Summer arrived at Scott Lake Lodge, on the border of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, about a month late. It was worth the wait. Since our last report (July 25th), our guests have seen blue skies and felt the power of the intense sub-arctic sunshine almost every day. Our anglers have enjoyed mainly warm southerly or westerly winds and found little use for their rain gear. Only an occasional isolated shower passed through this part of the world, insuring that the past three weeks were a time for sandals, T-shirt and shorts. In our lodge shop, sales of sun block far outpaced sales of stocking caps (known here in Canada, of course, as toques). We had some very windy days but it was never cold. Not even cool. It was wonderful.
Good Weather, Good Fishing
We focus a lot on weather in these reports for one simple reason: good weather and good fishing are two sides of the same coin. When the air temperature is warm, the water temperature is warm and the pike fishing is good. It’s that simple. Any week of our season could be the best or the worst depending almost entirely on temperatures and sunshine. So, if we could predict the weather, we could predict the fishing. But here on the 60th parallel predicting the weather, even for the short term, is a fool’s game. We just fish in whatever weather gets thrown at us. Over the past twenty days the good stuff was thrown at us and the fish responded. The fishing was actually more than good during this pleasant stretch of warm weather. Pike treat sunshine like candy-they just eat it up. They were also eating up spinners, plastics, flies and spoons. With sunshine pike get active and go hunting. It doesn’t seem to make a difference if they are holed up in bays, hanging off of drop-offs or seeking prey in the tangles of aquatic vegetation-those precious lily pads, coon-tail plants, eel grass or in the gold standard of aquatic vegetation-pond weed, also know in fishing circles as “cabbage”. Wherever they are, pike respond to sun and warmth. Like any cold blooded critters, they get active when they are warm. We have seen a lot of active pike over the past twenty days. Of the 352 trophy fish landed in this period, 244 were pike (trophy size is 40″ or better).
And some of those trophies were monsters. As in every other season over the past two decades, the big pike start “going on their feed” in August. When the calendar page flips from July to August, we are into fall fishing patterns. The total numbers of fish caught are often lower, but the big gals (all the really big pike are female) start feeding heavily, knowing or just feeling that the long winter months of near dormancy lie ahead. These are the pike of fall that hit much harder and fight much harder than the fish of June or July. These are the pike with substantial girths, often too big for the guide to get his hand around. These can be bruisers and we have seen some of late. Three pike of 47 inches or better have been landed by lucky and skilled (it takes both elements) anglers: Bob Rennebohn and Bill Buckholz got 47 and a half inch beauties and Ronnie Williams landed a 47 inch pike with a massive head, making that fish look even meaner and more prehistoric than the typical monster pike. There were four anglers who got pike of 46 or 46 and a half inches: Dave O’Donnell, Stan Carter, Rob Borden and Dave Forman. Six more got pike of 45 or 45 and a half inches: Chris Ellerbroek, Casey Myers (he got two 45.5″ pike), Bob Forner, Bill Forner, Bob Chadwell and Frank Arey. That’s a lot of big pike. Our season’s total of trophy pike is now 983, getting very close to the all time record of 1,184 set just last season. But records are meant to be broken. Let’s see if our anglers will topple that mark over the final 15 days of the 2015 season.
Our Big Fat Lake Trout
We have been catching more than pike. Our 352 trophies over this period represented a nice mix of pike, lake trout and arctic grayling. Big lakers made the cover of the Tundra Times (our modest on island daily newspaper) quite a few times. There have been some real hogs. Mike Scheidt, a die-hard trout fisherman and long time Scott regular, put a particularly fat lake trout in his guide’s cradle. It measured in at 41.5 inches by the tape but by Mike’s smile it was a mile long. A trout of 41 inches was taken by Steve Bandt, aka “Big Dog” who has been at Scott for 17 consecutive seasons; he always seems to get a big trout or two. Foster Graf who at only 14 has caught quite a big trout already in his fishing career also landed a 41 incher, a fatty with a measured girth of just under 25 inches, a very impressive fish. Foster’s dad, Mark Graf, kept things even in the family by landing his own 41 incher on the same day. Other super-sized trout (the lodge’s name for trout of 40″ or better) were taken by Chip Webster, Larry Carter, Bob Forner and Don Beasley, who got his big one in the last hour of the last afternoon of his trip. There was a lot of trout action in what we term “jigging holes”, deep water trout habitat that hold lots of trout but rarely big trout. Small to medium size trout (28-32″) were just fine for a lot of anglers who love action. The vertical jigging technique used provides the same jolting strike as casting and does require concentration and close attention. Trolling for the big trout does require a firm grip on the rod and a strong hook set but it does free up one hand for a can of beer.
Acrobatic Arctic Grayling
While the arctic grayling can’t compete with pike and lake trout in size, they hold their own with attitude. No 50# test Power Pro or stiff rods with grayling. Just ultralight spinning gear or 4 weight fly rods. Size the gear to the fish and every species can be challenging and exciting. Grayling definitely meet that test. They are strong and delicate at the same time. Wonderfully acrobatic, they are a delight on light tackle. We have a number of guests who love the grayling experience: flying to a remote river that connects the many Scott Lake Lodge fly out lakes; getting into waders and stepping right into the river; carefully placing either dry flies, nymphs or tiny spinners into the pools and runs; and lightly lifting the rod to set the hook when one of the sailfish of the north takes the bait-it’s a ritual, a very satisfying one. Grayling fishing always gets better as the season progresses. It’s been excellent. Like pike, grayling love sunshine. It brings out the aquatic insects that comprise the bulk of a grayling’s daily diet. Fishing dry flies is the purest form of grayling, requiring a bit more skill and finesse. Lots of grayling were taken on dries over the past few weeks. Several guests have super-sized their grayling with fish of 18 inches or better. Jim Borden, Dave Lenz, Dave Forman, Casey Myers, Chris McKenzie, Andrew Hansen, Michael Smith Sr. and Jeff Monsein all landed grayling at this upper edge of grayling size in this part of Canada. Getting a grayling trophy (minimum of 15″) puts anglers in the running for a Trophy Triple Hat, earned by getting a trophy sized grayling, lake trout and northern pike. A number of angers pulled the hat trick lately: John Durant, Jeff Siebert, Dave O’Donnell, Priscilla O’Donnell, John Borden, Jim Borden, Casey Myers, Tom Fridel, Andrew Hansen, Oscar Rytting, Jackie Scott, John Pachuta, Bob Patterson and Charlotte Jannach. One angler, Casey Meyers, broke the 100″ barrier, getting three trophies collectively measuring 100 inches or more, and earned the 100+Club membership. He will get a fancy logoed jacket this Christmas with the images of the fish and their respective sizes embroidered on the front. Hitting that 100″ mark is not easy but it is challenging and fun.
Better and Better
Everything seems to be better with beautiful weather. In this sunny period, people really enjoyed the traditional Canadian shore lunches which up here are anything but traditional. The guides love showing off their outdoor cooking skills by preparing tasty and memorable lakeside meals of baked, blackened, stir-fried or just good ole deep fried fresh fish. They turn out some amazing meals, making this mid-day break a high point of the trip for many guests. As a bonus over the past few weeks, guests have enjoyed some incredible northern lights. The “show” on August 12th was nothing short of breathtaking. It was also the night of the Perseid meteor showers. We had shooting stars falling through a fast moving northern lights display. The entire sky was alive that night and every guest at Scott Lake Lodge watched with awe and deep appreciation. As we like to say, Scott Lake Lodge offers “World Class Fishing and More”. We certainly had the More over the past three weeks. In addition to the great fishing guests had some exciting wildlife sightings: several bears, some moose, a couple of wolves and even a close encounter with a musk ox on Smalltree Lake, the first sighting there of a musk ox which typically are found much further north. Many guests took advantage of the canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards and had some quiet evening paddles. Camp fires were a big thing as well. When it gets dark (something that doesn’t happen here in June or July), what is more soul satisfying than staring into a late night fire? It’s a primal feeling. We’ve had many late night campfires over past three weeks. Our chain saws have had a workout keeping up with the demand. So the More in “World Class Fishing and More” really blossomed in the first half of August. With 15 more days ahead who knows what more things our guests will enjoy. It just keeps getting better.