Since I was a little boy growing up on a small farm in northeast Texas, I’ve dreamed of spending time in the “North Country” of northern Canada. As a youngster, I read articles about the remote fishing camps where monster northern pike, walleye and Arctic grayling were as plentiful as sunfish in the ponds I fished in Red River County. Well, after a lifetime of dreaming, I’ll be boarding a plane in June for northern Saskatchewan, heading to fish with the folks at Cree River Lodge, located on the banks of the very remote Lake Wapata which is on the Cree River Drainage.
Every hunting or fishing trip has its beginning or planning stage; especially outings that require a bit of travel. The opportunity for me to finally venture to northern Canada to fish had its start while on a deer hunting trip at Ranger Creek Ranch up in Knox County a couple years ago. My longtime friend Larry Weishuhn (Mr. Whitetail) and I had scheduled a writers hunt at Ranell Walker’s vast ranch situated in the rugged Cedar Breaks country southwest of Wichita Falls. Some veteran outdoor writers were present on this hunt, among them well known Canadian writer Brad Fenson.
I liked Brad from the get go and we began talking about shooting. When I told him I had a brand new muzzleloader that I planned to use, he wanted to take a look. While I was telling him all about this innovative new smoke pole, I noticed a “knowing” look on his face. “Luke, I and a group of testers named this gun “Muzzleloader of the Year for 2013” for Field and Stream this past summer. It really is a sweet shooter!” For the next half hour, Brad and I discussed muzzleloading in general and my new rifle in particular.
Always wanting to learn more about hunting and fishing in the wilds of northern Canada, I soon began quizzing Brad about some of his recent articles where I’d read about his adventures. And then our conservation turned to catching big pike from pristine waters. You might say I was “hooked” at the word PIKE!
Brad begin telling me about an awesome destination called Cree River Lodge, situated in northern Saskatchewan, not far from the Northwest Territories.
“Luke, I can think of no better destination that will give you a true wilderness fishing experience than Cree River Lodge.” said Fenson. “You can catch walleye until your arms feel as though they are made of rubber and a ten minute boat ride from the lodge puts you in Cree River which is packed with Arctic grayling. The guides usually focus on big pike during the first hours of the day. Creek River Lodge has been named the monster pike capital of the world but most visitors enjoy fishing for all the species. Although smaller in size, catching large numbers of those hard fighting grayling from fast moving waters or good eating walleye from the lake is an experience you won’t soon forget.”
You might say this trip was really about fifty years in the planning! I began dreaming about the shore lunches on remote islands, the soul stirring call of the loon and hard fighting fish on these wilderness waters while still a teenager. I’ve discovered that getting there will be half the fun; from Dallas Ft. Worth, we fly to Saskatoon and then take a commuter plane to Stony Rapids. From there I’m told the drive through the Boreal forest is awe inspiring. I’ll be keeping an eye open and camera ready to capture the image of moose or bear that we might encounter along the way. The final leg of the journey will be by boat to the lodge. As Pat Babcock, the lodge owner told me, “You’ll leave Texas in the morning and be sitting around the campfire at the lodge the same evening.”
From what I’ve learned, I’m expecting a fishing overload. I’ll have to pace myself! I never could stop fishing when the fish were biting but up here, that could present a real problem. Every account I’ve had of the fishing is that the action begins when your lure hits the water and ends when you are back at the dock. Although doing battle with these monster pike has long been on my bucket list, I am just as excited about using spinning tackle for the grayling and walleye. And, I’m a bit worried about those shore lunches. As a lifetime camp cook, it will be difficult for me to stay seated while our guide does the cooking! Maybe he will at least let me peel the potatoes or slice the onions! With the big breakfast, shore lunch and all you can eat dinners, I have another problem. A man my age has to keep some semblance of a check on his weight. If there is one thing I enjoy doing almost as much as catching fish, it’s eating! I can already see the challenge and I’ll meet it head on. Probably with a fork in my hand!
I had Brad Fenson as guest this past week on one of the radio programs I do for Public Radio. He does a great job telling about his adventures fishing the wilds of northern Canada. The show is archived at www.ketr.org, just search Outdoors with Luke Clayton. I think you will enjoy listening. You will also see a 15 minute interview with lodge owner Pat Babcock in the archives. After listening to both these fellows, you might have a much better feel for what this wilderness fishing is really all about.
Until June and the upcoming trip to the North Country, there’s lots to keep me busy right her at home. Guide Seth Vanover says he is hammering the channel catfish at Lake Fork from water as shallow as one foot deep. Stripers are in pre spawn and on an aggressive bite at Possum Kingdom Lake and Texoma. Possum Kingdom guide John Bryan says live shad is producing some good size linesiders in the 10-14 pound range. Guide Larry Sparks with Sparkys guide Service says stripers are making the move to the mouth of the Red and Washita Rivers and the Sassy Shad bite is still producing plenty of fish.
To learn more about fishing at Creek River Lodge, visit the website www.creeriverlodge.ca or call 306-276-7841.