“So where is Lost Lake and how do you get there?
I forget where it is exactly, but I can tell you that if you manage to find two white fence posts, with a rusty old chain strung between them that is across the road from an old farm house - the nail holding the chain to the post on the right hand side will come out very easily, and you can then lower the chain, and take the short drive to the lake. Got it?”
So where is Lost Lake and how do you get there?
I forget where it is exactly, but I can tell you that if you manage to find two white fence posts, with a rusty old chain strung between them that is across the road from an old farm house - the nail holding the chain to the post on the right hand side will come out very easily, and you can then lower the chain, and take the short drive to the lake. Got it? And don’t forget to put the chain back up, unless you want to contend with uninvited guests.
After the relatively short bumpy drive, the road - such as it is - opens out into an area that is relatively flat and clear of trees. If you have a small light boat, such as a twelve to fourteen foot aluminium “car topper”, an inflatable or a canoe, you have a fighting chance of getting it into the water, while remaining relatively dry. If not, I would suggest that you either stay at home, or be prepared to fish locally, which in this case means casting from shore. The area around the “launch” holds some very nice smallmouth bass, but if you want to get at the walleye and pike, you either need the right kind of boa,t or will have to be a world record distance caster.
While the clearing I just mentioned would in my view be a beautiful spot to set up camp, my “guides” insisted that there was a much nicer camp site just a short boat ride away. According to them it had a great view of the lake - just like the clearing where we parked - you could fish right off shore - just like where we were standing and, it had an outhouse with an actual toilet seat – sold!
The next challenge was to load the boat with the two or three tons of equipment that my guide/outfitters assured me we needed for our three day stay, and shuttle it over to the campsite. Lewis and Clark crossed a continent with less stuff. Our “outfit” consisted of two tents (one of circus size proportions), three stoves, a portable BBQ, three large coolers, several plastic bins full of enough cooking equipment to set up a medium size restaurant, lanterns, sleeping bags, bottled water, propane bottles, several cases of beer, worms, minnows, more tackle than Bob Izumi takes with him on tour, enough boat gas to cross Lake Superior, several more plastic bins containing dry goods and snacks, trolling motor batteries, and oh yes – a partridge in a pear tree. You need an electric trolling motor on that lake just like you need a… In any event you probably get the picture.
Launching the boat while staying relatively dry was one thing; but getting the boat out far enough so it would float, when filled to the top of the gunwales with equipment and people, was an entirely different matter. The fact is, you are going to get wet and muddy. Several trips and dunkings later, our impressive pile of goods and materials were scattered along the shoreline in preparation for set up. There was a good chance that it would take the better part of two days to set up and take down the camp, thereby leaving us with only one day to do some fishing – but in fairness, after a couple of hours work, the camp was in pretty good shape.
So let me tell you about the train. But, before doing so I want to give you fair warning, just in case you think that you are about to get some sort of clue about the whereabouts of Lost Lake. There are thousands of miles of railway tracks throughout Canada, so I wouldn’t run out, and start looking for a couple of white fence posts, with a chain strung between them, across the road from an old farm house that is close to some railway tracks just yet – it’s a big country after all.
Imagine either sitting by the camp fire in the evening, or getting up with the sun, just as the mist is beginning to lift off of the lake and hearing the distant mournful sound of a train whistle. For some it takes us back to a different era, where life moved at a much slower pace, and most people used the train to move around the country. I would also like you to imagine that damn whistle blowing constantly throughout most of the day and night. If we were really lucky, and the wind was blowing towards camp, it was like the bloody thing was right outside of the tent. I really came to hate that train.
So I am willing to bet that by now, many of you – especially the train lovers - would be prepared to offer me a significant bribe, or use some other, less pleasant incentive, to pry the secret location of the lake out of me. Either that, or you are wondering why anyone would ever want to go near the place. Let me explain.
While there is the odd challenge and distraction that goes along with a visit to Lost Lake, this place is a real gem. It’s not a big lake, and is part of a river system that gets visited by the occasional canoer, and from time to time campers – usually in the spring and summer. We choose to go in either late September or early October, because if you hit the weather right, it can be magnificent. Not a soul to be seen, no bugs, the fall colours are in full throttle, cool crisp evenings, misty mornings and ah yes – the fishing.
This lake holds some very impressive fish. When I was first told about the numbers and size of the fish being caught – considering my sources - I was sceptical to say the least. I figured there could not possibly be a fishery of that quality, in a lake so close to … but that would be telling. Lots of walleye, with fish in the five pound plus range not uncommon, some very big pike, and plenty of aggressive small mouth bass, that generally range anywhere from two to five pounds.
The first time I fished Lost Lake, the weather was rather gloomy with some off and on rain, and we had one of those insidious fall winds blowing, that seems to go right through you, regardless of how many layers you are wearing. Shortly after we started fishing, we - or should I say my guides - hit a couple of small lunch size walleye, but that was about it for the rest of the day, despite trying all the various “can’t miss” spots that were described to me on the short boat ride from camp.
There was much muttering going on about how it had never been like this in the past, maybe the water was too cold, must be the weather, and on and on. At one point, I heard one of them say something about the new guy being a jinx, and that the fishing would likely improve if he were left on shore to guard the camp. Normally I would commiserate with my fellow anglers in situations like this, but I was having too much fun watching my “guides” sweat it out, as I sat there quietly, looking singularly unimpressed, while in the background, the train continued to blow its damn whistle.
While the fishing that first day was something of a disappointment, once back in camp we had a great meal, and then sat around the camp fire for hours, talking, admiring the star filled sky and listening to the sound of…you know.
I was up with sun that next morning, and was greeted by an absolutely perfect scene. There was not a breath of wind, and even the train appeared to have taken the morning off, so there was not a sound to be heard. The morning sun cast a pale golden glow on the mist that was rising from the lake, and you could just see the trees, at the peak of their fall colours, reflected in the glass like surface of the water. After breakfast we were off again, to yet another of those “can’t miss” spots, but this time, within about ten minutes, I had a five pound walleye in the net. This was immediately followed by a couple of solid hits and an even bigger walleye. My guides could not be happier, and there was much laughter, high five's all around, and a renewed spirit of optimism about the quality of the Lost Lake fishery.
There is a reason why they call it fishing and not catching, because as quickly as it started -it stopped. We moved from spot to spot over the next several hours, but never got so much as a bite. By this time the sun had broken through, and even though it was late September, you could fish comfortably in a short sleeve shirt. The tell tales signs of worry were starting to show on the faces of my guides, and rather than run the risk of being unceremoniously dumped on shore, I suggested we try the narrows, where a small river emptied into the lake. Besides, the narrows were in the general vicinity of the railway bridge, and not having heard the train whistle for several hours, I was beginning to worry.
Within a few minutes we caught a small walleye, and then the small mouth bass took over. Drifting down through the narrows and casting to both banks, it was an endless succession of double and triple headers. It didn’t seem to matter what you threw at them, because they hit everything with a vengeance. They fought hard, went airborne, and otherwise gave us everything we could handle. I have never enjoyed better bass fishing, and it was a perfect ending to what turned out to be the perfect day.
You don’t have to have a “Lost Lake” available to provide you with an opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy the scenery, fishing, and most importantly, the chance to spend some quality time with good friends.
Having said that if you were to drive north to… No, just listen for that train whistle – you may be closer than you think.
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