Roll with Whatever Comes on Canadian ‘Dream’ Trips

There’s nothing better—as far as a Midwestern outdoorsman who’s got his head wrapped around it—than that long dreamed of, annual, once-in-a-lifetime fly-in outpost fishing trip. But when it goes south, there’s nothing worse.

What my son Bill and my buddy Joe and I experienced last year illustrates what I mean.

Now, nothing gets a fly-in off on the wrong foot more than a weather-related delay. There you are—just as we were—reporting an hour early for the 5:30 a.m. departure all dressed up with nowhere to go; the soupy weather had us socked. And, it kept us that way for the next nine hours.

Finally, through luck, we arrived in camp by late afternoon. We’d all but totally lost our first day, and I for one was pretty frustrated.

“Hey, it could be worse,” said Joe, always a calming influence, and quick to note. “We might not have gotten here at all. After we go out and catch supper it’ll all be better.”

But then there was the week’s weather as a whole. Save for a calm, beautifully sun-splashed day early on and one at the end of the week, the cold, wet and depressingly dreary conditions were the theme. Since there was nothing we could do about it, we dealt with it.

First, we split the relatively small amount of tarp-covered wood we had and stored it under the cabin to keep it dry. Then we did the same with the rain-soaked ones in the hope that it would air-dry enough to burn. No small task—had it not been for young “Willie the Woodchopper,” our much-needed evening fires would not have been as soothing.

As for being out in the weather all day long, we were well prepared. Having done this before, we were equipped with all the layers we needed to be on the water in the daytime temperatures that averaged in the upper 30s and low 40s. To ward off the intermittent showers and tree-hugging mist, our ability to rotate between the two sets of rain gear we each packed was critical.

Negatives aside, all was not doom and gloom.

In fact, it was far from it.

First of all there was the fishing—world-class walleyes and pike. This is what brought us to this lake, this jewel in the Northland in the first place, and is what we’ve continued to come for and will come for again as long as we can. After all the walleyes and numbers of pike up to 40 inches, it was obvious the fish didn’t care what the weather was like.

When it came to the “sidebar” that is wildlife, we weren’t lacking there either. We came upon Mr. and Mrs. Moose and even watched a young black bear emerge from the bushes, swim across an inlet stream, then shake and shed water like a Labrador before looking back at us and evaporating back into the underbrush. We saw a beaver and heard the cannon-shot slap of its broad tail and witnessed a carefree otter absolutely owning his watery world as he fished right alongside of us. We fed the biggest, whitest, fish gut-eating seagull you’ll ever see and were serenaded each evening by the soulful singing of the loons. And, as always, we marveled at the eagles and their pure enjoyment of flight and tuned into the excited honking of molt-migrating, non-breeding geese as their big V’s passed over, heading for the not-too-distant Hudson Bay lowlands. But the highlight of it all was a floating mama goose, as it was lying low and still, providing much-needed warmth to the three fuzzy newborns jostling for cover under her wing.

In the end, the key to a successful trip is overcoming the challenges you face, like the weather. But the company you keep and the laughs you share with each other are just as important. Last year’s fly-in wasn’t exactly the way we’d preferred it to be, but because we were able to roll with it through the rough patches, it’ll be remembered for everything else we did and saw.