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Gord Ellis, Bob Izumi, and Cheryl Ellis at the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame. | JASON BAIN
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My Trip to the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame

In June of 1989, I travelled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to take part in my first Outdoor Writers of Canada Conference. I was still a relatively new writer then and was winning my very first award, which was for photography. Another winner in the photography category was a guy named John Power. Power was an impressive figure and a legendary person to me. He wrote for a popular fishing magazine and was the outdoor columnist for the Toronto Star. It was the first time I’d met Power, and it was like meeting Zeus. There was no way to know then that a decade later we would work together doing seminars at the Spring Fishing Show in Toronto.

Also in attendance at that conference was a fellow named John Kerr. I had been reading Ontario Out of Doors for years, and Kerr’s fishing column and stories in that magazine were my favourites. We hit it off—bonding over our shared love of Nipigon brook trout—and ended up fishing the Sault Rapids together for steelhead one morning before the conference. That friendship would, in time, help ease my way into writing for Ontario Out of Doors magazine, a publication I’ve been a part of for the better part of 32 years.

Power and Kerr were exemplary members of the Canadian fishing world and people I looked up to. They both loved fishing and had a gift for sharing that excitement, wonder, and connection to nature that angling provides so many people. I mention Kerr and Power here because they are both members of the Canadian Anglers Hall of Fame. And although they have passed, I thought of them both when I was inducted into the hall this past February.

The induction was a humbling moment and put me among the ranks of people that have always seemed somehow larger than life. In fact, when I was presented the award at a ceremony at the Spring Fishing Show in Mississauga, Ontario, on February 17, many of those very people were in the audience.

Gord Ellis, age 2, and Gord Sr. in the early years of his fishing career. | GORD ELLIS

I could see Big Jim Mclaughlin, who is a leader in the Canadian fishing industry, and one of the nicest, kindest people you will meet. Jim has always been a leader and mentor in the Canadian fishing world. He treats everyone as equals and has time for all. A new angler looking to make a career of it could do worse than follow his example.

Another thing that flashed through my brain as I stood before the group was all the connections in the room. Although I live in Thunder Bay, and have spent most of my career here, I’ve had interactions with nearly everyone on the list of previous inductees.

For instance, I met Gord Pyzer in Thunder Bay, in the mid-80s at a fly-fishing club meeting. Pyzer, who lives in Kenora, is the fishing columnist for Outdoor Canada magazine and is a legendary angler in the country. Back in the 80s, we talked about fishing and outdoor writing, and I ended up doing some work for a radio show he did with Bob Izumi. We’ve crossed paths many times through the decades, and I am sure that will continue. I’ve even had people mistaken me as him from time to time, one of the unexpected outcomes of having two fishing Gords from northwestern Ontario.

Speaking of Bob Izumi, he was in the crowd as well. Izumi is Canada’s best-known angler, thanks in large part to his long running TV show Real Fishing. I met Izumi for the first time in the early 90s, and we would cross paths through the years at tournaments, outdoor shows, and at seminars. Izumi is also exactly as he appears on TV—upbeat, friendly, and very funny. My wife Cheryl, who travelled to the induction with me, was very excited to meet Izumi. And why not? He is a genuine celebrity—a fishing rock star—and someone who has done a ton to spread the love of fishing across the country.

Since I’ve mentioned Izumi, I better give a nod to the OG of TV fishing in Canada. Red Fisher had the first fishing show of note in Canada and was famous for taking viewers with him to “Scuttlebutt Lodge.” The whole Red Fisher vibe would be brilliantly lampooned twice: once by John Candy as the “Fishin’ Musician” and then by the Red Green Show. But I digress.

Gord Ellis in the early part of his professional fishing and writing career. | SUBMITTED

And yah, I got to meet Fisher. While working at the Toronto Sportsman’s Show in the early 2000s, I sat down to have an after-seminar beer with a couple of friends. While we were sitting there, a woman and an older gentleman sat down beside us. We did a double take and realized it was Fisher. He was friendly and fun, and chatting with him was memorable, although I was too star struck to recall what we talked about. A true legend, and a guy who did more than just TV fishing: He also wrote poetry.

When my cousin Brock Ellis—who is a huge Fisher fan—heard about my induction, he asked me when my book of poetry is coming out. Perhaps I need to get on that.

At the induction, I got to thank my parents, who laid the ground-work for this life by introducing all their kids to the outdoors at a very young age. And I got to thank my wife Cheryl, who has been with me on this entire trip and has been incredibly supportive, even when it didn’t look like I’d chosen the most lucrative career path.

Making it into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame is an honour and something that an eight-year-old kid reading Outdoor Life, and fishing creek brookies every day, could never have imagined.

It’s a privilege to do what I do.

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