In years past, I’ve been eagerly awaiting my annual fishing trip north to remote Flying Lakes in northern Saskatchewan. Thanks to the opening of the US-Canada border, I was once again able to make a trip north to hunt. Last week, I headed north to within walking distance of the Northwest Territories.
Lake Tazin is as far north as I have been fishing, and after spending five wonderful days fishing with the folks at Tazin Lake Lodge, I can advise keen fishermen to make plans for that trip of a lifetime where you will catch northern pike and trout. Even your arms hurt! But this advice comes with a catch – after that first flight; You will find a way back!
This was the fourth time I had fished in a remote lake in Saskatchewan where the only access to it is by a float plane. Every trip you take is unique. Some of them were pretty much doing it themselves as I furnished a boat, cabin, fuel, etc., and fished on my own; Others had guided tours.
Tazin Inn on beautiful Lake Tazin is a fully serviced operation, food, lodging, fishing tackle and guides furnished. The northern end of this deep lake (900 feet deep in places) is a stone’s throw from the Northwest Territories and in veritable wild country; There are no roads in or out. Floating planes are the standard means of travel.
Once your floatplane touches the crystal clear waters of the lake, you’re in a different world, a place with only three hours or so of darkness every night, a place where your days are filled with incessant ‘action’ fishing for trout and trout. Northern pike or sometimes hours of fishing for some of North America’s largest lake trout.
With so much daylight, it’s tempting to get too much of a good thing. There was a time when I could have fished all day and most of the night for days on end but that is no longer possible. Many of the hunters in the camp were sixty and over and we quickly learned to walk ourselves and fish for several hours in the morning and again later in the afternoon.
Many fishermen have been there to catch the biggest trout of their careers, the big lake trout in the 30 to 65 pound range. Hunting giant fish, such as hunting trophy class deer, requires determination and the sometimes willingness to put in hours to achieve the rewards. Lake Tazin is definitely a destination for trout and pike anglers.
I have to be honest here; I like to catch big fish sometimes, but I like the almost non-stop action on the medium sized pike and trout that the lake provides. I spend a lot of my time fishing with two of the inn owners, Trevor Montgomery and Barry Brall, and guide Kent Kollrich – one of the guides, like me, has a penchant for quick work on the pike of intense fighting and medium-trout, but Kent is also adept at putting fishermen on that bite. Big trout.
I spent my days hunting with and learning from very knowledgeable guides and my friend Jeff Rice who was filming two segments of our TV show, Athlete’s life for carbon tv. The Giant Trout Drill was slow trolling with huge baits, sometimes using more than a pound of weight to keep the bait at the bottom.
Most of my hunt was spent trolling or casting spoons like Mepps Syclops or Big Mepps spinners for the hard-fighting northern pike and trout. I’m a recognized pike addict and would focus strictly on these “rocket fish” were it not for the activity provided by the lake trout.
There is something very exciting about watching a large spear pierce through the gin clear water, destined to tempt one! Pike is the most aggressive freshwater fish I have caught, catching them in numbers like the ones I enjoyed here was as good as fishing for me.
Beach lunch is always a fun and highlight of fishing in the North. We enjoyed the traditional fried fish lunch with corn, beans and potatoes which was excellent. One day while fishing with guide Kent Kollrich we had a hearty meal of freshly caught trout baked over charcoal, vegetables and french fries with a delicious brownie with strawberries!
Watching Kent work his magic with hot coals and on the banks of a lake of flame in the shade of a fir grove was an education in outdoor cooking and planning. Kent has thought of every utensil, seasoning and ingredients necessary for a well-planned meal. I’ve done enough outdoor cooking with simple ingredients to know what the challenge is!
Mostly, we fished in bays and around the many islands, but after a delicious lunch with Kent, we took a long boat ride, heading to a pike hotspot down a fast-moving connected stream. As we headed to a remote bay, Kent spotted a dark spot on the far shore. Upon closer inspection, we discovered a huge bull feeding in shallow water.
With some expert boat handling, our guide put the boat in position to drift toward the downwind that hopefully will bring us closer to the bull. As we drifted slowly towards shore, the moose continued to nurse, occasionally glancing at our path. He couldn’t smell us and we restricted our movement as he looked our way. I’m sure he saw a fallen tree or brush that was floating in the lake. I was able to shoot the bull at about 45 yards with a 300mm lens! This was the closest I’ve been to a wild bull and an experience I’m sure I’ll never forget.
Fishing in Lake Tazin is world class but it is the whole experience and not all the fish I caught that I will remember. On our first day out on the water while fishing with Barry Prall, we noticed something on the beach a few hundred yards away. The animal jumped into the cold water and took a swim in the morning. Was it a wolf? beaver? river otter? On closer inspection, we were privy to what I am sure is an extremely rare sight; A full-grown incision. I started taking pictures and caught a very wet lynx jumping from one rock to another as it hopped away.
Chef Steve Driver assures everyone at camp is well fed and when he offered to fish Jeff and I, we were all inside. We’ve learned that Steve is just as good with his fly rod as he is with his culinary duties. When I asked if we could drink the salt water and then smoke some fresh trout, he said he was eager to shoot the old smoker behind the campground. A few days in brine and then several hours in an alder wood exposed smoker, created some delicious smoked fish!
I often hear people mention their “bucket list”. Well, here’s a word of caution about hunting these remote air camps in Saskatchewan. It is better to have a very large “bucket” because one trip will not be enough for you. You, like me, will likely find yourself addicted to the call of the color and smell of the northern forest and…..the brutal attack of a great spear on your temptation!
For more information about fishing in Lake Tazin, visit www.tazinlake.com or www.tourismsaskatchewan.ca.
a few episodes of Athlete’s life Will be devoted to this trip. Watch Carbon TV on Roku or a streaming network or visit www.carbontv.com
Email outdoor writer Luke Clayton via their website www.catfishradio.org