It's Gotta Be Around Here Somewhere…
The "Fog" Incident - Redux
In oft chance any of you have read the story - Would You Like Port or Starboard With Your Cheese? - otherwise know as the "fog incident" as published in Great Bear Lake Outdoors, and/or my field journal of our trip to Esnagami a couple of years back, then you will know that Art Ross, together with his fishing partner Stan, are on their best day severely directionally challenged.
To make matters worse, Stan is a retired Deputy Fire Chief, so you would have thought he would have no trouble finding his way around from place to place.
The plan was to meet at Ken Gold's cottage, which is located just outside of Keswick ON near Lake Simcoe, grab some dinner, get a good nights sleep, and then hit the road at 4 am.
Although we knew that Art and Stan would be arriving later in the evening, it was getting rather late when they finally called, and it became readily apparent they were hopelessly lost.
Let me just say that Kenny had provided everyone with a good map, that if you held it right side up, would take you directly to the cottage.
In any event, not unlike the aforementioned "fog incident" the dialogue between Art and Kenny was a true classic.
Unfortunately I could only hear Kenny's end of the conversation, but did manage to scratch down a few notes between fits of uncontrollable laughter - and it went something like this:
"Art - where the hell are you guys?
What do you mean your coming up to Jacksons Point?
Your going the wrong way - turn around!
I don't give a f**k what it says, you…
Art, Art, don't talk so f**king much - watch the road you idiot.
I don't care if Stan is driving, watch where the f**k your going!
You see at guy at a gas station?
Well never mind the f**king map - ask the guy!
I don't understand you - are you really this inept?
Art, Art, Art - stop talking - I need to talk to that guy!
Just give him the f**king phone, and make sure you know exactly what he is saying.
Art and Stan did show up eventually, and lets just say that decorum prevents me from setting out Kenny's further comments regarding their ancestry and overall level of intelligence in this narrative.
Between the What?
Between the Bridges:
Which was the name of the motel in Geraldton where we would be staying this year, as the Shores, or "Nakina Hilton" as it's know to some, was completely booked.
We had a pleasant 13.5 - hour drive, with stops for food and fuel along the way, including a visit to the Canadian Tire in Cochrane, ON where Art bought an "all in one" portable BBQ for $6, that he would use later in the week to grill some salami for a late night snack.
The balance of our group, consisting of Henry and James Zohar together with Al Haniford arrived shortly after we did, and after catching up, downing a couple of cocktails, and having a bite to eat, I presented Art and Stan with a new and improved GPS, that in retrospect given yesterdays events, should have been sent to them at least a week ago.
The first time Stan came to Esnagami, he and Art managed to get totally lost one evening, resulting in Eric Lund having to organize a search party in an effort to locate them.
Are you beginning to detect a theme?
Fortunately they found their way back to the lodge, but the following year I fastened an arrow to the bow of their boat with the word "Lodge" emblazoned on it, which oddly enough seemed to work, because as far as I can recall, they didn't get lost once.
Not wanting to push my luck - or more particularly theirs - with something so low tech, this new state of the art unit featured a movable directional arrow, and was pre-programed to:
• Take them to the lodge,
• Show them where the fish were,
• Pin point the location of group shore lunch, and
• Navigate to Nakina and even Rome or Paris.
My hope was that together with the hand held GPS that Art borrowed from Rezzy, both he and Stan would be able to get to and from wherever they chose to go - all within the same consecutive twenty-four hour period.
The fact is I could have saved myself all the bother, because they already had a back up plan in place, which consisted of never letting Kenny and I out of their sight.
As plans go, I have to admit it was a pretty good one, that is up until the day I got turned around when heading over to group shore lunch, and led them on a merry chase through the Henry's for a about twenty minutes.
But Wait! We'll Send You Another Set Free! - Just pay separate shipping and handling charges...
Around 4:30 am I could hear Kenny rustling around the room, and knowing that it would be useless to suggest he settle down and go back to sleep, got up, flipped on the TV, and the two us watched infomercials for about an hour.
I have to say, it was awfully hard to resist ordering some of those incredible non-stick frying pans, vegetable choppers and/or the twenty cd set of 80's classics, but we steeled ourselves against the entreaties of the various hucksters, and managed to get away unscathed.
We broke our fast at the Crown and Anchor in Geraldton, following which we made the fifty minute drive to the Nakina Air float base, to catch our 8am flight to the lodge.
Once we arrived at the lodge, exchanged greetings, unpacked and geared up, our first stop was, as tradition demands, Fire Island.
There were only a few fish around, but obviously Art was determined not to be shut out, so he threw everything - well almost everything - he had at them, which in this case meant that he somehow managed to toss his spinning rod and reel over the side in about twenty feet of water.
They tried to jig it back up - but no cigar. Because Fire Island is a pretty popular spot, we were all cautiously optimistic that someone would jig it up before the week was out.
Fortunately I'd packed a spare reel that I was prepared to lend him, on condition that both he and reel remained in the boat for the balance of the week.
We then tried a number of random spots in the hope of catching a few Pike, including the bay just south of Anchor Island, but other than one small follower, there was not too much doing.
While working our way back towards the lodge we stopped off at Cemetery Point, and I caught a 27" Walleye in just over twenty feet of water, which was a nice way to start the week.
There was some weather headed our way so we didn't stay all that long, and just managed to get back to the lodge before a thunderstorm hit.
In fact it rained steadily all evening, with the result that none of our group ventured out after dinner.
Henry and James caught a number of fish earlier in the day, as did Al and Barry, including a 22" Walleye at Black Flag.
And Today's Geography Lesson Is…
The forecast called for very warm weather and rain, but while there were a few brief showers, the temperature was very pleasant being in the low 20's throughout the day.
We decided to head up towards the Esnagami River, and with Art and Stan in our wake stopped at B&G Point, but other than several snags, we only hooked, and unfortunately lost one fish.
It was then off to what we call "Bonaparte Island" - good luck finding that on the map btw - and while working the north/west shore of the island, caught a Walleye on virtually every pass.
A Natural Hat Trick
Although I have been fishing Esnagami Lake for over twenty-five years, today was the first time I had every seen, or for that matter heard of anyone scoring a natural "trophy" hat trick.
On three consecutive passes, Kenny caught a 24", 24 ¼" and 25" Walleye - two of them on the same minnow.
Why him of all people?
I could see that Art was constantly peering at and fiddling with Rezzy's GPS, and suggested to Kenny we call them over and see if we could help Art figure it out, and in the process give them something of a geography lesson.
Kenny, with out missing a beat said that he would give them a geography lesson, and when they got within earshot said: "Art, here's a geography lesson for you - f**k off!"
What a guy.
Unfortunately when the wind died, so did the fishing, so we headed over to Sanctuary Reef, and while there were fish swimming around on top of the reef, it remained dead calm and the fishing continued to be very slow.
It was then off to Fox Bay, but it was dead as well.
Undeterred we went back to "Bonaparte," but as the wind still hadn't picked up, decided to cast for Pike on the backside of the Island, where Kenny picked up one around the 30" mark.
On the way home, we stopped at Fire, but only caught a single fish.
Barry, Al, Henry and James fished the Flats, and while they didn't come up with any trophies, caught a boatload of fish.
Once again it rained steadily after dinner, and once again we all decided to stay in.
The Shell Game
Given our experience at "Bonaparte" yesterday, we figured why leave fish to find fish, so the four of us headed back to the scene of the crime.
It remained sunny throughout the day, with a light S/W breeze. The air temperature was a very pleasant twenty- two degrees, with surface water temperatures holding between sixty-two and sixty-three degrees.
While there were some fish to be had at "Bonaparte" it was nothing like yesterday, so we moved down river in the hopes of catching some Pike.
Working the large weed bed East of Lunch Island, we caught one small Pike and scared up one "t-shirt" follower, that Kenny couldn't coax it into biting.
As we were drifting across the bay, I happened to look down and spotted a snake heading straight towards our boat.
I didn't think much of it, other than being glad that it was in the water and we weren't - that is until our slithery friend got tired of swimming and decided to hitch a ride.
Now THAT was not going to happen on my watch, so after pushing it away, I watched as it disappeared around the back of the boat.
Later that day, and after we had travelled several km's from where the initial encounter occurred, I happened to catch some movement out of the corner of my eye, and low and behold, the damn thing was slithering along the gunwale!
While I really hate snakes, I'm not one for just randomly killing something if it's not a threat - although it did momentarily cross my mind - so after flicking it back into the water I hightailed it out of there, this time making sure that the persistent reptile didn't manage to stow away yet again.
The little bugger must have coiled up on the anti-ventilation plate and somehow managed to hang on, obviously just waiting for its opportunity to pounce.
I took great pleasure in knowing that it was going to have a very long swim back to Lunch Island.
Having never tried it before, I suggested heading over to what I believe is called Joe Clark Springs - or Joe or Clark something springs.
There is a big sand bar at the mouth of the bay where I presume the springs are located, so we trolled Hot N Tot's over the sand, and while there was nothing of size, there were plenty of Walleye to be had on top of the bar.
Kenny continued his streaky play, and once again accomplished a feat that I had never before witnessed, by catching two clams back to back on a Hot N Tot!
Hey, when your hot your hot…
On the way back, we stopped at Sanctuary, B&G, Fire and Turkey Dave Point and pitched a no hitter in each and every spot.
Fortunately the after dinner rain decided to take the night off, and our flotilla headed on over to Fire Island.
Kenny and I decided to give the West side of "Scooby" a try first, and while I caught one good size Walleye on our initial pass - that was it.
Fire was indeed on "fire," and I caught over forty Walleye, all of them in six to ten feet of water.
Kenny also contributed about a dozen, bringing our total to over fifty in just two hours - which as Walleye fishing goes, was not too shabby.
While I was catching fish after fish, Kenny could not even manage a single hit.
Earlier that day I had broken off my Road Runner jig, and for reasons I can't really explain, decided to tie on a regular old, CHT coloured round head jig.
Kenny, who was still using a Road Runner was clearly getting frustrated, and after suggesting that a change in jigs might be in order about twenty times, he finally relented, switched to a plain round head, and immediately started to catch.
Fact is he only had one bite before finally making the change.
While you can never be certain, if the big banana would have switched over when I first suggested it, we may have come close to topping 100 fish.
Who would have thought that such a subtle change in tackle could have produced that kind of result - particularly given the success we both had been having with the Road Runner up to that point.
I suppose the lesson learned is don't get into a rut, and if the fishing slows down, don't be afraid to change things up and see what happens.
"That's Why I'm Easy - Easy Like Sunday Morning"
Why not borrow a line from the Commodores, because taking it "easy" - slow and easy - is exactly what we did today.
The day dawned sunny and warm with a light, pleasant breeze, and remained that way throughout the entire day and evening hours.
Pictures with Wolves
Our first order of business was to head over to "Wolf Rock" and hopefully get some pictures of the - well - wolves.
They must have been pretty hungry, because the guy who brought over the left over vittles, was barley off the rock before they materialized out of the bush.
We then embarked on our Grand Circle Tour which took us to "Bonaparte," the Springs, Secret Spot #2, Jackfish and Trout Bay.
There was nothing spectacular in terms of size, but we caught fish wherever we dropped a line.
In fact James and Henry seemed to have had much the same idea, and trolled over a good portion of the lake in a leisurely fashion, catching fish pretty much everywhere they went.
After anther great dinner prepared by Chef Troy, the armada once again converged on Fire Island, and while not as hot as it was the previous evening, everyone caught more than they're share.
In fact we started off with a 23" Walleye and a Pike, that had we measured it, may have topped 30."
Although Art and Stan had yet to catch a trophy, we thought that Art had finally broke his cherry when they netted what was clearly a very nice fish, but unfortunately he could only stretch it to 23 ½".
Even though Art came up a bit short, Barry managed to get on the board by boating a beautiful 26" Walleye.
Later that evening Art sparked up the $6 "all in one" portable BBQ he had purchased in Cochrane, and cooked up a mess of salami.
Not to be outdone, Ben fried up some Walleye, and baked a Brook Trout that he had brought back from his river trip.
By any measure, it was a fantastic day.
À la Rivière Nous Allons!
While I'm out fishing quite a few days every year, I have to say without qualification that my favourite is spending the day on the Esnagami River with good friend Eric Lund, chasing down trophy Brook Trout.
When you combine beautiful scenery, fantastic fishing and good company, it's clearly the formula for a perfect day on the water.
This year we were joined by veteran Esnagami Lodge guide Scotty Hutchings, and flew down to the River Camp just after breakfast, on what started out as a somewhat cool and blustery day.
So blustery in fact, that at some point during the night the door to our cabin blew open, and it took Kenny and I a while to finally figure out why it was so damn cold in there!
Once we arrived, Eric and Scotty set about repairing a hole in the wall of the cookhouse cabin, where a playful bear had decided that rather than use the existing door, it would make one of it's own.
After making the repair and gearing up, the sun came out to stay, and while the wind dropped, it remained strong enough to keep the bugs at bay pretty much throughout the entire day.
With Mayflies hatching all around us, we made our way down stream fishing a variety of runs as we drifted along including the Honey Hole, S-Bend and Crazy Trout Town to name just a few.
I have always had my share of success on the river, and was convinced that today would no different.
On my very first cast a very nice trout slammed my fly, but unfortunately there was no hook up, and therein lies my story for the rest of the day.
While Eric and Scotty were pulling them in left and right, both on a fly, and at least on two occasions Scotty caught fish on a spoon, I couldn't catch my ass with either hand.
I tried all manner of different flies including olive and black Woolly Buggers, Chernobyl Ants, and even skipped Bombers across the top of the water, but other than my share of hits - and misses - I couldn't catch a single trout.
Fact is my only fish of any kind was a 6" Golden Trout, better known as a Walleye.
Well, that's why they call it fishing and not…you know the rest.
Fortunately whatever curse I was labouring under, didn't affect Eric and Scotty, and they caught twelve and six Brook Trout respectively, two of which would have tipped the scales at three pounds or better.
They also missed a number of fish, which if caught (including the ones I missed) could have brought our total to well over thirty.
No matter, as always it was a perfect day, and I honestly had ALMOST as much fun as they did, taking pictures, soaking up the scenery and landing their fish.
Meanwhile back at the lodge, Kenny was being guided by Ben - who clearly got the short straw - and while fishing Whirler and the Flats, he found Kenny a 24 ½" trophy Walleye.
Stan and Art had a pretty good day as well, with Stan landing a 34½" Pike, but unfortunately he lost an even bigger one right at the boat. I wonder if it had anything to do with his net man?
That evening Kenny and I went over to Loon Island, where Kenny caught a 25½" Walleye, bringing his trophy total to six.
We made a final stop at Fire on the way back to the lodge, and after catching a couple of Walleye, decided to call it a day.
And what a day is was…
The Clock Struck "Crazy Time!"
It was another perfect day weather wise, which is just as well given that it was group shore lunch day.
My intention was to start at Neil's Reef, which is just a stones throw away from the Louella Island group shore lunch spot, but decided to spend some time fishing the small, unnamed island adjacent to Louella first.
Trolling Hot N' Tots we caught a couple of Walleye, and our trusty shadows Art and Stan also made a few passes and caught a couple of fish as well.
We then moved up to the reef, and using both a jig/minnow combo and Hot N' Tots, we caught about twenty Walleye, with the biggest being in the low twenty's.
Checking the time, we started to make our way over towards Brian's Bay, where the shore lunch would take place, and fished around Loon Island and throughout the Henry's until the dinner, or in this case lunch bell rang.
Lunch as always was incredible, with pan fried Walleye done two ways, including my all time favourite Lemon/Wine Walleye, all of which was served with baked beans, garlic bread, warm German potato salad and home made onion rings.
We stopped at Loon Island right after lunch, and after catching a couple of fish, hit a couple of spots on either side of Cedar Narrows where the wind had been pushing the water up onto shore for most of the day.
There were only a couple of fish around, so we figured why not give Bonaparte a shot as we were heading in that general direction in any event.
As luck would have it - we made the right decision.
Fishing the West side of the island in six to ten feet of water, we literally caught a fish every couple of minutes - it was absolutely crazy.
Our biggest was Kenny's 23 and 7/8 inch Walleye, which just goes to show, than when it comes to taking measurements, it truly is what it is in our boat!
Art finally got on the board with a 25½" Walleye, which we referred to as a "Stan Special" because he caught it well off the Island in about thirty feet of water.
We call it a "Stan Special" because several years ago he and Art were drifting in the middle of nowhere over forty feet of water, with their lines down no more than ten feet, when Stan nailed a 27" Walleye.
That evening, rather than play bumper cars at Fire Island, Kenny and I worked the rocky shoal that runs off of the last island East of Fire, followed by Gull Rock, and Two Fish Point, all of which netted us a big fat zero.
As a last gasp we stopped off at Turkey Dave Point and caught ten before deciding to call it a day and head home.
All Things Must Pass
When you hop into the boat on Friday morning, it's hard not to wonder just where the week went.
It was another sunny day, but quite hot with scarcely a breath of wind.
Loon Island was our first stop, and after picking up six Walleye it shut down.
It was then off to the Henry's but we didn't catch a single fish, despite working at it for over an hour.
Wanting to say sayonara to Bonaparte we paid yet another visit, but other than my 24" Walleye, there was virtually nothing happening.
The very same happened at Clark Springs, Trout Bay, Glacier Ice Creek and . In talking to the rest of the guys at dinner, their experience was much the same, as the weather appeared to have given the fish lockjaw.
And speaking of dinner, Eric was kind enough to fry up some Walleye nuggets that complimented our NY Strip Loins rather nicely.
The weather was somewhat unsettled, and as a result we decided to stay close to the lodge.
Fire was our first stop, that is until the rest of the boats showed up, following which we tried Cemetery Point for a short time, and after catching one fish, finished up at Turkey Dave Point where we managed to catch one Walleye and one stick.
BTW - I didn't catch the stick.
Yes - day 1, because the countdown has now begun until we are all hopefully back 358 days from now.
Eric, Sue and his crew run one of the finest fishing lodges in North America.
The personal service, equipment and food are all top notch, and the Walleye, Pike and Brook Trout fishing is some of the very best available.
A big thanks to Eric and all of his staff for taking such good care of us, including but in no way limited to ensuring we had extra pillows and towels, our boats were always full of gas, preparing and serving delicious meals each and every day, and especially for setting aside all of the really BIG minnows for Kenny.
And to everyone in our little cadre of banditos, thanks as always for all of the laughs, and for otherwise making it such an enjoyable week.
For more information about Esnagami Wilderness Lodge please visit them at:
You know - ya really gotta fish here - this guy does!