye in a row. My little Finnish grandmother would race up the steps to the old family cottage and down to where the fish were cleaned and smoked. I can recall the flavour like it was last night’s dinner, and see my grandfather eating fish soup at the red gingham-covered table. I didn’t know then how lucky I was.

Oh, we’d race down the dock and jump into that river after a sauna as I’d love to jump into this lake – without a sauna it’s still too cold for wild swimming, this rainy late May.

fishing lessons

I bet all the old folks would be deeply pleased to see the next generation of cousins out on the dock together, still fishing. It pleases me ever so much.

Do you love learning old-time skills too? You might like to see the the old school movies. Don’t miss my next projects, get the postcards!


As promised, the first of a number of tried & trues from some of the wonderful folks at River Cottage. Head Chef Tim Maddams is amazingly even more dynamic in person than he is on the show, (you may have just seen him making ‘mackerel baps’ a household name on Hugh’s Fish Fight) and kept us laughing all through our day devoted to learning about fish. See below for evidence.


tim the chef, myself, the unfortunate crab, and fellow student richard stuart. photograph: martin roe

One of Tim’s best old fashioned tools is his penknife.


tim maddams’ penknife. photograph: tim maddams

The penknife is simple in its folding design, sturdily made and effective for all kinds of uses. It accompanies Tim on hunting and fishing trips, and everyday walks. He’s even skinned a rabbit with the thing. Don’t-leave-home-without-it kind of useful. This one is French, I am doubly jealous. A brief history suggests that the penknife is ancient. Standing the test of time. Thanks Tim!

cookery school: fish

Highly entertaining head chef Tim Maddams deftly guided us in our education in filleting and cooking fish today. We had a chance to mess about with mussels, with mackerel and gurnard, dressing a crab, preparing squid to be seared, and smoking fish! We learned how to choose fresh, sustainably caught fish from plentiful stocks, and later had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who talked more about his exciting fish campaign. And we pestered him with questions, of course.


(More about Hugh’s answers soon.) I’m elated to have learned how to fillet a fish. I grew up fishing in rivers and oceans, and at the time considered myself lucky to have grandfathers and uncles to clean and fillet the fish. Foolish creature. I’m pleased to have remedied this today, along with getting more comfortable handling other seafood.


Tim showed us how to slice at an angle in two directions to remove the head;


And how to find the spine and slice along it, in this case leaving the very end attached, then slicing a v to remove the last bones. We filled it with salsa verde;


Tied it with string;


Then pan fried it on each side. The mackerel is a lovely oily fish so it needed nothing in the pan.


Gorgeous. Tim is utterly approachable and the charming Steve Lamb joined him in answered every question we could think of. I’m gathering courage to set out with a fishing rod or a crab trap. Perhaps once I’ve read my seafood handbooks. I had to tear myself away from Park Farm and all the lovely people there, but how exciting to bring home all of this knowledge. And all of this food. I’ve had an amazing experience; life-altering, inspiring, affirming. I have so many people to thank for this.