Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blogging When the Sun Shines

I recently received an email from one of my three readers pointing out that I had not posted anything to my blog since June 11th. Time slips by quickly doesn’t it? Especially when the sun finally comes out. I do have several excuses. The first and principal one being sloth. It’s true. The less I have to do, the more difficult it seems to actually finish anything. Proof to the old saw, “If you want something done, give it to the busy guy.”

The other big reason is sunshine. We finally had some warm weather here in the Pacific NW after a dismal and cold spring. That means fishing and golf. Mid-June my pal, Rob, and I headed over the mountains to the BC interior for some serious fly-fishing at Corbett Lake. The trip got delayed a week when Rob’s 13 year old lab, Sedge, passed away. Sedge had been our lookout in the bow of the boat on past trips and it seemed prudent to give everyone a little time. He will be missed.

Corbett is a private lake loaded with big, fat rainbow trout. A highly productive lake with abundant insect hatches makes Corbett a perfect place for fly fishing and even the Holy Grail of trout nuts: dry fly fishing. The small cabins are, well, rustic. But, Peter the owner and chef puts out some decent dinners in the lodge. It won’t make the Orvis catalogue but serious fly fishermen from far and wide know big ‘bows lurk just off the weed beds ready to test the strength of your leader.

After the first day we figured out the program for ’08. Every day at 1:30 a mayfly hatch started on the shallow flats and the rainbows moved in for a late lunch. Some of the takes were vicious attacks while others quiet slurps. Big, pissed off fish! After breaking off several we both tied on heavier tippets. The action would be fast and furious for 10 minutes and then go quiet for a while before starting again. By 3:00pm, like someone had thrown a switch… it was over. Big fish too. We each landed several in the 4 to 5lb. range and one hog snapped Rob’s tippet like a rotten shoelace. He jumped twice near the boat giving us a good look. My guess: 8lbs. All catch and release, of course. Although on the last day I had a nice 3 pounder that was too injured to live and I brought him home for an appointment with my braising pan.

On July 4th son Mike and I flew to Winnipeg from Vancouver. The next morning at six we boarded a twin-engine turboprop for Hatchet Lake Lodge near the northern border of Saskatchewan (IOW, way an’ the Hell up there). It’s a trip I have wanted to take for a long time and I was not disappointed.

George Flemming built the place 35 years ago and wisely started catch and release well before it became fashionable. Consequently, the fishing is extraordinary for big northern pike, lake trout, walleyes and the rare grayling. George also managed to get a bulldozer in there by hauling it over the ice in winter and built a 6000’ gravel runway on a glacial ridge allowing serious land based aircraft access to this remote wilderness. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet George. He was in the hospital with the dreaded “Big C” and it did not sound like he would ever make it back to Hatchet Lake.

The main lodge is a massive log structure with a dining room capable of handling 50 guests (only 25 present during our stay), a bar and lounge, a tackle shop and a library. The out cabins, also made of logs, feature bedrooms, bath and living rooms. It’s still cold up there at night (and sometimes during the day) so the wood burning stove in the living room comes in handy. The lodge has its own electrical generating system and water system so you wouldn’t say we were exactly roughing it.

Days started at 5:30 when someone came by with a pot of coffee and threw a couple of logs in the stove. Breakfast at seven and with our Native guide we started fishing at 8:00.
Hatchet Lake itself is 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. Several lakes connect to Hatchet and you can access those lakes by portage or run the rapids, an exciting experience to say the least.

Dry fly fishing for grayling in these rapids can only be described as exceptional. These fish have become nearly extinct in the US and southern Canada. Mike and I were catching one on nearly every cast. Nice ones too. Beautiful fish!

Of course, the main attraction was big northern pike. When I say big, I’m talking about 15 to 20 pounders being relatively common. We caught at least a half dozen over 40” with Mike landing the biggest at 44”. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we caught over 200 pike. I wanted to catch them on my 8wt fly rod and got a few the first day before my fly got snagged in the net when Leonard, our guide, (who looked disturbingly like the sketch of Ted Kazinski … the Unabomber) landed Mike’s first big pike and the subsequent chaos in the back of the boat snapped the tip off my rod. So it was spinning gear and spoons. Since it stayed windy and cool most of the time and the pike were not in the shallows, fly-fishing would have been tough anyway.

On two of the days we opted for fly outs to remote lakes. The 15 or 20-minute hops offered a good view of the area and the vast amount of territory and the small amount of human interference with this wilderness. When we arrived at the lakes we found boats and motors waiting and once we took off we never saw the other fishermen until we returned to the landing to meet the floatplane at the end of the day.

Each day our guide would bonk a couple of smaller fish and prepare “shore lunch” consisting of fried fish fillets, potatoes with onions and heated cans of baked beans and corn. Not exactly Adkins Diet, but mighty tasty after a morning of fresh air. Sitting there on a rocky shore munching on a crispy piece of fish and watching an eagle making lazy circles high above…. well, as the man says, “It don’t get much better than this”. All in all, a fantastic trip.

Two days after returning from Hatchet, Loi and I took off on a road trip to the Okanogan, central British Columbia’s answer to Napa Valley. The ostensible purpose of the trip was to attend the anniversary party and pre-house warming of our Whistler neighbors, Tony and Barb. The party at their yet-to-be-completed home on the lake turned out to be a memorable affair. We had an opportunity to spend some time with our friends and get in a game of golf before a couple of days of touring this beautiful part of BC. The five-hour drive back through the mountains gave us a chance to reaffirm just how huge, beautiful and uninhabited our Province actually is.

So now we’re back in Whistler where the house and my golf swing needed some attention. I point all this out to my three faithful readers to confirm that, despite your suspicions, I have not been laying abed until mid day or spending my afternoons sucking beer in the shade. Not yet anyway.


Heide said...

The fishing trip sounds like lots of fun. Mike looks so much like Karen (except for the facial hair) that it's almost scary. Hello to "Mom" Draper in the vineyard!

Pat Hahn said...

Hi dick. Those are great pictures of the fishing trips. Those are some really nice fish! Looks like a lot of fun.
I'm off to the Gemini Recovery article.