The Victory Lap
If you’ve read any of the material I have been plastered this site with over the past year or so, you will have likely figured out that I have taken up retirement on a full time basis.
While it was a long time coming, as I suppose most retirements are, it has certainly been well worth the wait...
Once I formally announced my intentions, together with the most common comment which, if I recall was, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” the most asked question asked was:
“So, what are you going to do with yourself?”
My stock answer in most cases was:
“Whatever the hell I want,” which is precisely what I have been doing for the past year.
Sitting in a pub one afternoon with a friend – yet another benefit of having plenty of time on my hands – I told him about the idea for this short story. After making an impressive dent in his pint, he offered up the opinion that a “victory lap,” could only be run while you were still working, not after you had retired.
Although I understood his point, in my opinion when you are running a true victory lap, there shouldn’t be anyone still trying to catch you, something that rarely, if ever happens when you are working, because there is always someone, or some thing, coming up in your rear view mirror.
You could say that my “lap” officially began, when I donated a guided fishing trip, as an auction item for a friends stag. Even though it was clear from the promotional materials, that the successful bidder would have to fish with me, someone actually paid good money for it, but then again, I’m told that people are inclined to have a drink – or two or three - during these events. While the successful bidder and I were unable to come up with a date because of scheduling conflicts, we have agreed to lock one down immediately after bass season opens this summer.
In early February, I received an interesting offer from good friend Eric Lund, who together with wife Sue, own and operate Esnagami Wilderness Lodge in northwestern Ontario.
Now that I was a person of leisure, Eric asked if I would be interested in coming up to the lodge in late May, to help train his new crop of guides.
Taking all of two seconds to decide, I immediately signed up, and as it turned out, this was about the best job I’ve ever had.
Roll out of bed in the morning, enjoy a great made to order breakfast, help out with a few chores around camp, do a little fishing and exploring on my own, and then take one of the new guides fishing. As an added bonus, the trainee had to prepare a shore lunch, which I dutifully consumed while evaluating his overall culinary skills.
After dinner it was more fishing - I mean training - followed on most nights by one of the camp carpenters cooking up a batch of his signature fish nuggets, which I managed to choke down with a glass or two of wine.
Tough job, but someone had to do it.
Thanks to Eric, I was able to do a fly by of my camp on Petersen Lake, to see how everything had faired during the winter. While we couldn’t land, because of the wind conditions, everything appeared to be snug and secure.
Needing time to recover from such a strenuous week, I headed south, and drove directly to Beaverland Camp, which is about fifty kilometers north of North Bay, for week of R&R with family and friends.
I have been making this trip for the past thirty-nine years, and the week, as always, was fantastic. This trip is not so much about the fishing – although some of that does occur from time to time – but is about spending time with people who I rarely see during the year, laughing, reminiscing and consuming the occasional cocktail.
It was then back home for a couple of weeks to “reload,” following which I returned to Esnagami Lodge, this time in the guise of a guest.
It was an excellent week in every respect. We caught tons of fish, and I had an amazing day of Brook Trout fishing on the Esnagami River with Eric. It was also good to see that none of the guides who I had helped train, were either confined to quarters, or otherwise not allowed to commingle with the guests.
Once home, I managed to sick around for six whole days, and then together with Lauren and our two pups, we headed up to our camp on Petersen Lake for a ten-day stay. It would have been nice to hang around a bit longer, but I had to get back in time to catch a flight to Edmonton, which was the first stop on my way to Great Bear Lake.
While I had less than three days to get things organized, it was just enough time to do some laundry and pack for the Arctic.
Fortunately Great Bear was ice-free, and the weather was pretty much perfect. We camped out for four days as planned, and while we didn’t catch any “monster” Lake Trout; there were plenty of fish, including a good number in the twenty to thirty pound range. For the entire story have a look at Trophy Lodge, 2011, which can be found in the Blog, under Field Journal.
This was followed by my longest stretch at home during the entire summer – almost three weeks without once wetting a line. Talk about withdrawal.
Not to worry though, because after this prolonged hiatus, it was time to head off to the Kedgwick Salmon Club in New Brunswick for some Atlantic salmon fishing. For more on this trip, including my photo gallery, go to the Blog entry entitled Kedgwick River Magic in the Fly Fishing section.
Upon my return, there being no rest for the wicked as they say, I had about two days to get myself turned around for another ten day trip with Lauren and our Malamutes to Petersen Lake. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time, and unlike our first trip, the bugs were not nearly as vicious or plentiful.
While some of you may be of the opinion, that by now, I must be getting tired of all this fishing and constant moving about – you know what they say about opinions.
We arrived home on September 1, and I was on my way back to Petersen Lake on September 6, with the We Work for Food Construction Company in tow, to do a little “beer and cigar” work on our camp.
We could not have asked for better weather throughout our stay, and I am please to report that not only did the work get completed, all of the beer and cigars were dutifully, and enthusiastically consumed.
The full report, entitled WWFFCC -3 – Don’t Let a Little Thing Like Gravity Hold You Down, can be found in the Blog, under Petersen Lake.
Following an eleven - day home stand, it was off to “Lost Lake” for a long weekend of camping and fishing with “Cousin Dave.”
Because of the lousy weather, our first day of “camping” took place within the confines of a Comfort Inn. Making the best of it under these challenging circumstances, we set up our Colman Stove and small BBQ, just outside of our hotel room, and conjured up a pretty impressive meal. I’m not sure what our neighbors thought about our impromptu camp kitchen, but after all we had to eat.
The skies cleared the next morning; so we set up camp at the lake and enjoyed some classic fall Walleye and Smallmouth Bass fishing.
Because fall can be the best time of year for big fish, as they start to pack on the pounds in anticipation of the coming winter, and not having had nearly enough fishing as yet, I called up some friends and booked a series of day trips throughout the month of October.
First up was a day of bass fishing on Skeleton Lake in the Muskoka’s. We hit the lake on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and fortunately the incredible weather we had throughout the Thanksgiving weekend stayed with us.
We fished in t-shirts for most of the day, and although it was the first time I had ever been “skunked” on Skeleton Lake, it was an excellent day nevertheless – although my prowess as a guide was certainly called into question.
Unfortunately Mother Nature intervened, so other than Skeleton Lake, I was forced to cancel the remaining day trips, which effectively brought my 2011 fishing exploits to an end.
It was a hell of a year to say the least, one that I would love to, but realistically will likely never repeat. But then again, I suppose it’s only one “lap” per customer.
Special thanks to Eric and Sue Lund for giving me the opportunity to help out at their lodge – I really appreciate it. Let me know if you’re hiring this year – I will work for food!
To Wallace Kenny and his partner’s, thank you for giving me a glimpse into the world of Atlantic salmon fishing, it really was an incredible experience.
Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Lauren for looking after things on the home front, the “Beaverland Crew” and the We Work for Food Construction Company, for the laughter, fellowship and in the case of the WWFFCC, for designing and installing their “innovative gravity based water system” at our camp, which if the truth be told, could easily double as a still.
For some scenes from the Victory Lap, simply click on the image gallery below - and if there is one thing retirement has taught me, it is that:
Carpe Diem does not necessarily mean Fish of the Day!
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