Friday, July 11, 2008



I have done many strange things as a newspaper editor, like being photographed scooping manure into a garbage packer. I don't remember why, but it illustrated something in the Toronto Sun.
Of course I never made Page One kissing a horse on the nose. I leave that honour to Barbara Amiel, who later was photographed kissing Conrad Black, her fifth husband. Those of who who lost a lot of money in Holllnger thought Black was the other end of the horse.
But many of my recent excursions into the daffier side of newspapers involved the Sun's sponsorship of the Great Ontario Salmon Derby, and Walter Oster, a good friend who ran the derby, and his eternal yearning for more publicity.
On opening day, I would be there with the usual suspects, ranging fron Julian Fantino, the police chief/commissioner, Gordie Tapp, the entertainer, and Monte Kwinter, one of the few Grit politicians that I really like, and we would be bouncing around out on Lake Ontario off the Toronto Island. Now I have done a lot of fishing around the world, but never that well, and my lack of success would be mentioned in the Sun along with a picture showing me holding the smallest fish.
I did catch a 27-pound chinook salmon once but generally my columns afterwards would involve mishaps or lost fish. (I went fly fishing for salmon on the famous Hunt River in Labrador and managed to sink a fly so deep into my lower lip that it was surgically removed two days later in the Goose Bay hospital. But that's another story.)
This July, the challenge was to take the minister of natural resources - which means the minister for Ontario hunting and fishing- out fishing when Donna Cansfield had caught only three fish in her life....three small trout. But we finally hooked a fish, after much harassing of the skipper, and Donna proceeded to try to land the fish, with the advice of every man on the boat. (Keep your tip up, we all shouted, which seemed, when you think of it, rather a male sexual fantasy.)
Walter helped by sort of hugging the minister and pumping at the rod. I wasn't sure I wanted to watch. But finally in came the fish, a 23 pount chinook salmon. A beauty.
Walter helped Donna hold the fish up. But the photograper imported for the occasion, Dick Loek, just retired as the famous chief photographer of the Toronto Star, asked her to hold the fish by herself. Imagine, a 62-year-old woman holding a slippery live 23-pound salmon.
Naturally she dropped it, fortunately into the boat. And the Sunday Sun had a page one picture, with the minister with a strange look on her face. Not quite a picture of political significance, like Stanfield dropping the football and looking like a klutz, or Chretien playing basketball in street shoes on an outdoor court and falling on his nose, but Loek and I tried. Then Cansfield caught the sixth fish of her life, a 18-pound chinook salmon, and I landed a 23-pounder, a bit larger than the minister's, and I confess to dropping it too.
As I said in a letter to the Sun, Hugh Wesley, the chief photographer of the Sun, once sent a photog with a flimsy Canadian Tire to the boat when we returned with a big catch of salmon. He wanted me to sit in the flimsy craft holding up my big fish. It was awkward but I managed to do it without sinking. Then I realized that they wanted me to sink. It made a better picture, just as Dick Loek, that sneaky Dutchman, wanted Donna Cansfield, minister of fishing, to drop her fish.
Thank heavens it landed in the boat, because it made great eating. Eat fish from Lake Ontario? Of course! I took a friend, who has a doctorate and is a prominent prof. of environmental stats, out fishing in the lake and he caught a coho that was almost 18 pounds, which is quite big for a coho. I asked him later what he did with it. He said he had cooked it for the entire street. He said he didn't care if they all lit up in the dark, it was the biggest fish he had ever caught, and he doubted that he would ever catch one that big again.
I know just how he felt. It's one of the last vestiges of our caveman days when we actually caught the meat we ate.

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