Robert Pye is the writer of the blog Pye Acres. Before continuing to read further, please go to his blog and read his post about Melanie Main. Then come on back here. His post most directly relates to the last question but also speaks to his outlook about life and fishing that underlies all of his answers in this interview.
What started your love of fishing?
The sounds of the trout stream started my love for fishing, guided there by my best friend and outdoors mentor: my Dad. First-time anglers, especially kids, typically cut their fishing teeth at the end of a dock, watching for the twitch of a bright bobber from the pan-fish underneath it. Although I had my fair share of dockside hook, line and sinker action, my earliest fishing influence came from my Dad and his passion for the trout stream.
You have a young family. What lessons have you learned from your mentors that you want to pass on to your kids about fishing and the outdoors?
By the time I was 10-years old, I learned how to “work the current”, as my Dad/fishing mentor would say, directing my worms’ subtle entrance into an undercut or stick pile. The trout stream is where I learned the fundamentals of “finesse” fishing; that is, understanding structure and having the skills and resilience to gently present the bait in tricky corners. Years of lost worms, lost hooks and lost bites.
The trout stream builds character because it’s a place to get lost in your own mind. Those early trout stream experiences helped shape my outdoors future. I’m proud to say the personal values that come from the trout stream are already being passed on to my boys.
You say in your profile that you are living the hunting/fishing dream. What does that look like?
It looks like the view from our front porch! In 2012, my family made an outdoor dream a reality with a countryside home and property, far enough back in the sticks and close enough to top-quality bass, muskie and walleye fisheries.
Living the fishing and hunting dream is also a career achievement. When I was 12-years old, I joined a conservation organization called the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. I became a full time employee of this great organization after college graduation. In my 20-year OFAH career, “living the fishing and hunting dream” remains my career focus as much as it does my family focus – a future full of great outdoor opportunities.
Where are your favorite places to fish?
I really enjoy the backwoods lakes of Ontario that are often loaded with bass, and uninterrupted by the cottage or camping crowds. I guess I lean toward secluded fishing experiences over the chance for trophy fish. My “go-to” lake isn’t as productive as lakes better known to other hardcore anglers. But, hey, if I can get on the water without pressure or constraints of travel time, crowds and expense, I’ll take quantity of fishing time over quality fish in the live well.
Now I have a challenge for you. Out of your favorite places, which place would you pick if you could only fish one for an entire season?
The Nipigon River! Home to world record Brook Trout, and my personal best Brookie…a 5-pounder. Famous for Brook Trout, the mighty Nipigon River that flows into Lake Superior, hosts a variety of other species including Rainbow Trout, Chinook salmon, Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Whitefish. The scenery along the Nipigon River is absolutely breathtaking. It’s also the place where my wife and I got married. A small gathering of our family and friends journeyed up the Nipigon River in a wedding processional of aluminum fishing boats. We said our “I do’s” and then went back out fishing.
You caught your personal best largemouth last year. What is the fish story behind that bass?
I landed my personal best largemouth bass at 6.2 pounds last summer in the company of my good friend, Patrick Walsh, editor in chief of Outdoor Canada magazine. What makes the memory of my personal best largemouth bass so special is that, neither Patrick nor I had ever fished this particular lake before. We didn’t even have a map for the lake…just our instincts for bass-y looking structure.
This is where my trout stream-raised tenacity kicked in, and I refused to give up on a deep weed line that brushed against an auspicious deadfall. In trout stream style, I negotiated the downward curve of that stump several times in a row, sending a black plastic into the depths unseen. Then, boom… fish on.
I can tell you love sharing the boat with your children. What have you found to be keys to success on the water with them?
Thank you. I absolutely love sharing outdoor experiences with my boys. Sharing is the operative word of your great question. We share the boat; we share the duck blind and tree stand, and we share the banks of the trout stream. Every experience is special, and the key to success is discussing the outing or activity before you get there.
For instance, it’s easier to get children’s attention on instructions for rod and reel operation, suggestions for bait selections, or netting or casting techniques before you get set up on a favorite fishing spot. Also, a fish of any size is a worthy fish to kids. I enjoy rediscovering all of the things my kids point out while we are fishing….in many cases they are the things I was fascinated about when I was a boy, too.
What has been your favorite moment with your children fishing with you so far?
This spring, I took both of my boys to the trout stream. It was a first trout stream trip for my 7-year old son, and it was third trout steam trip for my 9-year old son who proudly landed his first Spec. My Dad joined us on the trout stream as well and I smiled as I watched him have a riverbank discussion with my boys like he did years ago with me. Three generations of Pye boys on the banks of the trout stream. Indeed, a special moment.
I want to end a bit off topic. I scout the people I choose to interview for pieces about them that make them interesting. I read your blog and read the piece on Melanie Main. I don’t know Melanie Main but felt like I did after reading it. I have read it a few times and never without a tear in my eye at the end. Who is Melanie and why was it so important for you to write about her?
Thank you. It was an honour to present that tribute in the official eulogy for my dear friend and neighbor, Melanie Main. Melanie passed away last fall. She was 41, and she found a lump just before her 40th birthday.
I felt the lessons learned from Melanie’s bravery needed an audience beyond the funeral service so I posted her eulogy to my blog. Thank you for reading it.
There is another lesson or chapter, if you will, to Melanie’s tribute that I didn’t originally include in her eulogy but always wanted to express. In the context of this interview I am now comfortable sharing another part of Melanie’s story. As you just learned, Melanie didn’t have much time to conquer a bucket list. During her chemo treatments, she told me that she had never been fishing and always wanted to try. Three months before she died, I took Melanie fishing.
Melanie is my reminder that outdoor opportunities with family and friends are always a priority. Life is precious. Enjoy every fishing moment.
Thank you Robert…thank you Melanie.