Our Man In Canada
December 6th, 2004

The Monster of the Black Lagoon,
or What to do When the Brookies are not Biting
By Jorge J. Santiago-Avilés

I thought it looks kind of funny, but my wife was not laughing. She was standing in the boat with her favorite trout rod, a 7.5 ft, 5 wt Sage, and bent all the way to the handle. It really looked like she was stuck to the bottom, and in some way she was, not really to the bottom, but to a huge pike lying there, totally unconcerned of the titanic efforts on the surface. But listen; to be honest, it was no fun. Marta was hooked to this fellow for the best part of half an hour, when we (Marta, our son Sebastián and me) decided that it was time for a Draconian solution, and cut the line.

The monster (not really from a lagoon) but from a nice lake in Quebec (which wasn't black at all, but of a nice shade of green and fairly transparent) was seen only once, when it took the streamer. Its size (I would say it exceed 20 pounds) was estimated by the huge amount of water it moved when trying to get rid of the streamer.

It was the end of June, and the good size brookies (our favorite quarry in cold water fishing) were deep. The ones reacting to our dry fly offerings were not much larger than the ones in Pennsylvania, but still, a lot of fun to catch. After trying for brookies for a few days, we decided to fly out to one of several walleye/pike lakes the lodge owners had available to their guests.

The author and his fishing buddy (my son Sebastián) checking out the Beaver.

We came to Caesars Lodge persuaded that we will find the brookies Quebec is so famous for, good in size, as well as in quantities. The trip from Philadelphia was most pleasurable, with a nice stop in Ottawa while heading north (Sebastián loved the waterfront and a trip in the Ottawa River, Marta was taken by the nice open-air markets, and I liked everything, as I always enjoy traveling to Canada). Returning home, we stopped in Montreal, and we all loved it!

After a couple of hours driving on an unpaved road (where we stopped close to a bridge and were regaled with the view of several moose crossing a river), we reached a lake where the airplane will pick-us-up for the trip to the lodge. For Sebastián, I have no doubt that flying in the pontoon planes was the best part of the trip. Of course, the pilots treated him like a prince, as he had the privilege of sitting in the co-pilot seat, handling the steering control for a few minutes. Looking at him you could immediately see that he was in cloud seven!

As we landed at the lodge, we received a most welcoming reception and description of their facilities and rules (for example, not to release any trout that as a result of being hooked or played, was bleeding, as the brookies are very delicate and the mortality is high). As soon as we had our boat and cabin assigned, we changed, prepared our rods and left to check-out the home lake. The structure by the lakeshore was very suggestive of good fishing, you know, the right combination of sunken trees, rocks, and deep water close to the shore, all the good stuff that we look for.

Not more than 100 yards away from the last cabin in the lodge, and perhaps Marta's fourth or fifth cast, she hooked a good size fish with a woolly worm. As she always de-barbs the hooks, I was trying to persuade her not to play the trout much. Well, we landed it. It was a nineteen-inch fish, perhaps a pound and a half. This really lifted our spirits and raised our expectations.

The Beaver pilot and co-pilot, Sebastián really liked the flying part!

It was a beautiful first day that ended with a great "French" style dinner and a beautiful sunset. The complete family was enthusiastic and looking forward to a great rest of the week. We were up early next day ready for action, when we noticed it was very cloudy and a light rain was falling. This was the beginning of a so-so weather for the rest of the week, as we never had a full day of sun during our stay. Keeping our son dry and in high spirits became the biggest challenge, but don't get me wrong, Sebastián is a great sport. He rarely complains, enjoys the outdoors and also understands that the weather can be very moody at times. Although there were times when he was wet and victim of black flies, Sebastián continued fishing with his spinning rod and did very well. For Marta, things were not good. She did not get any more strikes from brookies in the home lake for a day and half, so it was time to change to plan B.

Within hiking distance (half an hour to one hour hikes) the lodge has four or five lakes, all with boats with outboard motors. We decided to ask Nancy, the charming and knowledgeable young lady in charge, for advice. She told us of a nearby lake with a 'great deal of trout,' although perhaps a bit smaller in sizes. Great deal of trout, that was the phrase we were waiting for, and immediately went to reserve the next day in Pep Lake.

After the usual hearty breakfast (they can do the most amazing sweet crępes) we motored to the trailhead and started to walk, as soon as the hike began, so did the rain, strong at time, it left us drenched, even wearing raingear. But not all was bad, once we reached the end of the trail, pushed the aluminum boat to the waters edge and started the outboard; the rest of the wet day was bliss. The brookies were mostly in schools all of about the same size, from 10 to 11 inches and full of energy. The first one fell to one of Sebastián's jigs, and from that moment on, we must have hooked and landed over fifty. All good fighters and quite a few jumped. They seemed to prefer shallow bays with vegetation, pretty much like bluegills. We cast a size 14 Adams and three or four simultaneously attacked the fly. In some cases they will jump and landed on top of the fly. It was a wonderful spectacle in the most beautiful setting; we loved it!

Sebastián and his first brookie, note the spin-casting outfit he prefers.

After the hike and boat ride back to the lodge we decided to try another of the hike-in lakes. It was a bummer day, we all got skunked! Except for a few chubs (no trout during the day) in the evening hours, I landed a good size brookie in the home lake. That was when we decided to try plan C, fly-outs to pike/walleye lakes.

The lodge has three planes, and as far as I remember two were Cessna 185. The third one was a DeHavilland Beaver, one of the airplanes considered the workhorses of the bush. We arranged for a two days fly-out to one of the outposts (interestingly, you pay for the distance from the home lodge and not for the days spent on the outpost). We left the lodge in the Cessna and returned in the Beaver (no doubt Sebastián's favorite plane). He loved the flying experience, and liked the radial engine, the loud sound and sheer bulk of the Beaver.

Marta and one of the northerns, note her favorite five-weight trout rod. The same she used to battle the monster.

The lake was very pretty; it was sort of three lakes connected by narrow channels. We had access to two of them, and they were full of fish. Using streamers, we landed pike up to 10 pounds, and Marta landed walleyes on small streamers and sinking lines. Just outside the cabin, casting from the pier, we landed five or six pike.

For Sebastián, the outpost cabin was just wonderful; we had to carry the water and firewood. At the end of the day, we decided to take a shower. We did it by heating water, getting all naked and dumping the warm water on us, just outside of the cabin door, looking at the stars and telling stories of bears chasing naked people.

The next morning, I cast Sebastián's favorite lure from the front pier, an impressive blue fellow I was sure will scare any pike, well, I got an immense strike and got cut-off. Loosing his lucky lure was an event Sebastián did not take lightly; I had to promise that I would replace it with several lures of his selection upon reaching Philadelphia.

The cabin by the Black lagoon. It was such a pretty place, and so much fun for the whole family.

We spent one more day fishing the home lake (a few chubs and a good trout from the landing pier in front of the lodge main building) before taking the plane back to the lake where the car was parked. It was a pleasant and adventuresome week. The lodge was well run and well equipped, the food was excellent, and the fishing better than fair. Not having excellent fishing was the unfortunate result of being late in the season and having an extended cold and rain front upon us most of the week. Fishing in Canada has always been a pleasant experience for our family and we are looking forward to return for some more brookies, smallies and pike (with the usual muskellunge and walleye thrown in) to the friendly and beautiful neighbor to the north. ~ Jorge J. Santiago-Avilés

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