At 6:30 PM on August 24th the last guests of the 2011 season boarded GQD, the lodge’s classic Beaver, and headed south to Stony Rapids to connect with their charter flight back to Saskatoon and “civilization”, though nearly all would have preferred to stay at Scott, a truly civilized place. It was a fitting day to call it a season: the island birches were sporting their first yellow leaves and there was sharpness to the north wind. It was time. The last day was much like the first on June 10th, 75 days earlier. Lots of fish were caught; sensational shore lunches were enjoyed; animated conversations echoed around the island and lots of stories were shared. A day like any other at Scott. For the Scott Lake Lodge staff this day is different– always bittersweet, a mingling of pride in the accomplishments and joys of the season and the regret that it’s over. How could 76 days slide by so quickly? How could it be over?
BY THE NUMBERS
But it was and as in poker it was time for the counting–counting up the trophy numbers and counting the memories of a great season with great fishing, lots of sunshine and most importantly happy customers. One satisfied guest on that final day was Joe Daugherty who landed a 20” grayling, his biggest ever, and watched a herd of twenty-four musk ox from the window of the Beaver. It was the biggest grayling of the season and the most musk ox ever seen on a fly out. His was just one of the 48 “supersized” grayling (a grayling over 18”) of the season. A lot of oversized fish were landed and released this season. Especially lake trout. This was the Year of the Trout at Scott. The last supersized trout of the season was taken by Montanan Jim Klos who watched his guide pull the cradle around a fat 42” laker. As many Scott Lake veterans know, the first look at boat side of a lake trout over 40” is one of freshwater angling’s great thrills. That thrill was experienced 85 other time during the 2011 season. It was a record year for giant trout. It was a good year for big pike as well. Hundreds were caught over the 40” and 27 hit or exceeded the 45” mark, a true fish of a lifetime.
But numbers, even big numbers like 1300 total trophy fish, do not capture the story of the 2011 season. It was an experience to be felt not reduced to statistics. It involved a lot more than catching fish, even big fish. It was all about catching powerful experiences. Guest conversations at dinner covered more than fish talk: there were references to the incredible clarity of the water, the presence of loons, eagles and osprey, the shore lunches that went way beyond fried fish, the exquisite privacy that’s part of being at the only lodge on a huge lake, the attentiveness of all the Scott staff and the overall purity of entire experience. What amazed many guests were the absence of things—no beer cans on the shore or on the lake bottom, no litter of any kind, no cell towers, no thumping generator noise, no noise of any kind. When the outboard is shut off the only sounds are the lapping of the waves, the calling of the loons or the screeching of the drag, all wonderful sounds.
Many guests appreciate that nothing earth shattering has happened up here since the glaciers left 7,000 years ago. The Scott lake setting is always the same—perfect. It’s easy to be absorbed into a pristine ecosystem, where taking a drink of water right out of the lake is as safe and natural as taking a breath of pure, unpolluted air. The place just gets into people’s skin and psyche. Knowing that moose, wolves and wolverines roam the forest under those sharp spruce tree tops puts one in the northern frame of mind. And being in the north, not the commercialized version promoted by tourist towns all over the upper Midwest and New England, is one of the passions shared by almost all of the Scott Lake Lodge guests. Scott is true north to the core with daylight almost as endless as the wilderness that stretches all the way to the Arctic Ocean, offering a profound solitude, a rare thing in the world today. The Scott Lake Lodge staff of 30 team members all falls into the category of true northerners. They come to Scott not because they need a job but because they need the north and they share that feeling with Scott guests. There are at Scott ample opportunities to catch that spirit from this experienced crew, especially the guide team with a collective Scott history of nearly 150 years on these waters. There are few lodges where the entire staff (guides, pilots and all the shore based staff) sits down in the same dining room and enjoys the same rack of lamb, prime rib or any of the other delights from Chef Shaun Ledoux’s kitchen.
A REEL SOCIAL NETWORK
In 2011 it was all about the people. It was Dave Wilson and his gang sitting around a “supersized” bonfire, playing guitar and mandolin with Hospitality Manager Allison Whelan and Sous Chef Kyle Rose, getting the crowd of a dozen or more other guests to sing or at least hum along. It was ten year old Foster Graf getting a spontaneous cheer after the announcement that he got his Trophy Triple Hat, a cheer for the size of his spirit and love of fishing not for the size of his fish. It was 87 year old Harley Weiss who fished hard for ten days, catching more fish and bigger fish than most of the other guests, inspiring everyone with his unabashed love for the entire experience at Scott. Hell, Harley even cradled his own 44” pike one day. It was Al Riss making his 19th consecutive trip to Scott, leaving New Jersey every summer for a taste of the north. It was about the people more than the fish. People really letting go of their urban anxieties: relaxing on the big deck with the commanding view of the lake; sweating out the worries of modern life in the sauna; soaking in the cedar hot tub or getting a down to the bone massage in the spa, something over half of Scott’s guests experienced in 2011. It is the people that made 2011 a special year at Scott.
YES, WE DID FISH
But of course people do fish here. And they catch fish. There were some incredible days logged in 2011. Too many to document here but there were some special ones like father/son team Michael and Jake Jaffe landing eleven trophy pike in a single day. (Getting a single pike over 40” is a trill, just imagine eleven). Or nine. Mike Shannahan and Peter Leonvicz did that in a day landing three pike of 44”and one of 45” plus five more. Mike Rogers and Joe Beckman also had a nine trophy pike day. Scott and Kent Holtmeyer teamed up for seven big pike in a single day. Dennis Helter single handedly hit double digits with five pike and five grayling trophies on his best day fishing ever. And two of his pike were 45s! The list of multiple trophy days is a long one. We can’t forget Russell Lafave’s six trophy pike day, Bill Calabresa’s five, Judy and Connie Schmidt’s eight trophy day (six pike and two trout)or Randy Lail and Ward Brooks’ seven trophy pike day. It wasn’t just the pike that came in bunches. Abe Martinez and Jeff Quick had a monster lake trout day of seven trophy lakers with one girthy 43 incher. Teddy Barkwell got into the big trout game big time with six trophies in a day; young Foster Graf had a five trophy day with trout and Lou and Syl Kozewski landed six huge trout with half of them over 40”. One memorable trout moment was the father/son team of Roy and Scott Katskee landing back to back 41” and 42” lakers within sight of the lodge. While this is just the tip of the iceberg, the 90% plus of the days below these big fish bonanzas were just as satisfying.
FISH STORIES—NEVER TOO MANY
And then we had the just plain fun fish stories. Like the one about the guy who had not fished since he was a Cub Scout. He goes out on his first day at Scott and lands a huge 47” pike, the biggest of our season, as his first fish since childhood. The ex-Cub Scout was Dave Pulchinsky and we suspect he is now hooked on fishing for the rest of his life. Or Bill Calabresa’s pike story. Bill was having a really good day. He landed a lot of fish in the morning including a 41” pike on his fly rod. Just before lunch he hooks a big fish but it breaks off (it happens) and the big ones always seem to get away. After lunch guide Jan Phoenix takes him back to the same area. Bill hooks “another” big fish. In the cradle comes a 45.5” pike with a fly and a nine foot leader hanging out of his mouth. That’s good karma and an aggressive fish. Both flies were returned to Bill and the pike returned to the lake to consider his eating habits. Another angler had a heart breaker that turned golden. It was Bob Goldenberg who lost a nice pike right at the boat, around 42” according to his guide Curtis Woloshyn , only to land a 46 and a half inch beauty a few minutes later. Another happy ending? How about Clare Ward who just took up fly fishing this season. And he got pretty good at it. But one pike got the best of him. It took off and just kept going: the fly line separated from the backing. Guide Cory Craig watched the fly line zip away but chased it down and handed it off to Clare while he was trying to quickly retie the line to the backing. But the fish had other ideas. It took off again and the chase was on again. Cory got to the line a second time and this time managed to get a quick knot and turn the game over to Clare again. Clare did his job well and a 42” pike ended up in the boat—the hard way.
Not all the fish stories have a storybook ending. Take the epic fish versus guide story of Steve Linder (AKA Biff Piston). Biff has guided pike anglers for 15years, 12 of them at Scott. He knows a big pike when he sees one. With guest Jim Tarala, he saw a big one with very distinctive light coloring at a place now known as Biffs’ Rock. Jim saw the take and hit the fish with a hell of a hook set, a set so strong that the split ring connecting the spinner with the treble hook broke. That happens maybe once a century. Biff was speechless which is a quite rare thing for him. Biff knew it was a world class fish, in the 50 inch category so Biff went back in about a week with Kent and Bryan Holtmeyer. The same big fish (remember it had very distinctive light coloring and was really big) came up again and ate Bryan’s spinner (the fish had the routine down by now). And again it got off with a huge head shake. The fish was gone but not forgotten. With his last anglers of the season Biff went back to his rock and, yes, Peter Leonovitz Jr., an experienced angler, hooked the same fish. Peter freaked at the sight of this monster and pulled his spinner right out of its mouth. Biff crumpled to the floor. The Final Score: Fish 3/Guide 0. Biff went back three times with his dad, Mel, after season and kept trying but no monster pike appeared. Stay tuned next year. Biff will be back at his rock. We hope the fish will be too.
OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS
The 2011 season was memorable for feathers as well as fins. We had some special residents on the island. One was a family of long eared owls that set up shop right in Guideland, about 15 feet from a staff cabin. Five picture perfect owls hatched out of the nest and entertained staff and guests for most of the summer. The baby owls stayed right in the nest for about two weeks while mom watched over them and gave the evil eye to all the owl watchers. But overall the adults were quite tolerant. Why they picked a small spruce tree at the busiest spot within fifty miles is a mystery. There are, after all, 500 islands on Scott Lake alone. But they picked our island and a place right at the highest traffic area of the island. It was wonderful watching them grow up over two months. The young ones had a call that sounded very much like an alarm clock, an electronic one. (Not all of the island’s human residents appreciated these birds.) And we had a second but more secretive bird group. A family of merlins, a small raptor, lived on the island as well. They had four chicks which started flying about the same time as the five owls. In mid-August there were evenings when all nine of these young birds were winging around testing their flying skills. It was a show.To our knowledge all the birds survived the summer and headed somewhere by the last week of August. We wish them good luck.
So many stories, so many memories of a great season. Thanks to all the 2011 guests and staff for making the season so wonderfully magical. We’ll just have to do it again in 2012.