In my last post I mentioned that I hadn’t been out fishing much this summer. It’s been busy and there have been things that have needed my attention more. The handful of times that I have been out this summer have all had same goal in mind, beyond catching fish, of course: I’ve been looking for a specific hike-in lake.
There’s a lot of uncertainty that surrounds hike-in lakes, which is one of the things that makes them so enticing, I think. I’ve been to lakes that haven’t been fished in five years and experienced some fantastic fishing–to the point where I’ll argue with anyone who says walleye don’t fight. They can, but most of them are so used to be hooked and dragged in that they’ve all but given up. Try fishing a lake that hasn’t seen anyone for years. There’s fight in those fish, especially with a fly rod. Similarly, I’ve been on lakes that have been fish once in maybe 10 years and had terrible days, even after hearing the fishing report from the guy who claimed a hundred walleye and big pike after big pike. Like anything, at least for me, the uncertainty is big part of the fun.
My recent adventures here in BC probably resulted in some of the satisfying days
of fishing I’ve had in a long time. I’m sure that even if I hadn’t caught any fish, I’d still be saying the same thing because I actually found the lake I was looking for. I’ve had a bug for exploring since I was young kid. I remember wanting to be an exploring in grade three and pretending to explore the far reaches of my school’s lower field, which, as you can imagine, required at least some imagination since it was a soccer field–although there was an enormous gravel pit behind the school that was perfect for both fueling the imagination of the kids at that school and for exploring when we felt brave enough to check out the latest hideout of some crazy person or another.
It also helped that we spent a lot of time on the Great Lakes when I was younger. There was always something to find out there and my childhood is filled with stories of trying to raise old sunken ships and poking around old fishing camps. Up until recently in my adult life, however, most of the exploring I’ve done has been in Toronto, where I went to school and spent my twenties. Not a bad spot to be if old buildings and forgotten tunnels are your thing, but it’s nothing compared to the back country of BC.
For the most part, since moving here, I had only been out with other people to areas that were fairly close to town and not overly hard to find, with a couple of exceptions. I had never done something like this on my own before and my excursions were spent getting to know the ins and outs of backroad travel. I learned very quickly that it’s easy to get turnaround out there and, if you’re not careful, it’s even easier to get hopelessly lost in a very short period of time–and I probably would have if I hadn’t spent six years as a delivery driver, which helped my sense of how to retrace my steps to get out unfamiliar places.
My first two attempts at finding my lake involved driving in complete circles, getting soaking wet, snowed on, sitting in a canoe shivering as I waited for fishing to bite, finding new waters to fish and discovering new spots on familiar waters. There wasn’t one point in my quest that I became discourage, every trip ended with me catching fish and, more importantly, learning where there was room for improvement on the next trip.
On my last attempt I work up early, as I had on the previous outings, and waited for the sun to get up, while quietly getting ready. I left with a very good sense of where I was heading and what I was looking for and, of course, I did not end up where I wanted to be at all. But, I was close. Closer than I had ever been and, even better, I had found a trail.
I probably should have at least taken a scouting trip down the trail to see if it led where I wanted to, but I felt confident enough in where I was, that I knew it could only lead one place. I grabbed my pack, shouldered my canoe, and started down the path.
There is a point in just about every mountain adventure story I read–I edit a mountain hunting magazine, so I’ve seen quite a few–where the writer reveals that, although they’ve trained and trained and trained, nothing quite prepares you for the real thing. This is that point for me. Although I’d prepared and spent time walking up and down my driveway to get used to carrying the canoe with my pack on, it wasn’t even close to enough. Somehow, though, I managed to drag and carry my canoe for over a kilometer until I saw a hint of blue through the woods. I dropped my canoe on the shore of the lake, dug out my flask of single malt, and had a congratulatory sip–I don’t normally drink when I fish, especially when I’m alone, but given the work I’d put into getting here, I was making an exception.
At that point it no longer mattered if I caught any fish or not–although I did catch some great fish–what matters is that over the course of the summer, I had found the lake. I have a bug now for hike-in lakes and I’m already planning on how to make my canoe more mobile and my trips for next year.z
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the water calls.