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Gauging Success on the Fishing Trip of a Lifetime

There are countless reasons why we fish, so gauging success in fishing will depend on what’s important to you. Some people have a strong passion for repeatedly casting a line for a fish they can’t see, in the depths of a lake they have never been on, without a guarantee of landing one. Others, however, don’t see the point in any of that.

Both sides of this equation have played out for me and my son. I could fish every day, all day. Yet, as a young teen, my son didn’t understand how anyone could spend that much time sitting in a boat, constantly casting a lure at a fish you can’t see and attempting to reel it in.

Byrd’s eye view.
Byrd’s eye view.

I feel very blessed that my dad and I spent many hours and even days on the water fishing together. I remember as a child mimicking his fishing style, whether it was jigging, casting, or trolling. It was enjoyable learning and growing as an angler with Dad by my side. During many of our conversations, Dad and I talked about experiencing a fly-in fishing trip together. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen before he passed away. The dream we shared was important to both of us, and I knew I had to make it come true.

Although I wouldn’t be able to share my first fly-in trip with my dad, I asked my 13-year-old son, Tristan, to be a part of this journey. I knew it would be a hard sell; he loves the outdoors and would never pass up an opportunity to go hunting or range shooting, but fishing is not a priority. I give my son credit for realizing how important this trip was to me, and although it took a few nudges to convince him to go, he finally said yes.

The pilot leaves us with a boat, a cabin and a map.

A Quiet Drive

After packing our fishing gear and loading the truck, we left home and began our nine-hour drive to Northern Saskatchewan. For the first part of the trip, Tristan was quiet. I am sure he was still trying to analyze why anyone would drive so far to catch a fish.

With my son.

After driving most of the day, we stopped to spend the night at a lakeshore hotel. That evening we walked down to the dock and watched the float planes land and take off as the blue-sky softness blended into the quiet of the lake. By the expressions on my son’s face, I genuinely believe this was a turning point for him.

He wanted to know about the plane, how big the lake was, where we would be sleeping, and what kind of boat we would use for fishing. I answered each question with just enough information to keep his curiosity engaged, and I could see him trying to make sense of this journey and the dream he was about to be part of. Seeing the changes in him heightened my excitement. I knew we would be on a plane ourselves heading north into a forgotten and untouched wilderness lake the following day.

So, bright and early, we were back in the truck driving. With my adrenaline taking over, I couldn’t wait to cast a line and hear it hit crystal clear Canadian Shield water. Upon our arrival at Otter Lake Thompson’s Camps, we were greeted by a terrific and enthusiastic staff who wasted no time loading our gear into the floatplane and getting us into the air.

Much Excitement with the Flight

There is something so powerful about having a pilot drop you off on a lake you have never fished before, with only a map, a boat and a cabin. I looked over at my son and saw his excitement as he realized for the first time just how unique this experience was going to be. As the plane lifted from the water and we were left standing on the dock staring out across a lake that only a few people have fished on, it settled in that we were out there alone.

I felt my dad was with us.

We quickly carried our bags up the many steps and into our cabin. Tristan was the first to walk in and he noticed that someone had left a pair of slip-on camo rubber boots. They were the exact size and style my dad wore. We felt that Dad had a hand in this trip, one way or another.

We took the map off the table and headed down to the dock with our fishing tackle, ready to take on an unfamiliar body of water.

With the confidence Dad had instilled in me, and the many years of fishing knowledge passed down, I hoped we would successfully land a couple of healthy Northern pike. Of course, we took the boat to the other side of the lake. I mean, why wouldn’t you? We found a stand-alone weed flat along the way, and as the first line was released with our #2 Len Thompson Five of Diamonds, we had success. Cast after cast, the weed flat didn’t let us down. It was a hot, humid day with the temperature reaching over 30 degrees Celsius and the water was like glass. After several hours and many fish caught and released, I turned to Tristan, expecting him to want to go back to the cabin or express that he was done fishing.

Time to Regroup

To my surprise, the opposite happened. Not only did he want to keep fishing and provide his input on the next fishing spot, he also asked to drive our 18-foot aluminum boat, powered by a 25hp Evinrude motor. He had completed his boater license two weeks before our trip, and I was proud to see his enthusiasm and willingness to take the lead.

It was beautiful to watch the setting sun light up the sky with its vibrant colors at the end of the first day and seeing my son so excited by our haul. However, I couldn’t help but wonder where the big Northern pikes were? As we unpacked the boat and headed up to the cabin for supper, Tristan said, “Mom, how about you start dinner, and I’ll get the fire going.” As I watched him chop wood and the fire began to take shape, the disappointment of not finding the trophy Saskatchewan pike was replaced by the pride I felt being on this trip with my son.

While we sat by the fire eating our supper, watching the remainder of the sun disappear behind the trees to the sound of lonely calls of loons in the far distance, an extraordinary thing happened. My son turned to me and said, “I get why you love fishing and why we drove so far to come here.”

Look at his smile!

He’s Getting It

I lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, staring at the map, planning and focusing on all the details of a successful fishing trip the next day. The questions kept running through my head: Where on the lake could I find the best fishing spots? What lures should we use next? Where are the big Northern pike resting? And then, suddenly, my son’s words hit me like a freight train. The expectation of catching the next hefty Northern pike was just that: an expectation—mine, to be exact.

The new captain.

My son just wanted to enjoy his time on this scenic, isolated lake in areas that maybe no one had ever fished. He wasn’t expecting to catch the next 20-pound Northern pike. Instead, for the first time, he wanted to get up and go fishing. At that moment, I realized he had found his passion for being on the water. Exploring the new lake, taking a few risks, trusting his mom and trusting himself. He was enjoying trying new fishing techniques and locations, and, most importantly, he was having fun. I adjusted my lens and realized this was about experiencing this fishing trip through my son’s eyes. I quickly recognized just how much he was growing in such a short period of time.

The following day I was on the boat by 6 a.m. I left Tristan a note saying I would be back at 10 a.m. to take him fishing. With the dew lifting off the still water, I cast my lure through the air and listened for the echo of its splash.

Getting to Captain the Boat

It was a solid fishing morning, however, I couldn’t wait to get back to the dock. The time has come to pick up my fishing partner to start our day’s adventure together. He was waiting for me with gear in hand, lunches packed, and asked, “Where are we going today, Mom?” I replied, “Wherever you take us. It’s your day.” I moved to the front of the boat and gave him the captain’s seat. I will never forget that gorgeous smile he flashed me.

A little walleye action.

The day was fun and exciting, and we had no expectations other than enjoying the journey together. As we brought fish after fish to the boat, I expected Tristan to be waiting for me to remove hooks. However, this time he had the pliers right beside him and ready. He was netting, driving, offering advice, and appreciating every minute of the day.

catchWe ventured out for 10 hours, fishing a good portion of the east side of the lake from weed flats to rock islands. We had another successful day on the lake casting, jigging and trolling for Northern pike, walleye and saugers. When I lifted my head, the sun was beginning its descent into the landscape. With the beauty of the lake beneath us, we decided to turn our boat around and head back.

A Trip I’ll Never Forget

That night, sitting around the warmth of a fire that matched the glow I felt inside. I didn’t want the day to end. The sky was a palette of magical oranges, reds and blues, and with the water entirely still. It was as if the sky and the water had become one.
I learned and grew far more than my son had on this trip. He was teaching me without knowing it and reminding me of when I fell in love with fishing. Our Trip of a Lifetime was a huge success. It had nothing to do with catching the next big Northern pike. Memories last forever.

Back to the cabin we go.

Check out more stories from Lisa Roper.

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