Fond fishing memories will last forever
Guest Post: by George (and Nina) Williams
We could easily run out of gushing adjectives trying to describe our trip to North Knife Lake Lodge a few summers ago – incredible fishing, fabulous food, exceptional customer service and accommodations, an awesome guide and wonderful company – all at once – in a pristine wilderness setting.
It was the most enjoyable, stress-free vacation we have ever taken. And to think we almost didn’t make the trip together. Up until the very last day Nina was balking.
“I am not a fisherman,” she said. “I never did claim to know what I was doing with a fishing rod. Why don’t you take one of your friends? Why do you want me to go?”
After 23 years of marriage, I thought a back-to-nature style vacation (and a chance to catch some trophy northern pike and arctic grayling) would do us some good – give us a chance to reconnect. We flew to Thompson from Winnipeg on Sunday, stayed at the Days Inn overnight and flew out the next morning in a well-appointed Beaver floatplane piloted by Lodge co-owner Nelson Morberg.
The flight was perfect. No turbulence, a great view of the wilderness below and a very smooth landing on North Knife Lake. We were immediately welcomed by Webber’s Lodges staff, who carried our gear up to the main lodge.
Once in the lodge, we were greeted by award-winning cookbook author Helen Webber, Chef Dave Schellenberg and more polite staff members. We were also treated to a feast of waffles, bacon, homemade bread and jam and numerous other accompaniments I can’t remember – except for the fact that it was all was delicious.
We were then shown our accommodations, a beautiful condo just up the hill from the main lodge that included a double-bed, a wood-burning fireplace, a loft with more beds and a large bathroom. With a hot shower!
Our day began with our guide Ryan Suffron already waiting for us with the boat, rods, tackle and everything else we needed. All we had to do was show up. We headed to our first fishing spot and on my fourth cast I caught a trophy northern pike – a 43-inch Master Angler that probably weighed in around 25 pounds! I’d already caught my fish of a lifetime and I’d only been on the lake 10 minutes!
Nina also caught a good-sized pike in her first few casts and then we got another surprise. While she was reeling her pike in, I hooked another one – but when I went to take it off the hook our guide said not to. “You guys don’t have to do anything,” said Ryan. “I’ll take care of everything. Just sit back and relax.”
Our guide really made the trip for Nina.
“If I’d been alone in the boat with my husband all week I don’t think we would have made it,” she told lodge co-owner Toni Morberg one evening. “The encouragement, instruction and conversation our guide provided was both invaluable and enjoyable.”
We caught numerous big fish that day and also were treated to the sight of a moose and her baby swimming across the lake to an island. During the trip we saw more than one eagle and her babies, loons, arctic terns and whiskey jacks. There were also wolves in the vicinity based on evidence shown to us by one of the guides. We didn’t see the wolves but we were certain they saw us! They were just too smart.
Back to the Lodge after our first day of fishing we had soothing hot showers in our condo, changed our clothes and headed down to the main lodge for 6 p.m. cocktail hour. Cocktail hour is a special time of day at North Knife Lake Lodge, when all the guests get together for specially-created drinks and appetizers and a chance to tell their big fish and adventure stories from the day.
Dinner time at the lodge was always a wonderful experience. The chefs prepared fresh breads, salads and delicious entrees every day, many of them from the Webber’s Lodges series of award-winning wild game cookbooks. There was also a different delectable dessert at every meal. All the dishes made from scratch using natural ingredients and the preparation was always superb.
After dinner we had a choice of spending time conversing in the main lodge with the other guests, watching a movie or playing a game of shuffleboard or pool in the upstairs section of the lodge, or enjoying some time in the wood-fired hot tub. Usually after an hour or so we would be ready for bed.
A day on the lake catching big fish while surrounded by “real” fresh air and nature tired us out!
On day two, three and four of our trip we continued to catch a number of good-size pike and visited numerous lake trout holes packed with lunkers. It was a real thrill to catch our first ever lake trout. They fight totally different from pike, preferring to dive deep and strong, and in one case, charge the boat!
We managed to land two more monster pike, one at 40 inches and another at 42 inches, with Nina probably losing the biggest fish when she hooked into a huge lake trout that charged towards the boat after numerous deep dives in attempt to unhook itself. The trout won that battle, but Nina won most, landing numerous big fish.
Our shore lunches were always a mouth-watering creation freshly prepared by our guide, like sweet and sour pike, fish tacos, beer-battered trout and pike and more – but it all tasted just a little bit better each day. We were really hoping to try fly fishing for arctic grayling on our trip and our wish came true on Day 5.
Neither of us had ever fly-fished, nor had we ever caught, or even seen a live arctic grayling. Our guide arranged a fly-out to a secret river location 100 miles southwest of Churchill.
A top fly fishing competitor, Suffron had given us all fly-fishing lessons the evening before (George was by far the worst student) and we were ready for action.
A quick and smooth 18-minute float plane flight landed us in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We donned hip waders and walked through the bush for five minutes before arriving at our selected spot – on a river no one had fished this year!
We didn’t know quite what to expect – casting tiny flies on 4-pound test line into a pool of ravenous wild fish. We quickly had our guide running back and forth through hip-deep water unhooking one grayling after another! Within a few hours we had caught over 30 arctic grayling including five Master Anglers – one that matched the largest caught in Manitoba the previous year, 20 ½ inches. Luckily our guide was up to the challenge. We certainly tired him out!
Between Nina and I we caught too many fish to count, including seven Master Angler northern pike and arctic grayling.
We met some wonderful and remarkable people and experienced some of the world’s best fishing in a pristine untouched wilderness.
We also created some very special memories that will last a lifetime. There just couldn’t have been a better way of celebrating our 23rd anniversary.
It truly was – the fishing trip of a lifetime!