I woke to the swaying movement of leafy branches casting distinctive shadows on the ceiling of the tent. The call of a nearby loon, the gentle lapping of water on a rocky shoreline, and smell of a fresh pot of coffee percolating on a Coleman stove made for a perfect morning.
It was a fitting welcome to day one of fly-in fishing in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan. I had no idea what time it was. Didn’t care either. Time was of little importance.
My short walk to the cook tent revealed only one other in our party of six was awake. He had started the coffee and was working on a homemade bucktail he planned to use when we got on the water.
Soon the others arose and were seated around the table in the cook tent. Pancakes, blueberry or chocolate chip; and sausage links were on the menu. The talk wasn’t about fishing, but rather about sleeping in fresh air, maybe a laugh about someone’s unfortunate hand of cards from the previous night.
Pancakes. Sausage. Coffee. Good friends, morning smiles, and friendly conversation. Pleasant. Enjoyable. Wonderful. I knew when I got home and someone asked about fishing, a very logical question, that a simple “really good” would be my response, knowing there was so much more to a fly-in trip than casting, setting hooks, and reeling in fish.
Because gear for six guys for a week must be loaded on a float plane, packing light for such a trip is important. There’s clothes, fishing tackle, sleeping bags, food, gasoline – all making for a huge pile of gear on the loading dock. Somehow the pilot secures it all inside the plane, along with six passengers. Then he taxis away from the dock, turns into the wind, races across the water, and the plane lifts off from the gentle waves.
The hour-long flight to our chosen lake takes us over the amazing Saskatchewan wilderness. Rivers and streams and lakes of all sizes dominate the landscape. Large swaths of land are blackened due to fires too remote to threaten any homes or communities.
The pilot banks the plane to the left on his approach to what will be our island home for five nights. The floats skim the water effortlessly and we’re soon unloading our gear and setting up camp. As we are doing so the plane lifts off and the noise of the engine fades away.
No cell service. No internet. Just a promise that the pilot will return at a designated time several days later, if the weather permits. Serenity. Solitude. Nature at its finest.
The fishing is unmatched. All caught hundreds of fish, walleye and northern pike, big and small, in many different ways. As evening approached, we’d return to our island and share a few tales from the day. The friendly chatter was about bears walking the shoreline or swimming near one of our boats, bald eagles fishing and caring for young in a nest, and the ever-present loons.
On our island home the smell of pine trees was overtaken by our small campfire, then gave way to the aroma of mouth-watering barbequed ribs. A delightful salad didn’t last long as the big stack of ribs was placed at the center of the table. Wilderness?