The “After Season”, that wonderful time after the last group of guests head south and before fall turns into winter, started a lot earlier this year. The last guests left on August 15th. The shorter season, while unfortunate, gave our shut down crew an opportunity to get a lot of work done.
The 2010 season was recession challenged. For many years we operated at the very edge of weather allowance. This year we operated with customers only 60 days compared to an historical average of 99 days over the eleven seasons prior to 2008. A little history: our longest season was 2002 when we ran 109 days, starting on June 2nd , running right until the first snows on September 19th. The weather was very cooperative that year and it was a bit easier to fill the Lodge in that year. In February of 2002, for instance, one US dollar turned into $1.61 Canadian, the recent high point of US currency value. Back then our 5 day trips cost the customer only $2,795 US but that price purchased for the Lodge $4,499 in Canadian goods and services, allowing the much lower package price than we have now. In 2010 our Book-at-the-Lodge repeat guests paid $4,295 for the 2011 season. After many price increases over those nine seasons we are actually in the same place, just paddling faster and absorbing nine years worth of inflation including the big jumps in post 9/11 insurance, plane and fuel costs. In short, that’s why the 2010 season was short and that fall work began in mid-August. But we are very optimistic that next season will stretch out a bit. On August 15 when the final 2011 deposits were taken we had 246 people booked for 2011, only 34 less than we had for the 2010 season, and we still have eight months of selling season ahead of us. Next season the shut down crew will be catching some trout on the rocks.
For this season the crew staying on through August 30th had to focus more on work than fishing. With great weather we took full advantage of the early close to attack some major projects, including the building of two new docks. The top priority was the back dock, the entry for what could be called the industrial side of our island in the north. On that platform about a quarter of a million pounds of food, fuel and other supplies reach the Lodge each season. The old dock must have handed at least 4 million pounds over its lifetime. It was due its retirement. It was rebuilt from stem to stern and should be good for another 4 million pounds. The north customer dock on the front side of the island got the same treatment. It was the father/son duo of Jerry and Steve Yanish and the dock avenger, Paul Hamilton, who did the heavy lifting for the dock work. Spruce logs for rock cribs, tons of rocks, lots of 2X6s, huge spikes and an incredible amount of muscle power were the ingredients for the job. Both docks look great.
Painting was the other after season priority. Keeping the 30 buildings on the island looking good is a lot like the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge: you start at one end, keeping painting until you’re done and then start again. Bartender turned painter Allison Whelan was the driving force in this year’s effort. She quickly found out that applying the stain and paint was the easy part. Sanding and scrapping was the tough work. With help from Jeff Walker, our chef for the two weeks, she attacked the job with steely determination. The expansive deck at the main lodge has never looked better.
Having no handyman talents what so ever, owner Tom Klein found himself cutting firewood and replacing the spruce log walkways around the island. Of course he did some fishing too in the good company of Mel Linder, the father of Scott guide, Steve Linder aka, Biff Piston. The trio had to shut down the fly out lakes and give those fish one last exercise session before their long winter’s rest. Ivanhoe was smoking, as was Smalltree. Late August is exciting fishing with a lot of very heavy fish that attack with savage abandon.
The Yamaha 40s were given a comprehensive work over by Don Klassen, a LaRonge Yamaha dealer, who flew in during the worst storm of the season. He will be back in the spring to tackle tune ups of the two dozen Honda 25s and 30s used on fly out lakes. Yes, it takes a lot to keep a fishing lodge finely tuned. But the place was put to bed nicely this fall: all the water lines drained; windows boarded up; plumbing fixtures and all motors winterized; kitchen cleaned within an inch of its life. With two weeks of hard work behind them the shut down crew jumped in the Beaver on August 30th and, like the geese and loons, headed south, leaving the island ship-shape, almost ready for the 2011 season. See you then.
Well, the sun has to take a break now and then. The final twelve days of the 2010 season were at times sun-challenged but not for a minute fun-challenged. The weather was in the OK, not great but not bad either, category; but most importantly, the fishing stayed strong right to the end.
We had a lot of first timers here during this period and all left with powerful memories of their Scott adventure. But none left with more enduring fishing memories than Tony Tempesta. Tony had heard a few Scott fishing stories from his buddy, long time Scott regular Joe Daugherty, but thought he was listening to just so many fish stories. He didn’t believe how many fish people get here in a single day. Tony is now a believer. On his first day on the lake he catches a few dozen pike including one that took the guide’s tape to 45.5”. And then, just like these sort of things happen every day, he gets another 45.5 incher on the very next day. His son, Mike, got to be a pretty good fish photographer. And dad got his turn behind the lens when Mike caught a pot-bellied 40.5” lake trout as well as a beautiful 18” grayling. Both son and dad are now confirmed Scott regulars.
Regulars and new comers alike got into big fish and became photographers for their fishing partners. Every evening after dinner the big screen was filled with the fish of the day. There were plenty of moans and groans of satisfaction and amazement as the day’s fishing results were viewed. There were a lot of big fish on parade. Peter Mitchell got a personal best 45” pike. Chris Kodosky brought one in just a half inch shorter. And Joe Velas, Larry Miller, Chris Ferraro, and Chris Adkins caught 44 inchers, all of them of the late season fat, fighting, feisty variety.While that’s a lot of big pike, it was the big lake trout brought the house down. The huge bellies of the trout competed with the wide smiles of the lucky anglers and both became the nightly hit of what has been indelicately termed the “fish porn” show. A bunch of anglers landed the lake pigs of 40 inches or more: Frank Shumer, Merry Fahrman, Roy Fouts, Chuck Maw, Nick Fox, Jim Pier, Mark Montesanto, John Kreiling, Cody Jung and Kurt Oliver all watched themselves on screen, standing next to massive fish that somehow seem out of place in freshwater lakes. Some big grayling made the show as well. The Love group put on a real grayling clinic on a fly out river, catching dozens of grayling on fly rods in the 15-18” range.
The good fishing and fun atmosphere in the lodge, the hot tub, the sauna and constant action in the boats turned a lot of the new arrivals into regulars. There were northern lights for those willing to wait up for the show and the excitement of the first hints of fall—some birches turning yellow, the ground cover showing shades of red, the first honks of southbound geese and the wild calling and bunching up of groups of loons as they got ready for their trip south. This is a memory factory: fresh fish on the plate at shore lunch, moose sightings, bear encounters, the arc of eagles cutting through the sky, bent rods on both sides of the boat, the anticipation of the cast right next to the eel grass, bubbles the size of silver dollars drifting up from the big trout coming up slowly to the surface and the flights in the Beaver with views of endless strings of lakes and rivers. This is what a Canadian wilderness fishing adventure is all about. This year the season ended a little too soon but with solid rebookings in hand the odds of extending the season for 2011 look pretty good. And the odds of having a good time at Scott Lake Lodge?… 100% See you next season.
Late July is usually a great time to be at Scott but this year the thirteen days that closed out the month challenged all superlatives. It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect stretch of weather, fishing and profound enjoyment. Perhaps it could have rained beer for a few minutes every hour or so.
Or 45 inch pike could have opened their mouths and called out angler’s names. Or maybe the dinners could have been prepared in heaven and served by angels. Or maybe that’s exactly what happened.
We do know that the Scott Lake Lodge Guide Team, looking nothing like angels, was really on their game. They lived up to their reputation as a group with pride and professionalism and took our anglers right to the fish: the guests did the rest, bringing in huge numbers of fish and lots of big ones. The three groups that enjoyed this time in sun averaged over twenty trophies per day, nicely mixed with pike, lake trout and grayling.
It was some sweet music that played out on the waters of Scott Lake and the fly out lakes. The sunshine brought the pike into shallow waters and gave them a good appetite. And it kept the lakers tight in their summer holes where they could be located and caught. Some huge trout were brought right to the guide’s waiting cradle. Our new Lake Trout King, Mike Scheidt, was focused on big trout only, using large lures in deep water. After catching dozens of trout, Mike on his last day, within sight of the Lodge, got the one he was waiting for—an absolutely huge 44” lakers with a massive girth that started at the gills and went right down to the, well, all the way down. It was a beautifully colored fish as well, truly a fish of a lifetime. Aaron Fields and Jamison Bloebaum matched gorgeous 43 inchers, caught out of the same hole within minutes of each other. One was a light sliver; the other a mix of brown, gold and yellow. They were not the only ones to break the 40 inch mark during this July bonanza: Blake McGhee, Rocky Santuli, the father/son team of Bob and Kevin Krause, Jeff Thomses, Mark Treadway, Tony Welke, Jeff Seibert, Jared Penfold, Randy Word and Josh Lee all broke that super-sized barrier. Stuart Sullivan did it twice in a single day with a pair of 41s on Dunvagen.
Of the 270 trophies landed many were pike and many were real big. Perennial guest Mike Stanford led the pike parade with a huge 47” fish, his personal best. Mark Crossen got a 46 while Alec Kleinschmidt and Aaron Fields each caught 45s. Mark Treadway, Ted Barlas and Ed Ptak got 44 inchers. Just a lot of huge fish. Smalltree lake was the place to be for many anglers. Stacey Lobaugh and Blake McGehee landed five trophy pike each on a sunny day (weren’t they all?) there and Harley Weiss, a Nevada resident who felt right at home in the heat, got four trophies on his Smalltree day. There is nothing like a few 80 degree days in mid-summer to get the pike fired up. Grayling too. Several anglers had tremendous grayling fishing. Al and Brendan Knowles, fishing the river at Labyrinth put on a clinic for fly rodding the sailfish of the north and the Stanford group got into lots of 16 to 19 inch grayling on the same river.
The music just could not have been any better. And rebookings? Oh, almost 100%. Who knows when the perfect weather will attack next summer? Maybe every day? Come up and find out.