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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 rose@sarsfield.ca 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

The Mississippi Curling Rink After “The Island”



An early curling picture from curlinghistory.blogspot.com— This is not from Lanark County- but in the late 1800s they used to curl on an outdoor rink was made on the Mississippi River opposite the fairgrounds



A group of curling enthusiasts formed a club under the name of Mississippi Curling Rink Ltd. They raised funds, acquired a mortgage and built a new three-sheet rink on the “market” facing onto Brae Street, which they rented to the Almonte Curling Club (ACC).


During the summer, negotiations were continuing with the Mississippi Rink Co., Ltd.(see today’s story on the old Almonte rink) But, to the chagrin of ACC members, the company sold the property to a commercial firm and liquidated the Limited company. Therefore, there was no place for the members to curl.


December 16, 1954, The Almonte Gazette

Renovated Rink With Artificial Ice Is Formally Opened By Local Curler’s On Wednesday

Following a short ceremony on Wednesday evening, when veteran curler Mr. J. H. Martin cut the ribbon and president M. R. Young threw the first granite, the Mississippi Curling Club was declared open for its 101st season. Mr. Young presided over a large gathering of members of the men’s and lady’s clubs which filled both rooms. He explained the chain of events leading up to the climax of curling in Almonte, a renovated rink with three sheets of artificial ice, a new second storey club room with a modern kitchen for the ladies and men’s club room newly decorated. ”

When the installation of artificial ice was talked of in April,” said Mr. Young, “this one and that one offered to give $100.00 However another man said “I’ll give a thousand dollars.” and that gave the club the heeded encouragement. He gave credit to canvassers and special praise to the building committee who had given most generously of their time. The building committee is composed of Mr. M. R. Young, chairman, J. L. Erskine, S.R. Sissons, Major J. H. W. Currie, and Murray Comba. The next speaker was Mr. W.A. Metcalfe, who expressed great pleasure in the fact that the Mississippi Curling Club’s greatest need, the installation of artificial ice, was now attained.


Men curling in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1909-Wikiwand

Mr. Metcalfe assured the audience that it was in large measure due to the untiring efforts of their president, Mr. Young, that the present happy state was reached. Mr. Young, he said, had stood by curling in good days and the bad days and is now in his 19th term as president. He called on Mr. James Miller of Carlton Place, District Representative of the Caledonia Club who brought greetings from the mother club and also extended his personal congratulations.

The next speaker was Mr. George L. Comba, who traced the history of the Mississippi Curling Club from its humble beginnings 100 years ago to today. Mr. Comba he was indebted to Mr. G. W. Willoughby of Ottawa, former resident of Almonte, who is now in his 96th year, for much of his information of the early days.

Mr. Willoughby was an ardent curler as was his father before him, and was able to recall many interesting incidents. Curling began here, said Mr. Comba on the mouth of the Indian River and wooden blocks were used as stones. Later, an outdoor rink was made on the Mississippi River opposite the fairgrounds, and the first closed rink was on a site on or near the present fairgrounds.

The next rink was on “The Island” (see today’s story)  a combination building which housed the skating rink as well as the curling rink. That building was outmoded the present structure was then erected at Brae Street. This was operated successfully for a growing membership which brings the club up to date. A point stressed by Mr. Comba that should be of principal pride to local curlers, is that the Mississippi Club stands in 6th place on the roster of the Caledonia Club. He said the present membership has great traditions to maintain, but predicted continued success through co-operation for the next hundred years.



December 16, 1954–During the evening a sing-song was enjoyed with Mrs. Harry Walker at the piano and Mrs. R.A. Jamieson, Mr. Martin Maxwell, and Mr. George Rodger leading. Mrs. Doris DeSadeleer contributed a humorous solo. “This Old Rink Was Getting Shaky” with Mrs. Harry Walker as accompanist. At the close, Mr. Young thanked the Lady’s Club for their efforts and all others who had assisted, with special thanks to Mr. Arthur Lockhart who gave his time in painting free of charge, and also Mr. Charles Finner for bringing his PA system

Almonte Curling Club History-click here

MAYOR GEORGE L. COMBA WHO presided over the civic administration of Almonte during the most depressing period in its history. He will probably be returned to office by acclamation at the nominations Friday nigh

COMBA, George L. – At Almonte on Tuesday, May 21, 1957, George L. Comba, beloved husband of Emily Mason, father of Murray Comba, Almonte; (Emily) Mrs. Donald Blanchard, of Bristol, Quebec; and brother of (Jean) Mrs. David Rankin, Trenton, New Jersey; (Phyllis), Mrs. Emil Zarella of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Charles of Calgary, Alberta, and William of Port Arthur. Resting at his home, Church St., Almonte. Funeral service Friday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at the Almonte United Church. Interment Auld Kirk cemetery. Masonic service at his home, Almonte, Thursday evening, May 23, at 8 o’clock. In lieu of lowers please send contributions to Naismith Memorial Hospital Fund.

Ex-Mayor of Almonte, George L. Comba, Passes – A well-known resident and one-time mayor of Almonte, George L. Comba died in hospital Tuesday of last week after a short illness. He was 66. Born in Pakenham, he was a son of the late Charles Comba and Sarah Jane Dunlop. He was educated in Almonte schools. Prior to enlisting in the RAF in the First World War, Mr. Comba was a prospector in British Columbia. While overseas in 1917, he married the former Emily Louise Mason at London, England. He returned to Canada in 1919, and opened a furniture and undertaking business in Almonte. Mr. Comba left the furniture business in 1943, and carried on with the undertaking business with his son. Mr. Comba at one time was mayor and reeve of Almonte and formerly warden of Lanark County. He served as secretary-treasurer of North Lanark Agricultural Society, and had been secretary of Almonte Public School Board and East Lanark High School Area for 37 years. He was honorary president of the Canadian Legion, Almonte Branch, and a charter member of that organization. He was also director of the N.L.A.S. He was a member of the United Church, Granite Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, past patron of Eastern Star, belonged to the Shriners of the Ottawa Temple; was a member of Almonte Curling Club, Almonte Lawn Bowling Club, Gemmill Park Commission and Almonte Library Board. He leaves in addition to his wife, one son, Murray, Almonte; one daughter, Mrs. Don (Emily) Blanchard, Bristol, Quebec;. two brothers, Charles, Calgary, and William H., Port Arthur; two sisters, Mrs. David (Jean) Rankin, Trenton, N.J., and Mrs. Emil (Phyllis) Zarella, Gerard College, Philadelphia. The body rested at the Comba Funeral Home, Almonte, from where the funeral left to Almonte United Church for service at 2 p.m., Friday, May 24. Rev. J. R. Anderson officiated. Burial was in Auld Kirk.


Related reading:

Perth Courier, Feb. 15, 1889

Mr. James Templeton, 85 years of age, while on a visit here, made an appearance at the Perth curling rink and played for a time with much skill.  He has been a curler for 67 years—an ordinary man’s lifetime.

Perth Courier, March 6, 1885

Mr. F. B. Allan was the winner this year of the gold medal presented for the yearly competition by Mr. William Lees, M.P.P. to the Perth Upon Tay Curling Club.


Related reading:

The Almonte Skating Rink on “The Island”


Want to read about the Carleton Place Curling Club?

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 6– Fire and Ice


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun