After staying so long near my home, it was hard to believe I was on a plane to northern Saskatchewan.
It was all quite surreal. A few minutes earlier, I had reconnected with several old friends in the outdoor industry. It was all part of an outdoor media tour sponsored by Tourism Saskatchewan and hosted by Ena Lake Lodge. I wasn’t going to go initially, but my second needle allowed me to be fully vaccinated before I left.
Lake Ena is located in the upper half of the province, near the border with the Territories, just north of the mighty Lake Athabasca. Gord Ellis of Thunder Bay, TJ Schwanky of Cochrane, TV host Outdoor Quest, and Outside Canada editor and writer Ken Bailey of Edmonton.
I hadn’t seen TJ or Gord in over 20 years and knew it would be a special trip. This may be the last chance for all of us to share outdoor adventures again.
Ed Houck, General Manager of Ena Lake Lodge met us at the dock as the seaplane stopped. The staff quickly dropped our bags into our respective cabins as we had a quick lunch in the main lodge.
Soon we would be out on the water with one of the four experienced guides there. I was fortunate to have Paige Chandler, who resides in Gladstone, Manitoba, when she is not guiding in the North. She grew up fishing with her family and after high school decided to make a career out of it. In winter, she fishes commercially in Lake Manitoba.
Every day we exchanged guides and partners which made the time even more enjoyable and the time spent with everyone. On day 3, TJ and I decided to do a portage in Bulmer Lake with guide Calem Watson. I had packed my fly rod and couldn’t wait to throw some big streamers for the trophy pike. Bulmer has monster pike to accompany large lake trout. After an hour of pitching with nothing to show, Calem figured we’d better hang around to cover the water. During our first visit to a main point of the lake, bingo. I hooked up a 41 inch pike which cooperated for a few photos. TJ was also filming for his show aired on the Sportsman Channel in Canada. It is called Outdoor Quest and is just entering its 22nd season on the air.
Calem restarted the boat and we set off again on the same trolling route with the same result. I caught another big pike in the exact same spot. I had the fish even with the boat and Calem and I had a good look at this monster. He was much bigger than the last fish, wide on his back, and much longer. I fought the fish from top to bottom, taking no chances of losing this one. There was one big problem, however. He had just squeezed the big spoon and as soon as he had had enough of this game, he opened his big mouth and exhaled the lure directly towards me. Confused by what had happened, he slowly sank into the depths. It certainly made a great story around the shore lunch.
On our last morning, Ken Bailey and I fished with Brendan Birch, one of the lodge’s seasoned guides. We had a beautiful, calm and flat morning. Although it is great for relaxing, the weather is not always the best for catching big lake trout. Lake Ena is famous.
I started by grabbing a decent laker on our first pass over a long sand bar, then the calm subsided for another hour. Brendan thought we had better get moving, and it paid off in spades. We dragged a large sandy bay through the water 40 to 50 feet deep using the T-60 Flatfish. Ken Bailey then set up a clinic, landing six lakers over 30 inches.
With about half an hour to go back to the lodge, Brendan put a Lucky Strike Half & Half spoon on the end of my line. Five minutes later, another trophy lacquerer was hooked up. It was a special trip that I will never forget. The food, accommodations and the company were exceptional.
Thanks again to Tourism Saskatchewan and Ed Houck for making this possible.