This incident would stick in most people's memories,
but not Gert's. Whether he was overcome by an irresistible urge or he intentionally ignored the law, only he can say.
Two days later the same two fishery officers were driving past the pool at 5:55 a.m. and saw Gert fishing again. They
ordered him to stop and to get in his boat and come over to their side of the river. There they informed him he was being charged
with fishing before 6:00 a.m. and that his fishing privileges for the time being were suspended. Gert appeared in magistrate's
court to answer to the charge and pleaded "Not guilty." A date was set for his trial.
People who write with authority on trials and court proceedings suggest
that a person is a fool to attempt to defend himself. Nevertheless on the day
of his trial, Gert appeared on his own behalf.
Word of Gert's run-in with the law spread up and down the river, and a lot of anglers expressed
an interest in the trial. Many believed he was guilty as sin, others thought him innocent, and then another crowd silently hoped
he would beat the rap because they liked the old codger. The word was that the courthouse would be full and to get inside,
not to mention get a seat, one would have to be there early. But, then, early means nothing to salmon fishermen!
Gert, too, arrived early and took a seat in the gallery. Although inconspicuous to others in the courtroom,
he was wearing his fishing vest with fishing flies exposed above the pockets and fishing
cast protruding out of them. When the clerk of the court announced the case of Regina vs. Gert, he moved to the appropriate spot and announced to the judge that he wished to represent
himself. A hush came over the courtroom, and then Gert requested to approach the
bench. The judge looked bewildered, paused for a moment and then granted the request.
is an account of his defense:
"Your Honor, I don't know
what you know about salmon fishing, but there are a few things that I'll have to explain to you. You can only fish for salmon with
flies, and this is what they look like."
With that he unzippered a pocket on his vest and took out two fly boxes. Opening one box,
he said, "There are basically two different kinds of flies used for salmon fishing. One is called a wet fly and the other is a dry
fly. A wet fly looks like this." He took a wet fly out of one of the fly boxes, pulled a piece of cast line from a vest pocket and said
"You tie the fly on a piece of cast this way and then you fish with it. This fly is made to swim in the water, and
the fisherman wants it to sink below the surface. Now on the other hand, a dry fly looks like this."
Gert took out another fly box and removed a fly from it. "This, your Honor, is a dry
fly. It is designed differently than a wet fly, and it is made to float on the surface. You tie it on like this, and then you put it in a
bottle of oil mixed with parawax, which helps make it float. Before you can fish with it, you have to dry it off and fluff it. This is
done by casting it back and forth through the air a number of times without letting it touch the water. On the morning
the fishery officers charged me, I was not fishing, I was simply drying off my
fly by casting in the air. My fly did not touch the water, and I had no intention
of letting it touch the water until 6:00 a.m." With that, he stopped talking
and complete silence came over the courtroom.
This judge had heard many summations delivered by lawyers
of great renown, skilled orators, but he had never experienced a presentation like this
before. After a brief recess, he called the court back to order and announced
his decision. "Gert," he said, "fishing before 6:00 a.m. is an
infraction of the law. Certainly when the officers charged you, you were doing something which on reasonable and probable
grounds they thought was inappropriate. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the charge." This made the fishery officers feel good.
The judge continued, "I don't dispute the facts regarding the difference between fishing
with a wet and a dry fly, and I appreciated you demonstrating them as evidence. The parawax and oil concoction used to float
a dry fly baffles me. You should consider a patent for this product. You have to understand that in arriving at a decision I must consider
the Atlantic salmon and the present perils they are facing. I have to tell you, drying off a fly for five minutes raises a reasonable doubt in my mind
as to exactly what you were doing. I also have to consider your age. A man of eighty years should have gone around the sun enough times to have learned that laws must be obeyed. I am therefore going
to find this case in your favor."
The courtroom was silent, no one
said a word and then an angler in the back hollered, "Well, the Lord Jaysus!" Now there was action. People laughed all the
way from the clerk of the court sitting in front of the judge to the bailiff standing at the back doors. Even
the fishery officers were laughing.
The judge called for order and finally got it after six tries. He was assisted by the sheriff
and his deputy who moved to the front of the courtroom. When things quieted down, he said, "Gert, I'm not through with you yet." The judge
sensing by the anglers reaction that he might have been had and, probably wishing he could start again, continued,
"If you ever appear before
me again charged with fishing before 6:00 a.m., you will have your fishing privileges suspended for a year, you will be fined,
and in lieu of that, you will go to jail. Do you understand what I have said to you?"
Gert just smiled and said, "Yes, your Honor." The judge then said, "You're free to go.
Next case." Outside the courtroom, a number of salmon fishermen were waiting for Gert to come out. They were gathered
in little groups, all raising their voices to be heard above the noise of the others. Many were doubled up with laughter about
what they had just witnessed.
Finally Gert appeared. He strolled over to where the fishermen were gathered and asked, "Do
you think I sucked him in?"
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