If you locked a dozen Hollywood screen writers in a room for a week they could not have dreamed up a better finale to the 2013 Scott Lake Lodge season than Ma Nature wrote across the flat horizon of the lake. Those last eight days had it all: big fish, one exciting storm, several nights of vivid northern lights, glorious yellow/gold birch trees and six absolutely perfect sunny fall days with four days without a breath of wind—the big lake was gorgeous.
It was still sandals and T-shirts into September. The final scenes in the script of 2013 featured relaxed shore lunches, after dinner bonfires with laughter blending with the cries of the loons, small groups of guests and staff gazing in disbelief at the power and beauty of the aurora borealis dancing overhead and of course some exciting action sequences involving unpaid actors dancing at the end of a line.
There were some notable catches over those last eight days. There was an exceptionally fat 45” pike taken by Ray Newkirk. And a beautifully colored 46” pike caught in just two feet of water by Ken Wollin when the guide recognized the potential of the warm weather to push big pike back into their spring spots. It sucked in a black leech just like it was mid-June. Probably the biggest big fish day of the season was enjoyed by Peter Myhre when on a fly out he brought nine trophy pike to his guide’s cradle, the biggest being 47 inches, and caught three trophy lake trout, one 39 inches, on the same day. It was a scene stealer of a day for sure. Joel Elfman also bagged a big trout—a fat 40 incher. In a memorable angling moment Joe Daugherty got a personal best pike that pulled the tape to 48 inches, topping the 47 he got on an earlier trip (Joe comes two or even three times a year—he knows how to live.) With that trend line he should have a 50 or 51 next season. As with any fishing trips there were tradeoffs. The flat water days made getting pike tougher. Our guides love and pray for wind to create some disturbance down under that gives a predator an edge over prey and gets them moving. But who can’t enjoy totally bug-free days with the reflections of the clouds and trees providing a surreal experience, while in T-shirts. It was simply glorious.
On September 6 the sound of the last Twin Otter arrival of the season roared over Scott Lake Lodge. It’s always a bitter sweet time for the Scott Lake Lodge staff and management. They had spent nearly 100 consecutive days together on a 12 acre island; forming a deep bond during the fast paced, at times intense atmosphere while making sure all 26 guests have the trip of a lifetime, even if it’s their 30th trip. Yet when that last Otter started its takeoff run loaded with the last 26 happy customers of the season there was a cheer heard across the island. For a few minutes there was the pure joy of knowing that the job was done and well done. But it was also time for reflection, some hugs, some tears and always the talk of NEXT SEASON. There is a strong Scott community. It’s why over half of the Scott guides have been at Scott for at least 12 years: this is their home. They know, along many of the long time shores staff team members like Jeff Walker, Head Chef, Shaun Ledoux, out chef turned guide, Jerry Yanish, the Silver Fox running the maintenance department and eleven year veteran, General Manager John Gariepy, that the next season will be even more satisfying and exciting than the one before. That’s how it’s been for 17 years. There are no reruns at Scott—just great new movies season after season.
THE POST SEASON
Unlike football, baseball or hockey the postseason doesn’t feature a lot of drama. It’s primarily work. This year fall was like summer revisited. There was an incredible Indian Summer at Scott in September right up until the day the last four of us were scheduled to leave on September 17th. Then all hell broke loose with an arctic blast straight from the north. There were no floatplanes in the air nor any chance of even taking a boat even around the island. We had gale force winds with four to five foot waves banging onto the back dock. But even in the maelstrom of wind, rain and flying debris the internet still worked. Strange feeling actually. The other world is never that far away even on the 60th parallel. With the temperature dropping to below freezing, the bigger lake trout finally came to their traditional spawning reefs. For nearly a week the smaller males were present in large numbers, patrolling the shallow rocky areas of the lake, patiently waiting for the females to make their appearance. With a little snow on the shorelines and a lower surface water temperature the bigger males and some of the females arrived.
We got out in the boat on the 18th when the winds abated a bit. The fishing was great. But it was still a violent scene on the lake. The fishing was like the early days of the Lodge when the peak of “reefer madness” would land around the tenth of September. The warmer lake temperatures of recent years have delayed the spawning and stretched out the season. While pike fishing is still great in September, it’s hard to focus on deeper water pike when trout that typically live in 100 feet of water are in two feet or less. Closing down the fly out lakes, especially Dunvagen, Smalltree, Gardiner and Ingalls gave the “closers” a look at some huge shallow water trout but time for any fishing was short. There are eleven fly out locations needing attention, too many to take time to fish. There were many tasks over the dozen days after the last customers left: boarding up every cabin, draining water lines, sinking some leftover beer and pop, cleaning up the kitchen, pulling the big water pump, cleaning all the bedding, washing all the linens, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So now it’s the 19th and still no window for a flight out. But we plan to fish today. Why not? Not a bad place to get stuck!
It’s been a lot of work but things are in great shape for the “opening” crew that will land right after ice out to get ready for the 2014 season. It will be worth waiting for. Our deepest thanks to all our 2013 customers for making this season so memorable.
PS: On September 20th the skies cleared just enough to offer an escape route. It was not clear sailing with a lot of low hanging clouds. On the flight to Stony the clouds did part often enough to show the glorious yellow landscape created by the birch trees in full fall color. It was time to head home for all of us but it was still hard to leave.
Let’s get this straight right off the bat. The big girls of August refer to the incredibly heavy pike that have been caught at Scott Lake and its fly out lakes over the past few weeks. All big pike are female; they need the larger body size to produce the hundreds of thousands of eggs a large female produces every spring. Most males top out at 38 or 39 inches, not the stuff of legends.
The big fish and the good times just kept rolling through the third week of August. Warm temps and moderate winds kept everyone smiling and fishing. The initial transition to fall was subtle, like most years when summer and fall melt together like the marshmallows and chocolate in bonfire-roasted s’mores. But this year the melding of seasons ended abruptly. On August 24th fall came like an uninvited guest to Scott Lake Lodge. One group left the island in the garb of summer: T-shirts and shorts with fresh memories of sight casting to pike in sunny bays. The next group donned as many layers as they could find topped with hooded rain jackets.
It got cold fast. Evening temperatures at Scott dropped to the high 30s and low 40s. Daytime temps hovered and shivered in the 40s with rain and strong winds. Unfortunately the group enduring the worst the 60th parallel has to dish out was from Texas and other southern states. But they were troopers and fished through the worst of it, shop catching fewer big fish than they had hoped for. But they kept the wood fired sauna running and spent plenty of time in the hot tub and around the big bonfire pit outside the main lodge. They burned more wood than the previous 16 groups combined. We honor their tenacity and ability to have a great time despite the nasty weather.
But the three groups fishing at Scott during the final two weeks of August did manage to catch a lot of fish—hundreds with 132 trophy sized fish landed. In fact some of our biggest girls of the season were taken during this period. Jared Dubinsky fishing on Premier Lake, a lake connected to Scott, got the biggest pike of the season so far, a fat 49 incher. There were three 48” pike landed over the three groups. Scott Bixby, who also had a 45, was in that elite group along with Damian Carroll and Sondra Eoff.
Sondra’s story is worth telling. While her husband Toby spent a big portion of his trip lounging in the hot tub and sauna, Sondra was on the dock every morning going out with her guide, Shaun Ledoux, fishing in whatever the elements threw at her. It was her first pike fishing trip and she was going to make the most of it. She did. On her second to last day she hooked into a fish of a lifetime. It was probably the heaviest of all the big girls of the season. It had a monstrous girth and a nasty disposition. It was the best pike battle Shaun had ever witnessed. But the outcome was never in doubt. Sondra talked to the fish during the entire fight. After a third blistering run, she let the fish know she meant business: “You ain’t going anywhere– I’m going to win this fight” were the exact words Shaun recalled. Sondra won. It was for her “the experience of a lifetime”. We believe it was the biggest pike ever taken by a female angler at Scott.
Lots of other memorable fish were caught as well. Long time Scott regular Mark Graf got his personal best, a beautiful 47” pike and Katherine Velas on her first trip to Scott tallied a 46.5”. The leader of the Texas contingent, Todd Lee, scored a 45 incher along with several other trophy pike. Kay Myhre landed the heaviest 46 incher veteran guide Jon Wimpney had ever held. However it was a slow period for the trout heavyweights. Two over 40 inches were caught, one by Ron Kirwer (42”) and one by Mark Graf (40”). Mark landed the biggest grayling of the season, a 19 incher and his son Foster got an 18.
The 2014 season is winding down quickly. The late August weather did rebound after the cold front and brought back the mild summer temperatures. If you don’t like the weather. . . We’ll see what the first week of September holds for the final group of anglers rolling into the lod ge today. Stay tuned for the season finale.
While the calendar says fall and the yellowing birches say fall, the weather is stuck in a blissful endless summer. During the first two weeks of August the sun has been unchallenged by clouds of any sort: the good weather, the good fishing and the good times just keep rolling along. Not a drop of rain landed on Scott, but there is still plenty of water to float the boats. It has been hot though with precious little breeze. The Scott guides hate this kind of weather but many customers love it. Who doesn’t love blue skies and flat water? But the guides hate it because the pike go on a hunger strike when the lakes get flat and glassy. They seem to have a deal with their prey that goes like this: when the lake surface is so calm that you can see me and I can see you, let’s call the whole thing off. It’s not the right condition for pike to go on a hunt. Our guides love wind. The pike “chop” as they call it disperses light, creating refraction that provides the predator’s camo and makes the ambush feeding style work. But you fish what you’re given and our guides and customers do not sit on their hands. The fishing might have been tougher but that makes everyone work a little harder. The guide/guest team still gets the job done. In two weeks 244 trophies were landed, most of them pike. And there were a lot of very pike as well. Our list of “supersized” pike (those of 45” or better) just keeps growing. We can add to the growing list of names Jennifer Scott (45”), Travis Hunt (45”), Bob Meeks (46”), Derek Burdeny (46”), Arie Dejong (46”), Joe Daugherty (46”), Katie Olivo (46.5’) and with a real super Doug Howard (48”). Ty Daugherty (son of Joe) started his pike fishing life with a flourish. On his first day ever fishing he landed three trophy pike and a trophy lake trout. Dad was a busy and happy cameraman. Katie Olivo had probably the best single day of two week period, catching five trophy pike in one day with her 46.5” making it a most memorable day.
Big trout were also in the picture. Our supersized standard of 40” was crossed ten times in two weeks. The biggest was a 44.5X25” monster laker that John Vanderdussen joined for a photo opp. John got a 40 the same day. Bob Noble, Jr. caught two 40 inchers on one day. Dru Rafferty got a 40 and three anglers—Stu Sauser, Bob Chadwell and Jill Daubert—landed trout of 43 inches. All girthy and heavy. Loren Larson tallied four trophies but his real trophy was a day when he and his fishing partner, Don Rohrbahck, combined for 93 beautiful lake trout in a single day. For the five days they caught around 300 trout. Not all the trout were caught deep. One angler’s 38 incher grabbed a spinner in 9 feet of water in a pike cabbage patch. It’s the time of year when some trout start moving up.
It’s also the time of year when the grayling fishing hits its peak level of action. Everyone who went after this miniature sailfish had great fishing days. A bunch of people put grayling of 18” (a big one around here) in the guide’s net: Wayne and Clay Parmley, Dru Rafferty, Bryan Weirwill, Mike Shea, Brian Baker, Pete Ricketts and Dave Lenz. Mark Quandahl got one an inch better at 19. Dry flies have been the offering of choice. Grayling are not highly selective feeders. Throw out something that looks like a floating bug and hang onto your four-weight.
The northern lights made their first appearance of the season. Two nights were sensational; others so so. Like fishing you can’t predict the lights but like landing a big fish you do appreciate the experience when it comes. That big fish experience has been pretty common this season. On the last day of our 14th group of the season another big pike was landed, the 43rd over 45”. We have already bested last year’s supersized pike total of 42 and that was a good year. So we are headed to a great year. Stay tuned.
The calendar just flipped over to August but life here on the 60th parallel has been in fall mode for a couple of weeks already. The cold front that hit the area back two weeks ago evolved very gracefully into a new season. And it’s a wonderful one.
The pike are at least two weeks early in their fall feeding spree. We have never seen so many pike and trout with tails sticking out of their mouths. The cold nights have put them in an eating mood. The best thing: we have plenty of time left to enjoy the changing of the landscape and the great fishing. When many (actually most) Canadian lodges are closing up for the year, we have just crossed midfield for our 2013 season. The first birch leaves are turning yellow and our ground cover plants, especially the blueberry and the bastard toadflax (yes that is a real plant), are heading to deep red, along with some of the mosses. Loons are starting to flock and call wildly now. Soon, when a big north wind blows, the first flights of geese will be flying south, small groups first and then by late August, a flood. It’s an exciting time to be in the far north. And a very exciting time to be fishing in the far north. While the number of fish caught is starting to drop, the length and girth of the typical pike and trout are starting to expand to sometimes ridiculous shapes. In the July 15 to August 1 period we have had a lot of huge fish and experienced every imaginable type of weather. Things are rarely the same two days in a row around here. Having three ninety degree wind changes in a day is not at all unusual. Neither are days with several dozen fish per angler and also days with a dozen or less–its fishing. We’ve had fierce gale winds and flat calm days. We’ve had evenings when nothing seems better than sitting around a bonfire by the main lodge and other evenings when poker inside seems like the prudent call.
But going fishing everyday is always prudent, even in cold, windy weather. At Scott we always go fishing. With 500 islands and countless miles of shorelines there is always a piece of protected water. Sometimes our anglers get the big fish and sometimes they don’t. That’s the dynamic tension in fishing: you never know when the next cast will connect with the fish of a lifetime. But even when the fly or lure just comes back empty you are still fishing. We just fish and let the trophies happen and trophies do happen here. Ken Ignozzi found out when he was on the other end of a 48.5” pike. Mike Rosenberg discovered that trophy feeling when he landed a 47.5” pike. Big fish just happen: luck meeting preparation and opportunity. Lightening hit three times one day for Jason Laughran when he landed a 44, a 44.5 and a 45” pike. Mike Thornbrugh had his most memorable trip of many at Scott when he ended his trip with an incredibly fat 46 incher two days after getting a 45” pike in the same bay, and no it wasn’t the same fish with two different tapes. Other supersized pike over the past couple of weeks were caught by Michelle Pyrchalla (46.5”), Larry Elledge (45.5”), Dave O’Donnell (45.5”), Keith Thornton (45”), Greg Johnson (45”), and long time Scott regular Harley Weiss (45”). James Teague got his shot of adrenaline when he connected with five trophy pike in one day.
This is the peak of trout season at Scott and lakers are on the minds of many of our anglers. They have been taken by the dozens when anglers take their eye off of pike long enough to go deep and see what lurks down in 70-100 feet of clear water. In these last two weeks there were 16 supersized lake trout (fat, piggy fish over 40” in length) among the over 100 trophy trout landed. Some of the really monster trout with impressive girths were caught by George Frimel (with an amazing trout of 44”), Rob Borden (43.5”), Jim Borden (43”)Mark Harongody (42.5”), Fred Parker (42”) and Ron Spork (41.5”). These are hard fighting machines, often termed fresh water tuna by our guides. Even the 35” lake trout get anglers fired up. It’s been solid trouting for several weeks and shows no sign of slacking off.
The list of the 100+Club members for 2013 just keeps growing. It looks like Jake Guerin’s remarkable tally of 108.5 total inches (a 48” pike, a 43” trout and a 17.5” grayling) may top the list by the end of the season but he has a lot of fellow members: Aaron Quick, Bill Calabresa, Bridget Manual, Gale Hamilton, Jim Tallman, Joe Novicki, Kale Manual, Mark Garibaldi, Tony Blake, Mike Rosenberg, Fred Parker, Mike Borden and Stephen Bandt.
So it feels great to be just midway through our season when so many fish are still there to be caught. Now that night is really dark all the Scott staff and guests are looking forward to the annual rite of experiencing the northern lights—the real northern lights with multiple colors and dramatic movement. It’s just around the corner, any day now. Keep watching this space. Maybe we will capture it for you.
In the far Canadian north discussions about weather and discussions about fishing are one and the same. Hot weather almost always (never say always in any fishing conversation) means hot fishing. The season at Scott started with five cool days and then moved into twenty-five consecutive days of hot, hot, hot weather and some very hot fishing. The weather, the fishing and enthusiastic clients combined to play some beautiful music. There were occasional variations to the motif of hot weather/hot fishing, like when we had a few days of brisk but warm winds, but as in any good piece of music the variations only made the music better. It was a perfect time to be in the north. Every group gets off the float planes at the Scott dock brimming with optimism; it’s in the DNA of every angler and we hope that never changes. This season that optimism was validated big time. It has been thirty days since the first group made their pilgrimage to Scott seeking big fish and indelible memories and they found what they were looking for. By the numbers, in those thirty days 516 trophy fish were landed—405 pike over 40”, 66 lake trout over 35” and 45 grayling over 15”. That music had some volume. With 13 groups to go it looks like we will blow the doors off of the just over one thousand trophies caught in 2012. We are rolling.
The exploits of the first two groups of anglers were documented in earlier reports. While things were good then, the weather and fishing just kept getting better and better in the second half of June and the first ten days of July. The smooth water, almost like a millpond, encouraged guides and anglers to explore the distant corners of Scott Lake and the dozen Scott Lake Lodge fly out destinations. And they found big fish, lots of them. This symphony hit its crescendo on July 7th, the first day of the sixth group at the lodge, when 32 trophies were taken—in just a single day! And these were not run of the mill trophies: they were hogs. The conductor must have pointed his baton at Jake Guerin and Mark Garibaldi. Both landed multiple trophy pike that day and both had a pike that stretched their guide’s tape to 48 inches, a fish most anglers only dream about, even those hard core types who come to Canada every summer and fish every available minute of their trip. Jake kept his good fish karma going for the balance of his trip and landed, among dozens of fish, a 43” lake trout and a 17.5” grayling, giving him an impressive 108.5” total to lead the 100+Club derby (the elite group of Scott anglers who reach or exceed 100 inches when the lengths of their biggest pike, lake trout and grayling are combined). Here’s the kicker: neither Jake nor Mark are hard core regulars. It was their first fishing trip to Canada. Some of the 15 year plus veterans of Canadian fishing trips could only wonder (or weep) as they watched the photos of huge pike and grinning anglers parade by on the screen. The music was playing too for Craig Schrader who landed a 46.5” pike, for Kale Manuel who put a 44.5” pike in the boat, for Tom Granneman who got a 44” pike on that memorable day and it was especially loud and sweet for Tony Blake who landed a 42” fat lake trout followed by one of the biggest ever taken at Scott, a 46” laker with an incredible girth of 27.5”. When the photo of that fish hit the big screen at the nightly “fish du jour” photo gallery there was a gasp from the group and then a huge cheer. It was a show stopper.
That day was just one of many where the music hit all the right notes. Don Hunt, a long time Scott regular, enjoyed the rhythm when he landed his personal best pike, an impressive fish of 47.5”. Gale Hamilton heard it pulling a 46.5” pike to her guide’s cradle. There was a bunch of other big pike in those productive twenty days of groups three through six. Nick Manship, Jeff Quick, Mark Stoering, and Joe Novicki were all at one end of the line with a fat 46” pike at the other. Joe Novicki was really making powerful music during his ten day trip, landing a total of 23 trophy fish, mainly pike. There were so many “super sized” pike, our definition of a pike over 45”. In addition to all the pike bigger than 45, there were eight anglers with super sized pike at 45”: Jack Barko, Craig Schrader, Joe Novicki (yes again), Dave Paulus, Tim Worth, Harris Kaffie, Dick Hutson and young Nicholas Tallman. Another 17 pike between 44 and 45 inches were also put in the books, two in a single day by Mike Borden. A total of 33 pike of 44” or better were caught in that remarkable twenty day run.
Trout season usually starts in mid-July, but with the hot weather the big lakers went deep early where they can be located and more easily caught. For trout our super sized mark is 40”, the length when the girth of lake trout really expands. In just ten days of July there were 50 trophy trout including nine super sizers. In addition to the pair of monsters caught by Tony Blake, there are now huge trout in the memory banks of Jake Guerin (43), Bob Kendrick (42.5), James Meehan (42.5), Bridget Manuel (42.5), Jim Tallman (41), Fran Weil (41), Nicholas Tallman (40), Dave Paulus (40) and Stephen Bandt (40).
And these are just the fishing highlights. There was plenty of music in the air during the festive shore lunches, during the boat rides when the hull cut through the viscous water as soft as the comforters in the cabins, during the excitement of seeing a moose, bear, eagles or loons and during the memorable evening dinners. It was all part of the fishing symphony in this pristine wilderness where solitude and quiet are always options. These were the good old days.
Well even at the best party the music has to end. Apparently the hot weather was just too much and it blew the amp. We went from summer to late fall in a twelve hour period through the night of July 11th when a corporate group arrived with the same expectations as all the previous groups. The temperatures plummeted down to the high 40s at night and low 50s during the day: there was no music in the air, only a hissing rain. While the smaller fish stayed active, the big fish just dropped into deep water and took some time off. It was a nasty cold front way out of sync with the calendar. Gale force winds and big waves made fishing a challenge for the next 48 hours. It required some strong character to face the wind and leave the comfort of a warm cabin. And strong character (and characters) we had. Everyone went out and stayed out, sitting closer to the shore lunch fires than previous groups had. By the last day the weather and fishing improved; some nice trophies were landed and fun was still the theme of the experience. They got a good grace note at the end of their three day trip when the wind stopped and the sun peeked out now and then. Some great fish were taken on their last day: a couple dozen trophy pike, grayling, and lake trout including a 39.5” lake trout landed by Maury Wawryk and the two fish that won the fishing contest for the three day trip—a 45” pike caught by Keith McIntyre (just beating out Charlie Paulin’s 44.5” fish) and a heavy 41.5” lake trout caught by Kevin Phillips. It was a great ending for a weather challenged trip. And there is always next year. . .
Yesterday was one hell of a day at Scott Lake Lodge. We catch a lot of big fish here on the 60th parallel but July 7th was a memorable day. There were warm up big fish– a 39” and 40” lake trout landed by Adam and Jeff Quick. There were big pike too— a 44” landed by Tom Granneman; a 44.5 incher landed by Kale Manual who also got a 39.5” lake trout, and a fat 46.5” pike landed by Craig Schrader. There were the five trophy pike caught by Matt Caldwell.
And then there were the really big fish: a 48” pike (along with three other pike trophies) caught by Mark Garibaldi and a 48”pike with a 20” girth caught by Jake Guerin. Both incredible fish. But the real show stopper was the monster lake trout pulled in by Tony Blake. It pulled the tape to 46” and had an enormous girth of 27.5”—a girth way over half of the trout’s length. That’s a big fish. And he caught a 42” trout just before the real big one. A total of 29 trophy fish were pulled into cradles and released in a single day, the first day for 26 very pumped up anglers. For some lodges a day like this would make a pretty good season. For Scott Lake Lodge it was just another day at the office, a very nice office.