Another Fish Tale- Clayton Lake and the Minnow Can — Fred Blake, Dennis Nolan and George Comba 1934

Another Fish Tale- Clayton Lake and the Minnow Can — Fred Blake, Dennis Nolan and George Comba 1934

I have a couple of snake stories today found in the Almonte Gazette. Here is one of them.

From the Almonte Gazette July 26th 1934

Two weeks ago it was announced In these columns that Messrs. Fred Blake and Dennis Nolan had gone on a fishing trip to Clayton Lake. It will be recalled that before starting on that famous expedition Mr. Nolan made the dreadful threat he would cut the ends of his moustache unless he broke all fishing records for the season.

Both Mr. Blake and Mr. Nolan are back in town and, as the last mentioned gentleman’s facial adornment is unimpaired his friends have concluded. In notation he caught about all the fish there were to catch. But in jumping at this conclusion people are a trifle hasty. Where these modem Isaak Waltons are concerned it is always well to peer below the surface—to do a little proving as it were. We have done the probing this week and now propose to unfold the results—which are quite interesting— for the benefit of our readers.

In telling a story of this kind it is always well to begin at the beginning. It appears that Mr. George L. Comba kindly agreed to transport Messrs. Blake and Nolan to the scene of their fishing exploits. On their way to the lake they paused for an hour at a convenient creek to stock up with minnows. Plenty of minnows in this junior part of their fishing activities and they were quite successful and soon had their minnow can well filled with bait.

They then proceeded to the foot of the lake where Mr. Comba saw them aboard a motor boat and waved them a tender farewell as they chugged-chugged toward the cottage. As this story hinges largely upon the minnow can —a description of that utensil is in order at this point in the narrative.The can was one of those affairs built with screened sides to allow a free flow of water. Fitted to the top of it was a tin lid such as covers the average kitchen pot but this one had numerous holes punched in it about the size of quarters.

On reaching the fishing grounds the two sportsmen placed the can of minnows in the lake so the bait would be kept alive during the night. Having done that they retired to bed at an early hour with the intention of starting to fish at the crack of dawn. When the first streaks of light appeared on the eastern horizon Messrs. Blake and Nolan leaped out of bed as bright and spry as the crickets that didn’t keep them awake all night.

After taking a preliminary plunge in the lake and vowing that there was nothing like this life in the great open spaces they held a conference on the beach as to whether they should fish first and breakfast afterward or breakfast first, and fish afterward. This weighty problem was finally solved when the anglers came to the logical conclusion it would be foolish to eat bacon for breakfast when the lake was full of fish ready and willing to jump at their hooks. As Mr. Nolan observed on that occasion “Who has a better right to eat the first fish that fall to our rods than those who catch those fish?”

This was unanswerable logic so they straightway seized their trusty gear and headed for the minnow can and the boat. Having shoved the boat into the water and noted that the oars had not disappeared during the night, the anglers reached for the minnow can with that air of calm expectation that is always associated with something dead sure. Like the oars and their hopes the can had not vanished during the night. Up it came in answer to a hefty pull, distributing little streams of water from all its many pores. The anglers then placed It in a larger vessel of water, clambered into the boat and proceeded to the best fishing spot on the lake.

Having reached the desired place they heaved an anchor overboard, lit their pipes and prepared to break all piscatorial records established on Clayton Lake or any other body of water in this section. Leaning over in a leisurely manner Mr. Nolan opened the perforated top of the minnow can and reached into the water for a minnow to bait his hook. As there had been several dozen of these little martyrs to the sportman’s art swimming about in the can the night before he felt he would have no trouble in grabbing one at random. What was his dismay, however, as he felt about in the water to find his fingers clutching nothing but aqua pura. A look of dismay overspread Mr. Nolan’s face and he began to splash about madly with his hand in an effort to capture one of the elusive minnows. Finally his fingers clutched something slimy that slithered away and filled him with an odd feeling of loathing.

Closing the lid he pulled the can out of the water and as it emptied the astounded vision of the two fishermen rested upon the sole denizen of the cage—a large black snake. The dreadful import of the situation rushed upon their minds simultaneously. The snake, they figured had crawled through one of the holes in the lid while the can reposed in the lake, and had devoured all of the minnows. The gluttonous reptile bolted its food in the usual reptilian manner and swelled itself to such proportions that it couldn’t get out of the can.

We will draw a veil over what was said by the disappointed anglers at this stage in their activities. Picking up the broken thread of the story we find them hastening to shore with long, hefty strokes that threatened to break the oars. Having landed on the beach they departed from such a short time before they dumped the snake out of its happy home and killed it. After that they performed an autopsy and recovered the two dozen minnows. The minnows, unlike Jonah, were dead as the proverbial dodo bird but that didn’t hinder the fishermen from trying them out after they had eaten a prosaic breakfast of bacon, and toast washed down with coffee.

Now fish in Clayton Lake are very particular about their food. Dead minnows do not appeal to them at all. The two fishermen soon discovered this fact to their sorrow and though they stuck to the sport with a perseverance worthy of old Walton himself their efforts received but a meagre reward. As they looked at the results of their fishing they bemoaned the fate of the minnows and speculated on how much greater the catch would have been had they used proper bait. Knowing he had not succeeded in breaking the fishing record of the season—-which is probably held by Louis Peterson, W. M. Pimlott cr some other fish-conscious citizen of Almonte—the question of Mr. Nolan’s dreadful resolve arose before his tortured mind like a spectre at the feast.

Tugging thoughtfully at the ends of his moustache, Mr. Nolan paced up and down the beach and resolved that rash bets were the curse of creation He thought of all the expedients fishermen usually think of under such circumstances—buying a bag of fish from some unfortunate but mercenary minded “sportsmen, for instance. At last he reached the manly conclusion that fish stories were out of bounds and that it never pays to deceive anyone.

“We will go back to town and tell the truth,” said he. “By doing that we will shame the devil which is always worth while.” “But how about your bet?” expostulated his companion in misfortune “I am going to disregard that hasty wager,” said Mr. Nolan. “It took me a long time to train up this moustache in the way it should go and I am not going to destroy it because of the hoggish appetite of a snake in Clayton Lake.”

And that is the true story of an eventful fishing expedition that was marred by an unfortunate incident which might never happen again in a hundred years. The lesson for other anglers is this: “If you most punch holes in the top of your minnow can don’t make them large enough for a black snake to crawl through,”

1934 Almonte Gazette page 1

In looking for photos of the lads I came across this page about Fred Blacke from Rose Mary Sarsfield’s book. She also had an account of the fishing trip— “Whispers from the Past, History and Tales of Clayton” — If you want to purchase a book please email at or call me at 613-621-9300, or go to the Clayton Store, or Mill Street Books in Almonte

Where Is Clayton Lake?

Clayton Lake is located in Zone 18 (Eastern Ontario) Region, Ontario, Canada. The size of Clayton Lake is 471.2ha (which is equivalent to 1164ac or 4.7sqkm) and the coordinates are 45.1769, -76.3436.

Which Fish Can I Catch At Clayton Lake?

The most popular species caught here are Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass. Please use your best judgement when determining where you can fish, and make sure you follow local rules and regulations.

What Does Clayton Lake Have?

Our members have marked 5 Hotspots and 1 Boat Launch at Clayton Lake. You can view these markers on the map.

Welcome to Clayton click here..

Muskrats on Clayton Lake 1928

Remembering John Drummond Sr. of Clayton

The Bear in the Middle of Clayton November 1944

Charles McNeil Tanner in Clayton

George Sadler — Clayton Doctor

Do You Remember Yoshiba’s Retreat? Clayton

Clifford Stanley May 4 1933 — Rescued Photos from Clayton Hall

Silas Shane Shoemaker Lanark, Clayton, Almonte

J. Paul’s Store in Clayton –Putting Together a Story — Joseph Paul and Margaret Rath Paul

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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