I have been to a lot of places I did not want to return from. The Canada fishing trip ranks at the top of that list. A thousand different "only ifs" were running through my mind as I took in a trip of a lifetime. The folks living there and the people who have been multiple times might not see the draw anymore, but this old Texas country boy, who has never seen anything like this, could never get tired of it.
I have been back for a couple of weeks now and have been trying to figure out how to describe my experience. I have shown my friends and family the pictures and told most of the stories about the adventure. Even now I cannot come up with the words or show enough pictures to do it justice. The photos do not describe what I was seeing and the stories do not tell the details of what I experienced.
With my lack of professional story telling through words, I will try one instance and see how it turns out.
White knuckled, holding on for dear life, it was my first time in a float plane. The wind was whipping at twenty miles per hour south to south west causing white caps to break over on the vast waters of Hatchet Lake. The 1957 model, single prop, flying tank was struggling to get off the water and gainthe altitude needed to clear the fast approaching tree line. Andy, the experienced bush pilot with a heavy Canadian accent was using all four of his limbs turning nobs, pulling levers and cursing the waves, wind and the old technology was earning his pay today. The roar of the plan was almost deafening and the vibrations were blurring my vision making my eyes rattle. A few more hard bounces off the water and we were off. "Are we going to clear the trees?" In a panic I almost shouted out loud to whoever would answer me. I turned to see the expressions of the other passengers. Two guides, a deck hand and three other fishermen who have done this many times before were seated calmly looking out the window or reading a book. With all of them not as worried as me, I simply braced myself, stared at the floor and hoped for the best.
At 1200 feet the winds were not near as bad as they were on the water. The flying hunk of iron dived, climbed and even kicked sideways a time or two, but she still plowed through the air like she was on a mission. The constant roar was hypnotizing in a calming type of way and for the next twenty minutes I tried to enjoy the ride.
The landing was a lot less eventful, but in my opinion Andy did bring it in a little too steep. Through the front windshield all I could see was the water fast approaching and with the same death grip I just realized I have been holding for almost thirty minutes now, I braced myself for impact. I will never forget the smoothness of my first water landing.
By expecting and almost experiencing the worse I was surprised of the calm attitudes everyone was showing. Like they have done it many times before, the pilot, the deck hand, the guides and even the other fishermen all unloaded the flying death machine into two sixteen foot V-Bottom boats. You could say I was still in shock because it was not until Andy and the flying/floating terror of death had taken off before I realized it was all quiet and we were alone.Alone, that was my first thought. I was practically stranded in the Canadian wilderness not knowing how or where to go to get back to civilization. What if the plane dose not make it back to pick us up? What if a huge storm blows in and Andy cannot come get us for days? What if the boat sinks, What if, what if, what if was all I could think about. Instead of enjoying my first time to do any of this, I was afraid of the what ifs. Looking around I was already seeing what I could utilize for shelter, fire and some way of surviving until help could find us. I was sure they knew where we were and could come get us, wouldn't they?
"Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" I snapped out of my trance like state on wondering who I was going to eat first in the extreme event I had nothing else to find my fishing partner PJ yelling and waving at me to get in the boat. "It's time to fish" he said. PJ is an avid fisherman/hunter who actually does more than I do. We compare stories and pictures during the work week on what we caught or killed the weekend before like it's some kind of competition.
"Five dollars first fish?" he asked. "Sure, but it has to be a Canadian five and the looser has to sign it." I said back. He smiled and agreed.
Our guide, Billy, had the little boat wide open. We scooted across the choppy water as fast as the little 25HP Mercury would push us. I did not plan on loosing the bet and needed to be the first lure in the water to up my chances. In a fury I was trying to tie on a spoon to the end of my line. PJ saw what I was up to and he began to do the same. I am sure Billy got a good laugh at watching us trying to string our poles and attach the bait while being bounced around in the small confines of the little boat. I didn't even get the chance to admire my surroundings, I was too busy trying to catch that fist pike. I don't know if it was PJ's plan or not, but it worked. Being competitive and only thinking about winning the bet and having all the bragging rights took my mind off the rough water we should not have been boating in. Just like magic the two and half foot swells died down to a more manageable size as the boat came to sliding halt. It was like the lake knew it was time to fish.
"What are we doing Billy?" PJ asked.
"We fish." Billy said without any expression what so ever.
Billy in an native Cree Indian who lives about four hours south of where we were fishing. Winter fur trapping and summer guide fishing is his only income. Having never visited a big city most of our stories we were telling him fell on deaf ears because had little understanding of life outside of his village. Come to think of it, there would not have been any better person to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness with then a local native, dry since of humor and all.
I will always remember setting the hook on my first pike. That pull, the fight and the sure will of the fish to not be caught. I have landed bigger fish, but nothing that fought like the first pike. After that first catch all my fears vanished. I enjoyed the plane rides everyday, the rustic views at every turn and most of all, the quiet.
Over all for the week I caught close to 200 fish. Pike, Walleye and Lake Trout. I was also able to check off a few items off the old bucket list and had fun doing it.
Oh, as far as the bet, well here's the proof on who had to sign the five.
Here are some more pictures of the trip.
Talk to ya next time,