I knew that Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan held award winning fly fishing for Trout, Grayling, and Muskies too. But we were after Northern Pike and I had no experience with that. I am a salt water girl, thinking that living aboard our family 33’ Wasque lobster boat fishing “blues” and “stripers” along the coast of New England was about as good as life gets. Fly fishing on an ocean sized lake that was only open from the ice 10 weeks each year was a new experience for me. I was very excited when I arrived in Winnipeg in the late afternoon to overnight, and catch a 5:30AM flight north leaving the last telephone pole 300 miles to the south.

I kept watching out the windows during the flight north, and I am pretty sure that after 20 minutes or so, there was only one thin dirt road that we seemed to follow into the wilderness. After landing, and another half hour north by Wollaston Lake’s bus, we were escorted to our very comfortable log cabins, and then directed to dress for fishing and meet in the main lodge for breakfast. We were headed out for a day of fly fishing by 8:30AM. Our guide Clayton, lead us out through the fingers of the docks, around the float planes, and to a 19 foot Lund with suspension seats and a monster outboard. He told us to bundle up because we would be going 25 knots, and with that we were underway to his favorite spot.

The engine drone and resulting gale during this crossing flooded my head with thoughts of fishing as a child. I flashed on the feel of my father grabbing the back of my pants at age 7 as I learned that you can go over the gunnels when a 40 pound striped bass grabs your plug. I heard dad’s quiet voice as a younger man saying “let the rod do its job kiddo, you go to work when the fish is tired, and DON’T let go of my gear!”  I also remember the horror of him trying to talk me into shoving my small fingers into the moving gills of a living bass bigger than me that was staring at me with an eye the size of an apple. I have still never been able to do that, and felt a guilty rush of relief when Clayton told us that under no circumstances do the guests “ever, repeat ever, touch a fish”. I didn’t have to wait long to learn why that was.

This reflection stood me in good stead when an hour or so later I found myself slammed with a hit and a suddenly singing spinning reel and about 9 inches of rod before the incredible bend that sunk a 5 foot rod six leaders deep in the water. I was looking at the rod and thinking “what the hell is this fish!” Salt water rods never take a dive like that. I became aware of Clayton muttering “that’s a big fish!” as he and Dan moved about the boat to give me room to work.

Clayton’s mumbled mantra of “good fish, big fish, good fish, big fish…” was the only sound in this homogeneous wilderness north of everything. I did as my father told me with Clayton assessing my experience. He left me alone while continuing his mantra when suddenly I got my first look at what was surely “Nessie”. Suddenly 54” of spotted dun body with coffee bean rings and Arizona clay red in his fins was floating beside the boat. He was not coming out easily, and even in the few inches of water between us as he surfaced I could see battle scars from another skirmish. I really enjoyed the fight especially knowing that this champion beast would go back into the water after our match as Wollaston Lake is strictly catch and release. Clayton lifted him out of the water and I got my first look at the most bad ass fish I had seen outside the Discovery Channel.

This beast had a mouth the size of a coffee saucer. They weren’t large teeth, but there were a million of them and they pointed back towards his throat. If your hand got in his mouth, you could simply use the other hand to wave goodbye to it because it was on a one way trip. “Guests don’t ever, repeat ever, touch the fish” thank God. Dan and I caught 27 fish that first day out, most between 33-39” in length and every one of them 10 minutes of good play.

In the middle of the day Clayton put the Lund up on a spur of an island so Dan and I could pump bilge ashore while he made wonderful sandwiches. Another day, we kept one of the 36” fish and Clayton fashioned a perfectly functioning kitchen on a stony beach and made us fresh fish and chips covered with hot mushrooms and onions. Another day was hot soup and cold anti pasto. Perched along the side of a lake so far north that you can see the curvature of the earth, food takes on a heightened clarity as if in the silence and the simple landscape we had the ability to focus and appreciate the gift.

After fishing the guides hurry in to load up the “brag board” with pictures of the biggest fish in their boat. The evening begins for guests and guides with cocktails to admire these pictures, and to determine which is the biggest fish of the day. The first day it was mine. I was tired, not surprising since 12 hours before I was in Vermont, but I wasn’t to tired to be absolutely thrilled. Everyone there is a sportsman so there is group appreciation for a job well done today, as well as a healthy determination by everyone in the room to bring in the biggest fish tomorrow.

All of this excitement was followed by a feast of a dinner in the common dining hall with its 36 foot cathedral ceiling. Every day the chef tried to feed us as if we might never return from the wilderness. The food was fresh, creative, outstanding and abundant. Breakfast and dinner are taken in the main lodge which has windows in all directions so from sun rise to sun set you can keep an eye on the fleet. After dinner, most people went up to the bar again to watch the “brag board” and do a bit of bragging themselves.  I was tired at the end of each day and generally waddled overfed back to my cabin early, but the “pros” among us went late into the night and appeared in the morning to fish another day!

On our other days we went out on one of the many float planes. That is when I discovered how enormous the lake was, surrounded by large flat patches of land dotted with scrubby pines. I mentioned this to Clayton, and he told me that the other aspect to fishing here is that it is really easy to get lost out in this monotonous terrain in any season. Additionally, there are only 10 weeks each year when it is a lake. The rest of the time it is an endless white featureless landscape of thick ice. Most of the time that ice is thick enough that the television show Ice Road Truckers is filmed right here because 9 months out of the year the ice can safely support an 18 wheeler. He pointed out uranium mine that they seem to constantly deliver to on the horizon above the lake.

Wollaston Lake is located on an Indian reservation, thus the catch and release program. Eating the fish is only for the bears, eagles and native people who live there year round. There was a time when we heard a deep rumble, the kind you expect from an earth quake. I looked around on the flat landscape and could find nothing to account for that so I asked Clayton about it. His response? Caribou. By the millions, moving along the level ground hidden among the scrub black pines

For my introduction to fresh water fishing, I found my four days at Wollaston Lake to be perfect. I found the log cabin lodging to be perfectly designed to tumble into a hot shower and a cozy bed each day. The simple elegance of the handsome log cabins and stunning main lodge created a luxurious wilderness home base to start and end each day. The guide service and  hospitality was seamless, carried out by a cadre of welcoming and friendly young Canadians. And the food was four star, no kidding. The chef and his team do an astonishing job. The owner and his wife have a subtle hand at running this 10 week community north of everything for fishing, and the reward to the guest is relaxation, excitement, discovery, and camaraderie all rolled up into four days that go by all together too fast. I can’t wait to go back.


For more information:

3910 Thatcher Avenue

Saskatoon, SK S7R 1A4

Web site: http://www.wollastonlakelodge.com

email: info@wollastonlakelodge.com

1-800-328-0628 or 1-306-668-1061