Reflections: Fish Warfare

George Rowe


It is now 6:00 pm, Thursday, July 18. I am about to leave for an evening of fishing at Moose Lake. At the last minute my fishing buddy bailed on me because of an unexpected event and my wife couldn’t join me because of health reasons. It was time to be alone.

I checked out my boat and all my fishing gear—gasoline, life jacket, fly rod, favourite flies, safety equipment. etc. I looked at the sky and studied the clouds that promise a warm shower of rain. I then check the wind direction—blowing from the southwest to the northeast, which means it is straight down the lake. Yes! This will be a fine evening with a Black Flashabou or a Doc Spratley, two of my favourite flies for Moose Lake.

My wife gives me a kiss, wishes me well and I leave the driveway. There is a sense of freedom and anticipation as I drive toward the evening sun, feel the warm wind on my face, listen to CBC and always on the lookout for wildlife.

On the twenty minute drive to the lake a thousand thoughts flood my mind and occasionally I’m jerked back to reality as I anticipate a Doc Spratley hooking into a fine rainbow trout.

When I arrived at the lake the tranquility is almost emotional. On the wings of the southeast wind I hear the call of a lone loon. I look and see this magnificent bird just a short distance from the dock.

I stand in silence as I observe the chick riding on the back of mom to conserve heat, avoid predators and to simply feel close to home. A pair of mallard ducks squawk past me and I’m startled out of my silence. Fish are now rising near the dock.

The soft wind is causing slight ripples accross the lake and the deep shadows on the far side is almost haunting but at the same time so inviting for the casting of my own hand-tied Doc Spratley. The tranquility, the freshness of a small lake, the sights and sounds of wildlife, the restlessness of billowing clouds painted on the canvas of a beautiful blue sky and the brilliance of the sun as it nears a resting spot on the horizon is almost enough to bring me to my knees with thanks and in appreciation for the simple pleasures of life.

The cast was almost perfect. The fish rose just inches from the fly and on its downward thrust it savagely hit the Doc Spratley, causing the rod to bend, the line singing its way from the reel and my adrenaline peaking in high gear.

In a matter of seconds the fish rose to the surface and breaking through the dark blue water was momentarily suspended until it dove again, this time with greater vengeance and the kind of tenacity you would not expect from a small fish. I finally reeled it into the boat—it was a fine fish indeed.

Sitting high on its perch was my friend the bald eagle. For twenty-two years now I have observed an eagle, maybe the same one, sitting practically on the same branch, observing me while fishing. I, too, observe it. Many times I have watched that eagle dive deep into the blue waters of Moose Lake, almost always successfully, lifting a good size fish to its famous perch for a good meal. Today I was in for a treat.

Perched about 400 yards from the eagle was a fish hawk. Resting upon what seems to be a feeble branch, the hawk was searching for signs of a fish near the surface. I sat motionless in the boat and simply enjoyed the moment.

As I watch, the hawk takes flight to my right and rises about a 100 yards in the air. For a moment, it hangs suspended in the sky, and then it dives, straight down into the water, under the water. Then, lifting itsself from the waters, carrying a large rainbow trout held by the mighty talons of this great hunter. The hawk was about to enjoy a great meal of delicious fish.

But wait! The eagle! An encounter is about to happen and I am here to witness it.

Leaving its resting place this mighty eagle spread its wings and honed in on the hawk. In less than a minute there was fish warfare over the waters of Moose Lake. That eagle forces the hawk to soar toward the clouds and then quickly dive down toward the water.

There was no way this hawk was going to give up its meal, not without a fight. The maneuverability and flexibility of both combatants is absolutely mind-boggling.

To my left, a second eagle comes into the picture. It keeps a safe distance, as if cheering on its brother/sister eagle not to give up the fight. Three beautiful feathered creatures dancing, waltzing, maneuvering, and displaying an acrobatic moment of entertainment that could never be matched by the best of human intelligentsia.

The first eagle finally forced the hawk to release its catch. Plummeting toward the water, the second eagle, moving at almost at the speed of sound, swoops down and scoops up the flying fish, just meters before hitting the water. It was simply awesome! The second eagle enjoyed a great meal of fresh fish while the other fine feathered birds found a resting place and simply waited for another opportunity.

When the entertainment was over I continued to fish and landed four more beauties.

While boating back to the dock I reflected on what I had just experienced. It was exactly one hour from the time I got to the lake until I had returned to the dock. This one hour of pure enjoyment could never be bought, bartered or borrowed.

My reflection brought to my mind a very beautiful Bible verse:”But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40″31) Remember, the sun is always shining!