Scott Earl Smith

Featured Writing

 
My Dad once asked me how many copies of my book had been sold. I told him just short of a million. He took me seriously. But he was just doing what all good parents do: believing their children can accomplish anything they put their minds to. On another occasion a wise-guy salesman at a local camera store pointed to another customer and said, “Hey Scott, meet ‘the guy’ who bought your book.”

By my count “Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide” has sold 4,964 copies. I know that because the publisher printed 5000 in 1999 and I just counted the last 36 copies in my basement.

While my book has not made Oprah, The New York Times best-seller list, or millions like my Dad had hoped, it has given me a wealth of great experiences.

I can remember signing the book contract in 1996 like it was yesterday. I had actually been pitching an essay collection on fly fishing to a number of publishers when the opportunity arose. The publisher himself, Frank Amato, called me from Oregon and advised me that although he wasn’t interested in my essay collection (he and two-dozen publishers like him), he would be interested in a book on where to fly fish in Ontario. Initially I was hesitant but with a lot of encouragement from my wife I agreed to write the book.

Get Your Copy Quick!

It took me two years to do the research - travelling the province of Ontario and fly fishing all the best spots - and another couple of months to write the manuscript. I fished some of the wildest places on the planet, like the Sutton River in Polar Bear Provincial Park; and had some surprisingly good fishing in the most unexpected places, like the Credit River in suburban Toronto.

When I signed the contract digital cameras were still a well kept secret. The publisher specified that I shoot 100 Fujicrome slide film. A top of the line Canon SLR cost me over half of my advance on royalties. It’s now worth about 150 bucks on Ebay. I travelled the back roads and freeways of Ontario in my ’89 Toyota 4-Runner; merging onto the 401 before sunrise with coffee in one hand, stick shift in the other, a donut in my teeth and the steering wheel braced tightly between my knees. This was well before hands-free cell phone laws, and apparently before cup holders in Toyota 4-Runners.

I stayed in hotels, sleepy bed-and-breakfast places, log cabins and even white canvass tents on the tundra. The latter was a bit unnerving because of the presence of polar bears. Believe me when you head out for your 2 a.m. trip to the latrine that factor adds a whole new meaning to stage fright.

I did see several polar bears – those yellowish white ghosts that move along the Hudson Bay coast like mirages amongst the pale bulbous boulders. They are the world’s largest carnivore and you in a sleeping bag look and taste a whole lot like a seal. I’ve yet to obtain a really good telephoto shot of a polar bear as I’ve yet to meet a guide with the requisite backbone to sneak up on one.

But the adventure didn’t stop with the research. Once the book was published I was invited to the Los Angeles area to do slide shows and book signings in three different L.A. area cities. It was my 20th anniversary so I brought my biggest fan along with me. We drove alongside the beach boardwalk, fly fished one morning in the Pacific surf competing with the surfers for beach front, and of course took in some of the sights. One of which was John Travolta’s place on a road called Tiger Tail. I tried to wiggle my telephoto lens through the hedge outside the tall fence to get a memorabilia shot, but was pre-empted by a neck-less security guard that was as wide as he was tall. I opted to play the “I’m just a tourist” card, and exited stage right – as they say.

All in all, it has been a gas. I hope the last few copies go to the right people; those who will enjoy the waters and fish of Ontario as much as I have. And if you’re one of the right people drop me a line at and I’ll sell you one of those coveted books at an honest price.

Authors note: Since the writing of this story the book has completely sold out.


 
I have just returned from a successful fly-in moose hunt in the far north of Ontario with my friend Curt from Oregon; and 2 of his friends, Jack and Russ. These guys are no ordinary people: Curt runs a large agricultural supply company, and is my son’s father-in-law. Jack owns and operates a 4,000 acre Oregon farm. And Russ, a blue-collar paper mill worker, avid hunter and musician, once farted continuously for 12 seconds. I believe he holds the record for that State.

During our week-long hunt we harvested 2 magnificent bull moose. Moose, being the largest member of the deer family, gave us the largest haul of food we’d experienced in a single outdoor adventure.

But was it cost effective?

Most would quip an emphatic “No!”. But look at it through a pair of “critical thinking” goggles and the answer might be different.

Our hunt netted us 1150 pounds of moose meat presently hanging cooly in a local butcher shop.

Yes our trip cost a pretty penny. But, again, depending on your frame work; it was still arguably cost effective.

“Are you nuts?” You ask. Again, the answer is “yes” and “no” (depending on who you talk to!). You may suggest, at this point, that I steer clear of becoming a financial advisor. However, as usual, I have a few trump cards up my sleeve that I am ready to lay on the table.

Fly-In Moose Hunts

Card 1 Mental Health:

First of all, consider that everyone needs a hobby. Healthy hobbies provide a respite from work-related, every-day stressors. People that live long lives are usually those who are passionate about something other than their jobs. A trip where you are immersed in your hobby affords a time of personal rejuvenation.

On our fly-in trip we had no cell-phone or internet service, no calls from the office, and no traffic jams. In fact we were the only people on a wilderness lake choked with walleye, soaring eagles, and a healthy moose population. For 7 days this was our private resort. I’m not sure what the fair market price is for a personal piece of heaven, but for our dollar it was definitely worth it.

Card 2 No Large Capital Expenditures:

Secondly, no one in our group had to buy land with a cabin; a quad-runner; boat, motor and trailer; camp tent and stove; generator, gas and countless other sundry items to make the trip happen. All large capital items were supplied and included in the cost for the trip.

Card 3 Cost-Neutral Needs:

We did need a rifle, cartridges, rubber boots, warm clothing, sleeping bag - and a “wee pilla” for our stress-swollen heads. Things that all hunters need anyway.

We also needed a mother-load of beans, sausages, eggs, bacon, fish crisp, cooking oil and carbonated beverages (including Alkaseltzer). But once again, everyone needs to eat whether you are at home or on holiday. So food is really cost-neutral.

Card 4 A Whole-Lotta’ Meat:

We also enjoyed some moose meat from last year’s fly-in hunt. Everyone in our party raved about the taste and tenderness of the moose meat - noting it was the best they’d ever had. Better than elk, deer or caribou. I enjoy moose more than beef. It has virtually no fat content and no harmful additives. Moose is the ultimate free-range, antibiotic and additive-free meat. Harvest a moose and your freezer is stoked for a year.

Card 5 Charity Potential:

Not only can your freezer be full, but you can fill someone else’s as well! Last year I chose to give a portion of my harvest to families that needed and appreciated good meat. This included a couple with 5 young children and a moderate income. Don’t know someone like that? Put it this way: If you have the wherewithal to find and harvest a moose - then surely you can gather enough intelligence to find someone who needs and enjoys wild meat.

Card 6 Memories and Friendship:

Finally what price do you put on great memories and friendship? On last year’s fly-in my son, Timothy, harvested a bull moose with a trophy 54-inch rack that scored just shy of 185. This lands squarely in the top 100 in the Ontario record book. More importantly our trip was a milestone in our father-son relationship. I witnessed my son harvest a magnificent animal and watched him experience both joy and sadness; jubilation and sorrow. In some ways it was a passage into adulthood.

This year’s trip was also successful. The back aches, muscle pain and all around exhaustion that goes with the harvest of a moose were mitigated by unrestrained laughter, high-fives and back slapping. We also experienced both new and deeper friendships.

We sacrificed television for star gazing and a brilliant display of the Northern Lights. We traded take-out pizza for deep-fried walleye.

Moreover we flew back to civilization with smiles on our faces. Not sure if we lost any weight - but certainly the weight of the world had been removed from our shoulders.

What kind of price tag can you put on that?
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