Saturday, August 26, 2006

Canadian Pike

Below is a Daily Herald newspaper story about Harry's Canada fishing the last week of July.

One more memorable trip to Reindeer Lake

By Mike Jackson Outdoors

Posted Thursday, August 17, 2006

REINDEER LAKE, Saskakatchewan — My stress-breaking outlet is to go fishing.

I save my dollars and plan ahead, always looking forward to those massive applications of salve and balm in the form of good angling battles.

My friend Paul Melchior suggested I revisit fabled Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan with him.

Brian Simms, too, has been after me for several years to come back to Reindeer. He’s long sung the praises of this massive angling pot of gold and now owns an angling destination named Lindbergh’s Reindeer Lake Lodge.

Melchior runs an outfit called Angling Escapes in suburban Northfield. He has made a living of pursuing exotic angling destinations in search of spectacular fishing opportunities.

I’m obsessed with finding and catching above-average northern pike, and Reindeer Lake is the perfect environment to accomplish that.

But it’s not just the great angling that makes a trip a gem. It’s not the incessant calling of the loons, nor is it the wonderful wood smoke beckoning anglers to stuff themselves on fresh, shore lunch walleye filets and sumptuous side dishes. It’s not even the lavish, gourmet meals presented to lodge guests here.

It’s all of these elements, coupled with the great fishing.

In the many hundreds of trips I’ve made over a 40-plus-year run, a number of them have been extra special because of the partners who have traveled with me. And that was the case with this outing.

One of this group’s members was Harry Blessing, an obsessed, Lombard fly fisherman who collects fishing tackle like there’s no tomorrow.

I met Blessing several years ago during an ice-angling outing on Bangs Lake. It was the end of the season, and our group, affectionately known as the Ice Nomads, planned a cookout on the ice on St. Patrick’s Day. Blessing showed up to sample the cooking and share some laughs.

Blessing is a quiet chap who soaks up everyone’s comments and then offers his editorial of the day with a unique, tongue-in-cheek style that would have audiences rolling in the aisles in a comedy club.

It was my understanding that Blessing had never been to the far northern reaches of this province to fish for pike, and at the end of each day he would sit with me, overlooking the lake, comparing notes from the day’s fishing log. He smiled when recounting his battle with his biggest pike ever.

With more than 2 million acres, more than 2,000 square miles of sprawling waterways, 5,500 islands and almost 6,000 miles of shoreline, Blessing and I just shook our heads in amazement over the endless possibilities of trophy fishing.

There were six of us who came here together, including Brian Cieply of Palatine. Cieply also was with me in Costa Rica this year when we fished for tarpon. Our package consisted of five nights and four days of fishing.

Strange as it may seem to some, we had a little trouble locating shallow cabbage weeds, a place where we usually find the pike. When we finally spotted large weed beds, Cieply and I went to work with large, M&G spinner baits.

Big northerns charged the lures and followed them all the way to boat without striking. It was only when we switched to our “throw-back” rigs — large, floppy, single-hooked plastic rigs — that the pike finally inhaled with gusto.

Simms used to operate a famous Ontario flying service before he purchased this wonderful lodge. Melchior and I noticed that the high level of customer service, accommodations and variety of meals added to the good angling.

Overall, it’s an outstanding venue for any fisherman wanting a top-shelf experience.

Yes, we did catch trophy pike. In fact, everyone in our group tied into monsters.

“Aside from this wonderful fishing,” Blessing said, “I was amazed with the fantastic meals we were served.”

The Chicago-area gang flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba, for an overnight stay, then flew directly to the lodge and landed on Simms’ 4,500-foot island air strip. By the way, Air Canada is a good bet for a direct flight to Winnipeg.

Would I go back? You bet. In a heartbeat. Only next time I’d lose 15 pounds first.
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