Last week I returned from my (almost) annual fishing trip to NW Ontario. Last year, of course, I did not make the trip because I was bicycling coast to coast. This year’s trip was the earliest we’ve been, as we arrived before Memorial Day, the first group in.
It was also the smallest group I’ve gone with. Pictured is my brother Bill from Parker, CO and his sons Bradley – also from Parker – and Brett, from Houston, TX.
We had to contend with weather the first part of the trip. On the way in, low visibility forced our bush pilot to land the floatplane at Moose Point Lodge on Lake Shikag. Although we were anxious to get to Lake Wabakimi another 75 miles north, we enjoyed our time at Moose Point Lodge, where we had coffee with other fishermen and swapped lies. The staff even fed us lunch.
High winds, rain and cold limited our access to much of the lake the first few days. We certainly warmed up to and enjoyed my brother’s famous Walleye Chowder.
By mid-week the weather improved and the fish were hungry. Some of the best walleye fishing I’ve experienced in recent years, both in terms of size and quantity. A real blast! The northern pike did not participate in the frenzy, however, and I did not catch any on my trusty fly rod this year (although I had several strikes).
Let me tell you about something funny that happened this year. First, a little backstory. We usually fish with some live bait: minnows, leeches and mostly nightcrawlers. After years of fishing with ‘crawlers, I’ve developed a “best practices” methodology for the proper usage and handling of these worms. Now, most people who know me well would certainly not describe my personality as compulsive/obsessive even though what I’m about to describe to you may sound that way. Here’s the RW Bennett method for fishing with crawlers: first, extract a nightcrawler from the bait box and rinse it in the lake to remove the worm bedding and other dirt and debris. After all, a clean boat is a happy boat. Since a whole nightcrawler is longer than necessary or desirable, I use my knife blade and divide the first third of the crawler, which I will use to tip my lure. I then wrap the other two-thirds of the crawler in a damp bandana for later use. When I lose the first part of the crawler to a fish or a snag, I open my bandana, locate the remaining two-thirds of the worm and divide it with my knife in half, using one piece immediately and re-wrapping the remainder back in the bandana for later use. I use a small Swiss Army knife for fishing – with the blade to cut bait and the scissors to cut line.
Many other fishermen will grab a crawler, cut what they need, and throw the rest back in the bait box. Consequently, they are opening the bait box – and getting debris in the boat – three times as often as the fishermen who employ my method. Furthermore, there are annoying pieces of dead worm in the bait box awaiting the next user. Messy. Indeed, two years ago I exchanged sharp words with my dear brother-in-law, Pat Dolan, in a heated debate over the relative merits of worm management. There may have been adult beverages involved.
Anyway, back to my story. I’m fishing with my brother Bill and we are having all kinds of fun. I fetch a new nightcrawler, and dutifully cut the first third which I proceed to catch another fish or two. The two-thirds went into the bandana. Inevitably, I needed another piece of worm and I opened my bandana. Nothing. Where in the world was the other two-thirds? When you’re fishing and all your mind has to keep track of is the amount of worm in the bandana, even I can usually account for that. So, I searched the boat until I found a piece of worm on the bottom of the boat. Mystery solved. Or was it? It seemed to me like the missing worm was a two-thirds piece while the one I found was a one-third piece. Must have been mistaken. Then I took a pull on my Moosehead and got a mouthful of crawler! I spat out the two-thirds worm which had obviously plopped unnoticed into my beer. I used it as bait, of course. The remainder of my beer tasted only slightly funny. Perhaps I will have to modify my “best practices.”
My sister Becky Dolan was in the group behind us and we met at the dock of the camp. With her was her aforementioned husband Pat, her three kids and two daughters-in-law. I was tempted to spend another week with them.
Now, my wish is for you to have some memorable adventures this summer. Try not to eat any worms.