September 2021 Check In

September 2021 Check In

Reflections on Fall

by Tom Klein, Managing Partner

The calendar is showing September but the weather here at Scott Lake, smack dab on the 60th parallel, is showing summer. Typically, at the flip of the calendar from August to September there are blustery skies, cool temperatures and the definite feel of fall, but today the skies are clear and blue, the lake is flat and the temperature is in the mid-70s. There are signs that change is in the air—like the thousands of geese that passed through about a week ago when a north wind gave them a free ride south. Or the birch trees that are starting their turn from green to yellow. And the mosses that are turning the ground into a rich russet carpet. But it still feels like summer! Not typical but we’ll take it.

Transforming the Island

The summer work team is loving it. After a full day spent in the lake with water right on the edge of your waders rebuilding a dock, the thought of some evening fishing in warm weather is very appealing. It’s been a long summer for this crew. While there has been some fishing and fun, mainly it’s been just a long slog of hard work. So for them this return of summer has been a gift. This is the second consecutive summer when instead of guiding guests to pike, trout and grayling, many of our guides have been guiding boards and planks onto just the right spot. Led by General Manager Jason Hamilton, the team (currently Steve Yanish, Mike Demyen, Graham Coulombe and Paul Hamilton) is finally close to wrapping up the dozen or so projects that have transformed this island. A few other Scott team members (Greg Hamm, Amelia Gunn, Dawson Sawchuk and Dani Grunberg) left a couple of weeks ago. Collectively they did one hell of a job. Their accomplishments are the one silver lining of the whole Covid Catastrophe for us. Our guests arriving next June will be blown away with the improvements.

It’s wonderful here with all of Scott Lake at my doorstep. I don’t have to check “the board” to see what part of Scott Lake is customer-free. It’s all wide open, as are the two dozen fly out lakes. It’s a boyhood dream realized. Very soon thousands of lake trout, resplendent in their vivid fall colors, will rise to the shallow reefs in their annual spawning ritual. It’s a capstone of the fishing season here. The fishing is great, but the company is even better. Our team here operates efficiently and smoothly: cooking together, rolling out free ranging conversations, playing cards some evenings and the enjoying the solid satisfaction of having created a real community, even if it’s for a few months.

While this is all great, something big is missing; there is a void on the island. It’s you! This place just isn’t the same without the enthusiasm, energy, and goodwill of the guests from all over North America who fill Laker Lodge every evening with their stories and laughter. For most, it’s tough to separate their love of angling from their love of sharing that experience with like-minded people, but they all shed the pressures and pace of their urban worlds and absorb the peace and serenity of this pristine wilderness. For most of our guests their days at Scott are precious, providing memories that fuel their daydreams for the rest of the year. It’s just that kind of place.

But there is something missing… it’s you!

In a few words, WE MISS YOU AND WISH YOU WERE HERE. Judging by the dozens of emails and phone calls I’ve received over the past three months, you have missed us too. We all need to put the past two lost seasons in the rearview mirror and look to 2022 with hope and optimism. We will again stand on the lodge deck engaged in pleasant conversation, watching the lingering sunsets, staring at the deep blue water stretching miles to the south. We will again enjoy the simple pleasures of a shore lunch, the thrill of a big pike engulfing your lure, the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the boat, the taste of an elegant dinner and the absolute joy of all being back together again. We will.

Beyond Fishing

by Jason Hamilton, General Manager

A huge shadow turning into a massive Northern Pike darting across a crystal-clear shallow bay to grab your lure boat side. Saying “I’m snagged” when a giant lake trout stops your line dead in its tracks. Watching an arctic grayling sip your caddis fly from the surface in a wild northern rapid. The haunting call of a loon in the lingering twilight. The nostalgic smell of a campfire as shore lunch is being expertly prepared by your guide. These are the sensory impressions of the fishing experience here at Scott Lake Lodge. They are incredible and leave a lasting impression on our visiting anglers. Chasing our three species of fish in the wilds of northern Canada with an experienced guide is quite memorable. Actually, based on how many of our guests choose to return each year, IT’S ADDICTING! We have 9 million acres of untouched wilderness bounding 2 million (yes that’s a real number) acres of exclusive water. This is an amazing private fishing playground, a breathtaking backdrop to live out your fishing dreams. But wait, there’s more…

Time spent at Scott Lake isn’t limited to fishing. Investing some time to experience the flora and fauna of the far north on a guided hike around our Tundra Trail is a great way to get a feel for this unique landscape. The trail follows an esker, a glacial formation, around a small lake with some amazing views of Scott Lake. About an hour circuit provides you the opportunity to see the northern boreal forest, evidence of our local animals and maybe even glimpse a moose, marten or wolf. Ask owner and in-house naturalist Tom Klein and he will make this just a genuinely cool experience. Plan it before or after your fishing day. With the seemingly endless daylight, an evening hike is a perfect cap to a Scott Lake day.

Another way to get the blood pumping is our fitness center. A variety of cardio machines, free weights and a Smith machine appoint the best stocked gym on the 60th parallel. Loosen up for a day of fishing, keep up on your healthy lifestyle or make room for tomorrow’s shore lunch. Our wood fired sauna is a guest favorite: throwing some water on the hot rocks will bring on a good sweat and leave you refreshed. Think you might be up to a polar plunge? Head out of the sauna and straight into the lake. Your guide can radio ahead we will have the sauna hot for your return to the island. The hot tub on the Laker Lodge deck is another great place to relax and soak in the scenery. A hot tub under the northern lights? This mid-August to early September tradition is not one to miss.

Being in a near constant tug of war with the fish on Scott and our 22 other flyouts lakes can take a toll. An easy way to keep in top fishing form is a visit to the Stone Haven Spa, where our resident massage therapist will loosen up those tense muscles from fighting too many fish. Deep tissue, hot stone and Swedish techniques are all employed to help you stay limber and relaxed for the next day’s adventure.

Many of our guests relish their time on the water. There is a lot of it to see! If the nine-hour fishing day isn’t enough, explore the coves and islands surrounding the lodge in our fleet of canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards after dinner. It’s a quiet way to enjoy the wonders of Scott Lake. The many islands and points offer great protection from wind and waves.

Sitting right on the 60th parallel, the Scott Lake landscape includes trees, but we are near the northern limits of the forest in this part of the world. After a short flight north you encounter the tundra, the “land of little sticks”, a unique ecosystem that is incredible to visit. Our popular Tundra Tour involves a sightseeing flight north for an aerial tour across this seemingly endless landscape. Caribou and muskox are frequently seen on these flights as they live on the lichens, moss and dwarf willow blanketing the arctic floor. A picnic lunch on an esker with views for miles is followed by some of the best walk and wade grayling fishing anywhere. Flowing from Rennie Lake, the Elk River (no there are no elk there, but an early explorer called caribou “elk”) offers incredible scenery and grayling fishing to match. This is a bucket list experience.

What else can you do besides fishing? Ask your guide, owner Tom Klein or General Manager Jason Hamilton. They are ready and waiting to make this a trip of a lifetime. Want to learn to prepare shore lunch? Hike to the top of that hill? Learn to mix craft cocktails with our bartender? We want your Scott Lake Lodge experience to be unforgettable in every way. Our goal is for you to hook fish and for this place to hook you, so that you make a trip to Scott Lake an annual affair.

Now Is The Time

If the above sounds interesting, you should get going. We have just completed “resettling” our 2021 guests. In an amazing demonstration of Scott Lake loyalty, 95% opted to roll their trip into 2022 rather than taking a refund.

But there is still room for you. To absorb the demand we have added a new week for 2022 at the end of the season and are ready to take new bookings. We currently have openings scattered throughout the season, but they will not last long. Make 2022 the year that you discover the Scott Lake Experience.

Give our Sales Manager and guide extraordinaire, Jon Wimpney, a call at 306/209-7150 or email him. Jon has spent two decades at Scott and will help you find just the right week for your fishing interests. No customer ever leaves our lodge disappointed. We make sure of that. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone!

2021 Season Update with Owner Tom Klein

With deep regret, knowing we tried our best to make a truncated season happen…we have to make the decision to cancel 2021 in its entirety. Travel issues, border doubt, short timelines and the lack of confirmed guests just made the risks too great to bear.

Owner Tom Klein, gives a brief update about 2021 and how we’ve switched gears to focus on 2022. We have the place almost entirely full. If we are interested in a spot for 2022 now is the time to act! Contact j5@scottlakelodge.com to get one of the few remaining spots.

 

The Final 2021 Season Update

The Final 2021 Season Update

“You can’t push the river” was a catchphrase of the late 60s, attributed to everyone from obscure Chinese philosophers to New Age guru Fritz Perls.  Whoever said it first fully understood the type of dilemma we faced here at Scott Lake Lodge after the surprising and dramatic announcement this week about the opening of the Canadian border.

For the last three days we have burned the phone lines (actually the Wi-Fi link) with hundreds of phone calls and emails to vendors and customers, but the current against us was just too strong. 

With gut wrenching disappointment we have concluded that there are just too many obstacles to pull off even a shortened season. One can imagine that quickly repopulating a small village on the 60th parallel brings with it a lot of expense and risk. Not enough of our current customers could make the commitment to make the trip. Commercial air travel and border issues were the tough issues for too many.

To justify the investment of bringing in staff, supplies, paying a premium to vendors to short notice responses we needed a full house for six groups. At only a third of our critical mass, we weren’t even close. And we just ran out of time to secure new guests and rather critical things like airplanes—fairly important at a fly in lodge. It was probably the most difficult decision in my 26 years of running the lodge. Jason Hamilton, our General Manager who put his heart and soul into getting the place ready, landed on the same decision. This was a tough call but the risks of not delivering a quality experience from your home to our dock were too much.

We can now devote all our focus on getting our island ready for the 2022 season. Our construction crew here can take a deep breath and finish with care and quality all the infrastructure work that is currently underway. We have five remodeled cabins and all thirteen have been enhanced. Hundreds of gallons of paint and stain have been put on the 28 buildings on this 12-acre island. And we have several other big surprises for our guests. We want to make sure that 2022 will be the season guests will all remember (not a patched-up season with very complicated travel arrangements and lingering Covid anxiety). Our customers’ support and trust got us through these two bizarre years. We will never take that trust for granted and we will never stop working to earn it. We will reward it.

We did have a few of our 2021 guests pass on 2022 trip and opt for refunds. So, we have some open spots for all interested anglers. We sell out every year. Don’t wait. Give our Sales Manager, Jon Wimpney, an email or better yet a phone call at 306/209-7150. With two decades of guiding here Jon can tell a fish story or two. Or if you’re lucky book you into a great angling adventure in one of the most pristine areas of the globe next summer.

The July 20 Update: Enigma Cracked

The July 20 Update: Enigma Cracked

The enigma has been cracked. Yesterday the Canadian government announced that the border will be open for non-essential visitors. And Scott Lake guests that means YOU.

But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. To open our doors involves a lot of time, effort, and expense. To make a sound business decision, we need to reconfirm our guest’s commitment to still do their trip. BASCIALLY IF YOU’RE READY, WE’RE READY. So, let’s find out quickly if we can work together to make the season happen.

First, here is the FINE PRINT (there’s always fine print) on the border opening:

  1. Visitors must register online with ArriveCan. This is a piece of cake, just providing basic arrival information. Even me, a digitally handicapped person, did this part last week as an “essential” visitor in less than two minutes.

2. Visitors must have proof of vaccination of vaccines approved by the Canadian government. These include two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna products or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson product. For all vaccines, the final dose must have been given at least 14 days prior to arrival at the border

3. Visitors must have proof of a negative Covid-19 molecular test, commonly known as a PCR test, that was taken within 72 hours of arrival at the border. This has been a common international travel requirement.

4. Visitors must fill out a quarantine plan via the ArriveCAN app in case of positive test in a random screening (see #5).

5. Visitors may be subjected to a random Covid-19 molecular test. What does random mean? Just that, there is a small chance you will be selected to do a PCR test upon arrival. In the highly unlikely event you test positive, you would be required to quarantine in Canada for 14 days. The odds of a false positive with the molecular test are exceedingly low.

Those are the governmental requirements for entering Canada. Scott Lake Lodge has just one: YOU NEED TO BE IN SASKATOON BY 2:30 PM ON THE DAY OF YOUR CHARTER FLIGHT TO THE LODGE from the private charter facility adjacent to the commercial airport. We need our charter flight to depart at 3:30 PM to allow some cushion for a safe and comfortable float plane flight from Stony Rapids (your charter destination) to the lodge. Unfortunately, the same-day arrivals from Toronto and Calgary arrive too late. You may have to arrive the night before, as most of our guests already do. Starting August 7th there are many more Canadian cities available to international travelers. The best options for your connecting flights to Saskatoon are through Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver.

The clock is running on our decision process about making this shortened season happen. GIVEN THE CONDITIONS DESCRIBED, WE NEED YOU TO CONFIRM YOUR INTENTIONS ABOUT KEEPING YOUR CURRENT RESERVATION. PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO OUR SALES MANAGER, JON WIMPNEY, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BUT NO LATER THAN THIS THURSDAY, JULY 22ND.

We realize this is a lot of ask on such short notice, but these aren’t normal business operating conditions. We have a lot of vendor coordination to arrange and literally tons of supplies to order to make the season happen. Most Canadian lodges threw in the towel weeks ago, but we are not most Canadian lodges: since we know how much you value the Scott Lake Experience, we wanted to keep your options open.

If you have any questions please call our Customer Representative, Shirley Albrent, at 888/830-9525 (from Canada use 715/362-7031). While he will be extraordinarily busy, Jon will do his best to also take calls at 306/209-7150. With your help, we can get you up here for a sensational trip. We will have the team and the facilities ready. I can guarantee that our island has never looked better, and we have never been more eager to welcome guests. It’s been a long wait. You will have to wait just a little longer. We will, as promised in the last update, announce our plans and provide more travel suggestions on July 26. Nothing will make us happier than seeing you on our dock.

The July 12, 2021 Covid Update

The July 12, 2021 Covid Update

“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” 

Winston Churchill, October 1939 

Churchill of course was talking about Russia’s unclear intentions at the dawn of World War II, but he could have been talking about Canada’s equally unclear border opening intentions in the second summer of Covid. We have been sorting tea leaves, analyzing ambiguities, and parsing every word from on high. It is a guessing game. From statements made by Trudeau in the past few days we know only that unvaccinated visitors will not be welcomed for “quite a while”. OK. But for all of us fully vaccinated potential visitors the only message is that there will be a message “in the coming weeks”. That’s just not soon enough for 52 of our Scott Lake Lodge guests. We have simply run out of days to provide them proper notice to arrange their travel and schedules. And to provide time for our 30-strong staff to arrive on the island and make all the preparations necessary to offer the world class service we have become known for.

Regretfully, we are now cancelling the two groups of Weeks 13 and 14, covering the dates from August 7 to August 17. We will be calling all those guests over the next few days to discuss their options. 

While it has become routine of late to just lay the blame on Canada’s Prime Minister, in truth he just being a politician, one who follows not leads. A recent public opinion poll of Canadians demonstrated that Canadians are quite accepting of the non-essential travel ban: only 15% wanted the border opened “now” while a majority (56%) did not want the border open until fall or 2022.

So, our last stand, the final hill, will be determined by July 26 when we will either announce an opening date of August 17 or we will cancel the remainder of the season. What makes this issue difficult to understand is the tremendous progress Canada has made with their vaccination effort. Since our last report, just two weeks ago, they have gone from 22% fully vaccinated to 44%. In another week or so they will exceed the fully vaccinated percentage of the US, even though they had a very late start. We were so close . . .

We will keep the now even smaller group of possible guests informed if any meaningful information develops before July 26.

July 2021 Covid Update

July 2021 Covid Update

It’s summer, right? Time for a roller coaster ride! If you have followed the Canadian Border Saga, you don’t need one. All our staff and guests have been on a dizzying ride for the past fifteen months. We are all exhausted, but the ride continues.

In our June update, we reported that the government had finally settled on the key metric for opening the border. Whee!  We’re at the top. Then we found out that the number would be 75% of the adult population fully vaccinated. Damn. We’re at the bottom since Canada was at only 4% fully vaccinated at that time: an open border seemed remote. Now a month later Canada is 22% fully vaccinated and adding between 1 and 2% a day to that total. With 76% of their over-12 population having had one dose of the two dose vaccines, getting to 75% fully vaccinated is getting more realistic. Back near the top of the ride? Close, but no cigar. While the progress north of the border has been remarkable, especially considering the very slow start, it’s not good enough for us to confidently project that we can open Scott Lake Lodge on the previously announced July 28th date.

SADLY, WE ARE NOW CANCELLING OUR WEEKS 11 AND 12, COVERING THE DATES OF JULY 28 THROUGH AUGUST 7. FOR THESE TWO GROUPS WE HAVE SIMPLY RUN OUT OF TIME TO MAKE NEEDED PREPARATIONS. ALL CUSTOMERS IN THOSE TWO GROUPS WILL BE GETTING A PHONE CALL THIS WEEK TO DISCUSS THEIR OPTIONS.

But there are still 40 days until the Week 13 group could arrive. At 1.5% fully vaccinated rate per day, Canada could reach their magic number in time for an early August lodge opening. Could. Everything else would have to run perfectly: a Covid passport or something similar, increased staffing at border crossings, etc. We know we can be ready, even though it will be quite an effort to ramp up on short notice. Many Saskatchewan lodges have already thrown in the towel for the 2021 season, but we will hang onto ours for a bit longer.

There have been encouraging signs. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been back peddling like Michael Jackson doing his famous Moonwalk over the past few days, saying easing of the border is “weeks not months away”. It looks like he’s trying to signal things could move quickly. Quickly enough? We don’t know, but we can hope and plan. It is very unfortunate that the Canadian government just can’t seem to reach clarity on this situation, but we have to deal with the information we have, as vague and incomplete as it is, and make the best decisions for our customers.

So Here's The Plan

We will do another update on July 12. If there is a “green light” which we define as an open border without the requirement of a new covid prc test at the border (which would delay travelers for an unknown period) or any quarantine requirements, we’re in business for August 7.

If there isn’t, we will cancel weeks 13 and 14 (August 7-17). Our final update would then be July 26 when we will either announce our opening day of August 17 (the start day for week 15) or cancel the remainder of the season.

Both of those timelines allow customers nearly a month to secure commercial plane tickets and arrange their lives. We do not recommend getting those commercial tickets yet if you don’t have them. The arrival times for flights from Calgary and Toronto to Saskatoon have been fluid. To keep safe float flying, we will need to keep our charter flight from Saskatoon to Stony Rapids at the 3:30 PM time. As most of our guests already do, you may need to arrive in Saskatoon the day before our charter flight.

This is the best we can do under the circumstances. If Trudeau waves his magic wand and opens with border with only a requirement of proof of vaccination (please note that we are reasonably assuming a hard copy or digital proof will be required—bring both if we get to that point), we will be on the phone 18 hours a day to contact everyone booked for August 7th forward. That’s a Hail Mary pass completion, but in this crazy era anything is possible. We’ll keep watching and waiting.