At 12:13 a.m. I had to take a leak, and after stumbling across the uneven floor of our cabin, I wobbled around to the edge of our bed, pulled on some extra clothes and stepped outside. I walked about ten feet from the cabin and looked toward the lodge. To my naked eyes, I saw only a little bit of brightness in the sky, but no color. But per the advice of a co-worker, I held up my cell phone and took these two photos. So another tip for everyone: if you see any bit of brightness in the northern sky at night, take your phone out and take a shot. Because our phones actually pick up more colors than what we can see with our naked eyes.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023. Mark and I awoke at 6 a.m. to the sound of little feetsies on the rooftop of our cabin. I stole outside slowly and carefully with my zoom lens and captured a spruce grouse, first in the darkness on top of the room, and then in the same tree the porcupine had taken a liking to. The grouse hung around our cabin cooing to another spruce grouse on the ground nearby…which was apparently not interested in a rooftop–or treetop–romance.
I was later told that the main difference between a spruce grouse and a ptarmigan is that the latter has feathers on its legs and feet.
Helping us launch in the morning were the son and daughter of one of the co-owners. The young boy is the one who’d told me about the porcumpine. Adorable for sure.
Now, fishing is an interesting sport, because it takes just one giant fish story for everyone else at a lodge to not only take notice and offer congratulations, but also want to go to the same waters a legendary fish came from. See, while Arthur was reeling in his giant pike, another young man at the lodge had caught a giant lake trout…from a part of the lake that was like an hour away by boat. Over choppy waters. And remember how we caught a whole bunch of small lake trout yesterday like ten minutes from the lodge? Yes, indeed, we left nearby fish that were biting, for a rare chance to connect with a giant fish because of one kid’s luck the day before. I’ll also note that where we were going was deep water, while where we were yesterday was not as deep.
After shrinking an inch due to incessant pounding on the waters to get to the exact area the kid had caught his giant lake trout, we dragged lures around a large bay with several other boats for the rest of the morning. Only one guy caught a large lake trout, someone using a white T-60 flatfish. Note that between this fact and that Aedan had nothing but T-60s in his tackle box–well, that’s a clue for anyone heading to Cree Lake Lodge. I, of course, had zero T-60 flatfish. Arthur and I caught one small fish, which we kept for lunch.
Right before lunch we went into a small bay and cast for a half hour until we caught a small pike to add to our lunch fare. The guides–Curtis and Art–took us to the most amazing beach for lunch. While they started prepping for lunch, I got a kick out of watching a guy who would turn 80 the next month (Jack), help a guy who’d just turned 76 (Mark) get out of the boat. It was great to see two best buds having a great time together.
The beach and the background turned out to the be the perfect setting for taking photos of our group…as well as a jawbone we found on the ground.
Two of my favorite photos–of Arthur and Mark immersing themselves.
Below, a panoramic photo Mark took. It was his first ever pano.
While I was blissfully taking photos, Curtis was chopping down trees for fire wood, Art was filleting fish, and they were working like clockwork together to fry up fish, potatoes and onions, and boil up corn and baked beans in their original cans over the flames.
Lunch was again fantastic. The company was good as well.
After lunch, the guides put the pot and fry pan, folding chairs, chain saw, and the coolers, all back into the two boats. I went off and took a leak and made a brief video of the squishy, bog-like ground I had to walk on.
Mark, meanwhile, was fending off a snake stick. He survived the encounter…and brought the snake stick home as a souvenir. The brief video of his struggle is here.
It was great to see him so relaxed and happy.
Back to fishing. It was such a beautiful afternoon, and to make it even better, my five of diamonds lure–which I’d purchased that morning at the lodge store–was attracting pike. Cree Lake Lodge has a giant one of these lures as decoration inside the lodge, which was my first hint that it might catch fish. Jack and Arthur catching several fish with this same lure was my second hint. Indeed, it brought in some nice pike.
Now here’s a lesson for all young anglers out there: if your reel falls off your rod, just take hold of both and keep on cranking the reel–you’re likely to get your fish to the boat. Arthur’s reel fell off his rod, and he cranked it one turn at a time to get his lake trout to the boat. See video here.
A related lesson, though: occasionally check your rod to make sure your reel is well secured.
I’ll also note that I’ve broken three rods on big fish, and in all three cases–with part of the pole on the water or in the boat–just kept on cranking and the fish was safely netted.
Here is Art holding one of our lakers. They were all about the same size. We had steady action, fishing in the same area Jack and I had fished late in the afternoon the day before. You know, that area close to the lodge where we’d caught fish before?
Above is one of the lures used.
Another tip for anglers who go to fishing lodges: you can sometimes go out before or after normal fishing hours if you clear it with the lodge, pay a little extra, and your guide is willing to take you. I heard another angler at the lodge do this, and after spending a full day–and only one day with Arthur, who lives in California–I asked if he’d be willing to go back out with me to go after pike in a bay called Five O’Clock Bay, which is about ten minutes from the lodge. He agreed heartily.
Art also agreed, so after dinner, Arthur and I jumped in with Art and started casting different lures. The five of diamonds caught a pike, but when I threw it several more times, it didn’t catch any more fish. So I took that off and tried something else. Just about every lure we had with us caught a pike–a single pike–the smallest of which was likely 38 inches. Then we had to swap out that because it stopped working. Then another lure would work.
This was Arthur’s largest of the evening.
Like most fishing trips, my largest fish came during the last hours of the last day. It was 7:32 when I got this 43-inch fish. Now, my personal best is a 53-inch pike I caught at Nueltin Lake (in Nunavut), the lodge for which no longer exists. I never expect to beat that pike. But we also never expected to catch so many large pike at Cree Lake Lodge.
The last fish caught was a 38-incher Arthur caught. I give him a fist bump for bringing in another nice pike, and for being such a great fishing partner all day long.
It was 9:20 when we headed back to the lodge.
Arthur stopped by cabin #6 so Mark could hear about our evening adventure. Then we all went to the lodge for a celebratory drink to wrap up a fantastic day.