Monday, July 23: My week of fishing – and no shaving – begins! The taxi van came to my condo at 6 am. I picked up Art and then we picked up Larry on the way to the airport. Sam and Harold were already there and eventually Steve arrived. We flew to Edmonton on Air Canada and then by Jazz to Yellowknife, where we were met by Margaret Peterson and her daughter Amanda, who drove us to the hotel prior to some pike fishing on Great Slave Lake.
Five minutes out on the water and the motor in the boat I’m in conked out and the other boat had to tow us back to shore. Time for a beer as the temperature, Harold informed us, is warmer here than it was in Sarasota, Florida, where he lives. Harold, incidentally is wearing a ball cap that reads, “Women Want Me, Fish Fear Me.” (Not the best prophecy as it turns out – the fish part, anyway.)
We motor out 40 minutes to a shallow bay where we go after pike. I land twelve, the largest is 13 lbs, which I caught on the last cast of the day. We stop for shore dinner on a rocky promontory where the guides fry the crusted pike and serve it with baked beans. We accompany the fish with Kistler Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2005, Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis Blanc 2004 and a magnum of Château de Beaucastel 2005. A good start to the week.
Tuesday, July 24: Up at 6:45 am. Driven to the Air Tindi terminal on the water where Margaret and Amanda have set up the traditional breakfast on a picnic table by the dock: devilled eggs, cranberry bannock, strawberries, pineapple and cheeses with two bottles of Veuve Clicquot Brut.
Our flight to the Peterson Lodge on Point Lake takes an hour and a quarter. Waiting for us on the sandy shore are Chad, Margaret’s son; John, the RCMP inspector who guided us last year; and Mark, a new guide from PEI, also in the RCMP. Then there’s George from Texas, whose role is indeterminate but he styles himself the “assistant flunky” and is a fixture at the lodge.
After a lunch of soup and sandwiches (and bottle of Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1996) we take to the lake in three boats. I’m fishing with Steve and I catch 13 lake trout, the largest at 16 pounds. This augurs well for the week (last year my biggest fish was 28 pounds). Before dinner, a glass of Macallan 12 year old malt whisky with Steve’s chicken liver pâté and smoked mackerel pâté. Steve will be cooking all the shore lunches from now on.
We sit down to the first of a series of dinners prepared by the lodge’s cook, Tanya. Steve has brought up slab of smoked meat from the Centre Street Deli, which we eat with hash brown potatoes and pickled red cabbage, followed by rhubarb bread pudding. The wines: Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape 1999, Torre Muga 2001 and with the Stilton a bottle of Taylor Vintage Port 1977 which Steve decanted through cheese cloth into a jug.
Wednesday, July 25: A breakfast of fried eggs and turkey bacon, toast and tea. On the lake by 8:30 am. Today my fishing partner is Sam, who is a fish magnet. Last year he caught a 46-pound lake trout. In the morning session he caught 10 and I got 5. No big ones. The aim is to catch a fish of 20 lbs or more so that you can get credited on the board in the dining room.
For lunch, Steve cooked on an open fire beer-battered fish with potatoes and onions and beans. John’s boat floated off the shore and he had to give chase. (The Mounties all get their boat!) In the afternoon I had a double-header with Sam and then the lake closed down for me.
Dinner: Tanya prepared roast turkey, stuffing, carrots and turnips, green beans, braised red cabbage followed by mincemeat tarts and hard sauce (an early Christmas!). Then there were Ellie’s cookies (Art’s wife always bakes amazing cookies for the group and Larry’s wife Susan bakes a chocolate almond bark that is to die for). The wines for the evening: Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Farrington Vineyard 2004, Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001 and, with the truffled pecorino cheese, Domaine Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet Châteauneuf du Pape 1999.
Thursday, July 26: A breakfast of French toast and tea. My fishing partner today is Larry. In the morning session I caught five fish, nothing of size. We saw of group of caribou swimming across the lake. There seem to be more caribou this year than last year – a bone of contention for outfitters in NWT because the government has banned hunting here whereas in neighbouring Nunavut there is no such restriction.
For shore lunch Steve cooked blackened fish and dirty rice, which we enjoyed with Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne 1999, Remelluri Gran Reserva 1989, Schlumberger Gewuztraminer 1983 and Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztrmainer 1994. Wind and rain in the afternoon. Larry caught two fish and I was skunked. A bone-jarring ride back to the cabins, as the waves had picked up.
Dinner: Moose pot pie, lasagne, Caesar salad and corn on the cob with Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Single Vineyard 1997 and a magnum of Tignanello 1997.
Friday, July 27: The weather has turned cold. Breakfast: cheese omelette. Fished today with Steve, who caught the biggest fish of the trip – 26 lbs. I had only two bites all morning but landed a 17 lb trout. For shore lunch Steve cooked New Orleans Southern Comfort fish, fried potatoes, onions with salami (delicious) and beans. The wines: William Fèvre Chablis Fourchaume 2009, Kistler Chardonnay Kistler Vineyard 2006 and Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel Pinot Noir 2005.
In the afternoon, I caught two fish – one 6 lb, the other 12.5 lb. Steve lost a flat fish lure on a big fish when the leader broke. John, who was guiding, said the fish is probably 200 yards away and we’ll never find it even though flat fish lures float. Chad motored by later in the day and threw it to him; he’d spotted it floating.
The weather turned really warm and sunny today, the reverse of yesterday. Every five minutes the weather seems to change in the Northwest Territories. For dinner: BBQ chicken, Lasagna, rice, broccoli salad with a magnum of Joseph Drouhin Close des Mouches 1999 and stilton and truffled pecorino with Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 1970.
Saturday, July 28: Breakfast: pancakes and maple syrup. Chad comes into breakfast wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” Fish 24:7.
Not be outdone George is wearing a T-shirt with the legend, “If you don’t think Hell freezes over you haven’t been to Yellowknife.” The lodge has many of these joke quotes on the walls.
I’m fishing today with Harold, who has been down in the dumps because he has caught ten fish in the last four days and nothing of size. I suggested he change hats, as the gods of fishing were not pleased with his fashion statement. We both caught fish in the morning but I missed three.
For shore lunch Steve cooked fish Italiano with pasta. The wines: Veuve Clicquot Brut, William Fèvre Chablis Fourchaume 2009, Remelluri Gran Reserva 1989 and Torre Muga 2001. I only caught two fish in the afternoon, 9 lb and 6 lb. I was using a cisco rig which I’ve never caught a fish on before. It has a plastic helmet the fits over the head of the cisco and is kept in place with a pin through the head; the hooks attached to the line are placed into the body and pulled tight so that there is some curvature to the bait to make it spin in the water. It turned out to be the most effective lure of the trip, along with the Husky Five of Diamonds.
Dinner: Moose pot pie and maple curry chicken with basmati rice, corn salad and rum eggnog cake for dessert. The wines: Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape 1999, Domaine Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet Châteauneuf du Pape 1999 and Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1996.
Sunday, July 29: Breakfast: fried eggs, bacon, toast and tea. Fishing with Art, and Chad is guiding. Five fish in the morning but nothing of size. But as we approached Carter Island about 45 minutes down the lake, Chad said, “Get ready, you’re going to catch fish here.” At that precise moment both our rods went up in unison – synchro fishing.
Shore lunch: smoked meat with mustard while we watched Steve cook wasabi-crusted lake trout with wasabi aioli and fried rice. The wines: Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis Blanc 2004, Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard 2004 and Hugel Gewurztraminer Homage à Jean Hugel 1997. In the afternoon, 3 fish.
For dinner Steve barbecued a whole filet mignon. Tanya made baked potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, spinach and peas and a Greek salad. The cheese tray: Stilton, truffled pecorino, Mimolette, and a soft Quebec cheese called Verdict d’Alexina. The wines: a magnum ofJoseph Drouhin Griotte-Chambertin 1999 and a magnum of Château Rausan Ségla 1989.
Monday, July 30: Breakfast: waffles and sausages. Very windy this morning and I’m fishing with Larry and Chad. Mark says, “You get a mad dog to bite in an east wind.” I fished for three hours with only two bites. I was beginning to despair of ever getting on the board as this is our last day’s fishing. The final pass on the river before lunch I get a big strike and pull in a 23 lb laker.
The last shore lunch is traditionally Steve’s bouillabaisse. He brings up the broth, the rouille, mussels, shrimps and baby scallops, to which he adds the fish we catch. My job is to rub garlic on the toast that will go into the bowls before the soup is poured on. To accompany this amazing meal we have Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1990, Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis Blanc 2004 and Remoissenet Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot” 2006.
In the afternoon I caught three fish on a lure I had borrowed from Larry (a Husky Five of Diamonds). Dinner: Pasta with three cheeses and meat balls, rice, moose pot pie and the remains of the filet mignon, followed by blueberry pie (made from locally picked wild blueberries). The wines: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Single Vineyard 1997, a magnum of Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 and with the Stilton, Taylor Vintage Port 1977.
Tuesday, July 31: Today we strike the rods and pack, waiting for the float plane to take us back to Yellowknife. Margaret and Amanda are waiting for us at the dock. Margaret wants to pass by a local carver who has asked to meet Sam and thank him for the Inuit art Sam had loaned to a gallery in Winnipeg for an exhibition. Then on to the airport and a Quizno’s sandwich for lunch before taking the plane to Calgary. We were meant to take a 5:30 pm flight to Toronto but the plane had a mechanical fault and we had to wait for another aircraft. We finally left around 10 pm and didn’t get to Toronto till 4:15 am. But even that couldn’t diminish the great fishing experience.