Written by Harold
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While perhaps an unusual way to start things off, I’m going to tell a joke, or rather provide you with a very broad outline of one.
There was this very nice guy by the name of Pitchford, who had all manner of bad things befall him over the course of several days.
When finally reaching the end of his tether, he fell down on his knees, and appealed to the heavens, imploring God to tell him what he had done to deserve all of this trouble and strife.
There was a clap of thunder, followed by a bolt of lightning, and then a loud, booming voice said:
“Nothing in particular Pitchford, but there is just something about you that pisses me off…”
So whenever I come across someone who is experiencing a run of crappy luck, I tend to refer to them as Pitchford.
Our Pitchford in this instance, who you will meet shortly, was not addressed in a loud booming voice by an unearthly being, but rather it was the deity otherwise known as Air Canada with whom he conversed, that is when they bothered to speak to him at all.
But more on this, as our story develops.
Are You Going to Wear That Shirt?
Having wrapped up our week at the main lodge, on Saturday morning Kenny and I were told to be on the dock at 8am for our flight over to Circle. Our travelling companions included several boxes of groceries together with 6 drums of fuel, and following a smooth 30 minute flight, we had a pleasant reunion with June, Dean and Tilley.
They were the camp commanders-in-chief during our previous two visits, and we could not be happier to have them back at the helm.
We managed to have a very quick chat with the outgoing group, who told us that while the fishing had been very good overall, when it came to bigger fish, and by that I mean 20 pounds and over, it was a bit slow.
They even showed us a couple of places on the map where the Pike were supposedly stacked up, including one that held what they described as Silver Pike. As a matter of fact, it was very close to where Chris Ireland* had suggested we fish, although he didn’t say anything about them being silver.
After gearing up, we made tracks for another of the Pike spots Chris had marked, it being somewhat closer to the lodge than the one mentioned above, reckoning we could save that one for another day.
I navigated to the waypoint he had punched in, but unfortunately there were no Pike, or for that matter anything else swimming around. Continuing to work the shoreline, we went through a channel that led into a rather large bay, where Kenny noticed what appeared to be a stream, or small river emptying into the bay on the left side.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was worth checking out, but I have to give Kenny his due, because experience has shown that he can smell a Pike within a 5 km radius. It was in fact a small, narrow river, but at first appeared to be too shallow to get our boat into. He was not going to be denied, so I put the motor in shallow drive, and by sticking tight to shore, slowly made our way into the river.
We saw a small Pike nonchalantly swim by, who clearly had no interest in us, but on his second or third cast, there was a sizable splash, and it was game on. When we finally got the beast into the boat, it measured 46 ½ inches, and a conservative estimate put it upwards of 25 pounds. It was a very thick fish, and the perspective captured in the picture below, really doesn’t show how massively wide it actually was.
Shortly thereafter he got another hulking gator that was in the 18 to 20 pound range. Moving further upstream, I caught a small one, but there were not very many to be found in the river itself. Perhaps the two big one’s ate them all?
As we were leaving, we could see several swimming lazily on top of the sand bar at the mouth of the river, but couldn’t entice any of them to bite. Our guess was that these fish probably move out of the river to feed, and then come back in from time to time to digest, rest up, and catch a few rays in the shallow water. I suspect if we had spent a bit of time fishing off the river mouth, we may have stumbled onto a few more.
We formally christened this newfound Pike locale, “Kenny’s Kreek.”
Having had our fill of Pike fishing for the time being, we hit a couple of Chris’ spots that purportedly held Lake Trout - which they did. We caught a total of 22 (not that I was counting), with over half of them being in the 12 to 15 pound range.
Our fellow 2023 Circlites, who had arrived earlier this afternoon, were Hank and his son Mark, Mike, Rohan, and Jan. While Mark and Mike were rookies, the others were on their second go round. Jan’s son David was planning to join his dad, but unfortunately a scheduling conflict arose that prevented him from doing so.
Rohan and Mike caught several, the biggest being 10 pounds, and Hanks first fish, which he corralled within sight of the lodge, was a very nice 25. This was only fitting, because considering what had happened to him, and was going to happen to him, it was the least the fishing God’s could have done.
In case you haven’t guessed by now, it was Hank who had the dubious distinction of being our “Pitchford.” Apparently, while Air Canada was more than happy to fly him to YK, his luggage was not accorded the same privilege. For reasons that will likely never be divulged, they left his stuff in Toronto. Fortunately he was able to purchase some clothing in YK, but from a quality standpoint, it fell well short, particularly in regards to his cold weather/rain gear.
Over the next several days he spent a fair amount of time on the phone with AC, and while they eventually managed to get his gear to YK, there was no way they were going to spend, according to them anyway, at least $6000 to charter an aircraft to fly it up to Arctic Circle Lodge – wherever the hell that was.
In other words, even though Hank was a Super Elite AC frequent flyer, he would just have to suck it up, and hope that someone would lend him a pair or two of clean underwear during the course of the week.
Think that was bad? Just wait because they were not nearly finished with him. Not by a long shot.
Kenny was very proud of his Pike which, according to him, was the biggest he had ever caught, and wanted to show everyone the picture, so I retrieved my camera, and gave everyone a look.
Rohan’s buddy Mike, who is an accomplished angler in his own right, and an avid Pike fisherman, then showed us a picture (see below) of one he had caught elsewhere. And while there is no way that he was deliberately intending to rain on Kenny’s parade – hey, we were all just swapping fish stories - it clearly made Kenny’s look like a minnow by comparison.
While today’s weather could not have been more perfect, according to someone’s weather app., tomorrow was supposed to be a different story. In fact the wind had started to pick up later in the evening, although the sky was still clear at midnight.
* Chris Ireland, who was our guide the previous week, and had guided at Circle a number of years ago when it operated as an independent, full service lodge, marked down a number of new places for us to try.
Around 4am, I woke up to what appeared to be the sound of torrential rain, and gale strength winds.
Crawling out of bed and lifting the window blind, while I could see that a fair amount of cloud had moved in, it definitely wasn’t raining, and although there was some wind, it was not so strong that it was threatening to blow the shingles off of the roof.
Taking a moment to think this through, it then dawned on me that all of the racket was being made by the furnace, which had just kicked in because the temperature had obviously dropped during the night. The rest of the guys had a similar experience, and we all came to the conclusion that it might be better to simply throw on an extra blanket if need be, rather than have the damn thing keep us awake half the night.
The weather app nailed it, because right after breakfast, the wind began to pick up speed, and it started to rain.
We all went out, but because the wind was making it a real challenge to hold any kind of a line while trolling, after an hour or so, Kenny and I decided we had had enough of this nonsense, and went back to the lodge.
By 1pm it had started to calm down, so off we went, and for the first hour fished locally, catching 6 rather small ones in the process. The wind continued to drop, so we made a run to Lunch Island, and upon arrival, while it was still somewhat cool, the lake was as flat as a pancake. We had several strikes, but only picked up one trout that was really nothing to write home about.
Next on the list of places Chris had marked was one called “Steve’s Nut Sack.” Ostensibly it was named after Steve “The Fly’n Hawaiian” Gardner, and which I’m choosing to believe was in reference to Steve as a whole, and not just his, well, you know.
Anyway, given how it appears on the map, it’s very aptly named, but there was not a fish to be found.
By this time Kenny’s Pike itch was in need of a scratch, so it was on to Beaver Inlet. We caught 15, with the biggest being his 32 incher.
Rohan and Mike had fished Lunch Island earlier in the day, and Rohan caught one that stretched the tape to 40 inches. Hank, Mark and Jan had braved the winds this morning and made their way south, and it paid off as they caught 50, although none of them topped 20 pounds.
Weather permitting, we were planning to head due south tomorrow, both to fish some new water, and a few places we had visited in the past.
No - It’s Not Just Another Shaggy Dog Story
The day started off overcast with light winds, perfect conditions actually, as we planned on doing a fair amount of travelling today.
Our fist port of call is what I call 3rd Bay, which at a speed of 24 kmph, is about a 45 minute run from the lodge. We started fishing along the south shore, and by the time we came up to the beginning of what, back in the Arctic Circle days, was known as “Hog Narrows”, had caught 4, with Kenny’s 18 pounder leading the way.
He caught that, and pretty much every other Trout throughout the day, on a hammered copper, Husky Devel, with an orange, fluorescent stripe down the middle. I may be wrong, but I think the Eppinger folks call it “Orange Crush.” He had carried this spoon around for years, but until now, I don’t ever recall seeing him use it. Let me just say, that we are going to be picking up several of these when we get to the main lodge next year, because it was today, and remained, the hottest lure we had throughout the entire week.
On the other hand, yours truly didn’t have one, and don’t recall being asked if I wanted to borrow it, despite being employed – without complaint, that is until now I suppose - in the capacity of a certain someone’s galley slave all week.
We moved into the narrows proper, and picked up another 8, all of them between 10 and 14 pounds.
When travelling south through the narrows, near the end of what is a long narrow bay, it veers off to the right, forming an “L”. If you happen to go past the turn off, and carefully search the shoreline, you may see the remains of the Spence-McDonough’s Air Transport base, or S.M.A.T., as it was called. This was one of the company’s that provided air transportation services to various individuals and organizations, who were engaged in the prospecting/mining boom on Great Bear in the early 1930’s.
Chris had told us we were likely to find some Pike at the bottom of the “L”, but unfortunately there weren’t any around. In fairness, we didn’t go right to the very bottom, but worked a large, relatively shallow flat, about ¾ of the way in. But next time, and there will be a next time, we will try fishing off the edge of the flat and closer to shore, where hopefully we might find some deeper water, and perhaps even a few Pike.
On the way out, Kenny pointed to a small inlet on the left hand side, and suggested we give it a try. Not being one to question his Pike sense, in we went, and guess what we found? Yes indeed – Silver Pike. They were unlike anything either of us had ever seen, and every one of them was lacking in the traditional pigments/colouration that most Pike feature.
The inlet was loaded with them, and while I had a number of hits, couldn’t for the life of me hook one. After missing fish after fish, I took a closer look at my spinner, and found that it didn’t have a hook.
What a dork.
Catching Silver Pike was not without its challenges though. Kenny caught one that tipped the scales at 18 pounds, and being a fine example of this rather interesting sub-species, I asked him to hold it up for a picture. In retrospect, I should have asked him to hold one up that wasn’t camera shy, because just as I was ready to take the shot, it kicked right out of his hands and back into the water. Luckily, we did manage to get a picture of one of the smaller ones.
After replacing my hookless spinner, I caught one about 10 pounds, and handed it over to him to effect the release. He inserted the jaw spreaders, and as he was preparing to remove the hook, the spreaders popped out, and we watched in stunned silence as they sailed over the gunwale, and landed in the drink with barley a splash or ripple. Even the Russian judge would have given that dive a 10 out of 10. Kenny usually has a backup for most things, and while he had several more spreaders, they were all currently in Richmond Hill.
As the Silver Pike fishing had slowed down, the time had come to give them and us a break. By now the wind had pretty much abated, and the sun was out, so I killed the motor, and we kicked back, and had lunch while discussing our next move.
The NEW Whitefish River
There is a river that comes into the east end of 3rd Bay, that has in the past produced some very big Pike. And even though we were sans jaw spreaders, seeing that we were in the neighbourhood in any event, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Chris had in fact marked this spot on our map, and had referred to it as the Whitefish River. My guess is that it was likely named after the “real” Whitefish River, and noted Pike hot spot that flows into the bottom of Bydand Bay in the Smith Arm.
The water in the river was a bit higher than last year, making it a lot easier to get past the big sandbar at the mouth, and into the river proper. There were loads of fish around, and we spotted several that were well over 40 inches. I caught one of the bigger ones, and Kenny skillfully used his lip grabber as a substitute for our lost jaw spreaders, and gently released it.
Similar to “Kenny’s Kreek,” there were several swimming on top of the sandbar at the mouth of the river, and in this instance he managed to catch one.
Switching back into Lake Trout mode, we began trolling along the north shore of the bay in a westerly direction. Water temperatures were in the high 40’s to mid 50’s, and we picked up a few along that stretch of shoreline. Turning north out of the bay, the water was somewhat cooler, averaging between 42 and 44 degrees. The fish didn’t seem to mind, and in just over an hour, caught a dozen, including a 21 pounder by someone using a lure called an “Orange Crush.”
Sure wish I had one of those…
Having worn out our welcome in 3rd Bay and beyond, it was time to visit Secret Spot #17. Water temperatures where we started were in the high 30’s, and not surprisingly there was nothing around. We kept moving and finally found some in the mid 40’s to low 50’s, and it really picked up. Between us we landed 29, most of them on some bronze/orange thing.
Overall, it was a fantastic day in every respect.
Every other boat reported excellent numbers, and Mark bested an 18 pound Pike in Beaver Inlet.
I finally got around to test driving my InReach Mini today, and have to say I was impressed. I sent an “everything is ok” message to Chuk, which he responded to in short order, and after firing up my iPad that evening, found an email from InReach, acknowledging the message, and showing the exact time and place on the map where we were when it was sent, including our geographic coordinates.
Seriously, if you are ever on a trip like this, or for that matter anywhere where your ability to stay in touch is sketchy, don’t leave home without one.
As My Dog is My Witness
The shaggy dog story I referred to earlier, involved Dean and Tilley, his Golden Doodle.
While out on a food scraps run, Dean decided to do a bit of fishing. Unfortunately, he broke the tip off his rod when landing a fish, but rather than pack it in, kept on fishing. Trolling off a point just east of the lodge, using a broken rod and a 3 inch, CHT Five of Diamonds, he caught one he swears would have gone 40 pounds.
Now I have no reason to question the veracity of Dean’s story, but when you consider that he was using a broken rod, a tiny spoon, had no scale, didn’t take a picture, and the only witness was his dog, who btw, was spotted carrying around a rather large bone that evening - hmmm.
Just kidding though, because Dean is a straight shooter – although I can’t speak for Tilley - and experience has shown that there are some very big fish to be had within sight of the lodge.
This evening the sky was clear, without even a ripple on the water, and when standing at the end of the dock, you could see fish rising, dimpling the surface of the water like raindrops. Trout, Grayling, perhaps even Cisco, but whatever they were, it was simply an enchanting Great Bear moment, in a picture perfect setting.
Pick – a – Point: The Exiting New Fishing Game!
Fortunately, those conditions persisted throughout the evening, and for the entirety of the next day, although it got a bit hazy later in the morning, which I suspect was forest fire related, as there were some burning south of the lake.
We experienced a few technical difficulties this morning, with the result that we didn’t get out on the water until noon. No worries though, because we told June and Dean that instead of coming in for dinner at 7, we would tack on a few more hours, and asked them to put a plate aside for us.
Hank had said they did well the other day, numbers wise anyway, near the entrance to Beaver Inlet, so I made that our first stop. While I couldn’t buy a hit, the Orange Crush came through with 6, albeit none of them would have topped 10 pounds.
Making our way over to Lunch Island, we worked it pretty hard, and although there were countless numbers of Trout either rising, or simply suspended just below the surface, it was slim pick n’s. I did catch an 18 pounder while running a Flatfish over the norther tip of the Island, but by and large these fish were in super chill mode, and could care less about us, or what we were offering them.
Trolling out from Lunch Island in a north westerly direction, it drops off to over 40 ft., and features some very interesting structure where, if our sonar was correct, there were some “hooks” between 20 and 30 feet down.
Not having brought any weights along – we had left those back at the lodge for some reason –in order to get our spoons down to where the fish supposedly were, the stop and drop method was employed. We didn’t pick anything up on the first run, and when turning back towards Lunch, I switched over to a Flatfish.
As we were coming up out of the deeper water, I got what at first felt like a hit, but given the way the plug was reacting, or not reacting in this case, I revised my opinion, and decided that it must be a snag.
I threw it in reverse and started working back towards the snag, but suddenly my “snag” started ripping line, and I mean ripping. I have no idea why, but I put the motor into gear rather than neutral, which added to the fun, as the fish was on its way in the opposite direction, seemingly in a hurry to get to Port Radium.
This fish felt huge, and after slipping the motor into neutral, I started to gain some ground, all the time thinking, please don’t let it be hooked in the dorsal fin or asshole. Sorry, Anal fin. The net was made ready, and when I finally got it to the side of the boat, while it was a very nice fish – we estimated it to be about 25 pounds – I could see that it had somehow managed to get hooked through the Pelvic fin, on of all things, one of the hooks on the middle treble that had been bent in!
About 5pm we started making our way back towards the lodge, and while doing so, played a game of Pick – a - Point. It’s a very easy game to play, in that you simply pick a point, and then fish it. We must have hit at least half a dozen on the way back, and not unlike the scene at Lunch Island, there were rising and suspended Trout everywhere. Taking a closer look at just what they were picking off the surface, I noticed that in addition to the usual suspects – Bulldog Fly’s and Mosquitos – there was a Caddis hatch going on, which to a Trout, was like snacking on jellybeans.
So much for our spoons – including that orange thing – and our Flatfish. In the 3 ½ hours it took us to fish our way home, I think we may have caught 4, which was not even a fish per point!
Not unlike the previous day, everyone did very well numbers wise, but very few broke the 10 pound mark, which was strange indeed. It was very puzzling in that even though the ice went out early, in fact it tends to clear out of this area even before it does around the main lodge, water temperatures were, for the most part, perfect. Tons of fish yes, but so far anyway, with a couple of exceptions, we have all managed to dodge the big ones.
While not uncommon to see the occasional Moose, and even a Bear from time to time, quadrupeds were in short supply. There were a few Loons, Bald Eagles, Robbins and some other random water birds around, but that was about it. What we needed was Birdman to identify those little non-descript brown coloured birds that were flitting about outside of the lodge, because none of us knew what the hell they were.
Not having jaw spreaders was going to prove to be problematic if we continued to target Pike, so when we heard that a supply flight was coming in, asked Dean if they could throw a pair on board. In the meantime Dean offered to look around the lodge, but what we didn’t know was that he had no idea what a jaw spreader actually looked like.
Just before dinner, he walked into the lounge holding what were clearly a pair of spreaders, and asked Kenny if what we needed looked anything like what he had in his hand? Too funny really, but we were now back in business, and the first thing Kenny did was attach a lanyard, that would be wound tightly around his wrist whenever they were in use.
“Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face.” – Mike Tyson
Yes, we did have a plan for today that actually involved fishing, but to paraphrase “Iron Mike’s” quote above, the best laid plans can be upended because shit happens, or in this particular case, didn’t happen.
So how much do you think its costs to NOT take a crap at Arctic Circle Lodge?
A great deal more than most people can probably imagine I would hazard to guess.
There is actually a range, which starts at around $12k for a straight up charter flight, and could go as high as $30k + for an actual medivac, when you factor in the cost of the flight, medical personnel and such.
Without going into all of the gory details, last night after dinner, Kenny started having stomach cramps, and unfortunately was unable to “go,” which if he could, would have likely put the problem in the rear (no pun intended) view mirror. He had a very bad night, and despite June, Dean’s and my best efforts, we could not get things moving.
The morning brought no relief, so after talking with Chuk and Chummy about the possibility of having him medevacked out, Dean contacted the hospital in YK, and we spoke to the physician in charge.
The Doc triaged Kenny’s condition, and concluded that currently his presenting symptoms did not warrant a medivac. He went on to explain that medivac resources were extremely limited, and therefore reserved for truly critical cases only.
He recommended that our patient drink plenty of water, eat as much fruit, and high fibre foods as possible, and most importantly – walk.
To his credit, despite how he was feeling, he drank several gallons of water, ate what to him, probably seemed like a bushel of apples, most of a bowl of sunflower seeds, and walked at least a couple of miles, none of which seemed to prime the pump. At least not so far.
He had finally had enough - and who could blame him - so we started calling air charter services to try and book him a flight to YK. The first few we called were unable to help, but we lucked out with Air Tindi. For about $12k, they could send in a Twin Otter, so the flight was booked, with a scheduled departure time of 3pm, and an eta at Circle of approx. 5pm.
Miracles do happen from time to time, because at precisely 3:10pm (I looked at my watch) Kenny came out of our room with an ear to ear grin, and announced that the log jam had broken! But before the celebrations could truly begin, there was the small matter of the evac flight, that if on schedule, was already airborne.
He called Air Tindi, and was told that the flight had literally just taken off, but they were happy to call it back, and to their everlasting credit, only charged him a very small fraction of the total cost.
All’s well that ends well I suppose! And yes, this pun was intended.
In other news, it was very hot today – over 30 degrees – which drove most of our guys off the water by mid-afternoon, as the heat had slowed down the fishing considerably.
Rohan and Mike had made the run over to Appleby Point, and it paid off handsomely with them catching a mess of fish, including a 37 and 43 incher. Mike also caught a very nice Grayling. When we were there last week (we did a fly out to Hornby Bay from the main lodge, and ran over to Appleby) the Grayling were auspiciously absent, but now appear to have moved back in. According to Chris, having the Grayling around should mean bigger fish, therefore depending on how Kenny is feeling, and if the weather is decent, we just might head over that way tomorrow.
And finally, in keeping with the primarily “non-fish” story theme of today’s entry, Dean explained how one could go about hypnotizing a chicken. Yes, it was that kind of a day.
We Boat with the Fishes
Fortunately it had cooled down a touch today, with very light winds from the east during the morning hours, then switching over to the south/west by mid-afternoon.
While Kenny was feeling much better, he did not feel up to making the long run to Appleby, therefore we opted to point our bow in a south/westerly direction. First stop was, as I call it, Random Rock Point. We had done very well there last year, but while we saw all manner of fish, including some that were pretty big, only managed to catch a few small ones.
We worked the area for several hours, using a wide variety of different spoons and Flatfish, but everything we caught was 10 pounds or less. Not even the indominable Orange Crush could bring in one of the big ones.
So enough “Trouting” for now, and as we were only about a 30 minute run from Sliver Pike Bay, you know who wanted another go at them. Therefore given what he had just endured over the past 24 hours, today – and for today only – his wish was my command.
While we did see a couple of the silver bullets, I don’t recall catching any. Now where the hell could they have got to?
We fished outside of the inlet along both the east and west shorelines, but no cigar.
Crap! Oops, I guess I should choose my words more carefully.
There was another inlet on the south shore we hadn’t tried, and fortunately there were all kinds – not silver one’s mind you – right tight to shore. We caught about 20, with the biggest being 15 pounds.
Slowly fishing our way back towards the lodge, once again it didn’t matter where we stopped, there were fish rising and/or just suspended beneath the surface, but catching them continued to be a challenge. If they keep up this crap – oh shit – sorry -my bad (lol), they may have to start putting on sunscreen, shades and wearing little hats.
A Truly Epic Day
And we ain’t talking about no poem here either.
While the likes of Kenny and I were more into observing than catching, the same could not be said for Rohan and Mike. They walked into the lodge just before dinner, and when asked how they did, needed only one adjective to describe their experience.
Instead of going back to Appleby, they had a change of heart, and ventured somewhat further afield to Seagull Rock.
While the morning was slow, for about 1 ½ hours during the afternoon, all hell broke loose.
Rohan bested a 46 and 40 ½, and Mike landed a 45 and 46 incher, all of them on Flatfish.
Yup, I would say it was indeed a colossal, monumental, tremendous, or to use their word – epic - day.
As for the rest of us mere mortals, while everyone caught, I don’t recall anyone saying they caught a trout that cracked 12 pounds. That said, Hank went out after dinner and caught a 16 pounder just around the corner from the lodge. Perhaps if we wanted to catch some bigger fish, we could save a lot of time and fuel, simply by fishing off of the dock.
Phantom of the…
It was another beautiful day, and as Chris had marked a number of places on both sides of the Western Channel that we yet to visit, the time had come to check them out.
Our first port of call was an area we stumbled on 2 years ago, that we call B&G narrows, and which was also on Chris’ list. Great minds as they say. The fishing was quite good, and we caught several in the mid to low teens. Not only that, my Malibu Barbie was, for the first time this week, out fishing the dreaded Orange Crush.
There is this random pile of rocks right in the middle of the Western Channel that we had fished a couple of years back, but at that time, the water temperature was just a couple of degrees above freezing. Not surprisingly we didn’t stay very long, nor did we catch anything.
As the water temps we certainly higher this year, why not give it another shot? Temperatures were in the mid 40’s,and because it was sunny and calm, we could see all manner of beautiful structure adjacent to the rock piles.
And that was not all we could see, but…
There was no shortage of fish to be seen at all of the places Chris recommended, but yet again, it was a chore to get them to bite.
To add insult to injury, while having our lunch in a beautiful bay tucked in behind one of the many islands in that area, the damn fish were rising so close to the boat, I probably could have netted some of them. Maybe that’s what we were doing wrong, angling instead of netting.
While studying our map during the lunch break, which at the time seemed to be far more productive than actually fishing, I noticed a large bay located just north of our current location. Having no idea if it was deep, shallow, accessible or what, it couldn’t possibly be any less productive than where we had been fishing for the last couple of hours, so why not give it a go.
It was in fact very shallow, somewhat weedy, and very “Pikey” looking. Shortly after we entered, Kenny started to point out fish, the only problem being that he was the only one who could see them. After several minutes of “there’s one, and look, there goes another one!” I recommended that given his delicate condition, he rehydrate, and I would look for a shady spot where he could perhaps have a little siesta.
Exiting what is now marked on my GPS as “Phantom Pike Bay,” the time had come to make our annual run up the Sloan River, have a look at the falls, and do a bit of Pike fishing at the junction of the Sloan and Harrison Rivers. The fishing was decent at the junction, and Kenny even pulled a nice one out of a weed patch at the mouth of a small creek, located just down river from the falls.
We even tired the mouth of the Sloan for Trout, but the water was far too warm. So warm in fact, that for once, we didn’t even see any. Being our last day and all, we called it just after 4pm, and headed on home to pack.
Rohan and Mike made a return visit to Seagull, and while not as productive as during their first visit, did catch a Trout that stretched the tape to 37”. They also managed to find a small river in the back of the inlet, that featured some very good Pike fishing.
And at the risk of sounding, and actually being repetitive, the rest of the guys, while catching plenty of Trout, couldn’t scare up anything of size.
Nacho, Nacho Man!
In a perverse sense it was somewhat comforting to be back on what we refer to as Arctic Time, and which if you are even remotely interested, is described in last week’s journal – “Net Zero.”
Our flight back to the main lodge was pretty much on time, but once there, were told that our outbound flight was going to be approximately 3 hours late.
To make things even more interesting, the cargo plane, which was scheduled to arrive before the one ferrying passengers, didn’t turn up until sometime after we left, meaning that because of the maximum takeoff weight of the passenger aircraft, they could only fly out half of the luggage.
Both Kenny’s and my duffle were on the first flight, but his c-pap machine was nowhere to be found. We were told that the rest of the gear should be in YK by 7:30pm, and therefore had no choice but hang around the hotel and wait.
It’s this kind of thing, and while it doesn’t always happen, that is the reason why we NEVER book our flight home on the same day we come back to YK from the lodge.
Fortunately the rest of everyone’s luggage, including the c-pap, did turn up at the hotel pretty much on schedule. Once all that got sorted, we grabbed a quick bite with Chris, who while flying out with us, was heading back up in another week, and would be guiding Doc, at Bluenose Lake.
And yes, I did get the nacho’s that I had been obsessing over the previous week.
I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it really does amaze me how cosmopolitan a metropolis YK truly is, and to underscore that, our servers this evening were a mother and son team from Wales.
No Birds Were Overlooked During the Writing of this Journal
Finally, for today anyway, while hanging around the hotel lobby, I ran into Greg Seegert, otherwise known as Birdman, who had been at the main lodge this past week along with “English” Dave. When these two ornithologists, both of whom are top notch birders, or Twitchers if you prefer, are at Bear, no bird can escape being spotted and subsequently labelled. In fact, I recall Chuk mentioning that whoever would be guiding them would likely be covered in feathers by the end of the week.
Birdman said that his most exciting new find was an American Three- Toed Woodpecker – yup that’s a real thing – and had also spotted a Short-Billed Gull. And while the Woodpecker was a big deal, the Gull not so much, because he had just seen a bunch of them in the hotel parking lot!
There Are Cluster F$#@*k’s and Then There are Cluster F$#@*k’s...
And then there was this.
You may remember that at the beginning of this journal entry, I mentioned that Air Canada, as if losing his luggage was not nearly enough, were not finished with Hank, our very own Pitchford, just yet.
And to put a rancid cherry on top of this otherwise horrible tasting sundae, his son Mark, and Jan found themselves in Air Canada’s crosshairs as well.
Let me see if I can get it all straight.
We were all scheduled to leave YK on the same early morning flight, and while Kenny, Jan and I got on the original flight – they had something special in store for Hank and Mark.
In Jan’s case, while he finally did manage to get home today, they bumped him off his original flight from Edmonton to Toronto, which had only a modest lay over, to one where he would have to hang around the airport for 9 hours. Fortunately, he somehow succeeded in getting on a flight that only had a 7 hour layover.
With respect to the adventures of Hank and Mark, I’ll let Hank tell it in his own words:
“Made it home, although a day later than planned. Thanks to Air Canada we were moved to a 'cancelled' flight, then couldn't get on our original flight to Edmonton even though it had 16 empty seats. (incompetent AC personnel).
Another 5 hours at YK airport to finally get a flight on WestJet to Calgary, and another 3 hours at that airport to get lodging, and finally get out of that place at 6am Monday morning. Good thing is my bag accompanied me home full of clean clothing!
Anyway, AC paid $400 for the clothing I had to buy in YK, and I am attempting to hit them up for monies for delayed arrival. Wish me luck on this one.
Finally got out of YK at 12:30 to Calgary on Westjet. We have vouchers for food and hotel, staying near airport, flying out at 6:15am. Should be home by 1pm.”
One thing Hank didn’t mention, and assuming I heard it right, was that AC notified him that his flights had been cancelled in the middle of the night, just several hours before we were supposed to check in. That, and when he received the news regarding the cancellations while attempting to check in, was told that they would not be able to get them a flight out of YK until Tuesday!
And I thought flying during the pandemic was bad – which btw it was - but this?
That’s a Wrap
• Special thanks to June and Dean for taking such good care of us - especially Kenny. The food and service was top notch, and kudos to you both, for managing to create an environment at Circle that is more akin to staying at a friend’s cottage, than at a lodge.
• To all of my fellow Circlites, both old and new, muchas gracias for making the week a very enjoyable one. Both Kenny and I really enjoyed your company, and hope to see you all back again in 2024.
• Well done Rohan and Mike, for showing the rest of us that there really were some big fish around!
• Chuk, cheers for responding so quickly and getting those new motors over to us.
• To our Pitchford, Hank, let me just say how impressed I was in terms of how you handled all of the Air Canada nonsense. Most people I know would likely have gone ballistic, but while you had every right to be pissed, you took it all in stride, and didn’t let a little thing like the airline deciding you didn’t need your luggage to dampen your enthusiasm, or otherwise ruin the trip.
• Unlike some of our fellow travellers, Kenny and I, including all of our luggage, got to where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there.
• A word of advice. When at the Edmonton International Airport, if you are boarding at gate 68, do not sit anywhere near the end of the moving walkway for any length of time. The reason being is that you are more than likely going to get an ear worm, because what will be stuck in your head – in both official languages I might add – is:
You are approaching the end of the moving walkway, please watch your step and keep moving upon exit…
Over, and over, and over, again…
• Therefore until next time - so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, cheerio and goodbye.