In all of my history on the water I did not think 45” of gleaming gold, brown and red with a mouth that looked designed for eating inflatable zodiacs could come out of a lake. My brother Seaver and I grew up fishing stripers and blues along the New England coast on our father’s 32’ lobster boat, so I had seen big fish but this, this looked prehistoric like some sort of relic dinosaur.
Watching in eager anticipation as our guide pulled a fish out of the lake that I had been carefully playing for several minutes, my jaw dropped. She stood almost to my shoulder! A range of words flew through my mind, but the only word that came out of my mouth was WOW!
She had been good fun, and that is right, the big ones are the females. The smaller ones, the males we caught were often chewed up and scarred. Had me thinking that reproduction might be a risky venture. Our guide, Tyler Binns, confirmed that mating was a rough sport for these guys, and added that they also dine on their own kind. Evidently these Northern Pike grow 1.5” per year for the first four years as nature’s way of climbing up the food chain fast, until they find out which side of the reproductive lottery they land on.
Guides have their own favorite spots, weed patches, rock piles and confluences for each of the four fish types in the enormous Wollaston Lake region. In the afternoon we roared out into the lake in a well-equipped 17’ Lund with a stash of rods, reels and tackle that would make any self-respecting fish wish it had wings. There are 70+ of these boats, roughly 35 at the dock in front of the main lodge. Others stashed remotely around the lake could be accessed by the two float planes which dropped fishermen off early and picked them up in the afternoon from the far regions of the lake.
One day Tyler stopped carefully over a particular patch of water that looked completely homogeneous to everything else. With his high tech navigation gear he was able to pick out a very specific spot, a rock pile 90’ down where he had always found huge lake trout. We trolled around and each of us pulled in a 12 pound lake trout, my first. The mounted lake trout in the dining room was three times as big as these, but it still felt like a good deal to me. In Vermont rivers we call a three pound trout a pretty good day. My brother Seaver has been a fly fishing guide in Patagonia half of each year for the last two decades, so this was not nearly as big a surprise to him as it was to me.
On a normal day, my brother Seaver and I caught 30-40 fish. Not all of them monsters but every one good fun and then carefully returned to the water. The program was to return them quickly and with minimal damage. We only took the time to photograph the beasts, the ones that were worthy of the “brag board” at main lodge.
The exception was the one unlucky pike of 26-28” which Tyler would cook for “shore lunch”. He had favorite spots along the lake where each day he would unload a cooler full of drinks, veggies and a huge skillet, all the fixings for a fresh fish fry. Tyler collected wood, built a fire and prepared a feast as Seaver and I relaxed, enjoying the peace of feeling alone in the universe on this beautiful lake.
At the end of each day each guide loaded pictures of the noteworthy catches by their boat on a large digital screen which rotated the images in the lounge above the dining room. The “brag board” provided visual fodder for all sorts of enthusiastic commentary when guests gathered for cocktails before dinner each evening.
After the animated chatter of the cocktail viewing of the brag board, everyone drifts down to the dining room to be impressed with the offerings yet again. The dining room is a huge timber frame space with windows all the way around so no matter where you sit you are looking over the lake. Tables seat 8-10 people so you get to know other fishermen, exchange stories of home and other fishing adventures. Truthfully, the dining is enough reason to visit Wollaston Lake Lodge, but the stories tend to help you ignore the fact that you have cleaned your plate, and are looking forward to dessert!
Our first night, cranberry stuffed baked brie with fresh fruit compote and home baked toast points served individually as an appetizer. That was followed by truly the best steak I have cut into with a fork, finished by monstrous sweet strawberries sliced over perfect angel food cake all buried under a pile of fresh hand whipped cream. I was too tired to wonder where the ingredients for this feast came from given that the next town was 800 miles away. I simply enjoyed every morsel. Unfortunately for my waistline the menu was this good day after day.
Days at Wollaston Lake Lodge start early and end that way for the most part. Seaver and I walked to the dining hall and found “ballast” sized breakfast then headed to the dock by 8:45 each morning. We were back around 6:00 for a shower, cocktail and fish stories, dinner and bed by 9:30. Repeat. Some people went back to the lounge after dinner, but we liked to walk the path back to our lovely cabin in what would have been the light of 4PM at home.
We were in fact pretty close to the land of the midnight sun which meant that not only did it stay light in the evening but come full dark northern lights were a regular occurrence. Over dinner it emerged that each of our guides had suggested that we catch this amazing phenomenon later. The possibility of this being part of a betting pool among the staff, perhaps the person guessing the number of guests who actually got up in the wee hours and wandered down to the dock with pillows and blankets to see the sky light up and dance won the pool. Never confirmed but a good laugh. We never did stay up late enough to see full dark, or the 11:30 gathering on the dock to watch the nightly light in the sky.
After 9 hours of fishing, cocktails over fishing pictures followed by a fabulous dinner, our cabin was so welcoming that we never could make a re-entry into the night. Inside our high ceilinged log cabin were three bedrooms with heavy Hudson by type blankets, “cotty” sheets, a huge bathroom, a living room complete with 4 overstuffed chairs, a wet bar and fridge, a dining room table and the endless view of the river out front. Not your “Deliverance” cabins. Huge windows faced over the wide deck covered with sturdy wooden chairs and tables, and out to the lake. Seaver and I stood in front of those windows one night watching a tangerine full moon sinking beyond the pines, creating a wide golden sparkling path to our deck. The only sound was distant loons. The haunting beauty of that moment will live with me for a long time.
It is said that as you age, time spent fishing does not count. Wollaston Lake Lodge provides such time. I promise that your first monster Northern Pike will be a revelation. I found myself reconsidering any future lake swimming. Re-entry from this peaceful, elegant and soul nourishing experience is the rough ride as everything at the lake runs so smoothly and is so well attended to that returning to the airport in Winnipeg feels like pandemonium. Still, once you board your mind will wander back over the days and you will probably start planning your next visit.
Wollaston Lake Lodge is an Orvis endorsed fantasy camp for fishermen with a luxurious approach to “roughing it” by the side of the largest bifurcation lake in the world with 1035 square surface miles of extraordinary fishing led by experienced guides with fully equipped fishing boats perfectly designed for the environment. The lake itself is open only 10-12 weeks each year. Most of the year it can be seen as the Ice Road Truckers make crossings on the frozen lake.
Fly to Winnipeg to be met at the airport by a representative of Wollaston Lake Lodge. They arrange your room for the night with dinner on your own, but the hotel makes it easy. Gather in the lobby at 5:15AM for coffee and pick up by Wollaston Lake guide for transportation to the private air strip and the 800 mile flight north to the lake. Bus ride for a half hour to the Lodge and a welcome breakfast. Your luggage will meet you in your cabin and you will be well fed and fishing by 9AM.
Toll Free 800.328.0628
3910 Thatcher Avenue
Saskatoon, SK S7R 1A4