The COVID Chronicles
Given the world's ongoing COVID 19 travails and tribulations, we didn't know if our trip was even going to happen until the beginning of June, which was when Eric finally recieved the green light to open.
"Partially" open that is, because given that the International Border was going to remain closed until the end of June (it's now closed until the end of August) none of his American guests who were planning to be at the lodge were going to be allowed into Canada anytime soon.
Fortunately, he had enough Canadian guests booked to make opening the lodge viable from a business standpoint.
Day 1'st - "Moving" Day
We were down from our usual group of ten this year in that Henry and James, together with a couple of other guys who had tentatively booked were unable to make it, but as they say its all about quality not quantity, so yours truly, Kenny, Barry, Al, Mike Moffatt and his son Grant made our way - using various conveyances - to the Between the Bridges Inn in Geraldton that first day.
Kenny, Barry and Al drove up in one vehicle, Mike and Grant in another, while I did it solo, as I would be dropping off an ATV for Eric in Sturgeon Falls on the way home, and Kenny's vehicle, which I would normally drive up in, does not have a trailer hitch. I guess you could say I was practicing my own version of social distancing by doing it all by my lonesome.
To say that we encountered a mixed bag of weather during the drive would be something of an understatement.
We drove through rain, snow - yes snow - high winds, bright sunshine, and experienced variations in temperatures that ranged from a low of minus one just outside of Cochrane, to plus fifteen in Geraldton.
Fortunately the frogs, locusts and the five remaining ancient biblical plagues gave us a miss.
It was something of a puzzle in terms of what we might be able to scrounge up for dinner, but fortunately several restaurants in Geraldton were offering take out and delivery services, and the folks at the Inn had thoughtfully included menus and contact information. The general consensus was to go with pizza, and a couple of extra large pies disappeared soon after they arrived.
Last September when heading up to the lodge with the We Work for Food & Fishing Construction Company, much to our surprise the Husky station on Hwy #11, located just at the turn off for Geraldton was closed.
The station had been operating ever since I started heading up that way over twenty years ago, and certainly appeared to be a going concern, selling not only gas and a wide variety of snacks and such, but also had a decent and well patronized tackle shop.
Upon arriving at the Inn, I asked Yvonne, one of the BTBI owners if it had reopened, and was told that it was gone for good as a mining company that was planning to develop a rather substantial gold mining operation had bought it out for a tidy sum. Turns out this same company was not content to simply acquire the former Husky station, but has also been buying up a number of homes in Geraldton as well.
At one time there were apparently over twenty gold mines operating in and around the Geraldton area, so there was, and apparently still is "gold in them thar hills." Although some "technical" difficulties have arisen, thereby pushing back the actual start up, hopefully this project will get back on track sooner rather than later, because this area could certainly use an economic shot in the arm.
Finally, I'm going to include something new this year, and report on our daily Critter Count, and therefor without further adieu, I'm happy to report that on the way up, in the 1200 or so kilometers travelled, two Black Bears (between Hurst and Longlac) and if memory serves, about four Crows put in an appearance.
Exciting doesn't even begin to describe it!
Day 2nd - Who Are Those Masked Men and Women?
We awoke to bright sunshine, and a rather brisk plus two degrees.
The one - hour drive to the float base in Nakina went off without a hitch, and upon arrival we were greeted by Tracy, Nakina Air's expediter and newly appointed "COVID Cop," who then got us, and our gear weighed in and ready to go.
When it came to the safety protocols that the air service had put in place, what Tracy said - you did - otherwise you would find yourself spending the week in Nakina rather than at the lodge.
Masks were compulsory at all times while at the float base, and in the aircraft, and everyone was required to use hand sanitizer before boarding. In addition, they had installed a Plexiglas barrier between the cockpit and passenger area - meaning that no one would be riding shotgun with the pilots this year.
To give you an idea how devastating this virus has been on the air service business in the area - not mention outfitters, lodges and the hospitality industry as a whole - Nakina Air was only flying one of their two Otters, with the other, together with the Grand Caravan still being up on blocks.
Normally all three planes, together with the 185 would be going full tilt at this time of year. In fact Greg, chief pilot/owner told me that the flight we had just seen taking off from Lunenburger's Air Service was apparently they're first "paying" flight of the season.
As there were about sixteen guests flying in, and with only one aircraft operating they had to do it in two trips. Kenny, Barry, Al and several others from another group took the first flight, while Mike, Grant and I went in on the second.
Upon arrival, all guests and staff were required to wear masks and use the hand sanitizer provided by the Lodge while on the main dock. The normal greeting rituals, which usually consisted of hand shakes and/or embraces all around, were rather muted by comparison to years past, consisting primarily of waves, faux high-fives and "hello's" delivered from a safe distance.
And these were not the only changes in lodge routine and protocols we would be experiencing throughout our stay.
For example, each cabin was equipped with a bottle of hand sanitizer, daily maid service was discontinued in order to minimize contact between guests and staff, and perhaps the single most profound change was that all meals would be delivered to our respective cabins rather than taken in the dinning room.
And speaking of meals, Chef Troy was back in the kitchen; so, we knew the food would be first rate - which in fact it was - throughout the entire week.
In case you missed the somewhat obscure play on words, this title is inspired by both the Blood, Sweat & Tears tune Lucrezia Mcevil - and Kenny.
Accretion is defined as:
The process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.
And this is where Kenny enters the "picture," because as we all know, every picture tells a story, and although in this instance one picture does not do it justice (I should have brought along my wide-angle lens) you probably get the - ahem - picture.
All manner of things magically sprout out of his bags, multiplying exponentially day after day, and covering anything that might lie in their path, much like the glaciers during the ice age, and while you may not see them actually move, there is incontrovertible evidence that they do.
I did manage to maintain the sanctity of my own five square ft. of personal space, but it required constant vigilance on my part throughout the entire week.
Once we unpacked, ordered lunch and geared up, it was time to reacquaint ourselves with the lake, and chase up a few Walleye, or whatever else might deign to give our offerings a look see.
The day was sunny and warm with light winds, and our first port of call was Fire Island where we picked up several Walleye. It was then off to what has become one of our premier "go to" places on the lake - Tuna Fish Island.
The fishing was excellent, and we caught about forty, including a number in the 20" to 23" range, and much to our surprise, given the cold weather the previous week, the majority were in about 20 ft. of water. On the way back to the lodge we made a quick stop at Cemetery Point, and picked up another half dozen.
"Skip the Dining Room"
Tonight's dinner arrived precisely at 6pm, and was delivered hot and fresh by the masked up staff from "Skip the Dinning Room" - whose number included Sue Lund and daughter Rowan - the new Esnagami Wilderness Lodge meal delivery service.
Food was delivered in plastic tubs and soft sided cooler bags, with plates/bowls of hot food being separated by a rather ingenious wooden rack Eric designed, which kept the plates/bowls from moving around and potentially spilling while being hand delivered over some rather uneven terrain.
Following a delicious BBQ rib dinner, we made a return visit to Fire Island, caught another dozen or so Walleye, then finished things off at Turkey Dave Point, where after each catching a Walleye (and one "Whirler") called it a night.
The rest of our gang did well throughout the day, catching a mess of fish in places like Black Flag and Betty Falls. Tonight at Fire Island (I may have the date wrong) Al landed a very nice trophy Pike that if memory serves measured about 32". As Kenny and I were some distance away when he, or more particularly Barry landed it, at first we thought it was a giant Walleye.
Critter Count: A big fat 0.
Go West Young Man - No - Just Forget It…
Kenny and I rarely fish the West part of the lake.
I'm not really sure why that is because there are plenty of great spots West of the lodge, but maybe it's simply because we've had our best luck in the eastern most regions, or perhaps the lake is tilted that way, so why fight gravity?
Breakfast, together with our lunches were delivered right at 7:30 am (we decided then and there that we could get used to having food delivered right to our door!), and after breaking our fast in a leisurely fashion, our plan was to head on over to the west side of the lake, and give the 3 Rivers area a try with the intention of corralling a few Pike.
While there had not been all that many trophy Walleye (24"+) caught as yet, the same could not be said for trophy Pike (30" or better) as a day hadn't gone by when several large gators were recorded in the lodge's trophy log.
We had a word with Eric before heading off, and he thought that if there were no fish right in the rivers, they were likely out in the bay lurking in some of the deeper pockets adjacent to the emerging weed growth.
We made a bee - line for the largest of the 3 Rivers, where Kenny managed to catch one entire "hammer handle." Don't get me wrong, that area can be a Pike factory if you hit it at the right time, but I guess our watches were not set correctly.
Tiring of casting for Pike (not to be confused with catching them) we moved over to Sandy Point, because the wind had be blowing both across the point and into the small bay just to the West of it for a couple of days now - which should have meant some very good Walleye action.
But other than a single Walleye in the bay, and a "Whirler" ("Esnagamieese" for Whitefish) on the point - no cigar.
The wind continued to freshen, so the consensus was to find some quiet water, either by going over to the "Flats" or move south and fish the shoreline west of "Snaggy" Point. "Snaggy" won the coin toss, where we continued what was fast becoming our "one and done" pattern.
I couldn't help thinking about the George Thorogood song: "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," although in this case it was fast becoming "One Walleye, One Whirler, One…" I think you may have caught my drift.
So now where? Easy. When in doubt, let gravity take over and head east.
In this case, given the wind conditions, we didn't want to go too far afield, and opted for Fire Island.
We hit one Walleye upon arrival, but that was it for the next twenty minutes or so. Thinking that perhaps we had caught our daily, per location limit and it was time to move on, Kenny hit another fish, and before we had finished for the afternoon, we landed another twenty or so.
I was going to give "Turkey Dave" a shot before heading in, but a couple of boats were on the spot, no doubt to get out of the wind as well, so we left it to them - and besides - it was almost cocktail hour.
After dinner, we came to the conclusion that we had been blown around enough for the day, and called it an early night.
On a final note, Mike and Grant - hereinafter to be known as the M&G Salvage Company - while fishing at Betty Falls, together with a few Walleye and a couple of nice Pike, caught a rod and reel combo. As luck would have it, it belonged to Glenn's son (Glenn is frequent guest at the lodge who we have come to know well over the years) who managed to somehow drop it into the water a couple of days ago.
M&G Salvage may have extracted a recovery fee, but if so they remained very tight lipped about it.
Critter Count: One Bald Eagle and a couple of random water birds that were too far away to positively identify.
Louis Louella - Ohhh Ya!
With apologies to songwriter Richard Berry for this somewhat lame take off on his classic: Louis Louis.
Eric popped in just as we were finishing breakfast, and asked if we had any specific plans for the day.
We recounted our story about 3 Rivers, and he suggested that if we were still in the mood to chase down some Pike, Louella Bay would be the place to go. He and Dakota (lodge fishing guide) had gone in the evening before, and both caught and saw some very nice Pike tight against the shore at the back of the bay.
He had decided to try it because the wind had been blowing in all day, and had likely pushed the spawning Spot Tailed Shiners right up against the bank, with the Pike probably in hot pursuit.
They had been primarily using a single 1/0 hook that was threaded through the tip of a large plastic bait resembling a shiner. This was then attached to a leader - no other weight required - and allowed to slowly sink and undulate towards the bottom in a very enticing manner - enticing if you are a Pike that is.
He asked us to wait a moment, left our cabin and came back a few moments later with a couple of 1/0 hooks and a bag of large minnow/shiner like grubs that had a black spot near the tail.
Not one to miss taking advantage of a good thing when he sees it, Kenny immediately commandeered both the hooks and grubs, asking Eric to add them to his tab. Eric, who was sporting what I would describe as a sly grin, said the hooks were on the house, but the grubs actually belonged to Kenny.
Unbeknownst to either of us, he had scooped them up before leaving to get the hooks - likely off of one of the many piles of gear and such lying about - and using a magic marker, added the black spots.
Needless to say, we both had a good laugh (especially me) at Kenny's expense, and I made it plain that if it were up to me, I would have charged him for the hooks and the grubs!
Kenney's response, after chewing on it for a moment, was something to the effect that he was going file a lawsuit because his grubs had been defaced without his explicit written consent.
Good luck getting anyone to corroborate your story bud.
The day was hot and sunny, with a warm south wind that was continuing to blow into the bay. Once we arrived and were about half way in, I throttled right down keeping a sharp eye open for any cruisers.
It didn't take long before I spotted some movement, and following the shadow with my hand, got Kenny to cast in the general direction it appeared to be heading. On his second cast there was loud splash, and after a good tussle, he landed a very nice 28" Pike.
We continued on towards the back, and while I spotted a couple more, we were unable to coax them into biting. When dropping our plastics along the shoreline, the shiners literally flew out of the water, but the Pike seemed to be concentrated further out in the bay.
Moving back out, we sight fished for another hour or so, with Kenny landing a 32" and several others. In total we caught five and missed as many again. Not bad.
The Pike decided to take a late morning siesta, so rather than look for fish in unfamiliar places, we motored on over to Tuna Fish, where the fishing remained hot. After about 3 ½ hours we simply lost count, and Kenny recorded our first trophy Walleye at just over 24".
That south wind continued to pick up in intensity throughout the day, making it very difficult to hold the boat on the fish, and being pretty much roasted and toasted, having been out in the wind and bright sun for over seven hours, I pointed the bow towards home.
The guys in our group continued to fare well, particularly in terms of numbers, but we were still rather short on trophies to this point.
After enjoying our dinner en suite, it was over to Fire Island, where we let the wind push us around, and landed about twenty Walleye in 1½ hours, or if you are statistically inclined, one every four and one-half minutes.
That's pretty damn good Walleye fishing by any measure.
Critter Count: Other than a couple of Loons, and some mouthy bird who had set up shop on Tuna Fish that we never did actually see, it was pretty slim pickings critter wise.
Woolly Bugger's, Caddis and Deceiver's - Oh My!
Another year, and another opportunity to fish the Esnagami River with Eric.
This year was going to be something of a family affair, albeit a somewhat fragmented one, because while I was headed down river with Eric, his son Liam would be guiding Kenny for the day.
I'll let you decide who got the short straw in this instance, but to give you a hint; it wasn't Kenny, Eric or me. Sorry Liam, but to look on the bright side, facing and overcoming challenges such as this helps build character!
Liam is fast becoming one of the best guides at the lodge, so both Eric and I were not worried about his ability to handle any situation that may arise. My advice was that if on the oft chance this particular "guest" became a pain in the rump, simply offer to change seats, and ask him to pilot the boat back to the lodge.
Works every time for me!
The 19,000 Step Journey
There was some rain and thunder first thing in the morning, so we got something of a late start, and didn't leave the dock until about 10:30.
Joining us would be river guide in training Dakota, as Eric wanted to show him the ropes on how to navigate and fish the various sets of rapids/runs he would encounter when running river trips with "real" guests.
Where we would be fishing was somewhat COVID related in that over the past several years, Eric and I flown down to his Merkley Lake River Camp in Nakina Air's 185 and fished the runs downstream from the camp.
Because of social distancing requirements Greg was not as yet taking passengers in the 185, so instead of chartering the Otter to fly us to and from the River Camp - which would have been rather costly - we would fish the upper section of the river, from the 4th set to the bottom of what's called the "Mile and One-Half" which is where the river opens up into Merkley.
This was going to be the first time I fished the upper section with Brook Trout being the primary target, but Eric was confident that given the cold weather during the past week and the relatively high water levels, there should be plenty of trout for the taking.
And did he hit the nail on the head.
The nasty weather ran its course, and we had perfect conditions on the river. So perfect that while the river is usually rather buggy, I fished the entire day in a t-shirt and never had occasion to even think about spraying on some insect repellent.
Last year I had my best luck using a sink tip with a four/five foot 8 lb. test leader, to which I had tied on a black Woolly Bugger that had a few strands of flashabou incorporated into the tail, so my thinking was why not start off with that, and see how things turned out.
I did and they did, and I used that combination for the entire day.
Staring to fish just below the "4th set" my WB was hammered by a Brookie that easily topped 20", and would have likely weighed in north of five pounds.
Eric, who likes to mix it up, depending to some degree on what was emerging and/or hatching at any given time - dragon fly's and Caddis were popping up all over the surface - tried various patterns, including nymphs, but hit his first big trout on of all things, a large orange/black Chernobyl Ant. Funny thing was I didn't notice any of those hatching, but come to think of it, there probably weren't too many Woolly Buggers on the verge of hatching either.
Because we had a lot of ground to cover if we were going to get down as far as Merkley, we reluctantly left the 4th set, portaged around the 6th, and started working our way through the "Mile and One-Half."
The upper section proved to be something of a disappointment, and although we managed a few takes, other than a 16" that Eric took on a "Lefty Deceiver" - which was the smallest caught that day - there was not too much going on.
Truth be told, we should be so lucky to catch nothing but these "small" trout for an entire day.
But that all changed once we got to the last couple of hundred yards up from the lake.
It was like fishing in a giant pop-up toaster with Brook Trout popping out of the water all around us. They seemed to be targeting Caddis in particular, but unless they started to ignore my WB, I had no intention of making a change.
I needn't have worried though, because even though the conditions clearly indicated that a dry fly was the way to go, the Trout were quite ready, willing and able to continue hammering away at my Bugger.
It had even gotten to the point where I was feeling so confident, that on two or three occasions I just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if my fly drifted over a particular spot, there would be a fish lying in wait - and you know what - I was right!
I've had some damn fine days on this river, and even caught more trout, but I have never - and for that matter neither had Eric - ever caught as many big ones, which in Esnagami River parlance means 18" or better, in a single day.
These fish were so chunky and feisty, that they put a serious bend in my 8wt. Truth be told I screwed up and grabbed the wrong rod because I usually fish a 6wt on the river, but in this instance I was glad to have the heavier rod.
We landed a total of seventeen between us (and missed at least that many if not more) with the smallest being 16" and the rest measuring between 18" and 20+", including two that topped 20".
The other interesting statistic is that even though the areas we fished are generally lousy with Walleye, or "Golden Trout" as we like to call them, and while they usually won't hesitate to take a fly, we only caught four the entire day.
Arriving back at the lodge about 7:30pm, I was pleased to see that Kenny had made it back in one piece, and upon further inquiry was assured that Liam had handled his assignment with distinction.
I've probably done the river trip about twenty times now, and while I still find it hard to believe that each one seems to be better than the one that came before it, in keeping with that fine tradition, and with thanks to Eric and Dakota, this may very well have been the best one yet.
So, where did the 19,000 steps I mentioned earlier come in?
Well, Eric just happened to be wearing his Fitbit, and he/we apparently took that many “steps” throughout the day – although I suspect the vast majority of these “steps” were actually casts, so as you can see catching and landing giant Brook Trout is not for the faint of heart!
Critter Count: Today was one of our better days on the critter front, having spotted an Eagle and Osprey, together with numerous Mergansers, and Golden Eyes, which have a very unique and distinctive flight pattern.
A White Throated What?
A day or so ago Kenny and I were in our cabin engaged in a conversation covering a wide range of topics, and for reasons that will likely never be revealed, the discussion turned to birds, and in particular the White Throated Sparrow.
I've always associated this plain looking little bird, and its crystal-clear, pitch perfect song with being "up north," and expressed the opinion that it was strange they didn't appear to travel this far up.
Well, be careful what you ask for or otherwise choose to comment on.
The next morning, and I kid you not, at precisely 4am, I heard what I could have sworn was a White Throated Sparrow, singing away right outside of our cabin.
No way - I must have been dreaming - so I tucked back in under the covers, but a few minutes later it started up again, and now I was sure it was no dream.
While this may be my absolute favourite bird song, there is no bird song, or for that matter any other song regardless of its source that I want to hear at 4am. It was bad enough that I had to contend with Kenny, because when he got up for any reason whatsoever, which he invariably did around 6am most mornings - EVERYONE got up - and now this damn bird.
Fortunately, for the rest of the week our feathered friend began his aria at a more civilized hour, although the same could not be said for my roommate.
Ah - c'est la vie…
We decided to change it up a bit today, and visit not only some of our usual haunts, but also try a few others that were known to hold a fish or two from time to time.
It was another hot/sunny day, with a moderate south wind, and given the drift, our fist port of call was Tuna Fish. We did catch about a dozen, but it had clearly slowed down, so off we went on our grand circle tour, that included:
- Pike Island - 0 (Pike or Walleye)
- "Sanctuary" Island - 12, but it inexplicably shut down shortly after our arrival.
- Rock (formerly known as the Rock & Stick, but the stick has gone missing) - 4 Walleye
- Sand bar in front of the entrance to Clark Springs - 0.
- Sully Bay - 2 Pike (2 others missed)
- The Bay Just North of Sully Bay - 0.
- Fox Bay - 1 Walleye.
- Tuna Fish (Redux) - 6 Walleye
While not exactly a banner Esnagami type day, it was nevertheless fun to try some new places, and we did after all catch a few fish.
Around 4pm we were both tired of being blown around and roasted like a couple Christmas turkeys (ya I know - if the shoe fits…), so with the prospect of some cold drinks and snacks beckoning, the time had come to head on home.
Barry and Al had a good day, and got on some active Walleye at the north/east corner of Jack Pine Island.
As for Mike and Grant, they continued their good luck catching Pike at Betty Falls, landing several more in the high 20+-inch range. They must have also caught a few Walleye because Mike told us that Troy had agreed to cook up a mess of Walleye nuggets for them as a pre-dinner treat.
There was another group who headed down river today, and although they fished much the same water that Eric, Dakota and I covered the previous day, and saw plenty of fish rising, unfortunately they only managed to land a couple.
Maybe I should have lent them a couple of black Woolly Buggers?
After dinner, Kenny and I once again decided that we had had our fill of sun and wind for the day, so we kicked back and enjoyed a very pleasant, quiet evening.
Critter Count: Not a bad day overall, as we saw both an adult and juvenile Bald Eagle and several Bonaparte Gulls - but so far anyway, there was not a quadruped to be seen.
Lunch on the Rocks
While the ongoing COVID crisis has either entirely cancelled or significantly curtailed many activities, fortunately the one thing - albeit with appropriated safety measures put in place - that it did not entirely stop in its tracks was the "World Famous" Esnagami Wilderness Lodge Group Shore Lunch.
And halleluiah to that!
Brian's Bay was where lunch would be served, and before embarking on the day's angling pursuits, Eric asked us to bring in four fish. Kenny and I were highly motivated to comply, having got the distinct impression that if we failed, it was back to the lodge to try and talk Troy into making us a couple of sandwiches.
So off we went to Maun Bay (with a quick stop at Loon Island where we caught four snags) full of piss, vinegar and steely - eyed determination, although I should have added fish to the list, because Maun apparently didn't realize we were on an Arthurian like quest, and damn near shut us out.
Part of the problem was that Kenny announced that he had become an adherent to the principle that bigger is always better - especially when it came to lunch fish. I can't imagine under what other circumstances he thought that principle might apply - but perhaps its best I just leave it at that for now.
After giving the Maun a good play, including Baptiste's Rock, we managed to scrape up three that met Kenny's newly acquired size criteria, with the others we caught being deemed unworthy of two such accomplished fishermen such as ourselves.
It's just as well we did toss most of them back, because one group, together with some Walleye brought in a couple of Perch that would have given several of our Walleye a run for their money. But more on those Perch in a moment.
On our way back to Brian's Bay, we spotted Barry, Al and the Moffatt's working Jack Pine Island, so I pulled up in hopes catching a 4th fish, but all we could manage was a Whirler.
As people were arriving for lunch, I noticed a couple of decent size Perch on one of the stringers. I don't ever recall catching a perch at Esnagami, and the only ones I had seen were in the stomach of either a Walleye or Pike.
How they managed to get to such a size was therefor a mystery. Perhaps they were a new strain of "stealth" Perch that were capable of eluding hungry game fish, or in keeping with our COVID theme, maybe the Pike and Walleye were simply following their own version of social distancing?
Not unlike the changes in lodge routine, shore lunch was to undergo some modifications as well. Social distancing was actively encouraged, and the usual buffet style lunch was replaced by staff making up individual plates for everyone.
The food was off the charts as usual, and featured "Buffalo" style Walleye nuggets, onion rings, fried rice, garlic bread, baked beans (duh), and in my opinion the very best of the best, Eric's Lemon/Wine Walleye. I ate so much of it that the best I could manage to choke down for dinner several hours later, was a small salad.
As everyone was leaving Brian's, Glenn somehow managed to fall into the water while attempting to get back into his boat, and while fortunately he was ok, perhaps his dip in the lake was not as haphazard as it first appeared, because it was really hot, and unlike the rest of us, he'd found a great way to cool off.
We worked our way east, stopping at Fox Bay, Tuna Fish, and a spot just around the corner from the lodge that we once called two-fish point, but was subsequently renamed "2 to 7 fish point," after having some better luck there on a couple of occasions.
We decided to stay in after dinner yet again, meaning that to this point we'd only gone out twice for an evening fish.
Critter Count: Bald Eagle, Bonaparte Gulls and Mergansers.
One Fish - Two Fish - Three Fish - 100 Fish!
The weather was to give us something of a break today, and while still warm, it was mainly cloudy with some sunny breaks, and the wind had died down considerably as well, meaning that for a change, we wouldn't get cooked and blown around throughout the day.
As mentioned earlier, there had been a good number of trophy Pike caught throughout the week - including two over 40" - therefore we decided to target gators, at least for the morning.
First stop was the area just outside the mouth of the Moose River, which produced nary a fish. Then it was off to Zipper Bay, where Kenny managed to catch one just big enough not to qualify as a "hammer handle." Mike and Grant had also visited Zipper, and saw one really big Pike lazily swimming around, but could not entice it to bite despite throwing everything they owned at it. Hey - you don't get to be that big by being stupid.
There was some discussion about poking our bow into Louella, but deciding we'd had enough of not catching Pike for the day, headed over to Tuna Fish, where the fishing had picked up considerably from the previous day.
We hit fish on virtually every pass, including several double headers, and not only were there loads of fish; many of them were in the 20" to 23" range. It was Esnagami Lake Walleye fishing at its finest.
After a couple of hours it slowed down, and following a break for lunch, made our way over to Sanctuary Island. Oddly, not unlike the last time we visited, the fishing was fast and furious for about the first thirty minutes or so, and then suddenly shut down just as if someone had thrown a switch.
By now it was pushing 2:30 so we figured why not give Tuna Fish one last shot before heading back to the lodge.
When we pulled up, we spotted another boat just around the corner of the island that turned out to be Barry and Al. The fish had moved out a bit deeper from where they had been this morning, and both boats caught plenty, including Barry's 27 ½" Walleye, that turned out to be the biggest Walleye of the week, and was only the second Trophy Walleye anyone in our group had caught the entire week.
Because we would be leaving in the morning, once back at the lodge, we packed up our gear, and were then treated to a delicious steak dinner. The only things missing in order to get the full on classic steak house experience were candles; soft background music and a bottle of wine - which I'm sure if we had asked - would have been arranged.
Feeling refreshed having not been baked and blown around all day, an evening fish was clearly in order, so off we went to - where else - Fire Island.
It was a picture perfect evening, and there were fish all over the place, particularly in four to six feet of water just off the sandbar on the north/west corner of the island.
Before heading back in, Kenny and I did a rough tally for the day, and without a doubt we had easily topped 100 Walleye - which was one hell of a way to end this trip.
Critter Count: It was a good day having spotted some Mergansers, Golden Eyes, Loons, Bonaparte Gulls - and a Crow!
Day's 9th and 10th
On the Road Again…
Many thanks to Eric, Sue and all of the staff for keeping us safe and well fed, while at the same time preserving the essence of the Esnagami experience. It was not an easy task, but they pulled if off in spectacular fashion.
They were even kind enough to acknowledge Grant Moffatt's birthday by gifting him an EWL sweatshirt, and if I remember correctly, adorning his desert with a couple birthday candles.
Nice touch guys.
By the way Grant, Kenny asked me to remind you that one of Eric and Sue's guests will be celebrating a birthday at the lodge in early August, so they're going to need the sweatshirt back sooner rather than later - washed and folded of course.
Although we didn't get to spend as much time together as usual, it was as always, a pleasure to fish with these guys.
It was not a big "trophy" week for our gang, but that notwithstanding, we did catch a ton of fish. In terms of trophies, Kenny caught both a Walleye and Pike, Barry one Walleye, Al one Pike, and I caught six Brookies, the biggest being 21".
Having been "COVIDED" out of our trip to Great Bear Lake this year, Kenny and I booked a return engagement to Esnagami in August. It's been a while since I've fished the lake in August, and by that time the Pike should have fattened up some, and are usually in a more aggressive mood - so stay tuned.
Our morning flight was a little late getting in, but once back at the float base, we loaded up our gear, and after a quick stop to pick up the ATV I would be delivering to Sturgeon Falls for Eric, it was off to the Water Tower Inn in Sault Ste. Marie, where we would spend the night before completing the final leg of our journey the following day.
COVID took one last shot at us by thwarting our plan to have what has become our traditional "last night" dinner at Giovanni's in the Sault, but the in room dining options at the Inn were pretty good, so we dined en suite one final time, which at least in that respect, it was just like being back at the lodge.
Critter Count: Day 9th was our groups best day "critter wise" for the entire week. During the drive from Nakina, through Geraldton, Longlac, Hornepayne, White River etc. to the Sault, our convoy spotted a total of four Black Bears, five Moose, a phalanx of Sandhill Cranes, and of course the ubiquitous crows.