It all began on a beach next to my cottage on the edge of the Salish Sea...
On a warm spring morning an indescribably gorgeous woman knocked on my door and somewhat hesitantly asked if I would be so kind as to show her how to fly fish. Thinking to myself, this is a heck of a way of selling encyclopedias…I soon forgot about books having been completely overcome by her exquisite beauty and the elegance of her manner. So I loaned her a fly rod and reel and gave her some basic instructions on fly casting. Within twenty minutes she was casting like a pro. I figured boy am I having my leg pulled―she’s done this before. However it turned out she hadn’t. I was some impressed since I have never been able to successfully teach anyone to cast with the exception of Michael, my son, but then we share the same genes, good looks along with a high opinion of ourselves.
I then loaned the beautiful woman a pair of waders and off we went down the beach to a spot where there were a lot of pink salmon jumping. Standing in the water were about a dozen or so fly fisherman. They had been there for at least four hours and hadn’t had a bite so I suggested to Madame we sit on an old driftwood log and wait for the salmon to stop jumping. They rarely bite when they’re doing that. I told her when they stop jumping and you can see just the tops of their fins showing above the surface that’s the time to go fishing, and I made a bet that when that happened that the fishermen would all leave and wait for the fish to start jumping again―which is exactly what happened. Then with all eyes following her, on my suggestion the beautiful woman waded into the water and followed my directions to perfection. She cast her fly ten feet beyond the fish and ten feet in front of it, and retrieved the line in slow little jerks. Within a moment a salmon struck. She played it like a pro, beached it, grabbed a sizable rock, bashed it on the head, whipped out a very sharp pocket knife and cleaned it like an expert!
The salmon started jumping again so she joined me on the log, with her fish clutched close to her. The fishermen returned to the water, casting furiously at the jumping salmon―to no avail. This story was repeated three more times, each time with her catching another salmon. Having acquired her legal limit she and I, along with her fish, left the beach and the annoyed fly fishermen behind.
As we strolled away we heard them murmuring to each other. Then one of them asked who is she? Another one replied she must be a friend of Ken’s. Another one asked what the Hell’s she doing with HIM? Unfortunately the reply had to be censored. Sorry about that. But what I can say is that we were two people who had each recently experienced great loss and who found a kindred spirit in each other―two painters, now two fishers―happily in each other’s company.
Soon after the beautiful woman asked me what other sort of fishing I did. I replied that I really loved to fly fish at a clearwater jewel of a lake in the high rolling grasslands of the Ranch Country. I said I would love to take her there and provide her with the experience of this beautiful place and catch large and magnificent Kamloops Rainbow Trout on the fly, but right now I’m not going to, she understood. One of my closest fishing and hunting buddies, Ron, had just died from a massive stroke. We, along with a number of other friends, had gathered at that small lake each year creating wonderful experiences and memories and it was too soon to return.
Coincidentally, another dear fishing buddy, by the name of Mark, wanted to know if we were going to the little lake this year. I said that I would like to give it a rest for a year or two, and proposed that we go to his favourite lake. So off we went to Tunkwa Lake.
After passing bluebirds, grouse, ravens and wayward cattle we crested the hill leading to the lake and there before us lay Paradise. After checking in at the office and dumping our gear in Cabin 17, armed with a map of the lake’s unspeakably secret hot spots, we headed out across the water to a spot near a beautiful marsh and island, which is actually a bird sanctuary. Following the map precisely we double-anchored in about six feet of water, less than a cast away from the shore. It seemed far too close to land for me, but then I knew nothing about the lake so I dutifully followed Mark’s instructions.
I tied a Goddard Sedge onto the leader of a dry line, and then looked around to make sure no one was looking and applied the secret ingredient. I will let you in on the secret, dear reader, because I am sure you are completely trustworthy. The secret is; you work up a good amount of saliva, take the sharp end of the hook holding it firmly between thumb and forefinger, place it in your mouth and load ‘er up! This makes the fly neutral, it neither floats nor sinks. It exists in a dimension in between. When retrieved slowly the fly produces a small bump in the meniscus but without breaking the surface. It seems to imitate a hatching insect trying very hard to break through the surface of the water. This little trick seems irresistible to otherwise unsuspecting trout.
After making several experimental casts the beautiful lady managed to drop the fly about eight feet in front of the shore. Two or three short retrieves—a large trout took her fly vigorously and leapt in spectacular fashion high into the air. The beautiful lady let out an incredible sound of surprise and enjoyment, something not dissimilar to a high C when sung by a chap known as Pavarotti, who by the way is a pretty decent singer. Throughout the late evening and well on towards dark the beautiful lady kept repeating this wonderful feat.
Up until that day I had always been the one saying just a few more casts, and then just one more cast. This time it was me saying it’s getting late, are you ready to go in? which was met by an immense silence, clearly meaning no.
Coming close to starvation and in the darkness, her Majesty finally agreed to go ashore. So after fish cleaning and a fine supper of fried trout (using lots and lots of butter, lots of salt and huge quantities of black pepper, with several bottles of wine for dessert) we fell into conversation with Mark and Maggie, into the late hours.
Since that first visit we have returned each spring and autumn, falling deeper and deeper in love with each other and the lake. The only thing left for us to do was to get married. The beautiful woman had only one request for the wedding day, that we fish in the morning, come ashore for lunch and the ceremony, and then fish again in the evening. I was more than willing to grant her request!
We arranged for a marriage commissioner to come up to the lake to do the ceremony, a lovely woman we had found via a government website. From a directory showing commissioner’s photos we knew our choice immediately by her warm smile. As it turned out Jennifer was the perfect choice, an adventurer who the day before our wedding had been canoeing at Peterhope Lake, the clearwater jewel where I had lived and learned to fly fish.
In the days preceding our wedding Mark had shared his fly tying expertise, teaching my fiancee how to tie several chironomids and the lethal Tunkwa Pumpkinhead. So as requested, on the morning of the special day the beautiful lady and I went fishing in our spot⎯where she caught a fish on the first fly she ever tied, got married in the afternoon, and then caught more fish, Madame’s on said fly, in the evening.
When we had cleaned the day’s catch and came in to start supper my gorgeous new wife, Nana, and I were were surprised with gifts, champagne and a beautiful and heavenly cake Maggie had baked for the special occasion.
The following morning we said our goodbyes to Michael and his wife,Yuko (they had flown in for the ceremony and fishing) as they headed to the Kamloops airport and beyond to Tokyo, and then we had one more day of fishing at Tunkwa. Even though the wind kicked up and blew a gale, and we being the only ones on the lake, my new wife seemed oblivious to the hurricane and proceeded to catch fish well into the evening.
The next morning while I was settling up our bill Nana was taking a last look at the lake. In the office Richard was as usual effectively juggling the needs of half a dozen customers and was in and out of the office several times getting folks organized. While I waited in the office I admired the many boxes of beautifully hand-tied fishing flies and surveyed the old fishing paraphernalia adorning the walls. Then with the business concluded and goodbyes said I walked outside and found Nana lakeside eyeballing the distant marsh. As we walked toward our van we exploded in laughter when we saw written across it’s rear window―Just Married―surrounded by large hearts!
With a deep sense of gratitude and joy in our hearts we headed for home⎯up the hill and through the gate to the sounds of rattling empty beer cans.
P.S. One was informed that the Just Married was courtesy of Maggie, and the beer cans were Mark’s handiwork.
As in the song titled, I Remember It Well, “it” didn't quite begin, “on a beach” but very close to it.
A year and a half after Ken and I started looking for any excuse to spend time with each other he took me up to his studio and showed me a painting he had just completed. It was of a woman with her back to the viewer. I knew instantly that the painting was of me. How, I don’t know. My back is a side of myself with which I am not particularly familiar. Ken’s response to my obvious delight with the painting was to grin and say, “I see you watching⎯wherever we are.” And so began The Watcher.
Ken and I are both painters, although I came to it much later in life than he did. Painting was something I had avoided because my mother is a painter-I know what can happen! However, having eventually surrendered I have an understanding of The Watcher which is unique.
As a child I spent countless hours engrossed in art books staring at angelic depictions of the Christ Child, the horrors of the Black Death, the works of many including Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Wyeth and Rivera. With some paintings I could imagine stepping into the scene and becoming part of the story, with others I was content to safely remain a viewer. I had also been painted, the last time when I was fifteen, so I was accustomed to appearing on a canvas in an imaginary world, but the first time I saw myself appear in my lover’s work I was taken well aback. Suddenly I felt like I had crossed over the otherworldly threshold into a type of Christina’s World. The feeling was moderately unsettling and at the same time utterly delicious!
When I see each new painting of The Watcher I am jolted into another realm, some very familiar and some I hope to see one day. But even the ones I have never experienced are familiar because of the stories Ken has shared with me. The stories of his experiences as a child living in England, as a youth running wild in Portugal and as a man who has lived selflessly. And he has shared tales of the people who left their marks on his life⎯good and bad. In turn I have shared my stories with him, so as time has gone by our lives have melded and we have stepped into each other’s worlds.
"Michelangelo, it goes without saying, is famous for having been a sculptor and a painter. However, it is written that he also got directly involved with details, from the stone he had quarried, to designing the roads for transporting said stone.
Not unlike his predecessor, Ken too understands the need to imagine, coordinate, create and display his work. And this book, as with the collection of works it features, are his latest of such endeavors."
Nana has worn many hats and gone by many names. Professionally recognized a a writer, painter, make-up artist and dancer, Nana is exceptionally creative and seems to accomplish any goal she sets her sights on. She has been passionate about landscapes, terrain and nature her whole life. She can commune with anyone from the animal kingdom, including humans. This is the woman you want in your corner. Whether you’re lost in the woods, negotiating a hostage situation or need someone to hold your baby. She’s tough and true and righteous and one hell of a mother.