Make that First Canadian Trip a Success

As Steve Jones and I were recently making plans for our “Destination: Outdoors” booth at the Outdoor Adventure Show, it brought back memories of my foray into the North for my first Canadian fishing trip. I had approached a number of outfitters. Meeting with these outfitters, and the guides and campsite owners is always fun, but doing your homework prior to committing to your favorite is key. Whether you contract with an outfitter from north of the border at a show or plan to occupy the camp of a friend or relative fortunate enough to own a site, many initial hunting or fishing trips can be fraught with oversights and over-anticipation. Much of this uncertainty can be avoided by acquiring credible information beforehand and filtering out exaggerations and hearsay.

As one who could have benefited from some good advice prior to my initial excursion to Canada, I’m offering my own modest primer with categories of concern.

When deciding just whose vehicle will be used on a trip, lean heavily toward those with ample storage room. If you’re staying at a professionally run camp, safety amenities can be assumed. However, this may not be the case with private cabins. Never assume life jackets, batteries, first-aid kits or other essentials will be available.

If carpooling, it’s best for those who don’t own the vehicle to pay a share of the travel costs, along with taking turns when driving. A classic mistake is for a carload of yahoos to drive straight through to a distant ultimate destination in order to boast how quick they made it up only to arrive in a dazed stupor, totally losing the first evening and screwing up their sleep patterns.

The best method is to drive to a chosen point—about one-half or a third of the way to your ultimate destination—get a good night’s sleep at a comfortable motel and then complete the journey the next morning refreshed and ready to maximize enjoyment.

If your outfitter cannot be driven to, seriously consider any available train travel in as opposed to the more expensive, problematic choice of a fly-in. As exciting as the latter option may sound I’ve always found the train ride scenic, pleasant and less expensive.

Sit down with family or friends and make a list of all imaginable expenses and then approximate the total. Now, in anticipation of any possible accidents (hopefully none), double it.

Don’t overdo the actual fishing gear needed. For you first-time Canadian anglers planning now in February to visit in the summer, three combo outfits should cover it. Also, try to have a couple loaded spare spools.

Other gear and tackle should include: one spinning combo in medium action, filled with 8- to 10-pound-test line for walleyes and bass; one ultra-light spinning combo loaded with 4- to 6-pound mono for your panfishing with perch and bluegills; a baitcasting outfit loaded with 20- to 40-pound test for your muskies, pike, or lake trout; a well-stocked tackle box for only the species available to you at the waters you’re fishing; both still camera and video, if at all possible, with extra batteries for most; live bait, and remember, minnows of any kind are not allowed and nightcrawlers must be packed in proper bedding or damp, shredded newspaper-not dirt; a good, portable sonar; and dependable insect deterrents and repellents.

Do not take the stories at the local taverns or barbershops literally—Canadian fish do not rush to jump up and into your boat. Do your homework now for the lakes up north to improve your catch-rate.

Bring reading material and a deck of cards. Despite the covers of those sport show brochures, it does rain north of the border in summer and fall. Chances are you’ll encounter a day or two of little or no fishing. Many outposts don’t have any TV reception or little radio reception. And, your smartphone may not be near Wi-Fi or even work at these remote camps.

Know the habits of those you are going with and bunking with. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard about inclement weather bringing on the opportunity and excuse for binge drinking that morphs into a safety issue. Be wary of those who pack a lot of alcohol and want to utilize their fishing gear as mere props.

Your first Canadian fishing trip should be positive, exciting and memorable. Even if the fish don’t always bite as projected, it can still be a very enjoyable time in a gorgeous country. I don’t want to in any way dampen your enthusiasm with the above admonitions, but only to wish your Canadian vacation be safe, unforgettable and productive.