I’ll Take the First Leg – No – Make That a Couple of Feet
Although our stay at the lodge actually ran from the 17th to the 23rd, I thought it would be worth including a little something regarding our “travel” days to and from the lodge as well.
My first stop was Kenny Gold’s house, and upon my arrival at 3:30am - yes that would be 3:30 AM - we transferred my gear to his van, following which we swung by and picked up his brother Barry, and then started out on our 12 to 14 hour trek to Nakina.
Kenny, who insists on driving the first leg, really out did himself this year. After carefully backing his vehicle out of the garage, he flipped me the keys, thereby fulfilling his promise – at least in his mind – of handling the initial leg.
And while it may seem like he didn’t really pitch in all that much, backing the van out of the garage is no easy task, as the slightly out of kilter passenger side door would attest to.
His previous driving record was from his house to Barry’s, so in this instance he managed to shave 8 to 10km off of his old record.
What a guy.
He should have gone into long distance truck driving rather than auto recycling.
The trip north was uneventful, with our only stops being for fuel and breakfast in New Liskard, fuel and tackle we (Kenny) really didn’t need at the Canadian Tire in Cochrane, dinner supplies and fuel in Hurst, and finally more fuel and additional tackle in Geraldton.
You may have come to the conclusion that given the number of fuel stops, Kenny’s van didn’t get very good mileage, but on the contrary, it was in fact very fuel efficient.
That said, Kenny was driven to fits of nervous exhaustion if the needle dipped below half, so as a result, we stopped for fuel about twice as many times as was actually necessary.
Upon our arrival at the Shores Motel - otherwise know as the “Nakina Hilton” - we hooked up with the rest of our crew, which consisted of Mike and Trystan Brown, Henry and James Zohar, and Al Haniford.
Mike and Trystan broke up their trip to Nakina by spending Thursday night in Cochrane.
From all accounts it was an interesting one, that had something to do with hippies camped outside of the motel where they originally planned to stay, and finding out the hard way, that if you have a taste for a “wee dram” of scotch, other than Johnnie Walker Red that is, you don’t stop at the LCBO in Harty.
Because there are no restaurants operating in Nakina, as mentioned above, we stopped in Hurst to pick up dinner supplies, and spent the evening catching up, eating sandwiches, potato salad and fried chicken fingers, while watching the Blue Jays loose yet again – but fortunately we managed to take the edge off of the loss by downing a few cocktails.
Floats Up, Up and Away
We made our way over to the Nakina Air Services float base around 7:15am, and after cleaning them out of coffee, we – well most of us anyway – were on our way to the lodge by 8am or thereabouts.
The only exception being Trystan who, after being abandoned by his dad Mike, who generously volunteered to catch an earlier flight thereby leaving Trystan to fend for himself, was loaded onto the “milk run,” and as a result, was about 2 hours behind the rest of us.
By taking the “milk run” he had to fly from the float base to the lodges River Camp, off load the incoming guests and load up the outgoing ones, before finally getting dropped off at the lodge.
Not to worry Trystan, your old man started to worry about you pretty much from the time he landed, so maybe next time he will make sure you guys are on the same flight!
We spent some time catching up with lodge owner Eric Lund over coffee and fresh baked scones, and he informed us that the fishing had been very good the previous week, with over 4000 Walleye being caught, and for the most part released, including a number of trophy size Walleye (including one that measured 30”), Pike and Brook Trout.
Well, enough about last week – it was time for us to get our week started.
If you have never witnessed it, watching Kenny unpack is a sight to behold. I like to refer to it as urban sprawl.
In a matter of minutes, he had something plugged in to virtually every electrical outlet in the cabin, cloths hung on every hook and/or nail (thankfully he had his own room with plenty of hooks), the spare bed was entirely covered with God knows what, and the 9 hole cubby in his room was filled to capacity.
To top it off, Kenny now uses a C-PAP machine, so add to the pile the machine itself, an invertor, 12 volt battery and battery charger, which to no ones surprise, took up yet another of our dwindling number of available outlets.
And speaking of C-PAP machines, the lodge shuts down the generator from about 12am to 5am every day, meaning that if you use one of these devices, you’re going to need a battery and invertor, to get you through the night.
The lodge supplied the battery and charger, while Kenny came equipped with his own, brand new, state of the art invertor.
Now one would think that if you were counting on something to keep you breathing throughout the night, you might want to check everything out BEFORE you put yourself in a position where you have to rely on an alternative power source to keep you alive.
After we all got ourselves tucked in for the night, Kenny fired up the invertor, which immediately began screeching like a cat with it’s tail caught in a car door.
To make a long story short, this went on for most of the night, with Kenny plugging and unplugging the unit time and time again, with no appreciable change in the overall volume of the screeching.
And while there were plans in the works to significantly interrupt his breathing if we had to go through another night of that nonsense, fortunately he swapped his crappy unit out for one of the lodge’s, which thankfully was as quiet as a mouse.
Everyone in our group had a very good opening day, and caught a ton of fish.
The Brown’s caught over 100 Walleye primarily at “Scooby” narrows, while Kenny and I moved around and caught Walleye at “Turkey Dave” point, Fire Island, “B&G” point, Pike Island, Sanctuary Reef, and a “Whirler” and tiny Walleye at “One Fish” point.
I don’t recall anyone catching any trophies, but we did come close with a 23” Walleye that Kenny caught off of “B&G” Point.
As usual, the “armada” headed over to Fire Island that evening, and although it was a bit slow at first, everyone caught their fair share, before heading back to the lodge.
When Smoke – Make that Mist – Gets in Your Eyes
The day started, and remained cool, and cloudy with a light, “misting” rain falling intermittently throughout the day.
Kenny and I tried our luck for Pike, but other than 1 hit in the small bay, just around the corner from “One Fish”; we struck out in Louella, Zipper and Jackfish Bay’s.
We put the Pike fishing on hold for the time being, and began targeting Walleye, catching a 23” and a number of others, at what we call Trout Bay Narrows, by trolling Hot N’ Tots across the top of the reef.
Trolling north from Black Flag towards Jackfish, we picked up a few more, and finished our day with about 20 Walleye at Fire Island, adding 1 more for good measure at “Turkey Dave” Point before heading in.
The other guys in our group caught lots of fish throughout the day, but overall it was a bit slow by Esnagami Lake standards.
Because the weather remained somewhat crappy everyone, with the exception of Trystan, stayed in and sparked up their respective wood stoves.
Trystan’s decision to brave the elements turned out to be a smart one, and having Fire Island all to himself, caught a number of Walleye including 2 trophies, that came in at 24” and 24 ½ “respectively.
We all enjoyed a good nights sleep, with Kenny’s inverter purring softly beside him like a contented kitten.
Don't Know Why There's No Sun Up in the Sky - Trophy Monday!
Let me begin by apologizing to Billie Holiday for making a slight change to her lyrics – but hey – I needed an intro…
Although it was cloudy, the air temperature was pleasant, the winds were light, and as noted above, we got into a number of trophy Walleye’s, several of which came from our “go to” spot, Fire Island.
Drum roll please:
· Trystan – 24”, 24” and 25” - bringing his trophy total to 5.
· Mike – 24 ½”
· Kenny – 25”
· Barry – 26 ½”, and
· James – 27 ½”
As was becoming our pattern, Kenny and I moved around from spot to spot throughout the day. Later in the week we started referring to it as the stop – drop – and run approach.
Our first stop was “Neil’s Reef” where we caught a mess of Walleye on the north/west side of the reef, with the biggest being a 22.”
It was then off to the north shore of Pike Island, where the fishing remained hot, then to Sanctuary Reef for a short time, followed by a quick pit stop at Fire Island to finish things off.
That evening we took Troy, the lodge chef out to Fire, where he proceeded to out fish Kenny by a ratio of 8 to 1.
Kenny, being such a gracious and generous host, subsequently informed Troy that all of the minnows we had ostensibly been sharing with him were very costly, and that every single one would be added to his tab – plus GST of course.
I took the opportunity to remind Kenny that it’s never a good idea to piss off the chef, and after giving it some thought, I guess he came to much the same conclusion, and stopped threatening to charge him for minnows.
Over all it was a very pleasant evening, and we, together with the rest of the flotilla, caught loads of Walleye.
It was not a bad day for wildlife viewing either, particularly for the Brown’s, who were fortunate enough to see a young Caribou swimming in the general vicinity of “Scooby.”
What’s In a Name?
Most mornings over breakfast, we talk about the weather, and where we are likely to be fishing throughout the day.
In terms of where we may be fishing, Kenny and I usually indicate that first off we will be visiting our “secret spot,” following which we will head over to our “secret, secret spot,” and then finish things off at our “really secret spot.”
The problem tends to be that “secret spots” don’t usually remain a secret for long.
Take “Turkey Dave Point” for example.
Last September Eric and Turkey Dave himself, were kind enough to show me where, and how to fish this area, so I took Kenny over on the first day, and while the fish were there, more importantly, we didn’t see another boat anywhere in the vicinity.
Maybe our secret was safe!
Later that same day, because Fire Island got a bit crowded, we decided to head over to what we thought was our “secret spot,” only to find that there were already 4 boats there.
Obviously word had somehow gotten out, so not only did we need a new “secret spot,” we would have to figure out how to keep it that way.
What we decided to do was simply rename an existing spot, thereby hopefully confusing would be interlopers who, when we told them where we had been fishing, would not be able to find it anywhere on the official map.
So, does anyone want to take a guess where Bonaparte Island might be?
The weather was pleasant throughout the day, and Esnagami Lake once again showed her stuff, with everyone catching all kinds of Walleye, including many in the 20” to 23” range.
James led the way with a 28” Walleye, that like his 27 ½”, was caught at what he referred to as “Harold’s Point,” which by the way you won’t find on any map – so at least his secret was safe!
Apparently I showed him the place last year, and only wish I could remember where the hell it was!
Kenny caught a 26 ½” Walleye on the point, just west of Ice Creek.
The fish was such a “wide body”, that both of us were surprised that she was not longer. In fact, when we first saw her in the net, we thought she may have gone 30” or better.
Later that day we just started hitting random spots, and found a very nice sandbar off the point of one of the many unnamed islands that you will find throughout Esnagami Lake.
One of the many things we love about this lake is that there are so many places to explore that have likely never seen a line. It’s like fishing in a giant box of Crackerjacks, with a surprise waiting for you around every corner.
There were loads of fish on the sand in about 10 ft. of water, so we named it, what else - “Walleye Point” – and no, it’s not on the map – not yet anyway.
We then moved on to Bonaparte Island, where in Kenny’s opinion I spent far too much time photographing the resident Bonaparte Gull, but once I packed away my camera gear, we got down to it, and caught around 50 Walleye in just under 2 hours.
It was then off to one our favourite spots, which is located on the western most tip of Fox Bay.
I say “favourite” but the fact is, that until this trip, we had not caught a fish there for several years. That being said, we did catch over 10 trophy Walleye there on one occasion, and kept coming back year after year - just in case.
Fortunately the Walleye had returned, and although we didn’t catch any trophies, there were plenty of fish around, including one that measured 23”.
Maybe we should think about giving it a name? Like, maybe “Every So Often Walleye Island.” Probably not.
Mike and Trystan spent a good part of their day fishing for Pike, and did manage to catch a couple in the mid 20’s (inches) at the back of Maun Bay.
Tonight Troy, who had, and would continue to produce great meals throughout the week, treated us to buttermilk marinated, southern fried chicken, hot, fresh biscuits, greens and milk gravy.
It was simply amazing. As a matter of fact when I was helping to open the lodge this past spring, he prepared the dish, and I was hoping it would make the cut and become part of the regular menu.
That evening Fire Island resembled a scene from the Battle of Trafalgar, so after playing bumper boats for 15 or 20 minutes, Kenny and I decided to head over to “Turkey Dave Point.”
Although we had the place to ourselves, given the wind direction and speed, it was virtually impossible to fish effectively, so we made it an early night.
Notwithstanding the traffic jam at Fire, Trystan caught another trophy Walleye that measured 24 ½ “.
Mike, who had taken the night off, had a nice fire going, and he and Kenny engaged in a lively discussion over some popcorn, whereby the overall fate of the world was ultimately decided by the time we turned in for the night.
While tending the fire, Mike decided to dispose of a pair of woollen socks that had become unusable under some very sketchy circumstances, by throwing them into the fire.
Fortunately Trystan intervened, because we were absolutely certain that the odour coming from that particular pair of socks, while they smoldered away in the fire, would have been anything but pleasant.
In terms of wildlife, a number of people had been spotting Pelican’s, primarily on the north/western end of lake, including Mike and Trystan who saw some in the vicinity of Maun Bay.
Kenny - Don’t Forget to Write if You Get Work!
The day broke sunny and warm, and fortunately stayed much the same all day.
The fine weather was most welcome, because Eric and I, together with Barry Acton, the camera guy for The New Fly Fisher, who was at the lodge filming a show, were headed down river on what has become our annual Brook Trout excursion.
Kenny on the other hand, would be fishing with a guide, who no doubt would be in need of some intensive mental therapy by the end of the day - either that or a lot of beer.
Greg from Nakina Air Services, picked us up in the “185,” and we landed at the River Camp after a very smooth 15 to 20 min. flight. Flying down is a great option, in that it shortens the travel time to the camp by about 2 hours.
Now having said that, by taking this “aeronautical” short cut, you miss seeing a very beautiful section of the Esnagami River, and don’t get a chance to fish some excellent trout water.
After saying hello to the guys who were staying at the River Camp, we headed down stream, with plans to fish our way as far down as the “Honey Hole.”
To say that the fishing was fantastic would be damning it with faint praise. It also didn’t hurt to have Eric, the world’s best river guide along for the ride as well!
Overall, we landed and released 25 trout, with the biggest being in the 3 ½ to 4-pound range. We could have easily caught 40, but the smarter ones managed to spit the fly before we could get a net under them.
There were even a few “Golden” trout (Walleye) attracted to our flies. As it happened, I caught the lion’s share, explaining to my colleagues that I was performing a public service by getting them out of the way so they could catch trout.
Our biggest fish was not only a fine example of teamwork, skill and dexterity; it was damn near a disaster as well.
Eric secured our canoe to some overhanging branches, so we all could fish a particular run, and on his firs cast, hooked into a very nice trout. The fish decided to head down stream like a rocket, and in a matter of moments had him down to the backing.
It appeared our only option would be to give chase in the canoe, so Eric handed me the rod while he frantically attempted to untie it – which was the point at which Murphy’s Law came into play – because the knot proved to be a stubborn one.
Notwithstanding the fact that I’m a right-handed retrieve, and Eric is left, I managed to get the fish back onto the fly line, and somewhat closer to the canoe.
I let Eric know, and tried to hand him back the rod, but he wouldn’t have any part of it, and neither me, nor the fish for that matter, was in any position to argue the point.
The trout was now close enough to the canoe where we would have a shot at netting it, so I asked Barry, who was doing something with his camera, to get ready.
Not to worry we were told, he had things, net wise that is, well in hand, but when I happened to look down, wondered out loud why the net was floating all by its lonesome towards Eric and I.
While Eric was engaging in some acrobatics trying to retrieve the net, I suggested to Barry that his ideas on how to net fish did not align with mine, or Eric’s for that matter.
In any event, the Brookie was netted and suitably admired before being released, and we all had a good laugh afterwards.
I guess that some fish are simply born to be caught.
The most effective flies were either in natural colours (tan/brown/white) or black, and we fished them using sink tips given the high water levels.
Eric also skipped some dry flies along the surface – caddis I think - and while he caught, they tended to be smaller fish.
It was a perfect day in every respect, and Barry, who was an absolute hoot to fish with, was kind enough to tell both Eric and I that it was the best day he had on the water for many years.
Kenny had a good day as well, catching both a 24 ½” Walleye and 31” Pike, thereby doubling his Trophy total to 4.
Earlier that day, Kenny told me he had invited Troy to fish with us after dinner. That was fine by me, but I suspected that he was looking for some sort of revenge, given the beating he took at Troy’s hands the last time around
Because dinner for the guests was pretty much over by the time we got back, I ate in the kitchen with Eric and the staff. Troy was raring to go, so I told him we would meet him at the main dock in about 15 – 20 minutes.
Once back at our cabin, I could hear the shower running, and a few moments later, Kenny emerged from the bathroom wrapped only in a towel - thank God for the towel!
He then informed me that he wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go out, because I had a long day, so he took a shower, blah, blah, blah – which was crap, because I swung by the dinning room shortly after we had landed, and told him I was good to go.
After making some appropriate remarks, and because I had no intention of disappointing Troy, the 2 or us went out.
Once again there were loads of boats at Fire Island, but we stuck around and caught a few fish, then moved over to “One Fish Point,” and started catching in about 15 ft. of water.
All and all, this day was an 11 out of a possible 10 – no – make that 12 out of 10.
Does Anyone Remember Guide Rule #1?
1. Never leave the dock without your rain gear.
2. Doesn’t really matter in this case.
3. See Guide Rule #1.
Our day started out on the damp side, which if it continued, would put a damper – pun intended – on today’s group shore lunch.
Not to worry said our gaggle of resident meteorologists, who were sitting around the breakfast table tracking the various weather systems on their smart phones - things would clear up just in time for lunch.
The fishing was decent throughout the morning, and true to their word, about a half hour before lunch the skies cleared.
Before heading over to the lunch spot, I decided to stop and photograph the Terns, who were nesting on a large rock not far from the mouth of Fox Bay.
My plan was to capture them in flight, but for some reason Tern Air Traffic Control had grounded most of the squadron – but they didn’t count on having to deal with my personal scarecrow - Kenny.
He stood up in the boat, waved his arms and let out a loud squawk of some kind, which scared every single bird into the air, giving me the opportunity to get some great shots.
The group shore lunch put on by Eric and his crew is without a doubt one of the highlights of the entire week.
Fresh Walleye done several different ways, including my personal favourite – Lemon/Wine Walleye – homemade onion rings, some killer fried rice, garlic bread, fresh baked cookies, coffee, plenty of cold beverages, and course – beans.
It was amazing as always, and if you left hungry – it was your own fault!
After lunch we stopped at Loon Island, but only picked up one fish. We then fished the area around the small island at the west entrance to Cedar Narrows, and caught several nice Walleye in the 21” to 23” range.
Latter that afternoon the skies began to blacken, so we headed for home, and managed to get in just before the skies opened up.
It rained on and off during dinner, but from what we could see from the lodge, the skies were beginning to clear, so we all headed over to Fire Island.
Upon exiting home bay, it became clear that the break in the weather was likely to be short lived, because the western sky was black, and beginning to rumble.
Just before the storm hit, the fish were slamming everything we tossed at them, but when the wind started to freshen and the rain began to fall, we high tailed it back, and fortunately for us, we were in compliance with Guide Rules #1 and #3.
Unfortunately, the others in our group apparently missed the memo, and unlike Kenny and I, who were nice and dry, arrived back at the dock looking very much like a pack of drowned rats.
The storm was short lived, so we headed out once again, but it took a bit of time for the fish to get back on the bite.
We were also treated to what turned out to be our one and only Fire Island sunset that week, which was a great way to finish off the day.
The weather throughout the day remain unsettled, with thunderstorms, together with a healthy dose of lightning thrown in for good measure, raging around the entire lake.
The odd thing was, both Kenny and I, together with the rest of our crew seemed to fishing in a protective bubble of some kind, and while it was obviously pouring all around us, we fished in sunshine and stayed perfectly dry.
Fact is, when the weather really started to close in, we somehow made it all the way back to the lodge from “Bonaparte Island” without a single drop of rain falling on us – remarkable.
We spent some time at our Fox Bay spot, photographing a very cooperative pair of Loons, and catching some very nice fish, including a 24” Walleye for myself.
For the rest of the morning and afternoon, we fished “Bonaparte,” and lost count after the first hour. The Walleye were voracious, and there were even a couple of Pike around to keep us honest.
Before dinner, I let Barry download the pictures I took while on the river trip, and because The New Fly Fisher may decide to use some of them, he asked me to sign a release.
The release had about the same number of pages as War and Peace, and after signing it, Barry muttered something about now having title my house.
The skies finally cleared, and after about 2 minutes at Fire Island, Kenny and I stopped off at what used to be called “1 Fish Point,” but given our recent experiences, was formally renamed “ 5 Fish Point.”
It was then over to “Turkey Dave Point” where the fishing was as good as any we had experienced at Fire throughout the week.
Things worked out very well at Fire that night, particularly for Barry and Al, with Barry catching a 31” Pike, and Al a 28” Walleye, thereby tying James for the big Walleye of the week.
The following morning, Eric presented them both with Master Angler Hats, along with trophy t-shirts in recognition of their catches.
Unfortunately it was time to say adieu, but before leaving we made sure to lock down our spots for next year.
We broke up the trip home by staying the night at the Water Tower Inn, in Sault Ste. Marie, where Kenny and I hosted happy hour, featuring a variety of snacks, and Makers Mark Manhattans.
After making a significant dent in the Makers, we headed on over to Giovanni’s, for what has become our traditional farewell dinner - and the food and company could not have been better.
It was yet another fantastic week at Esnagami Wilderness Lodge.
Everyone including the guides, servers, dock and housekeeping staff, were not only welcoming, but extremely professional and efficient in every way.
Phyllis (thanks for the perfectly poached eggs!) and Troy had the kitchen running like a well-oiled machine, and our meals throughout the week could not have been better.
As for the fishing, it was simply about as good as it gets, and of course owners Eric and Sue Lund, always go the “extra mile” to ensure that everyones overall experience is second to none.
If you’re thinking about a fishing trip, you really should consider giving this place a try – you will not be disappointed.
Please have a look through the photo gallery below, which feature pictures taken throughout the week by the guys in our group.