Our Man In Canada
February 7th, 2005

Fly Fishing Northern Canada
By Mike Skoczen

It was just after 8:00 PM when we arrived in Cochrane, Ontario hoping that the hand drawn directions that the outfitter sent us would lead us to our final destination the following morning. My two fishing partners, Rick and Mark, and I were a bit run down from the trip but obviously excited about the next 6 days. My day started some 15 hours and 700 odd miles earlier in Cleveland and the next morning could not arrive fast enough. We had booked a fly-in trip and intended to fish for Walleye, Northern Pike, and "remote" Brook Trout that were reportedly well worth the trip. None of us had ever fly fished for Northerns and the prospect of catching a brook trout a lot bigger than 6 inches was intriguing. Seven months had passed since Mark's wife called and asked me to plan a fishing trip that would serve as his Father's Day gift. Now that we were so close to wetting a line, the anticipation was killing us.

We passed the time during the long drive rehashing the details of our preparation for the trip even though we had already done so in what must have been hundreds of emails leading up to the target date. We dug through our fly boxes to show off the different flies that we tied and discussed articles or books that we read regarding our destination and our expected targets. We made bold statements about who held that one secret fly that would out produce all others on this trip and joked with each other about who "the skunk" would partner up with on this trip, openly admitting that we hoped that it would be none of us. I tied up some pike leaders using both hard mono and steel wire as a tippet (the hard mono worked better but that is a story for another day). The anticipation of the adventure ahead of us kept building with each mile that we put behind us.

We found our hotel, checked in and got some dinner before resting up for our final leg of the journey. With the aid of a full stomach and a few drinks I fell asleep thinking about the pike that I would be fighting with the next day.

Morning came and found all of us wide awake before 7:00. We got dressed, visited the continental breakfast, and decided to try and find our way out to the "airport" early, we weren't scheduled to fly out until 11:30. We took our time and arrived just before 9:00. As luck would have it, the group that was to fly out before us was late and the outfitter decided to give us their time slot. We got checked in, paid up, received the normal safety talk and then got our gear weighed in. The outfitter normally allows for 80 pounds of food and gear per person, a tough task considering that we needed enough food (and beer) for a week. Even though we thought we planned carefully we came up almost 80 pounds over our total limit (someone had brought some extra gear that they could not live without) but again as luck would have it, we were also getting the larger of the two sea planes (the Beaver) and were not charged for the extra weight.

As we waited for the pilot, the maintenance crew told us about how they had to spend three nights at our camp the previous week to repair the damage caused by a bear over the winter. We were less than an hour away from our destination now and even the crew's musing about who was slowest amongst us could not lessen the anticipation, I could almost feel the tug of my first pike on a fly.

The flight was smooth, enough so that the pilot let me fly the plane for a few minutes to the horror of my two companions. It was the first and probably the last time I will get to fly a plane. About 45 minutes after take off the pilot took control back from me and skillfully landed us on the small lake that was adjacent to the cabin we would be spending the week in.

After tying off to the dock we went up to inspect the cabin before unloading. The bear had come back again, causing some minor damage to the cabin windows but not much else. A can of bug killer with several large puncture holes in it laid on the ground. My guess is that the bear didn't like the taste of the chemicals and decided to go elsewhere.

The pilot offered to take us to a different lake that had not been visited recently by a bear. There would be no brook trout fishing opportunities at that lake but he promised that the pike fishing would be better. We now had a tough decision, we really wanted to fish for both pike and brook trout but without windows on the cabin, the bugs would be unbearable. After some discussion we decided that if we could repair the windows and keep the bugs out we would stay at this camp (oddly enough, the possibility of the bear returning didn't factor into our decision at all). We got some duct tape, repaired the windows and screens, decided that we would be safe from the bugs and unpacked our gear. Finally, the wait was over! I rigged up my 7 wt rod, grabbed my flies, and headed out to the lake to make my first cast.

To be continued... ~ ms

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