(Continued from Part I)
Flying over the Algoma District via bush plane, north of Superior, it amazes me how many lakes there are.
This is only one small corner of Ontario, but there are hundreds of lakes here, if not thousands.
If you ever looked at map of Ontario, and wondered what’s in those blank areas between the highways, this is what it looks like:
There is plenty of evidence of logging…the area is crisscrossed with logging roads. This is a fact of life, pretty much anywhere you go up North.
But there are also large undisturbed areas of boreal forest.
Some of the bigger lakes might have a fishing or hunting lodge on them, only accessible by plane. But there are countless smaller lakes, far from the main waterways, that are harder to get to.
I often wonder how months (or years) go by before these areas even see a human being. Aside from the odd trapper checking their trap line by snow-mobile, I suspect a lot of these places don’t get that many visitors.
This is pretty serious wilderness. There’s no cell phone coverage. There’s no internet. The nearest McDonalds is 250 km to the South.
If your plane crashed and you were stuck here, it would be virtually impossible to get out by yourself. The nearest paved road could be 20-30 km away, and you’d have to cross swamps and rivers.
And even in July, this place can get cool enough that you’d have to worry about hypothermia A local told me that that people rarely survive more than 5 days after being lost in these woods.
But if you’re a fisherman, this place is PARADISE!
All these unspoiled lakes, TEEMING with fish! Very much like it used to be hundreds of years ago.
And that’s why people have built hunting camps and lodges in these areas….veritable oases carved out in the bush to cater to fishing fanatics like myself.
These fly-in camps provide you with your own motor boat, cabin with hot showers, fresh bed sheets, and breakfast and dinner cooked by certified chefs.
Now, people will probably ask: “Friar, if you love the wilderness so much, why don’t you just camp out on your own, and do this?
Well, my answer is: been there, done that.
For years, I’ve driven and/or canoed for hours, only to find crowded campsites filled with yahoos, on marginal lakes that have long since been fished out. (Even 8 hours North of Toronto).
Not to mention dealing with the damp and cold, the heinous bugs, the lack of toilet facilities, keeping a fire going, cooking in the rain, and worrying about food and fish guts in bear country.
Don’t get me wrong…I have no problem with wilderness camping. There are times I want to camp. And times I want to seriously fish. But it’s hard to do both at once.
Here, all I have to do is show up and fish.
But you have to be careful out here. The lake can get choppy at times (one day there were 3-4 foot whitecaps with 30 mph winds!) Every once in a while, people die up here.
But other times, the water can be like glass.
And the fishing….OMG…THE FISHING!! It’s like being a kid in candy store!
Down south, it’s considered a “good day” if you catch 1-2 walleye.
Up here, if you find a good spot, you can catch 10-20 in an HOUR. One one day, my guide and I estimated we got 50-60 between the two of us.
(Anyway, after the first few dozen, you just stop counting).
(This is PAY-BACK TIME for all those other crappy fishing trips where I got skunked!)
Of course, we didn’t keep all those fish. It was mostly catch-and-release. (Besides, you’re only allowed to have four in your possession).
And I like to let the big guys go (like the ones above). They’re the big breeders, I want them to go back and make even MORE fish for me to catch later.
And there are plenty of smaller, frying-pan-sized ones for shore lunch.
And if there’s a better way eat freshly-caught walleye, I dont’ wanna know about it.
There were tons of pike, too, but I didn’t’ catch any big ones. My guide claims a 40-inch monster followed my lure, though. A 9-year-old kid sitting next to my dinner table had caught a 36-inch “gator”.
Other highlights of the trip included getting caught in a wicked thunderstorm.
Precisely during lunch time, of course (that was FUN.)
There was the odd wildlife sighting, like moose:
Not to mention the bears at the garbage dump on the outskirts of the camp.
This is apparently an evening ritual: the staff throws out the day’s garbage, and the bears patiently wait for the food to arrive.
Some people have commented to me that this is negligent.
But they have to understand that this isn’t a Provincial Park where a garbage truck takes everything away. This is in the middle of nowhere..there’s no other place to throw away the trash.
And from what I’ve seen, the bears and the camp seem to have reached a mutual understanding. The bears stay near the dump, dont’ come into the camp.
Both parties keep a safe distance from each other…and the staff does a lot of yelling and flailing their arms…to let the critters know we humans should be avoided.
Anyway, it seems to work.
What I also liked about the camp was one of the dogs: a Duck-Toller obsessed with sticks.
She reminded me so much of my sister’s Duck-Toler, Tipper. (Except Tipper is obsessed wtih rubber balls).
So I had found a play-mate, another dog to corrupt.
I had my share of “Zen” moments, too. Like sitting on a rock at 9:45 PM…catching walleye from shore (something unheard of down south)…
…and watching the golden sunset reflect off the scraggy black spruce trees.
Or just sitting on a calm-glass lake, and catching fish-after fish. This rock produced about 12-15 walleye in an hour.
These happy memories are burned into my head, which I can now retrieve at my leisure, for years to come.
And isn’t this the whole point of these trips?