Transition - Esnagami Wilderness Lodge - June 11-18, 2022

Field Journal

While I had all manner of ideas in terms of a theme for this year’s Esnagami Wilderness Lodge journal, and although many of them will be incorporated at least in part, upon reflection I decided that the most appropriate and descriptive of the lot would be “Transition.”

So when does a fishing trip transition into a trip with some fishing?

Well, that change, or in keeping with the theme, transition (there’s that word again) took place for both Kenny and I this past June.

But more on this as the story unfolds.

We celebrated both the “old” and the “new” this year with Art Ross and Stan Gourley, together with father and son team Henry and James Zohar returning to the fold and also welcomed new father and son team Billy and Adam Stein, together with the usual suspects, Barry and Kenny Gold, Al Haniford and of course me – your trusty scribe.

Thursday, June 10 was our travelling day, and while we had something of a gentlemen’s agreement to stay in touch en route with a view towards hooking up for breakfast in New Liskard (not including Henry and James who were leaving from Sudbury), when I called Billy once we merged onto Hwy #11 at Washago around 5:30 am, much to my surprise he informed me that he and Adam were having breakfast at a Tim’s in North Bay!

Although we did collectively discuss leaving for Geraldton – where we would overnight – at approx. 4am, Billy said he was so excited that sleep was impossible, so they left around 2am. I’m not sure what Adam thought of their early departure, but when Billy says it’s time to go fishing, you either get your butt in gear or risk being left behind.

Given their head start, they were likely checking into the Between the Bridges Inn in Geraldton around the same time we were finishing breakfast.

Other than Art and Stan driving past our motel - which btw if you bothered to look is located right on Hwy #11 - and somehow ending up in downtown Geraldton, the trip went smoothly, with very little in the way of traffic or construction to slow us down. I even enjoyed that part of the drive through the “dead zone” between Hurst and Long Lac, as it may be the only place in Canada, other than by turning off your radio, where you can avoid listening to the CBC.

As an added bonus we had a couple of special treats both en route and while enjoying cocktail hour at the motel courtesy of Al’s wife Fern. She not only baked some delicious blueberry muffins but made up a rather impressive charcuterie tray that, in keeping with our piscatorial pursuits, she packed away in a plastic tackle box. It contained a variety of cheese, olives, salami and prosciutto to name just a few of the items she thoughtfully included.

Many thanks Fern! Is it too soon to put our order in for next year?

There will also be a couple of new features in this year’s blog, the first being “The World According to Kenny” or Kennyisms, and the second I’m calling “B&A’s Bits”, which feature Adam’s trip notes that he diligently kept throughout the week.

So without further ado allow me to present the largely uncensored and unabridged version of the first of many:

B&A’s Bits

• Arrived in North Bay 5:05am. 25,343 km on the odometer with a half tank of gas.
• So far 1 fox, 1 OPP cruiser and lots of rain. Stopped at Tim Hortons and saw 5 Amish people.
• Gas in North Bay was $2.21/L. CAA should consider Hwy11 in North Bay for one of the worst roads in Ontario with potholes that rival Olympic swimming pools.
• 25,720km just past the left turn in Cochrane and 2 half tanks of gas later - gas was a full serve station with 1980’s style pumps and was at $2.189/L.
• Gas in Smooth Rock Falls was $2.279. 25,944km at Hearst, gas was $2.229/L.

Day 1

Winner, Winner Turkey Dinner!

The lodge was going to be full this week, so it was no big surprise that things were jumping at the Nakina Air base. So much so that despite dispatching 3 Otter trips to and from the lodge, Kenny and I were consigned to riding in on the 185 with Greg at the controls.

After getting our gear sorted out, we had a chat with Eric in order to get the skinny on how the lake had been behaving during the previous week. He told us there had been in and around 100 trophies recorded, that included a number of Pike, who because the water was still relatively cool, were still hanging about in the shallows.

There were some very nice Walleye that made the board as well, but he was of the view that the bigger Walleye were just now starting to come on, because the season was about 1 to 2 weeks behind when compared to last year at this time, meaning they were just now starting to shake off their post spawn lethargy.

While it was comforting to know that the big boys and girls were about to make an appearance, the one disadvantage of the season being behind was that we had clouds of bugs – including a healthy serving of black flies – dogging us throughout the week. I think that we must have come across a new wind resistant strain of black fly, in that relatively brisk winds notwithstanding they continued to make their presence known.

One our way out to Fire Island which is our traditional first port of call, we spotted Billy and Adam over at Turkey Dave Point. I pulled up to see how they were getting on and noticed they had already thrown out a marker, and without disclosing any specific details told us that so far anyway, they were doing pretty well.

Pretty well indeed, because by the end of the day, including a return engagement after dinner, they boated 85 Walleye.

Kenny and I picked up about 20 at Fire in about 1 ½ hours of fishing. Our fish were caught in 7 to 10 ft. of water, with the surface temperature being a rather cool 56 degrees.

Everyone in our group caught some fish including Al’s 28 ½ inch Walleye that he coaxed into the net at of all places Cemetery Point. He and Barry caught a number of fish there which is rather unusual because as a rule Cemetery does not normally come into its own until later in the season.

Even though we didn’t fish all that much during the day, Kenny and I opted to stay in after dinner.

B&A’s Bits

Gas in Geraldton was $2.33/L.
• 4 doz. minnows for the afternoon.
• 4 doz. minnows for the evening.
• In addition to our 85 Walleye we caught 1Pike and 1 Whitefish.

And todays Kennyism is:

“You know, there really is a difference between being just plain stupid and being an idiot…”

So sayeth the Oracle…

Day 2

Drop, Set, Land, Splash

And that’s how you catch fish on Esnagami Lake, with the “splash” signifying a live release of course.

The day dawned warm, sunny with a bit of cloud, together with a gentle cooling breeze, or in other words a perfect day for fishing.

Today we would be taking Billy and Adam on a tour of the southern portion of the lake, thereby demonstrating that there were in actuality more places besides Turkey Dave Point where one could find fish. Although given their success there yesterday it does bring up Guide Rule #288 – “Never leave fish to find fish.”

Billy was bound and bent that after his experience at Betty Falls last year involving a rather large, tackle busting Gator that he began referring to as “Hitler,” not unlike General MacArthur he was going to return, and all that he required from me was directions.

Rather than simply making a bee line to Betty, we decided to show them a few more spots enroute thereby giving Adam a chance to punch in some waypoints. We therefore stopped at Cemetery Point, Wildcat Narrows, Anchor Island, the bottom end of Reed’s Narrows, the small lunch spot – not to be confused with the group shore lunch spot – on Louella, and finally Betty.

We stuck around at Betty for a few casts where Kenny managed to catch a 24” Pike.

After bidding them adieu, tight lines and all that stuff it was time for a return to perhaps our favorite spot on the lake - Tuna Fish. We were somewhat concerned that our secret was out because when we talked to Eric the other day, he said a guide had taken his guests to Tuna Fish the previous week, and because the fishing was so good it became their go to spot for most of their stay.

As luck would have it they only THOUGHT they were at Tuna Fish but were in fact fishing an area some ¼ of a mile away. That said they did very well, and because we knew exactly where they had been it was formally christened Tuna Fish #2, and while we did visit TF #2 later in the week, the damn bugs drove us away after only 10 minutes of fishing.

The fishing at the real Tuna Fish was great and we caught and released 47 Walleye, including my 25 incher in just over 2 hours of fishing.

Henry and James joined us at Tuna shortly after we arrived and also did very well, particularly on a rather small CHT Gulp grub. I had taken the pledge to use minnows no more, and switched over to plastic in the form of a “Chicago Shad”, which is a paddle tail minnow imitation that Eric picked up while we were doing a show in Chicago during the pre-covid era. The Shad worked very well – the 25” liked it – and caught just as many fish, if not more than the jig/minnow combo that Kenny was using. In fact I never used another minnow for the rest of the week as the Shad continued to catch fish on a consistent basis.

For reasons that are still not entirely clear we decided to change things up – see the aforementioned Guide Rule #288 – and began trolling Hot’n Tot’s from the western entrance to Reed’s Narrows along the north shore of Ara Island. It was very shallow and rocky along the shoreline, and but for one small Walleye that I caught just off the inlet where you can access Ara Lake it was, as todays Kennyism best described it – “Toit de Bunkus.”

The surface temperature had bumped up 6 degrees from yesterday and was now a balmy 62 degrees.

On the way back to the lodge we stopped at Last Chance and Fire, but it was really hot with virtually no breeze whatsoever, with the result that the fish had come down with a case of lockjaw.

Art and Stan had picked up a few in various places, while Barry and Al got into a mess of fish at Black Flag, including Barry’s 32” Pike that he landed after a rather prolonged battle in that he had hooked it on is ultralight while fishing for Walleye.

Billy and Adam caught a few fish at Betty (Hitler was nowhere to been seen), but when stopping at Wildcat on the way back, said they lost count of the number of Walleye they caught – well not really - because they confirmed that by the end of the day, including a return visit to Turkey Dave that evening, their total stood at 125 Walleye.

To put this into some perspective, this 2 day total represented what they would expect to catch in their favorite fishing hole back home (Rice Lake) within a 10 to 15 year period!

Kenny and I did not fish after dinner, although everyone else in our group did.

B&A’s Bits

• 6 doz. minnows for the morning.
• Guide day with HB and KG.
• WPT4 Lodge.
• WPT5 Turkey Dave.
• WPT6 Cemetery Point.
• WPT7 Wild Cat.
• WPT8 Anchor Island.
• WPT9 Reeds Narrows/White Rock.
• WPT10 Shore Lunch Spot.
• WPT11 Banjo Bay/Betty Falls.
• Also punched in WPT’s 12 through 20.
• 4 doz. minnows for evening.
• 120+ fish total for the day.

Day 3

Let’s All Play - Lunchbox Roulette!

The routine at the lodge is that before breakfast the staff take lunch orders for the following day, and the next morning place the lunch boxes/coolers containing the previous days order in the dining room.

While it sounds good in practice, and always seemed to work relatively well in years past, this time around things got a little mixed up because for the next several days it was a really good idea to check your lunch box before heading out for the day. For example, today everyone’s sandwiches were all in one cooler. I speculated that because everyone in our group was being referred to as the ”Ball Group” they may have thought we were all having lunch together. Who knows?

Personally I got quite a kick out of it because it was like opening a box of Cracker Jacks each morning.

And now to fishing.

While having breakfast we discussed what our various plans of attack would be for the day.

We were going to start at Louella in that the intel was the Pike were still in shallow. Art and Stan were trying to decide where to go, and I recommended giving Maun Bay a shot. Billy and Adam talked about heading back towards Betty, with plans to have a shore lunch there, and Barry, Al, James and Henry were going to decide once they left the dock.

Just as we were about to enter Louella, some clouds moved in, making it difficult to sight fish, which is the preferred way to go when the Pike are in shallow, and while we managed to dodge all the trophies – assuming there were any in there to begin with – we did see 4 and landed 2, the biggest being about 24”.

It was then off to try Tuna #2, and as noted above, we didn’t last more than 10 minutes given the bugs. The real Tuna welcomed us back and we caught loads of fish, including a very fat 23” Walleye that Kenny tried to knock off my line with the net twice.

Not unlike yesterday we came up with the bright idea that we should leave fish to find fish and started trolling Hot’n Tot’s south along the shore from Jackfish towards Black Flag, where we ran into Barry, Al, Henry and James.

Now why did we do this? Let’s just say that today’s Kennyism sums it up perfectly:

Because we’re stoooooopid…

We picked up several fish while trolling, and because those guys were catching fish off the point, rather than continue to catch fish on the troll, Kenny wanted to drag some minnows across the point at Black Flag.

While he – I decided to take a break - did catch a couple, it was no better than what we had managed to catch trolling, and because the point is loaded with boulders, I spent a lot of time backing up to deal with his snags.

There was a bit of commotion in Barry and Al’s boat, and we could see Al deploy the landing net, and Barry clearly taking a measurement of his fish. Barry said the Walleye was so fat it resembled a football, but unfortunately the best he could squeeze out of it was 23”.

It was now around 3pm, so in keeping with our new philosophy that less is more, we decided to head in.

Art and Stan went to Maun, and while they did catch a few, there were at least 6 other boats in the bay, so rather than risk having to play bumper boats, they worked their way back to the lodge, hitting a number of random spots en route.

Billy and Adam had a great shore lunch at Betty, with Adam doing the honours. My guess is that the only reason Billy let Adam prepare lunch is that he was likely casting from shore.

They hit Wildcat and Cemetery on the way home, and together with a mess of Walleye, Billy caught a 32 ¾ ” Pike on his Walleye rod, which from all reports gave a very good account of itself.

Dinner featured “surf and turf” with the main course being a very nice prime rib, and as a first course some delicious Walleye Nuggets that Al and Barry had talked the Chef into preparing for our group.

Before the trip Billy made a point of saying that he planned to bring up a mess very special libations (when he and I came last year, he mixed up both Vodka Gimlets – double lime of course – and Manhattans made with 18 year old Wiser’s rye) that he and I and Adam would partake of before dinner.

Today at dinner I asked if he had forgotten about me to which he replied that he had in fact stopped by earlier, but as we were both sleeping, decided not to wake us.

Sleeping? While Kenny might take the occasional nap, I’m not a napper, and upon further inquiry I was able to ascertain that he and Adam stopped by Art and Stan’s cabin rather than Spruce Lodge where Kenny and I were holed up – or so they said anyway…

That evening, as had become our familiar pattern we gave fishing a miss yet again, relaxed in our cabin and played a couple of games of cribbage.

B&A’s Bits

• 2 doz. minnows for the am.
• Worked Cemetery Point got 20+-
• Dad pike 32.75.”
• Shore lunch at Betty Falls.
• 4 dozen minnows for the evening.
• Adam 24” pike.
• Almost out of booze.

(HB note – see last bullet point! lol)

Day 4

Go North East Young Man – Go North East!

Now that they had become intimately familiar with the south/east part of the lake, it was time to take Billy and Adam somewhat farther afield.

I fully expected to find both of them waiting impatiently in their boat by the main dock as we pulled up so Kenny could reload his minnow bucket, but they were nowhere to be seen. They finally did turn up several minutes later and explained that with 6 guys in the cabin, one had to wait their turn if you needed to use the facilities before heading out.

And speaking of minnows – horror of horrors – for one of us anyway - they were out of stock! Now I have to admit I was somewhat surprised that they had already burned through a couple of hundred dozen since Saturday, but if you look at the minnow count in Billy’s Bits, it may offer some insight, at least in part, into why the cupboard was bare.

No worries though, because Kenny still had a bunch of dead ones – he forgot to put his minnow bucket in the water when we returned to the lodge yesterday - and I still had several dozen healthy ones, having put my bucket in the water and taken the pledge to go minnowless. In any event if we used all of those up, one of the staff was going to check the minnow traps today, so there should be some available for tomorrow, unless of course Billy and Adam decide to go fishing tonight.

Our first stop was Caribou Straight, then B&G Point (0 fish), Pike Island (5 Walleye – 0 Pike), Sanctuary Reef (crappy drift – 1 Walleye), Eric’s Island (same crappy drift – 6 Walleye), Fox Bay (5 Walleye - 3 Pike) and Sully Bay (1 Walleye - 2 Pike).

If our intention was to just tour around, mission accomplished, but we would have liked to have a bit more to show for all the gas we were burning, so Kenny and I decided to take them to Tuna on the understanding that they would tell no one (secrets out now I suppose), forget they were even there, and not even think about punching in a waypoint.

There was a strong wind blowing making it a challenge to position the boat over the most productive water, but the fishing was hot and the wind notwithstanding, both boats were rewarded with several double headers. Kenny hooked, and based on how it fought, thought he was about to land his first trophy Walleye, but a 29” Pike spoiled the party. It was a very nice, chunky fish that would in my view have gone north of 12 pounds had we put it on the scale.

While we opted for the north end of the lake, the rest of our posse headed west, and while they all caught fish, the highlight of the day was when James got himself reacquainted with his pet Eagle.

Yes, pet Eagle.

The last time he was at the lodge, he managed to coax a Bald Eagle into taking a Walleye that he threw into the water not far from where it was perched – James called it his hunting tree - managing to get some great video in the process. This year, the same nest was occupied, likely by the same pair of Eagles, and when James showed up with a Walleye, it was like déjà vu all over again.

Once again he shot some incredible video of the bird taking a fish off the water, which in one instance took place not more than 20 feet from his boat!

There were some storms kicking up a fuss in the area, so most of us, with the exception of – go on, guess – stayed in.

While today would usually be the day Eric and I would head down river, there was just too much going on at the lodge, so we decided to give it a miss this year.

But all was not lost, because in anticipation of this year’s trip I composed a little ditty based on Sam the Sham and Pharaohs classic “Wooly Bully” to both mark the occasion, and to celebrate the only fly I have used on the river during our previous 2 trips. Corny? Without a doubt, but in spite of that I hope you enjoy:

Wooly Bugger

Uno dos, one two tres quattro pounder!

Eric told Harold

That’s the thing to do

Do a fly out for some Brookies

And some Golden Trout too…

Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Yeah cast
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger

Tied on a Type 3 sink tip

And an 8lb. leader too

Then put on a Wooly Bugger

And the Brookies came through…

Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger

Mend your line up steam

That's the thing to do

Get you someone really

To pull the Wooly with you…

Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger

Watch it now, watch it, watch it…

Ay, strip, strip, strip

Here he comes, here he comes

Lift, set, you got it! You got it!

Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger
Wooly Bugger

And if you either don’t know or forgot the melody:

B&A’s Bits

• Guide day with HB and KG again.
• Adam 3.5 lbs white fish.
• 4 doz. minnows for the evening.

Day 5

Over the River and Through the Woods to…

If you’re the picky sort, then technically speaking it was “down” the river rather than “over” it, but if you don’t give a rat’s ass, then neither do I.

With the water levels on the Esnagami River remaining relatively high throughout the spring, the lodge was running guided river trips anywhere from 4 to 5 days per week. Overall the fishing had been very good, with tons of Walleye (called Golden Trout when on the river) and a mess of really nice Brookies, a number of which topped 20”.

Today was to be Billy and Adam’s turn in the barrel, and off they went first thing in the morning with river guide extraordinaire, Ethan.

They would primarily be fishing the 4th and 6th sets of rapids, together with a long stretch of prime trout water call the Mile and One-Half, which is not too far below the 6th set. In order to get to the 4th and 6th a couple of relatively easy portages are required which, just in case you were wondering, is where the “and through the woods” line comes from.

To say they had a fantastic day would be damning it with faint praise, and while not surprisingly they caught a bunch of Golden Trout, the Brook Trout fishing was none too shabby as well. The “hot” lure Brookie wise was a small hook/float combo that Adam was using. Ethan dug around under the rocks and attached a variety of emergers, such as Stone Fly and Dragonfly nymphs to his hook and did the trout love that.

One rather large trout broke him off and they actually chased the float downstream for some distance, and while they caught up with the fish, they couldn’t get a net under it.

In terms of the numbers and size of their Brookies, you’ll find the summary in today’s installment of Billy’s Bits.

Even though they had a very full day, there was no way this intrepid duo were going to miss the night bite, so off they went right after dinner, and it certainly paid off as Adam caught his first trophy Walleye, a 24” at Fire Island.

The only downside of being on the river today was that they missed group shore lunch, although something tells me they didn’t mind one bit.

Because the lodge was full, Eric decided to stagger the arrival times for each group and thereby avoid long line ups and give him and his crew some time to prepare the food between what I’m going to call “sittings.”

While a great idea in theory, when you combine a bunch of food motivated fishermen, and either from past experience or by word of mouth they know what is likely in store for them, it was no big surprise that everyone turned up at pretty much the same time.

Although space to park your boat was at a premium, no one went away hungry as copious quantities of “Buffalo” Walleye Nuggets, Lemon/Wine Walleye, warm German Potato Salad, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Baked Beans, cookies and cold drinks were happily consumed.

The Anatomy of a Shore Lunch Onion Ring

In terms of fishing, yes some of that did take place before and after lunch. I took Kenny over to the Wonderland Basin (the shallow, weedy area leading up to the dam you have to hop over to get into Wonderland) where he caught 2 small Pike. It was then over to Gull Rock – nada - then Scooby Narrows where we corralled several Walleye, and finally “This” Reef, which produced 1 Walley.

After lunch, together with Barry and Al we fished Loon Island, and caught 4 Walleye. Al, who was on his way to establishing himself as the Whitefish King (those of us in the know call them Whirlers) caught 4 with Barry adding another, and while not specifically targeting them, they put up a hell of a fight, and some of them were pretty damn big.

Our final stop was Fire where Kenny landed a Walleye on a minnow that was almost as big as the fish he caught.

Most of the guys went out after dinner – not Kenny and I who stayed in and played some cribbage, where btw I dealt myself a 28 hand – and Al was rewarded with a 25” Walleye at Fire.

I suppose it’s time to say something about our fishing trip transitioning into a trip with some fishing thrown in to keep it interesting.

You have probably picked up on the fact that Kenny and I have not been going out after dinner, even though our longest day on the water so far may have lasted only 7 hours, with most of them topping off between 5 and 6. Someone must have mentioned it to Eric because he dropped by one afternoon and asked us if we were ok. He seemed concerned because in years past Kenny and I were, as he described it, “first around the corner” on most evenings.

We assured him that we were fine and otherwise in full control of our faculties but found that after catching several hundred Walleye over the past 4 days, we were having just as much fun looking around for and taking pictures of wildlife, coming in early, kicking back with a book and a pre-dinner cocktail, playing some cribbage, and hitting the sack most nights around 10pm – just when the others were coming off the water. (See above “Lake Rules” photo.)

Despite our assurances that we were having a great time, Eric still did not seem entirely convinced, and when I told him I had stopped fishing for the week and was transitioning into full on guide mode, he may have been contemplating calling in a medivac!

B&A’s Bits

• Brook Trout Day
• 16
• 17
• 15
• 16.5
• 18.25 Billy
• Lost a 20 min. Adam
• 13
• 18 Adam
• 13
• 17
• 16
• 18 Adam
• Lost 4
• Adam 25” walleye

Day 6

You’re Making Sense but Still Wrong Because I’m Not Happy!

Today I decided to lead things off with what may be my favorite Kennyism, which I might add he employed from time to time whenever he didn’t get his way which, with me driving the boat, tended to happen quite often.

The weather promised to be, and was in fact unsettled throughout the day, with intermittent rain, but thankfully the winds remained moderate for the most part.

Because they were also calling for some thunderstorms, we decided that it would be prudent to sick relatively close to home – in fact any closer and we could have made some casts off the deck of our cabin.

We never got any further than Turkey Dave Point, and as luck would have it by following Guide Rule #288 for a change, when combined with my superior guiding skills, Kenny caught 52 Walleye (and 1 Whirler) in just over 3 hours.

If anyone reading this is in need of a very good guide, PM me and I’ll send you my rate sheet.

Billy and Adam decided to mix it up and headed west, doing some exploring in the neighbourhood of Cherry Narrows, and tallying approx.. 30 fish, most of them Walleye with a couple of Pike thrown in to keep them on their toes.

A group went into Betty Lake today and while the fishing was good, once they came out and headed over to the falls, they caught a number of trophy Pike in the fast water using jigs and stick baits. There were also some Pike and Walleye in Banjo Bay, which was interesting because earlier in the week it would have been easier to catch a cold if you were fishing in there.

I also picked up some intel regarding a rather large bay – location being withheld for security reasons – that while I have thought about fishing it for some time now, someone actually did and caught some nice Pike while casting the shoreline. Next time…

The rest of the guys in our group all caught fish, including those who got as far as Tuna.

The unsettled weather continued on into the early evening, and because the wind started to freshen, everyone, make that ALMOST everyone, stayed in.

Those who shall remain nameless that did go out, found a bit of quiet water beyond the small point just past the water bottle in home bay, tried Fire Island and Turkey Dave catching another 28 Walleye, thereby bringing their total for the week within shouting distance of 500.

B&A’s Bits

• Got wet today. Really really wet
• Caught 30 fish plus 2 pike.
• Exploration day. Cherry Bay narrows and some other islands and shorelines.
• Had wine with HB. Was great!
• Caught remaining fish for take home.
• Wind came in for the evening. Made it out to the edge of the bay and said not a chance. Fished the not windy point in our bay caught 8 wind died down fished fire - nothing. Fished turkey Dave caught about 20. Came in at 930 and said screw it - we were the only boat out there.

Day 7

Sit’n Behind a Rock in the Bay (with thanks to Adam and the late great Otis Redding)

The best way to put this in my estimation is to say that there was a shit load of wind throughout the day.

The wind blew so hard that the planes could not land meaning that the outgoing group, who would have normally flown out between 8:30 and 9am, didn’t leave camp until 6pm.

In my estimation any reasonable person, having already caught almost 500 fish, would be somewhat nuts to risk going out in gale force winds just to add a few more to their total, particularly after having announced that they had stopped counting several days ago. Ya right.

Now mind you there were a number of reasonable people who looked out at the lake and said screw this, had a nap, watched a bit of the US Open, played some cards, had a few laughs, a couple of cocktails, and just otherwise chilled out for the entire day.

Our intrepid anglers somehow managed to make their way across the bay and by tucking in behind some rocks, actually caught a few fish, and by doing so probably topped the 500 mark.

But rather than have me drone on about their day, see B&A’s Bits below for all the gory, or perhaps I should say glorious details.

B&A’s Bits

• 200+kmph winds.
• Planes delayed from coming in.
• We look like the only ones that will head out today.
• Mahavishnu progressive jazz group (orchestra). – (HB Note: came up during discussion about music preferences at breakfast, and if you would like to know more about them or hear some of their music: - Ps. – they are something of an acquired taste.)
• Breakfast and lunch roulette continues.
• Managed to get out around 10 with a break in the wind. Managed to get to a spot across from the lodge but no fish.
• Tried for spot 2 captain Nemo (Billy) thought he saw a break in the wind but was sorely mistaken - 8 foot waves with white caps and spray. Boat control impossible. Hat flew off his (Billy) head, lost his sunglasses. As I’m writing this we’re tied to a tree behind an island in 3 feet of water and white caps galore in the bay and no fish yet. He said we’re here for a while with the next spot just around the bend - I said the next spot is IN when the wind dies down. The soundtrack would be like Otis Redding (?) “sitting behind a rock in the bay.”
• Henry and James ran out of rum. We ran out of rye and roses lime mix. Went to the kitchen and walked back with two pitchers of OJ to mix with the 2 FULL bottles of vodka in hand.
• 6:15pm still no plane in sight for the day.
• We’re the only group in the dining room for dinner
• Kenny’s off in the corner talking to someone on the phone/sitting with all his friends/republican party that came north of 50^o mark
• “Lick it before you stick it” song of the day.
• For the first time Billy said, “I’m not going out tonight”. HB as a witness.
• Had an intervention to keep Billy from fishing tonight.

Day 8

Say it Ain't So!

This is the part of the narrative I enjoy writing the least, because it means that the trip is all but over.

The day dawned warm and sunny with barely a breath of wind, which did not come as a complete surprise having used up our monthly wind allotment yesterday, and our flight back to Nakina went off without a hitch.

Eric and his staff were as always, friendly, efficient and accommodating, and on behalf of all of us I would like to say thanks very much for taking such good care of us – lunchbox roulette notwithstanding – lol.

The fishing was outstanding, and I suspect that our group of 10 caught in excess 2500 fish, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was even more than that. Correct me if I’m wrong but that is some exceptional fishing by any standard.

Fishing with this group is always a pleasure, and it was especially satisfying to have Henry, James, Art and Stan back and to welcome Adam to the lodge for the first time.

Cheers to Al and Fern for the muffins and charcuterie and to Barry for taking care of our hotel reservations in Sault Ste. Marie. Kenny as always kept everyone laughing – most of the time anyway – and thanks to Stan and Henry (and to James for bringing his dad up) for regaling us throughout the week with an endless stream of hilarious stories, with a few jokes thrown in for good measure.

Art, sorry we didn’t get to eat the salamis, but next time for sure!

As for the critters, I'll dispense with the count as it was rather slim pickings this year. Having said that we did see a mess of crows (what a surprise!) a groundhog, 1 fox, 3 Moose, a Bonaparte Gull, several Mergansers, half a dozen or so Bald Eagles, a few Sandhill Cranes, 1 Chocolate Lab, a phalanx of "Shore Lunch" Gulls, 2 Terns and a Partridge in a...

While it’s not uncommon to see a Conservation Officer at the lodge on occasion, this was the first time in our collective experience that they had set up a check point on the road into town.

Barry, Al, Kenny and I didn’t have any fish, but the CO seemed to get a tad suspicious when he asked to see our fishing licenses, and we told him we were all seniors. In retrospect perhaps it was a compliment of sorts!

Art and Stan ran the gauntlet without incident even though they had some fish. I don’t recall if Henry and James had any, which then brings us to Billy and Adam. See B&A’s Bits below.

And finally, before I turn it over to the Billy and Adam to take us home, I have reserved 10 spots for the same week next year, and you gentlemen have first dibs on them – so let me know.

B&A’s Bits

Day 9

Took second flight out of the lodge.
• Got stopped by conservation officer in the middle of the road. inspected our catch but couldn’t properly count fish on   hand due to packaging. He completely unpacked and unwrapped the fish but couldn’t count because they were all rolled together. Asked us how we would feel about having our fish seized and us being fined? (Had to bite my tongue from saying sure, thank you sir may I have another). By 9:30 he had 2 coolers full of seized fish.
• HB and posse didn’t wait for us at the roadblock and figured if they’re not arrested they’ll find us somewhere en route to SSM.
• Gas in Geraldton is $236.9/L full serve.
• Gas in White River is $226.9/L.
• Dinner at Giovanni’s lots of fun…should’ve stuck with a salad after all the app’s but everything was great either way.

Day 10

• Gas in SSM $208.6/L.
• Not moving so fast in the morning. But hit the road by 9am.
• Filled up with FN gas between West Nippissing and North Bay/$190.9L.
• Fresh fried pickerel and chicken avail at chip truck.
• Gas in the city $200.9/L.
• Finally home at 5:35pm.

And finally, finally I will leave you with HB Guide Rule #1:

Take some time out to stop and smell the roses, your socks, a dead skunk or whatever, and trust me when I say it ain’t, nor should it ever be all about the fishing…

Last modified onThursday, 30 June 2022 20:52
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