All but one of our changeovers was textbook. From the time our charter flight from Saskatoon landed at Stony Rapids to the time the last guest stepped on our dock was always just a few minutes either side of an hour (yes, we do measure those things).
Everything just clicked this year: our entire guide team was able to stay for the entire season; there were very few motor issues with our outboards, other than the two at fly out lakes that were literally eaten by bears; fly out departures were almost always within a minute or two of planned times; our power system never failed, despite some problems with our inverters; the weather was warmer and sunnier than average (only a few days of the dreaded east wind) and most importantly our guests all appeared to leave happy as our evaluations have testified.
In short, it was a season of low drama, except for the fishing.
And there was plenty of drama with our fishing. It was again the season of monster fish. We thought 2016 was a season that we could never replicate. Starting with Joe Novicki’s 51” pike in June last year and going right through the season, the 2016 season was magic. We even dedicated a special four-page spread to capture the 34 pike that stretched the tape to 47 inches or better. We thought that would be a one-year deal. Not quite. Joe Novicki did it again this season with another 51” pike, from a different lake—not the same fish. And the giants just kept coming. By the time we closed shop on August 29th there were 39 more pike over 47 inches, a new record. Those big fish were spread over a huge swath of the far north—nine different lakes including a dozen from Scott Lake itself. Going back just a few years our pike over 47” rarely totaled more than a dozen from all lake combined. Total trophies also set a record with 1,965. Over the previous seven seasons that average was 1,371. That’s 594 more times that someone said “that’s a gorgeous fish”. Pike trophies also hit a record with 1,487, almost double the 882 that we averaged over the previous seven years. Lake trout and grayling trophies came in at very respectable numbers of 213 and 263 respectively.
“So many big fish. In the 21-year history of the lodge we’ve never seen anything like it.”
The Board-Up: Post Season Activities
While the last guests left our island on August 29th, the season didn’t end there. Not by a long shot. Fall in the far north is a compelling season, with the sunny, blue sky days mixed with far more cloudy, wind blustery days, but they are all wonderful. For starters, it’s a totally bug-free period of the season (our bugs happen in late June and early July); the skies are usually filled with the sights and sounds of migrating geese and loons and the reefs are full of trout. Throw in the birch trees with their lovely yellow splendor and the ground cover in rich russet and you have quite a picture.
It was the picture that the two dozen parents, children, boyfriends, girlfriends and just plain friends who came up to join our staff for our annual Friends and Family Week enjoyed. They did it all- plenty of fishing (and plenty of trophy fish and trophy experiences), a couple of nights of spectacular northern lights, and most importantly a lot of relaxed conversations around the dinner tables and fireside.
The atmosphere was casual except for the first evening when the kitchen staff wanted to show off a bit with table cloths and a fancy, guest-quality dinner. It was an opportunity for them to find out just what the Scott Lake Experience is all about and to find out if their friends or relatives had been exaggerating about it. No one had. The reviews were top notch. No one was counting the drinks but let’s just say that there were not too many folks eager for early morning fishing. This was a relaxed party, a perfect way for our staff to end their season.
When they left it was down to the Scott Lake Lodge worker bees who tackled the shut down process which is many days with many people and the main lodge renovation. That group lead by Scott guide Paul Hamilton, teamed up with his dad Ted, hit the ground running. Before they wrapped up the fall work on September 17th, they had the addition fully closed in and had put new shingles on the entire roof. There turned out to be a lot of talent hidden (not so well hidden it turns out) on the Scott Lake guide team. Who knew that Mike Demyen had been a roofer and that Cory Craig had framed houses in Calgary years before? We know now. Those projects never had a chance.
There were other just plain good workers diving into the construction tasks—Riley Epp, our Beaver pilot who can hammer as well as fly and Mason Merz, our office manager, who was all over the island helping to get things done. Guide Graham Coulombe took the lead in making the rounds of our 20 fly out lakes to service the outboard, repair lots of bear damage to boats and turn over the 16-foot fly out boats. That was a full three days of work with Otter pilot, Travis Peckham, working along-side Graham. Gerry Yanish, our own Silver Fox, directed the lodge shut down which involves boarding up every door and window on every building—all 28– on the island, draining the water system, beaching and winterizing the 15 guide boats based on the island and doing so many other things that this screen couldn’t quite hold it.
A different crew lead by Hospitality Manager Danielle Grunberg started staining log exteriors, cleaning all the guest cabins, doing mountains of laundry and putting it away for the winter. Claire Markle, Brenna Savery and Jackie Tourand all worked on those tasks. The big job cleaning and putting away everything related to the kitchen went to Eli Mahoney and Rachael Basler who stayed on after the Friends and Family week to cook for the construction crew.