At the beginning of week 13, we were nearly two months into the 2018 season. It would be reasonable to assume that either or guides or the fish would be getting just a little tired of the whole process. Not so. Both are hitting their stride: the guides finding the fish and the fish responding to our customer’s offerings. It’s a second wind thing. Even with some other strong winds (the kind that makes waves) making boat travel and getting to all the “secret spots” at times challenging, this group just hammered the fish and brought in some huge pike, trout and grayling. Our trophy count for the week (we have five-day weeks here and never know the day of the week or the date—it’s Day 1 through Day 5 for 90 consecutive days, a wonderfully simple life) was again in the triple digits. Our guides just count the big fish—126 this week to be exact—not the many other worthy fish, some just a half inch short of our trophy criteria (a 40” pike, a 35” lake trout or a 15” grayling). So, we don’t know for sure how many fish our guests land in a typical week. But some of our guests bring counters—the little clicker devices. We don’t encourage it because it can take the mystery and romance out of the experience, but some customers just like to know. We had one group of “counters” this week and they came up with some pretty impressive numbers. They had a single day with 161 fish and averaged per person 45 pike a day. If everyone had that average, it would work out to over 5,000 fish for just week 13, a big number.
With that many fish there would have to be some big fish in the batch. And there were—lots of big fish. This week the lake trout were the headliners. It’s been a very cool summer and the lakers were late getting down in their deep haunts in 70-100 feet of water where the guides, with the aid of cool electronics, can spot them as little arcs on a screen. Those arcs often turn into huge trout in the net. There were eleven trout over 38”: Jerry Brown with a 38; Duck Hutson, Dick Emens and Winfield Scott with 39s; Dave O’Donnell with a 40.5; Winfield Scott and Bill Hallinan with 41.5s; Winfield Scott (yes again) with a 42.5 along with Chris Matlock and Dick Hutson who caught 42s; and the top trout of the week, a monstrous 43.5” fatty landed by Paul Tarvin. Those trout alone represent somewhere around 500 pounds of fighting spirit. Lake trout stand with only a few other freshwater fish like the peacock bass, golden dorado and the tiger fish as fish with incredible speed and stamina. Lake trout fight all the way up from their deep holes and keep a stout bend in the rod right until they are in the net.
While those huge trout drew the most “oohs” and “aahhs” at the nightly fish du jour picture show, there were some fat, fall pike as well. Two anglers (Dick Emens and Bill Notehelfer) landed 45” pike; Matthew Moody went a half inch better at 45.5; Elliot Brown got an impressive 47 and Jackie Scott, after a very dramatic battle with her fish diving under the boat around the motor, finally got a 47.5” beauty in the net. Long time regular Dick Huston had the last word on pike fishing though with a personal best (after many years of fishing Canada), a spectacular 48.5” northern pike.
The very high water this summer has discouraged some anglers who love catching the small but acrobatic arctic grayling. Finally, the rivers where we catch these “sailfish of the north” have dropped, making fishing for grayling more productive. Quite a few of our big grayling showed up for a dance on our ultra-light spinning rods or our 4-weight fly rods. Grayling of 18” (a big one in these parts) were caught by Dick Emens, Priscilla O’Donnell, Trux Emerson, Harry Murphy and Joel Tune; 18.5 was the number for Dave O’Donnell and Bill Calabresa, and a 19” by Dick Emens topped the grayling chart for the week. The grayling factory at the outflow of Smalltree lake was the hotspot of the week.
With those big grayling, it’s no surprise that it was a good week for guests joining (earning is a better word) the 100+Club by getting trophies in all three species whose collective measurement hits or beats 100”. It’s a reel accomplishment (yes, that’s a pun not a misspelling). We had a lodge record for a single week—seven anglers made the grade: Dave O’Donnell, Winfield Scott, Jackie Scott, Joel Tune, Bill Calabresa (son Vince just missed but got the Trophy Triple hat), Dick Emens and Paul Tarvin. Dick and Paul landed right near the top of the high total for the season with 104 and 104.5”, third and second respectively behind Amy Tower’s 105”. Will that 105” number hold for the final six groups? Stay tuned. Did those seven 100+Club inductees have a better time than the other 19 anglers on board for the week? Probably not. They all caught dozens or maybe even a hundred or more fish. They all enjoyed the same northern lights shows, the professional and experienced guiding, the same superb dining, and the same peace and serenity of being on water clean enough to drink straight out the lakes. The big fish—just details.