We all dream of fishing in the True North where the blue yonder is still wild and the trees and water stretch out past where you can see, even from the catbird seat of an airplane as it floats across the sky. The promise of having an entire lake to yourself, a lake with lots of big fish, lures us, but we don’t put ourselves in just anybody’s hands. The Canadian wilderness is a land of promise and bounty, but when you soar well beyond the nearest town, you are trusting your trip and safety to whoever has both hands on the controls. Since the 1920s, members of the Showalter family have been guiding anglers and hunters to places that live up to their promise. Since the ‘50s, they have flown us into the lap of fish and game, without a single accident.
Now well into the fourth generation of this talented family, in 2016 Eddie Showalter celebrated his 40th year of a bush pilot career by flying 183 straight days. It’s a fascinating story and one that deserves to be told from the pilot’s mouth.
“We have an area where there’s nobody,” says Eddie Showalter. “Never will be anybody. We will show you fishing and hunting that’s unheard of. That’s what we do.”
MidWest Outdoors: You were born into a family that lived in the outdoors, centered around flying airplanes that took people on unbelievable adventures, so tell us about your earliest memories of what became your lifestyle as well.
Eddie Showalter: I grew up in the Nestor Falls area in northwest Ontario. I was born in 1963, so I was a youngster, but my great uncle, Ralph Showalter, had already started a flying service in Nestor Falls back in 1958, Northwest Flying, Incorporated. My father, Edwin Showalter, Sr., joined the ranks in 1965. He flew all through the Arctic, and I guess when I started remembering things would have been when I was five or six years old, hanging around the airbases as a runt kid, pumping floats, gassing airplanes.
MWO: Even as a little kid, they give you something to do, right?
Showalter: Oh, for sure; there was no sitting around, and I’ve been in airplanes ever since.
MWO: Walk us through the years and tell us how the company evolved.
Showalter: Well, I would have started with my father at the air service in Nestor Falls from ’65 until 1976. Then we were approached by two older gentlemen from Nestor Falls that owned a camp on Rowan Lake, Wise’s Camp. Don Wise and Gordy Willis. They approached Dad and wondered if he would be interested in purchasing the camp on Rowan.
We didn’t really have the cash flow to do it; I mean, wages, you know what they were like in the early ‘70s, right? But he was very fortunate to team up with Chuck Thompson, who owned North Ridge Care Center in the Twin Cities. That allowed us to purchase the Rowan Lake camp and three outposts, on Carroll, Hammerhead, and Royd Lake as well. Chuck was a backer for the company, from 1976 until 1986, when we sold Rowan Lake.
MWO: At some point, you moved from Nestor Falls father up north and into the bush.
Showalter: Yes, in 1986, we decided we wanted to go strictly into fly-in outposts, so we moved up to the Red Lake/Ear Falls area and opened our own air service.
MWO: Red Lake is where the road ends, right?
Showalter: End of the road, and it’s the premier fishing destination. No roads, and we now operate 17 of, in my opinion, the best outposts in the North.
MWO: Walk us through the history of your role in the company, and how it grew over time.
Showalter: My official role would have started in ’76 at the main camp on Rowan; I started guiding fishermen.
MWO: You were how old at that time?
Showalter: I would have been 13, and was working full-time guiding, and flying with my father. Then in ’78, Dad sent me off to get my license in International Falls, Minnesota.
MWO: License to fly an airplane?
Showalter: Yep, to fly an airplane; I was 15 years old. Einarson’s Flying School. They’ve been in aviation since the ‘40s.
MWO: How did school go?
Showalter: Our family has been in aviation since the late ‘50s, and I think I was in my first float plane when I was two. And I as flying them with my dad by the time I was eight, so by the time I was 15 years old, I was flying them by myself.
MWO: So by the time you got to the flying school, you were a sandbagger.
Showalter: I had a pretty good handle on how the airplane was flown. I never had much of a problem in school, so I handled the bookwork as well. I graduated from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay with a degree in accounting and business, too, in 1985.
MWO: But you came back to live on the farm, so to speak, after getting an education.
Showalter: Yes, I was born and raised in the outdoors, and that’s what I do to this day.
MWO: When we talk about being flown in to these incredible destinations with the amazing scenery and great fishing, Showalter is the name that comes to mind. How proud are you of your family name and legacy?
Showalter: As far as the fishing itself goes, I was talking to my father last night about that, and he was relaying stories about when he was a kid. He was born in ’39, and our family’s role in tourism and fishing goes back to the 1920s. My great grandfather used to row fishermen from Baudette, Minnesota to Nestor Falls, Ontario. It took ‘em three days.
They would guide fishermen from Baudette, by rowing them to Nestor Falls. Shady Rest on Crow Lake is where they owned the camp, from 1923 to ’33. Then my grandfather was there from ’33 to ’38 until he went to the war in France.
MWO: So all of that has to be a great source of pride to you.
Showalter: Oh, absolutely. The Showalter name has been around for many, many years, and I plan on maintaining it with my stepson, Michael, for many years to come.
For more information…
To learn about taking a trip with Showalter’s Fly-in Outposts: FishShowalters.com. MidWest Outdoors TV host Roger Cormier is featured on “What tackle to bring” video at Testimonials – Video Gallery. Call Showalter’s Ear Falls office, in season, at 807-222-2332. Winter phone: 612-840-7706.