Written by Harold
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While our stay at Trophy Lodge would "officially" run from the 16h to the 23rd, we were compelled by circumstances to gather in Edmonton on the 14th. This was a precursor to flying to Yellowknife on the 15th where we would then catch the Plummer's Lodge charter to Great Bear on the 16th.
Sound a bit confusing?
Well, anytime you have to make your way to the Arctic it can be a tad challenging and, when you couple that with the impossible to understand airline-pricing policies, you have the makings of a regular old boondoggle.
So why did we come in on the 14th rather than the 15th? Definitely not because we are all that enamored with Edmonton, although it's a nice enough place, we came in early because it was going to work out to be a damn site cheaper in terms of our flight to Yellowknife.
Because there are not many regularly schedule flights in and out of Yellowknife, our choices were limited to either an early morning or late afternoon flight.
As it was impossible to get from Toronto to Edmonton in time to catch the early morning flight on the 15,th our only remaining option was to take the late afternoon flight, but - and there is always a but - it would have cost each of us almost $300 more than the earlier flight. Doing the math, it was obvious that a night's stay in Edmonton would work out to be a lot less money, so we came in on the 14th and were able to catch the early morning, and considerably cheaper flight to Yellowknife on the 15th.
Still confused? You should have tried booking the flights.
I was first to arrive in Edmonton followed by Rodney Harback from Tennessee, and then last, and certainly least, Ken Gold and Art Ross from Toronto.
After collecting my bags, I finalized the paper work on our rental vehicle and then did the airline limousine thing and picked up the boys as their flights arrived. Once my passengers had checked in at our hotel, it was off to the city to buy all manner of things that, for the most part, we probably didn't need - but certainly thought we did at the time.
The biggest challenge as always was finding 2% UV milk, which is the key ingredient in Rodney's to die for hush puppies. They only have powdered milk at the lodge, and that just won't cut it when it comes to making the perfect hush puppy. Over the past couple years it has been something of an adventure trying to find it - we even had to use UV Soya milk in 2009 - but at our first stop we hit the mother load and found enough to make hush puppies for most of the inhabitants of the Northwest Territories.
July 15 - North to YK
"YK," or Yellowknife for the rookies among you, is a city of 20,000, give or take, located on the north shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. It has the usual modern city amenities including both a Wal-Mart and Boston Pizza - both of which I could do nicely without - particularly in what turned out to be my futile attempt to escape the urban landscape.
Our Canadian North flight - which, by the way provided us with a complimentary hot breakfast, so take note Air Canada and Westjet - got us in around 11 am, but unfortunately it was too early to check into our hotel.
Undaunted we rented a car, and then went off in search of those items it never occurred to us to pick up in Edmonton. We made the rounds so to speak, stopping off at the Liquor Mart, Canadian Tire, M&M Meats, Shoppers Drug Mart and yes, the Wal-Mart.
Our most significant purchase was a new spoon that was, according to the desk clerk at our hotel, currently the hottest lure in the Northwest Territories. We finally tracked it down at the Canadian Tire, and there was no doubt about it being a "spoon" in every sense of the word. If you were to take an ordinary teaspoon, drill a hole in both ends, attach a split ring, treble hook, barrel swivel and then paint it red and white or chartreuse, you would have what was purported to be nothing short of a fish catching machine.
P.T. Barnum was so right when he said: "There's a sucker born every minute," or, come to think of it, perhaps even more often than that.
With spoons in hand - ok, so I bought one - we made our way back to the hotel to have dinner with Bob Pope and his gang.
Bob, who leases and sells mining equipment in the US, was heading to Neiland Bay on Great Bear with his son and several of his employees and business associates. Bob has been coming up to Great Bear for many years, and while our paths usually don't cross that often, it was nice to spend some time together swapping stories and just otherwise catching up. Bob was kind enough to pick up the tab for dinner, so next year we plan to stay close to him just in case he has another random attack of altruism.
After dinner we said our farewells as Bob and his group would be flying directly to Neiland the next morning, while our flight would take us directly to Trophy Lodge - or so we were told.
July 16 - Their Ears Must be Painted On!
Regardless of how often you tell people when the charter will be leaving, and when to be down in the lobby with your luggage so people and bags can be shuttled over to the airport, there is always some jerk, or in this case jerks, who either don't get the memo, or had far too good a time the night before and sleep through their alarm, thereby holding everyone up.
Sure enough, while our Air Tindi flight was scheduled to leave at 10 am - sharp - when they called the role call prior to boarding, the room fell silent when 6 particular names were called.
There was a collective groan throughout the small waiting room, and while the expediter was making frantic phone calls attempting to locate the missing goofballs, they finally sauntered in around 10:30. Once their baggage was loaded they buttoned up our Dash 7 and we were finally on our way north.
The rule of thumb you should try and follow when traveling in the Arctic is not to get all bent out of shape if they tell you one thing, then do something completely different without bothering to mention that everything has now changed. Frankly, when I'm on one of these trips I rather enjoy that fact that things are sometimes a bit random in nature. My predictable routine will set in soon enough once I'm back home.
The rule kicked into high gear shortly after wheels up, when one of our fellow travelers mentioned they had heard we would be landing at the main lodge before heading over to Trophy.
Conferring with the flight attendant, he confirmed that we would indeed be making a short stop at the main lodge. In this case wrong was right - or at least better - in that I would now have a shot at having a short visit with my daughter Christine, who just happened to be working at the main lodge. If everything had gone according to plan I may not have seen her at all - hell, maybe this was the plan all along -who knows…
In any event she was waiting for me on the strip, and after a quick chat, I stuffed a pile of scratch and win lottery tickets into her hand - hey, a gift is a gift - and we were off. They were right about one thing, it really was a short stop, and if anyone actually knew why we stopped in the first place, they forgot to mention it.
On the flight over to Trophy we could see there was very little in the way ice on the lake. A small pan here and there, and a bit piled up on the west shore of the Sand Flats - certainly nothing that would stop us from moving around the lake - assuming of course the wind cooperated.
Arriving at the lodge, we hooked up with our guides Paul Reynolds and Harvey Anderson, and then proceeded to get our gear and supplies organized in anticipation of three or four days of camping at the Katseyedie River Outpost.
The ice had just gone off the lake during the previous week, which should mean optimum conditions for fishing Tripod Point and the Sand Flats on the north shore, and Second River and "Bobby Hull" Bay to the east of the lodge.
While we didn't fish, being otherwise occupied in getting our stuff ready, all of the other guests went out and fished Ford Bay. Although no one caught anything over twenty pounds, all of the boats caught fish, and the guides indicated there were definitely lots of trout to be found throughout the bay.
July 17 - Pike for Your Drink?
Following what has become a tradition, on our first full day of fishing we headed off to the Whitefish River right after breakfast for what we hoped would be some world-class pike fishing.
The Whitefish rarely disappoints, but Harvey did make a point of mentioning the only other boats that visited the river during the previous week only managed to come up with three fish between them.
While we have never had that type of experience, I have to admit it did put a bit of a damper on things during the ride over - but fortunately history did not repeat itself. My guess is that the guys who were there the previous week either didn't know where and how to fish the river or, because most guides are not all that fond of pike, maybe, just maybe, they didn't try all that hard to find the most productive water.
Although we have caught more pike on previous occasions, the fishing was steady, and between our two boats - Art and Rodney actually fished pike with us for the entire morning - we caught about 100 fish.
Kenny led everyone with a 20 and 25, while Art chipped in with a 20. There were also a number of fish in the mid to high teens and, while I didn't break 20 this time around, it was an excellent morning nevertheless.
Now that tradition had been attended to, it was time for lunch, and because no one was the least bit interesting in dining on pike, we headed out into Bydand Bay to catch a lunch trout.
Bydand is a large bay that forms the southwestern corner of the Smith Arm. It's depth is relatively uniform throughout, generally ranging from 25 to 30 feet - and it's usually loaded with fish.
It only took a couple of minutes for both boats to catch a lunch fish, so we put into what is locally known as "Pele Point," and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, consisting of grilled salami, Cajun fried trout, lemon grilled trout, Rodney's famous hush puppies, beans, corn and fried potatoes with onions and herbs.
Once the fire was out and everything packed away, it was back into the boats with the intention of making our way north, along the west shore towards the mouth of the Hare Indian River.
We fished some beautiful water that was at just the right temperature - 48 to 50 degrees - and although the fishing was relatively steady, the biggest caught between our two boats was my 15 pound laker.
Arriving back at the lodge around 5 pm, we finished packing our gear, because if all went well, we would be flying out to the Katseyedie the next morning. As luck would have it, the water in Ford Bay was dead calm, so Paul and Harvey headed off with the boats around 10 pm.
Under ideal conditions it should take 4 or 5 hours to reach the Katseyedie, which would get them in between 2 and 3 am. They could then get some sleep and we would fly in right after breakfast with the bulk of the equipment. If all went according to plan (ha!), we would arrive around 9 am, set up camp and be out on the water by noon at the latest.
That evening I made some cedar planked lake trout with a maple/Dijon glaze. If I do say so myself it tasted pretty good and was a big hit with my crew, the other guests and even the lodge chef.
July 18 - Somebody Swat that Damn Bug!
At first I thought a mosquito had somehow made it past security and was looking for an opening in the covers so it could attack. After flailing my arms around in an attempt to either smush or drive off the intruder, I realized that it was much too loud to be a bug.
Once the ringing subsided in my ears, after having whacked the side of my head several times trying to swat the phantom bug, it finally dawned on me that what I might be hearing was an outboard motor. My watch said it was 5am, so I was obviously hearing things, because nobody would be out and about at that hour.
I must have dozed off, because the next thing I remember was Kenny giving me a shake around 7 am and then proceeding to give me an account of what our guides had been up to throughout the night.
Although Ford Bay was as flat as Roseanne Barr when she sang the American National Anthem at a 1990 San Diego Padres game, the water on the main lake was so rough they decided not to risk crossing the arm, and arrived back at the lodge just after midnight.
They tried again at 5am - so it really was a motor I heard - but the conditions were much the same and they were back by 7.
Our plane came in around 8, and the guys decided to give it another try. About an hour later they called on the satellite phone and told us they were going to cross the arm and make their way to the Katseyedie. We decided to wait until 12:45 on the theory that by the time we arrived around 1:30, they would be waiting for us.
During the flight over we didn't see the boats, but once we landed, not a guide was to be seen. No worries, it's very easy to miss something as small as a boat when you're at 2000 feet, so thinking they would be along any minute, we sent the Otter on its way and set about the job of setting up camp.
We kept an eye on the entrance to the bay, but after a couple of hours there was still no sign of them. They finally turned up at 5:30, a full 8 hours after they had left the lodge. When half way across the arm, and even though there was not very much in the way of wind, they ran into waves that were so big they couldn't travel any faster than 5 mph. Harvey told us that some of the waves were so high the shafts of their motors would come right out of the water when riding the crests.
Rodney brewed some coffee for the guys so they could warm up, and after a quick dinner, we headed out into the bay to fish for a couple of hours before turning in.
We began by trolling south, along the west shore of the bay towards the main lake, and although the water was pretty cold in spots - 38 to 40 degrees with a bit of ice still floating around - the fish didn't seem to mind. Both boats caught a number of fish with Kenny leading the way with a 20 and 25 pounder.
Kenny and I then headed over to the east shore and began fishing our way back towards camp. 3 Caribou kept a close eye on us while we trolled along, and our resident Bald Eagle did a couple of fly by's, just in case we happened to have a fish we weren't planning on using.
The evening was perfectly still, and as is characteristic of the Katseyedie River bay, fish were rising everywhere, leaving dimples on the water as if a light rain was falling.
Even though we were fishing in 20 to 30 feet of water, the action stayed hot and we picked up quite a few fish, nothing big, but we rarely went more than 10 minutes without a hook up.
All things considered it was a pretty good day, and most importantly - we made it to the Katseyedie!
July 19 - Will that be China or Platinum?
Today was the 20th anniversary of Rodney's All Tackle World Record catch. A 66-½ pound lake trout from Macintosh Bay, which just happened to be a "short" 25 to 30 mile ride directly across the arm from our campsite.
July 19, 1991 was special for all of us who were in Macintosh that day. We not only witnessed the setting of a new world record, between our 2 boats we caught 30 trout with a combined weight of 901 pounds - or just over 30 pounds on average per fish.
So what, you may ask does China or Platinum have to do with any of this?
Well, China just happens to be the traditional gift for a 20th anniversary, while Platinum is considered a more contemporary way to express your best wishes. Unfortunately we had neither, so to mark the occasion, we toasted Rodney with our cups of morning coffee - Champagne being in rather short supply - and collectively expressed our hope that history would, at the very least, repeat itself - if not for him - then for one of us!
While a trip over to Macintosh did come up in discussion, after some thought, the consensus was to head east to McGill Bay. It turned out being the right choice, because as soon as we were out of the bay and on the main lake, we ran into fog as thick as pea soup. It was so incredibly thick that at times our visibility was restricted to little more than 10 to 20 yards.
Harvey had McGill programmed into his GPS, so getting there should not be a problem, although we would have to take our time as there were a few pans of pretty thick ice floating around which, if you were to hit while at full throttle, could do a real number on your boat and/or motor.
While Harvey knows this part of the lake better than most, he is used to navigating by sight, not, as we were to soon realize, by GPS. As long as the shore was in sight we were doing just fine, but once the fog closed in and blocked our view, we got ourselves completely turned around, and for a good 15 or 20 minutes had no clue where we were - GPS notwithstanding.
I finally asked Harvey for his GPS, and having had at bit more experience navigating with one, found the shore, got us pointed east and told Harvey not to loose sight of shore, even if he had to get out and pull the boat along the shoreline.
In any event, both boats finally got there and we couldn't wait to get our lines in. McGill has been very good to us in the past, and with the ice just out, and being the first boats in since last year, we were ready for some action. Unfortunately McGill Bay didn't get the memo.
The water inside of the bay was surprisingly warm at 60 degrees, and the fish had picked up on it. Places where we had caught a lot of fish in the past only yielded a few - although Art did get one just over 20. We moved to the outside edges of the bay where the water was cooler, and although there were some fish around, they were all relatively small.
We worked it for about 2 hours then decided to start making our way back towards the Katseyedie, with the intention of hitting the Sand Flats, which is generally a great spot right after ice out.
Rather than high tailing it directly to the Sand Flats - which would have been a slow trip in any event as the fog was still thick - Kenny and I fished our way back. We would drive for a mile and then fish for a mile. It proved to be a good approach because we caught fish everywhere we stopped, and Kenny got 3 in and around the 20 - pound mark.
The Sand Flats were a dud, so we headed back to home bay. Although the bay is pretty big, you would figure that as long as you could see the shore, it would be easy enough to find camp. Not in this fog. To this day I don't know how we managed it, but we got completely lost just minutes from camp. Only after it lifted ever so slightly could we see that we were just a couple of hundred yards away - guess I should have used the GPS.
After dinner, which consisted of grilled Cajun style chicken breasts, pan- fried potatoes with onions, red and green peppers and cheese together with baked beans and bacon - we never starve on these trips - Harvey, Kenny and I began fishing the west shore of home bay. Unlike the night before there was not much doing, so we moved back into the bay and fished the shoreline just east of the camp.
They were "stacked up like cordwood" in that area, and we caught fish after fish, with the biggest being about 15 pounds.
The entire day had been very foggy with periods of light rain, but while sitting around the campfire that evening Rodney observed, that according to his watch - which has at least 20 different functions - the barometer was on the upswing, so if the "Good Lord is willing and the crick don't rise," perhaps we could make a run for Tripod Point right after breakfast.
July 20 - Tri This One on for Size!
Our day began with overcast skies, but as yet no rain. The wind appeared calm in the bay, but, as we know; once you get out on the main lake it can be an entirely different story.
Well, there is only one way to find out - get out there and look. Kenny, Harvey and I got away first so we fished the west shore until the other guys caught up. As we got closer to the main lake we could see white caps - so it didn't look all that good.
Never say never, because while the wind was very strong, it was coming directly out of the north, which in this case, was good news for us. Hugging the shore, the 20-mile trip to Tripod was as smooth as can be, but, as we later found out, the guys fishing out of the main lodge were not so lucky. That north wind had a 30 to 40 mile run across the arm before it slammed into Ford Bay making it virtually impossible for anyone to get out to fish for a couple of days.
Upon arrival, we spotted a large bull Musk ox standing on the hill that overlooks the point, and I managed to get a couple of good pictures before he ambled off. He turned up again further west of the point later that morning, and pulling into shore, we got pretty close before he galloped off in the direction of the area known as the Green Monster. Paul and Harvey had spotted an entire heard in that area on their trip over, so he was likely heading back to tell his buddies about us.
Water temperatures were good, within the 42 to 49 degree range, so both boats started working in 12 to 15 feet of water both east and west of the point. Action was steady throughout our stay, with most of the fish being caught on the west side of the point.
Art took the biggest fish of the day - and, as it turned out our biggest of the week - 38 ½ pounds, and I caught 2 - 20 pounders and a 28. All my fish were caught on what we call "Old Faithful," a CHT - T60 Flatfish with a small white grub attached.
Although we have caught bigger fish at Tripod over the years, overall it was a very good day regardless.
While it was cloudy with some rain for most of the morning, the prediction made by Rodney's watch proved to be true and it started to clear by mid afternoon. The trip home was smooth and the sun on our backs felt really good after a day and a half of fog and rain.
After dinner Kenny and I fished home bay for a couple of hours and caught about 8 fish in the 6 to 12 pound range.
July 20 - Catching the Blues
Being our last day of camping the question was - where do we go next? McGill did not produce, so that was not really an option, the Sand Flats were, shall we say - "flat" and while there were plenty of fish at Tripod the previous day - the big ones did not appear to be in residence. If the lake was calm - and it was - we could make a run across the arm to Macintosh, but we didn't want to risk getting stuck 30 miles from camp. If that happened it would take them a long time to find us.
After some discussion, Rodney, Art and Paul decided to head back to Tripod, while Kenny and I were going to spend the day working home bay. We knew there were lots of trout and plenty of grayling throughout the bay, together with pike and whitefish in the river - or so we thought.
We began trolling right in front our camp, and had not gone more than 20 feet before I had a fish on. In less than one-half hour we caught 3 over 20 and several in the teens - all within 50 yards of the camp. What really surprised us was that all of the trout were "Blue Backs."
Great Bear would appear to have 2 very distinct subspecies of lake trout, the Red Fin and the Blue Back - which tend to be the bigger of the 2. While the Katseyedie bay is known for producing large numbers of trout, in the past most of them were Red Fins, and while the occasional Blue Back would put in an appearance, we had never seen them so prolific in this area.
During our first 4 hours of fishing, the ratio of Blue Backs to Red Fins was 10 to 1.
Deciding to give the trout a break we headed over to the river to try our luck for pike and some of the huge whitefish that have been known to live in the Katseyedie. Well, in keeping with what seemed to be a changing of the guard in the bay - fish wise that is - we didn't catch a thing in the river. Over the years the river was usually lousy with 4 to 10 pound Red Fins and big whitefish - but not today, Even the pike didn't put in an appearance.
Nevertheless, we cruised down river for a mile or 2, fished various spots along the way and stopped off to visit an old gravesite.
Next we moved over to a small bay just west of the river mouth that we call Driftwood Bay. Driftwood usually produces lots of grayling, small trout and even the occasional whitefish - but after about 30 minutes we considered renaming it No Fish Bay. I did catch one very small trout and 2 nice grayling at the entrance to the bay, but that was it. Go figure.
Having had enough alternative species fishing for a while, it was now time to get back to the lake trout. Working our way back towards camp, we picked up several more fish in our morning spot and then moved further on to try the edge of the sand bar just west of camp. The water drops very quickly from 5 to over 40 feet off the edge of the bar and, having picked up some big fish here in previous years, including a 40, it was definitely worth a shot.
We immediately started to hit fish, and Kenny hooked what turned out to be a 25 pounder. While he was fighting his fish, we saw an even bigger one swimming around watching the action. I tried several casts in its direction after Kenny had landed his fish, but no cigar. For the next couple of hours we worked the west shore, and caught all kinds of trout in the 12 to 18 pound range.
It's worth noting that while our choice of lure is usually a T60 Flatfish in one of the several hundred colours we have in stock, this year one of the hottest lures was a 2 ½ ounce red/sliver or red/gold Half Wave. While we have successfully fished smaller versions of the Half Wave in the past, this is the first time we had come across the bigger version, and you can bet that we will be loading up with plenty of those for next year.
Also interesting was that while there were plenty of fish in 10 to 15 feet of water, which was not unexpected as the ice had just recently gone out, we also caught more than our share over 30 to 50 feet, while trolling between 10 and 20 feet. It just goes to show that on Great Bear it always pays to try some different areas and approaches, regardless of what may have proven to be successful in the past.
Kenny and I then moved over to the east shore and caught a boat -load of small Red Fins before calling it quits at around 2:30 to begin the task of breaking camp. Art, Rodney and Paul arrived shortly thereafter, and while they caught fish, most were Red Fins and there was nothing over 20. In any event Tripod is always worth a shot because as experience has shown, while one day can be extremely slow, the next day you may very well hammer them.
Our plane picked us up at 4:45, and we were back in time for the Thursday night wine and cheese soiree. Aiden was our chef this year, and while his food was excellent throughout the week - at least the part we were there for - he out did himself that evening.
Together with the usual offerings - cheese, cold cuts and the like - his impressive spread included several varieties of home made pizza, BBQ ribs, prime rib sliders on homemade roles, salads and more. The lodge staff served up plenty of complimentary wine, beer and Bloody Caesars, so needless to say a good time was had by all.
It was a very nice way to end what was a great camping trip.
July 21 - Just Fog Right Off!
It would seem as though the fog followed us over from the Katseyedie, because when rounding First Light, we ran into a thick wall of fog.
Our intention was, weather and water conditions permitting, to make a run to Second River, and then work our way back towards the Naiju River, where we would have lunch and then head up river to fish pike.
For a while it didn't look all that promising given the density of the fog, but about half a mile from Second River the sun broke through, the sky turned a brilliant blue, and the fog all but disappeared. I have said it time and time again, Great Bear Lake is the world's largest box of Crackerjacks, every box, or in this case every day, and at times, every hour brings a different surprise.
Not unlike Tripod, you find out rather quickly if there are any big fish at Second River. Art, Rodney and Paul fished the area east of the river, while we stayed on the west side. Everyone caught a few fish, but there was nothing over 20 pounds, so after an hour or so we began to make our way back towards the Naiju.
We stopped off to give Bobby Hull Bay a try, which, if you want to know why it bears that particular moniker, ask Andrew Flood - if you can find him. While there were a few fish around, what really caught our attention was a rather large cluster of dark furry dots along the shoreline.
In this area, multiple furry dots on shore usually means only one thing - Muskoxen.
What I call the Naiju Herd was out in full force, and there were at least 40 bulls, cows and calves milling around. While most of the herd was on top of a small ridge, 4 large bulls watched us carefully from below. We motored over as slowly and quietly as possible and then disembarked, moving cautiously towards the herd.
Those bulls never took their eyes off of us, and while the rest of the herd began to stir as we moved closer, they didn't seem all that concerned, and continued munching away on the scrub willows and lichen. We got to within 50 yards of the bulls and took some excellent pictures of those big boys and the rest of the herd.
While I could have probably moved a bit closer, they can cover a lot of ground very quickly, so discretion being the better part of valor, I headed back towards the boat. Besides, Kenny and Harvey were already waiting in the boat, and I would not have put it past either of them to leave me there to do my best Matador impression while trying to fend off those big bulls.
The Naiju is hands down my favorite shore lunch spot on Great Bear - or for that matter anywhere. Lots of wood, usually enough wind to keep the bugs at bay, nice flat rocks to sit on, grayling, trout and pike are within easy casting distance from shore, Caribou and Muskoxen abound in the area and you can pay your respects to the Sahtu Dene medicine man Karkeye, whose grave is located on top of the esker just west of the river.
I caught some very nice grayling and several small trout while lunch was being prepared, and after a great meal, Kenny, Harvey and I moved into the river to try our luck for pike. The other guys were "piked out," having had enough of those toothy critters after fishing the Whitefish River, so they headed out into the main lake to try and hunt down what had so far proven to be those elusive 50-pound lakers.
The pike were everywhere, particularly in the mid river weed beds, and although most were under 10 pounds, Kenny caught one just over 20 and I got another around 18. The hot lure was a #6 silver/chrome blue, Blue Fox Vibrex spinner with a 2" white grub attached. It out fished the Johnson Silver Minnow like weedless spoon that is always so effective in the Whitefish at least 5 to 1.
In all the years we have been coming to Trophy, I can't recall a single time when our final trip of the week back to the lodge has been anything less than perfect. Even though it may have been crappy all week, Great Bear has always given us an incredible send off.
True to form, the water was smooth and the sun warm and bright, so we turned our seats around, and with the wind in our faces, quietly marveled at the awesome beauty of Great Bear Lake as we sped along.
After we had packed up and finished dinner, I received a pleasant surprise. My daughter Christine managed to stow away on the Otter that came over to Trophy from the main lodge for one reason and another, so we were able to visit for a couple of hours. Although we tried to talk the pilot into staying the night, unfortunately he was anxious to get back and they eventually left around midnight.
By the way, in case you were wondering, those scratch and win lottery tickets I gave her at the beginning of the week - every one was a dud. Plenty of scratching, but no winning.
Well - That's All Folks
In terms of fish size we have certainly had better years, but we caught tons of fish, including 20 over 20 pounds - 4 being pike and the rest lakers - and Art's 38 and a half was certainly nothing to sneeze at.
We had great guides, and the staff at the lodge were as accommodating as ever, making sure we had everything we could possibly need, and then some, for our camping trip and otherwise.
It's always a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to the camping portion of the trip as the weather, ice/water conditions and the stars all have to be in their proper alignment to pull it off, but the weather cooperated so we made it to the Katseyedie and managed to fish all of the areas on our wish list.
Unlike last year when our ride home was over 6 hours late, thereby causing all manner of complications with respect to our southbound connections, this year the plane was almost on time - they NEVER get there exactly on time - and everything went smoothly from that point on.
And most importantly we had the privilege - yes, I do consider it a privilege - of fishing the "Bear" once again. I have over 30 trips under my belt, and who knows when it will end - as all things must - but each and every time it's a new adventure, and I still get a chill down my spine when I let my line out, wondering if the next hit will be that 100 pounder I know is out there somewhere...
The Last Word… for now
A trip to Great Bear is not everyone's cup of tea. From where I sit, what ultimately determines the kind of experience you have, all comes down to where you set your overall expectations.
Some folks set very high expectations, in large part based on the price, and while they have every right to expect good food, comfortable accommodations, reliable boats and motors and competent guides, for some, things fall off the rails when it comes to the fishing.
Great Bear Lake has the biggest lake trout, grayling and I would venture to say whitefish in the world - period. There is world-class pike fishing available if you are so inclined, and if staying at Plummer's main lodge, you have access to what is perhaps the best - and certainly the most beautiful - place to catch arctic char anywhere north of the South Pole - the Tree River.
There are countless bays, streams, shoals and inlets across the "Bears" 12,000 square mile expanse that have rarely, if ever seen a line, but the one thing all this incredible water does not come with - is a guarantee.
I have to say I'm always surprised at how many people think it should. Hell, the Arctic can throw all manner of curves at you, and don't forget, they call it fishing, not catching for a reason. You will certainly get your share of fish, but 30, 40, 50 pound lake trout are not just going to jump into your boat. The weather can make a mess of things, and even fish in these waters, which are hungry most of the time, can come down with a case of lockjaw on occasion.
The point of this little ramble is this - if you get a chance to visit Great Bear, open your mind and try to embrace and enjoy everything a trip like has to offer. Don't get pissed off if the plane is late - it WILL be - or you don't catch a ton of big fish or the bacon is not crisp enough one morning.
If you do, your likely going to miss the point, which should be to savor fishing the greatest of all freshwater lakes and to see and experience a part of the world few ever have the privilege (there's that word again) to visit.
So, at the risk of repeating myself - "If the good Lord is willing and the creek don't rise," I certainly plan on heading back in 2012, and if the truth were known, I've already sent in my deposit…
Click on the Image Gallery below to see some pictures from this year's trip. My apologies for not having more pictures of fish, but in the interests of putting as little stress on them as possible, whenever feasible, they are released without using the net and/or bringing them into the boat.