June 20th. Day 1:
Up at 4 am. Pancakes and coffee for the boys and I then it’s off to the boat launch for 6am. We all get in fairly uneventfully only to discover that Gary’s boat is not working. After that was fixed (or so we
thought) we headed downriver to Fort Chip. Cory’s boat started acting up partway there. It took a few hours but we got everything sorted out enough to continue on. Gassed up and travelled up the north shoreline to Fiddlers Point to camp for the night. It was just as beautiful there as I remembered.
June 21st. Day 2: It looked like weather was rolling in (didn’t thank god). So we cut straight across the lake towards Course Island to the permanent camp spot. Gary’s boat quit half way there so the rest of us waited on Bear Tooth Island while he and his passenger John tried to fix it to no avail. Jason had to go back and tow him after they spent hours using the kicker to traverse the big lake on the first of a few “3 hour tours”. And so the first nicknames were cemented. Skipper (Gary) & Gilligan (John).
Kevin & I trolled around the island as there was no point in all 6 of us staring at 2 people working on the lemon
Good news is we caught a whack of beautiful lakers just around the point. Pulled in over 25 and basically got bored and quit. This lake sure spoils you 🙂
Once we came back in I explored the island with Wayne. We found an old camp where they used to drill and take core samples looking for uranium. All that was left were the bases of the shacks, a decent outhouse and a huge stash of toxic chemicals. Right smack dab in the middle of heaven on earth. Humans suck…
After numerous hours spent fiddling, head scratching and trying everything under the sun on “The Lemon”, it was decided that Jason would again tow it to our camp. About…. friggin… time.
We pulled into the bay where the camp was and it was gorgeous. Calm and sheltered with an amazing setup. A frame for the tarp already in place and the most beautiful view.
June 22nd. Day 3:
Mother Nature is smiling on us. The weather hovers at about 27 degrees and the water remains calm and the fish are biting like mad. Cory pulls in a 24lb laker with Jason getting one almost as big.
Kevin and I find a chunk of ice on the shore in a crevice and take some for the coolers. Natures beer fridge. It was surreal. Flipflops, tank tops and snowballs in 29 degree heat.
I have named Wayne “The Candy Man” for his endless supply of sambuca candies. And Cory is “Cookie Monster” which is fairly self explanatory.
We finished off a couple of perfect days with a feed of trout and steaks. As we sat around the fire swapping stories and swilling beers a Pine Marten made a beeline for the fish bucket where he managed to pull out a trout carcass the same size as him. It was hilarious watching him tug and wrestle it back into the trees. Determined little guy did it though. Thank god for video lol.
June 23rd. Day 4:
“The Lemon” is still out of commission. We take John out with us for the day. The three of us pull in about 32 lake trout. It’s a seriously hot day with temps staying at 29 and you can feel your skin sizzling. My tan is looking epic.
We make camp around 8:30 with a couple nice trout for dinner and the boys clean them. We fill the martens fish bucket back up (we’ve named him “the little engine that could”) it’s a long name but it suits him. Back he comes for a second free dinner. Hopefully he’ll be too full to get into out stuff while we’re gone for a few days.
June 24th. Day 5:
Made a run for Brushell Bay to gas up the boats and see Darren the gas guy. The water was a bit choppy but nothing even close to last year. It’s been so nice I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop 😉
After a few hours gassing up we spent a bit of time fishing before heading back to camp.
I have dubbed Jen “Beer Slayer”. Man that girl can chuck em down and still remain pretty high functioning lol.
June 25th. Day 6:
Off to Jug Bay Lodge for two days. I cannot WAIT to have a shower and triple scrub my hair and sleep in a real bed. We found out one of the owners Jackie passed away during the winter months. Young Deven is managing it now. And doing a great job it looks like.
I’m clean again. And I mean the squeaky kind. Everybody looks sunburned, tired and happy. The lodge ladies serve up a hot chilli and homemade bread with salad. Greens never tasted so good. The conversation turns to beer or should I say the lack of… Kevin brought 60 bud light and is down to a dozen with 5 more days to go. I started with 30 and am down to 4. Although my extra large craft beers at 5-8% counts as more 😉
We all decide to order 2 more cases per boat. We MUST not run out of beer. That is a basic fishing 101 rule. Period. The lodge has a plane coming in and they add it to their order. I am in heaven.
June 26th. Day 7.
Breakfast is at 8:30. I wake up at 8:27. No Kevin in sight. Eeeeek! I literally roll out of bed and stumble like a drunk sailor to the main lodge before the other 7 vultures eat all the bacon. I step into the main room to see Kevin sitting there with an innocent look on his face and a big plate of food in front of him. I’d give him the evil eye but I can barely keep them open. I head straight for the coffee and baileys. Breakfast of camping champions.
After a hot meal I grab three tuna sandwiches off the ladies and stack them on the table by my phone. I go to pack the boat bag for the day. When we go to get our sandwiches there’s only one left. Friggin food vultures I’m tellin’ ya.
At 9:30 we head out to the north side to Charlotte Island. Jason, Jen & John were ahead of us. I’m driving the boat to our destination using our gps. I swear Jason was drunk or getting a blow job. He was swerving back and forth in front of us like a nervous teenager. Remind me not to follow behind him again I have officially nick named him “Dipsy Driver”. A nice play on fishing lingo if I do say so myself.
The skies were clear and the lake like glass than BAM! We drive into thick fog. The horror movie addict inside me was silently screaming noooooooo. It was eerie but beautiful at the same time. A couple of hours later that glorious sun started beating down again. Love 🙂
We spent the entire day trolling until about 7:30. Between us we caught well over 25 fish. We zipped to the power dam to fish for Grayling. Then a crazy fog rolled in on high winds. It went from flat to creepy in about three minutes flat. Time to head back for that steak dinner waiting at the lodge. One more night there and then it’s back to Grouse Island for a few more nights.
June 27th. Day 8.
Everybody’s up for a hearty meal and hot coffee. The boys all head out to gas up the boats while Jen & I take a leisurely shower and pack up.
We make John stay behind and elevate his feet. They are looking rough. He may have trench foot from being submerged in ice cold water on Bear Tooth Island on day 2. We’ll have to rat him out to his wife to make sure he sees a doctor ASAP when we get home.
LWe all head to camp leaving Gary and his problem prone boat behind at Jug Bay. He’s flying in parts and possibly a mechanic if that doesn’t work. Personally I’d already have that thing on a barge to Fort Mac. Whatever floats his boat I guess. Lol. I’m not going to miss him. He’s a big of a dick and lazy as hell.
June 28th. Day 9.
We take John out for a final day of fishing on a shoreline we hadn’t trolled yet. We reeled in around 25 fish again including 35″ & 40″ ones. Hot and sunny once again. 9 days of perfect weather. Wow.
We have a pet seagull. He swims behind our boat looking for treats. We have named him Cory because of his affinity for cookies.
There hasn’t been any rain up here in more than three weeks and it’s been hot. The lichen is tinder dry. It won’t take much to start it burning. Hopefully that distant rumbling of thunder settles down. The lake is acting like a weather bubble. Everything just keeps moving around us on the mainland. I’m not complaining.
It’s an early night for us to rest up for a long day of travel on the jet boat. We have about 420 km to go tomorrow. I’ve packed up 90% of our gear already. It’ll be a quick tear down in the morning.
June 29th. Day 10.
It’s a 6am getup. Coffee and a reheated hash mix for the boys and I. Kevin and I load the boat and we leave shore by 8 am. Jason even moved a little faster than usual this morning.
There was a lightning storm last night and it looks like it’s sparked a decent sized fire or two. The lake has a thick haze of smoke on it. We manage to get the weather channel on the radio. 40km/hr winds near Fort Chip. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Forest fires and high winds. Time to haul ass home.
12:30 and we just made Fort Chip. There was a stiff north wind that threw some decent waves at us. Nothing like last year though thank heavens. We’re waiting on the other two boats. They’re both having problems. Cory & Wayne are kicking in and The Three J’s are coming in slow due to issues as well. I might have to call this the “Lemonade Trip” 😉
The other boats clean out their filters and god knows what else and then we gas up and head towards the Athabasca River mouth at 3:30. We clean out our grate of weeds the obligatory dozen times in choppy water on the way. I see some things never change on this trip.
The north winds are coming up the river and actually making waves against the current still even though we are about 4 hours upriver. Who woulda thunk it
It’s 10:30 and we’re losing light fast. We’re about 5 miles from the Barge Landing where we launched when Cory & Wayne radio in to say they’re almost out of gas. 10 minutes after we had just put our last two cans in our tank. Kevin & I are discussing our options when we catch up to Jay who is having boat problems. I’m ready to scuttle the entire fleet at this point lol.
We idle up to their boat and John tosses a full gerry can in our bow. We head back downriver to give it to Cory. I do an arms length handoff hanging over a moving river while hanging on to our boat with one hand. It is at this moment that I realize I should probably have a life jacket on considering I can’t swim. It’s amazing I’ve survived this long I swear.
It’s 11:30pm. The boats are on the trailers and our trip is officially over. This years trip was the best years yet for weather and fishing. Having friends to laugh around the campfire with was a fantastic addition and although all the boat troubles were a pain in the butt, Kevin and I took notes on all the things that could go wrong with our boat for the future. Til next year Lake Athabasca.