I hadn’t seen my wife Betsy for a week when I walked through the front door after completing 20 hours on the road in a very comfortable motorhome. A week earlier, seven guys and I had journeyed to Northwest Ontario’s Pickle Lake, where a pair of venerable DeHavilland float planes, a Beaver and an Otter, flew us into a remote campsite for four days of fishing on Kwingians Lake.
Our crew included Tim Vogel of Omaha, Tom Masur and Dave Dufrain of Geddes, Mike Redd of Delmont, Dr. Carey Buhler of Mitchell, and Jeff Doom, Roger Schroeder, and myself, all of Wagner. I was the senior member.
Betsy’s first question made me think. “What was the highlight of the trip?” she asked. I thought about the fishing, the meals, the heated games of Liar’s Dice and then I replied, “The way eight guys of various backgrounds and interests could work together like a fine watch for an entire week without a single conflict.”
If one had listened in on the dice games, he/she might have thought differently after digesting the colorful language, but all was uttered with a twinkle in the eye. It was like when Owen Wister’s Virginian told Trampas, “Smile, when you call me that.”
Many of the men — myself not included — do a lot of the meal preparation in their own homes, and it showed. They were skilled dietitians. Mushrooms and onions, bowls of fresh melon, crispy fresh carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and ears of sweet corn, not to mention spears of asparagus canned by the Lakeview Colony, on the table. Thick ribeyes from Delmont’s Bluebird Locker were the best I’ve ever eaten. And how can anything beat “just out of the water” walleye and perch fillets? Dave assumed the role of head chef, and I marveled at his ability to estimate portions for eight.
We fished out of four boats in pairs — Roger and Mike, Tom and Dave, Tim and Carey, and Jeff and me. Because there were two Rogers in camp, I was called “Yogi,” a throwback to my days as Wagner’s high school principal when I was called Yogi behind my back. Kwinigans is shaped like a tuning fork with two branches going south and one going north. We went our own ways. The better fishing was on the deeper south end, although Jeff and I enjoyed the final day’s action on the north section.
During the first two days, we fished dead calm waters under a clear sky. The action was only fair. The third day provided good action accompanied by modest wind and partial clouds. The fourth day, we fished the full moon phase with some rain, cloudy skies, and enough wind to effectively drift fish with jigs. This action was excellent and non-stop.
The primary quarry was walleye and the rig of choice was a quarter-ounce jig tied directly to 6-pound test monofilament line. The jigs were adorned with a plastic body and tail or a piece of walleye gullet. While this was effective on walleye, it led to the occasional shearing of line by a northern pike. Most everyone had an encounter with a monster pike, but the pike prevailed with the exception of Tim’s 16-pound behemoth. Though I spent half my time tossing large spinners for big pike, I never induced a big pike to strike. As mentioned, Tim netted the biggest pike, the walleyes ran to six pounds with most falling into the 15-16 inch category, and the biggest perch measured 13 inches.
Along with the food, we packed some beer and liquor into camp. It was enjoyed in moderation by all, with a quantity of it returning home with us. While I generally consume about four mixed drinks a year, I was introduced to a Moscow Mule, a drink I thoroughly enjoyed. The recipe? Pour a shot of vodka, top it with Cock and Bull ginger beer (non-alcoholic), three squirts of lime, and a sprig of sliced lime all over ice. Very refreshing!
Why am I telling you all about our fishing trip? Because you can do almost exactly what we did! The 1,000-mile trip to Pickle Lake is over good roads and no gravel. Pete Johnson — the bush pilot and outfitter who flew us into our private camp — will fly you and your friends into one of his remote campsites complete with cabin, boats, motors, gas, fridge, and flush toilets. The lakes, all somewhat shallow, teem with walleye and northern pike.
If nothing else, I don’t think any sportsman/woman should go through life without a flight in a DeHavilland Beaver or Otter. They are the iconic backbone of the Great North country. Google Pickle Lake Outfitters and Pete Johnson, or call Pete at 800-461- 2547. As always, I have no arrangement what-so-ever with Pete. Remember that you need a passport to enter Canada.
Before signing off, I must thank my seven partners and especially Jeff. With my tremor, and especially the neuropathy, I have serious problems. Without them helping me in and out of the boat, without Jeff tying my fishing knots, without their doing my camp chores, I’d be sitting at home. Thanks guys!
See you next week.