It is amazing after the concentration we get on the island at Scott Lake Lodge how far the guides spread out in the off season, after spending the summer chasing trophy northern pike and trophy lake trout at what we think is the best fly in fishing lodge in Canada, home is worldwide, travels as well. This off season we have guides living in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan (maybe the highest concentration is around White Fox), British Columbia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and South Africa. They travel, live, work, farm, guide, fish, hunt and spread the word about the special place they have returned each summer now for many years. Each brings his own twist to the boat, each makes life on the 12 acre island great in a unique way. Here is a sampling, in photos, of what the group was up to, and where they’ve been so far this fall.
It’s been hot, incredibly hot for May, on Scott Lake. In our twenty years of operations we have never had the lake open in May. But it just could be this year. The lake is just one windy day away from breaking up. What a contrast to last May when the temperatures were hovering just above freezing for most of the month. Our island in the north has been basking in temperatures in the high 60s, even 70s for a couple of weeks now. An intrepid crew including guides Paul Hamilton, Cody Mychalyshyn and Jan Phoenix flew in by helicopter on May 12th to start the process of getting camp ready for the 2015 season. Instead of wearing down coats as our early-in crew last year did this year the appropriate apparel has been flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts. You can follow their exploits, including an interesting version of a “northern bath” by checking out our Face book site (www.facebook.com/scottlakelodge). At least we have a season when we will have a leisurely and enjoyable opening. After the drama of 2014 we’ll take it and enjoy it.
The crew has a lot to do yet before we are fully ready for our June 10th opener. The gang is putting the finishing touches on a new quadplex staff dorm. We have been increasing our staff numbers over the past few years and now have a lot more elbow room in Guideland. Also on the agenda are the many routine but time consuming tasks we do every season: take down all the plywood boards on all the cabins; connect all the water lines and install the large submersible water pump; unload thousands of gallons of Jet fuel for the Otter, AvGas for the Beaver, unleaded gas for the boats and diesel fuel for the two generators. This year we are also setting up four new 18’guide boats for Scott and four new 16’ boats for the fly out lakes. Of course there are the fourteen fly out lakes to set up as well. We have nearly forty outboards motors to check out and service. And a few hundred spruce trees to cut down, haul to the island, run through the municipal-sized wood chipper and then spread over the quarter mile of island trails. And unload and store several tons of food and supplies. And inspect, clean and maintain the 28 buildings around the island. And the list goes on and on and on. This season all those “ands” will require about 2000 hours of what can only be called what it is—hard labor. But ask any of the Scott Lake crew: it is a labor of love. And the early birds love every minute of their work, especially with warm temperatures making everything just a bit more pleasant.
One guy not working very hard is our Sales Manager, Jon Wimpney. His work is essentially done. We have had very few cancellations this year (a tangible sign that the economy really is back to pre-2008 levels) and he has only a handful, a small handful, of open spots to fill. Call him at 306/209-7150 if you have the itch. If the dates work he can scratch it.
A GUIDE’S WINTER: FUN AND SUN AND HERNIA REPAIRS
The Scott Lake Guide Team was spread all over the map this winter, dispersing far and fast from the comforts of the island on Scott Lake. Heading south was, of course, the top compass point of travel. Most made the trip to Brazil for the Guide Retreat, enjoying the extraordinary peacock bass fishing experience. Many just kept traveling. Costa Rica has become the home away from home for a lot of guides. Scott’s Head Guide, Cory Craig, kicked off this trend about a dozen years ago when he started off season guiding in Crocodile Bay, off the Osa Peninsula. Since he founded Tropic Fins, his own charter fishing business, and started a winter residence there, Cory has had lots of Scott guides as company. Most have visited him in Costa, realizing that it was a wonderful antidote for the brutal winters of Saskatoon or Winnipeg. Jan Phoenix has traveled there every winter for a long time. This winter Mike Demyen, “Nuggets” for Scott regulars, joined the parade to Costa. Cody Mychalyshyn has been a Costa regular but this winter really spread his sails, ending up traveling all winter throughout Africa and Europe, finding lots of sun and plenty of adventure. Steve Lindner, AKA Biff Piston, found mucho sun and who knows what else during two trips to Cuba this winter. Grill Biff this summer about his time there.
Some of the guides stayed in the frigid north this winter. Jon, J5, Wimpney spent the off season (except for his Brazil trip where he got the biggest peacock, an 18 pounder) working the phone and keyboard to get the lodge full this summer. He’s close now but still working. Don’t bother him unless you want to book a trip. Shaun Ledoux spent the winter hitting the books in Price Albert working on a degree program in business management. Steve “School Zone” Yanish spent most of his fall and winter developing Alpine Valley Outfitters in an indeed spectacular valley in British Columbia. He completed camp construction, secured horses, scouted the vast territory and shot a dandy mule deer in the process. He will be ready for serious hunting next fall. Jason Terris, the infamous “T-Bag”, fought off a bitter cold in New Brunswick by spending most of the winter cutting wood and dreaming of warm days on Scott Lake. Curtis Woloshyn worked steady (odd for a Scott guide) during the off season, providing safety guidance for companies in the oil sands of Alberta. Curt will use his safety training this summer as a Safety Officer at Scott Lake Lodge, a new role on the island—you can’t have too much focus on safety. New General Manager Jason Hamilton operated an ice fishing guiding service and headed out almost daily to the vast Lake Winnipeg in 20 to 40 degree below weather. His battle with the elements was a draw but he definitely won the battle with big walleyes.
Chester, “The Poacher”, Porteous spent a lot of time catching double digit “eyes” on Lake Winnipeg but his big news of the off season was Cale Ashley Darrell Porteous, a son to add some androgen to his estrogen heavy family. Congrats to the Poach and wife Hayley. Paul Hamilton was a new father too, of sorts. He was busy chasing whitetails, catching walleyes and fathering his new dog, Cooper. Congrats to Paulie too. While not exactly a guide, Chef Jeff Walker has been guide to shore staff even since Shaun Ledoux upgraded to the official Scott Guide Team. Jeff has wintered in Toronto working full time at a top Asian restaurant and studying full time at Canada’s most prestigious culinary institution, the George Brown Chef School. As he says, “chefs love to work.” Get ready for some spectacular meals this summer at Scott.
And the hernia? Well it made an eye catching headline. Actually, Graham Coulombe lifted so many heavy fish last summer that he had to check in for a full service hernia repair job. He is fully recovered and ready to do it all over again.
SPRING WORK CREW
In mid-April former manager, John Gariepy, and new manager, Jason Hamilton, will take a work crew to the lodge to tackle some big jobs, mainly the installation of a new diesel generator. If you have some heavy equipment and maybe a fork lift getting a 1,200 pound piece of machinery into a small building is a piece of cake. It’s not quite as easy on a remote island where the only heavy equipment will be a snowmobile (a really old one), an ATV (which will not be much good in the snow) and six guys (who will be the next candidates for a hernia repair). They are hoping that they will not need the assistance of a very expensive helicopter to put the generator in its place. Of course there is the annual tree slaughter where the wood for the spruce chipped walkways is brought to the island. And lots of other fix up/clean up work. They will be busy.
SHOW OFF YOUR FISH! VIDEO CONTEST: DEADLINE EXTENDED
Now come on. We know that there are more video clips out there. We recently announced the first ever Show Off Your Fish video contest offering a grand prize of a fly out for two to any lake, but have received only a handful of submissions so far. With a total of three different prizes it really isn’t a contest. So dig into your hard drives and pull out some clips. Lots of Scott anglers have shot video over the years. This is your chance to show it off – any – footage shot at Scott is eligible. The new (and final) deadline is April 30. Get on it and fly for free this summer or on your next Scott trip.
It seems to happen every year—a corporate group has a change of plans and cancels their trip. Their lost deposit can be your gain. We have a dozen openings for our August 24-29 trip. This is the time of the season when the really big pike put on the feedbag. In 2013 anglers caught most of the 48”or bigger pike in mid to late August. Numbers are down at this time but size and attitude are way up. It is also the best grayling fishing of the season when the water levels in the rivers are low and the miniature sailfish feast on whatever bugs are available—it’s terrific for dry fly fishing. Actually this trip is in fall not summer (fall at Scott starts in mid-August) and there will be plenty of yellow aspen leaves and the gorgeous gold of the tamarack.
The real pay off though is the opportunity to see the color above—in the sky. August 25th is the new moon which will provide the darkest “night” of the entire season, offering great contrast for the northern lights. This week should be the best light show of the season. Like seeing wildlife, watching northern lights is a powerful but unpredictable experience. Clouds are the wild card, but this will be the best shot. To grab one of these spots for a $1,000 discount and $500 of “mad money” (good for use at the bar, fly outs, massage or the Fishin’ Hut) call Sales Manager, Jon Wimpney, at 306/209-7150 today. Not today. Call him now. He will take your call 24/7, right Jon? We are close to full now but there are a few spots sprinkled through the season. Make this a Scott Lake Lodge summer. All we need is five days of your time and some of your money. We do the rest to give you a lifetime of memories. Such a deal!
A Memorable Guide Retreat
The Guide Retreat is a long and noble tradition for Scott lake guides. Every year they go somewhere for fishing, bonding and even some company brainwashing. After covering the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Florida and various other destinations, this year’s spot on the map was in the vast Amazon watershed. It’s a long way from Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Whitehorse or White Fox to the headwaters of the Agua Boa River in the far northern reaches of the Amazon basin where the legendary peacock bass inhabits the Rio Negro and its many tributaries. But most of our guide team made the long trek to Manaus, Brazil, a frontier city on the banks of the Amazon. It’s a sprawling metropolis of nearly three million people. The crew did an urban tour of the city which included a stroll through the fascinating fish market where very day thousands of fish from Amazonia are brought for sale. Every strange fish imaginable is on display, available for purchase. It was everything you might expect in the equatorial heat and humidity. You like the smell of fish? Go to the Manaus fish market. The day also included a boat tour of the harbor area and to the “meeting of the waters”—the place where the two major rivers of the Amazon, the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro join to form the true Amazon River. Many people consider the longer Rio Solimoes arm upstream of Manaus the Amazon, but locals make a clear distinction and the two rivers could not be more distinct. The Rio Negro, the homewater of the peacock bass, runs cool and dark but it relatively sediment free. The Rio Solimoes, which has no peacock bass, is muddy and warm. The line where these two mighty rivers meet is visually distinct for many miles before they completely merge. It was a tourist thing to do but hell, we were all tourists. We even went to a riverside tourist trap where they have dozens of huge Pirarucu (the lung fish of the Amazon), some weighing a couple of hundred pounds, in an enclosed area. Using a hardwood pole, a heavy line and a fish tied (but no hook) to the line, we watched and felt these primitive fish fight for the bait. The game was to see how long one would hold the bait and how much water would be sprayed on the onlookers. It was a wonderfully chaotic scene: the guides loved it. Dinner at a traditional Brazilian steak house (the meat just kept coming and coming) ended a full day.
Then it was time to start the real trip. We flew in style in a private plane for two hours north to reach the Agua Boa Lodge airstrip, a short landing area carved right out of the jungle. It’s a cool way to start an adventure. The Agua Boa Lodge is an oasis of comfort in a remote and wild location, sort of like Scott Lake South, way south. It’s a fabulous lodge place with a fantastic fishery. The river was a bit high due to recent rains but that did not stop the Agua Boa guides with their Scott Lake guides as clients from finding lots of big peacock bass. Our guides fell right into the rhythm of this type of fishing. It is remarkably like fly fishing for our pike at Scott—same rods and essentially the same flies. Whistlers, big Deceivers, and all the other flies we use at Scott worked their magic on peacocks. After just a day and a half in the jungle Jon Wimpney and Jan Phoenix found their pot of Amazon gold—an 18 and 15 pounder respectively. Over the next five days dozens more double digit bass followed. Everyone got fish in the 12-14 pound range. Even owner Tom Klein (the only non-guide on the trip) added to the big fish parade with a 16 and 17 pounder caught within an hour of each other. But he gives all the credit to his fishing partner and good luck charm that day, Jon Wimpney, who passed along his peacock touch to everyone who happened to be in his boat. Must have been the rum. Graham Coulombe nailed a 16 pounder and Paul Hamilton, Curtis Woloshyn, Mike Demyen and Cory Craig all landed 14s. Cory, the Scott head guide, had to be patient though. He went quite a few days without a double digit bass and was starting to feel like some Scott customers who see everyone else getting their trophy pins for big pike or trout. When he did cash in though, the big fish were on his line several times a day. It’s all about patience, just like up at Scott, but he now better understands Scott customer’s “need” to get those big fish. Even though this was just a fun fishing trip, the pressure to get a big one or two was there. Everyone got their imaginary peacock trophy pins.
The Scott guides learned a lot from this trip. Graham noted how critical guide to customer communication was for fishing success and customer satisfaction, reinforcing his desire to communicate clearly and effectively to his customers when there is a big fish around. Even with a language barrier (Portuguese is the local language), the Agua Boa guides did a great job in helping all the Scott guides get their fly in front of big fish. Paul Hamilton approached this trip with no expectation regarding the size of the fish but with the confidence born of years of fishing. Paul appreciated every fish he caught, even the smaller ‘butterfly peacocks”. That’s of course the right attitude about fishing (and maybe life). One thing they all commented upon was how much work it was to throw a sinking line or sinktip line on an 8 or 9 weight fly rod all day long. Mike Demyen feels that he can now better relate to the Scott customers who choose to cast a fly rod ten straight hours. He had done a lot of small stream fly fishing but waving the big sticks was work. All of the guides also noted that own skill level with fly casting and fly presentation improved over the seven day trip. That will have payoffs for Scott’s fly fisherman. Fishing was the core of the trip but keeping with long running Scott Lake guide tradition these guys partied as hard as they fished. The beer and rum inventory of the northern Amazon basin was seriously dented. And they really crushed the peacock bass, both with numbers and size. After a slow start (luck is always part of the fishing equation) Curtis put on a virtual clinic over his final two days at the lodge, catching 20 peacocks over 10 pounds, including a gorgeous 14 pounder on his last cast of the trip.
And this was not just a peacock trip. Most of the guys landed some Arawana (a cool looking snake-shaped fish). Jan Phoenix just loved sight casting to Arawana, a surface loving, insect eating fish. They readily take shallow running flies and put on quite a show when hooked. He caught a bunch. Many caught the vampire fish of the Amazon, the Payara, with two vicious looking fangs. Some caught piranhas and even a couple of catfish ate flies. Mike Demyen landed a hard fighting and very tasty Piarara (the red-tailed catfish) of over 30 pounds the old fashioned way– “soaking “a piece of meat on the bottom. Cory Craig started every morning throwing a 5 weight fly rod off the dock landing many two to four pound Pacu on dry flies. Unfortunately no one landed the “lung fish of the Amazon”, the legendary Pirarucu. We had to be content with the captive critters at the Manaus tourist trap. Many were sighted and some had flies thrown their direction but there were no takers. There was almost a take once when a Pirarucu was spotted by the guide within 20 feet of the boat. Tom Klein put the cast where it should have gone but out of nowhere a tiny butterfly peacock grabbed the fly before the monster could react. Sounds just like many Scott Lake sight fishing opportunities when the 20 inch pike darts in to grab the fly before the 45 incher can move. There was one dramatic taker though that doesn’t quite qualify as a fish. A huge black caiman (maybe a 14 footer) moved in quickly on Curt Woloshyn’s big peacock and devoured it in a huge spray less than two feet from the boat. Curt fought the huge reptile for six minutes before the line went slack, peacock and caiman gone. Mike Demyen was quick with his video camera and captured the attack. (It will hit YouTube down the road). That kind of activity puts a little edge to fishing as do the electric eels and the piranhas. Swimming was not part of the program.
As the group gathered in the lodge swimming pool every day after fishing the phrase “best guide trip ever” was heard more than once. From the gluttonous dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse (The Buffalo) in Manaus to the video and photo sharing on the morning of departure this was a trip to remember. There was substantial team building, individual bonding, and even some serious meetings in the mix to complement seven days of great fishing. We offer our thanks to all the 2013 customers whose trips last summer make this adventure possible. Our guides will never forget you or the trip to the Agua Boa.
THE BOYS IN THE NORTH
While the Scott guides felt right at home fishing for peacocks, they are at home on Scott Lake. Nearly all our guides are in their second decade of guiding on Scott Lake. Cory Craig is on his third decade starting his 21st season in June. All our guides know and love their home water. At Scott Lake Lodge we fully realize that a great guide is the difference between a good trip and a great trip. There is still some room for the 2014 season. Jon Wimpney can catch more than 18 pound peacocks. He can catch a world class fishing trip for you. If you want a great Canadian wilderness fishing trip this summer give Jon a call at 306/209-7150 or email him at email@example.com You will catch some lifetime memories.
It’s like a run on the bank in reverse. Interest in Scott Lake Lodge fishing trips has hit an all time high. Bookings for next year’s season (June 10-September 8, 2014) are running about 20% ahead of the pace of 2013, a year that sold out in late April. We are looking at a sell out again but at a much earlier date. It is of course a lot easier to sell out a season when 70% of your capacity is gone before your last customer leaves. That’s what happened this year when 340 of our 2014 trips were booked by our September 6th close date. Things are moving. So if you are “thinking” of a trip to Scott stop thinking and start calling. While a few of our 2014 weeks are full, we have openings scattered throughout the schedule. Give Jon Wimpney, our veteran guide/sales manager, a call today at 306/209-7150 or email Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jon can give you open dates or just talk to you about the subject he loves the most—fishing.
The Boys in Brazil
The Scott Lake Lodge Guide Team is counting down the days for the next Guide Retreat. This one will be a dandy—peacock bass fishing in the jungles of the northern Amazon basin. Peacock bass will be right in the wheelhouse for our guides. While not similar to pike in appearance or habitat, they act a lot like pike when something looking like food moves in front of them. The savage strikes and hard fights are legendary and well earned. It’s a spectacular game fish. We have visited many exotic locales over the years like Mexico, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, the Florida Everglades but the Agua Boa River in northern Brazil will be special. The trip starts in Manaus Brazil, a city of two million on the banks of the Amazon River. Even though Manaus is over 1000 miles from the ocean it is a major port—that’s how big the Amazon River is. The Agua Boa is actually a tributary to a tributary of the Rio Negro which joins the Amazon at Manaus. We will be near the headwaters of the entire system where the water is almost as clear as the water of Scott Lake. Sight fishing these brightly colored tackle busters will take fishing excitement to a new level. As with all of our previous guide trips, there will be a lot of opportunity for professional development and team building. There is no better way to improve guiding skills than watching what other guides do (or don’t do). And this will be a time for all our guides to refine their fly fishing techniques. The Agua Boa Lodge is a fly fishing only venue. Getting a 20 pounder (it’s possible) on a fly rod would be a lifetime thrill. The trip is December 14-21. Watch for a full report on our website right after Christmas.
Our Evaluations Are In
Every year we ask our customers to fill out an online evaluation survey. We had a robust response with 30% of our customers (many responding for two anglers) giving us their feedback which was generally laudatory. In our book though, any response less than an “excellent” rating is just not good enough. We did get a lot of “excellent” ratings but will be working in 2014 to push the “good” ratings into the excellent category. Some highlights of the process: 99% would recommend Scott Lake Lodge to a friend; 94% rated the guiding as excellent; 91% rated the overall Scott Lake experience as excellent; 89% rated the service at meals as excellent; 85% rated the housekeeping as excellent and 97% rated our travel planning assistance as excellent. Not bad but we will keep working to make Scott Lake Lodge the top rated lodge in Canada for customer service. Many very specific suggestions for improvements around the lodge were received and we will tackle each and every one of those. Thanks to all who participated in the survey.
On the second of April, the Scott Lake Lodge guide team met in Managua, Nicaragua en route to a remote tarpon camp on the San Juan River near the border with Costa Rica. The Guide Retreat is a grand tradition, spanning a over a dozen years and diverse geography: Ascension Bay in Mexico, the bone fishing meccas of the Bahamas, the backcountry of south Florida, the sailfish infested waters of Golfo Duce in Costa Rica as well as closer to home places like the Frasier River in British Columbia where sturgeon measured in feet not inches are found and caught. This year the group wanted two things–hot weather and tarpon. The trip to the San Juan was planned and a dozen of Scott’s finest showed up in Managua.
After a couple of days of sampling the urban delights of Managua and seriously depleting the beer supply of the capital city, the group, led by General Manager John Gariepy, headed south by van to San Carlos at the bottom of massive Lake Nicaragua, then by boat for two hours down the San Juan River to the Monte Cristo Lodge near the small village of Sabalos. Set high above the river the lodge was a naturalist’s delight with an eco-theme featuring daily 4:00 AM wake up calls by a troop of howler monkeys who were right on time every morning. There were regular sightings of three species of monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, otters and birds beyond descriptions. And the fishing? Well, you can’t have everything. Let’s just say the some of the guides were missing the predictable action of Scott Lake.
The trip started with a bang: fifteen minutes into Day 1 owner Tom Klein hooked and landed a twenty pound snook which provided ample fillets for the first of many great dinners. Many other snook and lots of smaller but meaner fish, like the machaca, followed in decent numbers. But the tarpon quest was tough. They are moody fish and remarkably difficult to both hook and land. Bottom line: three tarpon landed and a dozen jumped (a nice way of saying they got off). A potential tarpon shutout was avoided when on Day 4, to use Scott Lake Lodge lingo, Steve “School Zone” Yanish drove his hooks into a heavy tarpon. For an hour and a half he battled the fish before declaring victory. It was dicey several times but Steve brought it to a shoreline for beaching. He then jumped on the muddy looking shoreline only to sink up to his waist in the mud and fall backwards on his right shoulder. But he held on with his left arm high and with the help of the Nicaraguan guide, Jan Phoenix and Tom Klein he literally wrestled (look at the picture) the well over one hundred pound fish to submission. For Steve it was a moment of profound satisfaction. He had dreamed of catching a tarpon since he was fifteen. Nearly twenty years later he held his prize. For others it will have to be a dream delayed until a future trip, except for Jan Phoenix who was not interested in dreams, but he will be dreaming for years about his experience on the very last day of the trip.
No one in the group had fished harder than Jan. At 5:00 AM on Day 7 Jan was out on the water while everyone else was still in bed. His faith and determination were rewarded. That morning he hooked three tarpon and landed two–the picture tell the rest of the story. They were both 100 pound plus tarpon. One required an hour and twenty minutes to land. This was a storybook ending to an exciting and rewarding trip. While this was not the tarpon bonanza the guys had hoped for it was for all a memorable trip. Fishing after all is fishing and results rarely meet expectations. (Well maybe at some places… maybe Scott Lake.)
But we were fishing for more than something at the end of a line. We were looking to reinforce and enhance the remarkable teamwork that defines the Scott Lake Lodge guide team. On that score it was a remarkably successful trip. John Gariepy summed it up best: “The fishing was tough and it was rewarding to see this group of guys work together to create opportunities to make the best of it. While the tarpon were “off their feed”, other fish were available and our guides knew how to make the best of a tough situation.” Head Guide Cory Craig put the real benefit of the trip into a perfect metaphor: “Being on the ‘other side’ of the boat really helps all of us better understand our jobs. We see what we like and what we don’t like in a guided fishing day. That makes us more aware of what Scott customers expect.” This was a week well spent that will pay dividends for all of Scott Lake Lodge’s customers, this year and many years ahead. Memories of fish, big and small, jungle hikes and kayaking will fade but the bonds built here in the jungles of Nicaragua will endure.