Driving to Reindeer Lake wasn't the most pleasant experience. It was pretty smooth sailing through Utah, Idaho, and Montana, but as soon as we crossed the border into Canada (without much hassle, fortunately) things slowed down. The speed limits were lower, the roads less maintained, and the scenery....not quite what you get while driving through Montana. The entire Southern part of the province consists of endless, sprawling, flat prairie. As we got further and further North the scenery began to change, and the excitement began to build. We passed through Prince Albert, which was the last major town along the route, and before we knew it we were surrounded by pines, heading for the heart of the Boreal Forest. I was struck by the amount of water we saw. Every single depression was filled, forming ponds and lakes, which were connected by short flowing sections. The forest was so thick that we would pass by entire lakes, only noticing them for the brief moment when there was small clearing along the side of the road.
We were told to contact the guys at Trout Camp as soon as we were leaving the small town of La Ronge, as that would be the last leg of our drive. La Ronge would also be the last chance for gas and food. We pulled in and were served at a prehistoric gas pump. The town was small, mostly inhabited by Cree Indians, and had a disconnected, stuck-in-the-past vibe. We ate dinner at probably the worst, and sketchiest KFC we've ever experienced, and headed out, ready for the drive to finally be over.
And that was when we discovered that those last 3 or so hours from La Ronge to Southend on Reindeer Lake are on dirt roads. It was like a dagger to the heart, the straw that broke the camels back. Luckily, Targhee got that manic, determined look in his eye and took over the wheel. For the first leg of the drive he bombed those dirt roads like a trained rally racer before succumbing to fatigue and passing the baton to Colter to finish it out.
We finally made it to Southend around midnight, 24 hours after we'd left home, but our troubles weren't over. We weren't sure which of the many small docks/marinas/ports was our pickup point. First we tried asking a group of local Indian girls: "Hey, do you guys know where the Marina is?" "No, we don't know her...." "No, like the boat ramp!" "Huh?" "You know, the place where you put your boat in the water...." "OHHHH, its just right down this road." Except it wasn't the right one. A few minutes later a friendly local named John Job Junior gave us some more directions before telling us about the lake trout derby that'd happened that day and asking us to "toss him a beer" (Southend is on a dry reservation). Long story short, we ended up using some cached Google Earth Imagery to locate every possible dock, and of course it was at the last one we checked. But all was well, our new friend Jonathan was waiting for us, and we finally made it safely to Trout Camp.
To keep this brief, our first day was probably the stormiest and coolest, but the fishing was consistent, and I happened to land my personal biggest of the trip on the very first afternoon. We quickly got into the swing of things, and our guides seemed to easily adjust to guiding us as fly fisherman from the aluminum boats. The lake has such a complicated shoreline, and is so vast, that there are endless bays to explore, many of them offering perfect pike habitat. We explored a couple of them and started getting into some fish. Before lunch, we kept a few of the small fish (under 28") to cook up for lunch. At lunch time our guides expertly filleted and fried the pike right on shore over a fire. They also fried up some onions and potatoes, which we enjoyed along with baked beans and peaches! I had no problem enjoying this heavenly meal for lunch every day of our trip!
After lunch was when I got my big one. We were exploring a super clear bay fishing between bursts of rain. We had already caught several fish casting toward shore at the back of the bay. As we drifted down the shoreline I made a cast and began to strip. With about half my line in I saw a large shadow move on my fly. In the crystal clear water every detail of the fish became visible as it closely followed my fly. As it came closer to the boat I gave the fly some erratic movement and he charged. I stripped several more times and he finally committed to the eat with only a couple feet of leader left outside of the guides, right against the bow of the boat. I set hard and watched as my loose line tore away until it reached the reel. After putting up a solid fight we got him to the boat and snapped a few pics. After this first day we'd be much more dedicated to filming and photographing, but boy was it a good way to start the trip out. The rest of the time, as we'll share, was filled with these exhilarating pike eats, which makes fly fishing for them different than just about any other species.
Enjoy some photos, and stay tuned for part 2 as well as some other posts in the works!