A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 505: Gone Fishin’

Monday, July 21: I leave on Wednesday for Yellowknife for the annual fishing trip, so today was a scramble to meet deadlines for Quench Magazine and attend a meeting with Dish to plan a corporate wine and food event in September. I also wrote my 680News wine reviews. In the evening I went to the ball game with my son, Guy, and saw the Blue Jays trounced by Boston 14–1. I don’t know why it upset me so much.

Tuesday, July 22: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and cleared my desk for an early departure tomorrow for Yellowknife.

Wednesday, July 23: The car came at 6:45 am. I picked up Art on the way to the airport, where we linked up with Steve, Harold and Cliff. Bud will be joining us in Yellowknife. We flew to Calgary, lunched at the airport and took another flight on to Yellowknife. It was warmer there than Toronto – 26°C.

We were picked up at the airport by Margaret Peterson (owner of Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge, where we have fished for the past four years). In the hotel we made a dent in a bottle of Edradour 12-Year-Old Malt Whisky before taking a cab over to Bullock’s for dinner. Bullock’s is like an overgrown shack. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered with graffiti, business cards and bumper stickers (“Your village called. Their idiot is missing,” “No Thongs Except On Feet,” “All Ringing Cell Phones Will Be Deep-Fried”). The place was packed and we had to wait an hour before our meal arrived. I ordered grilled Arctic char, French fries and salad ($39.95!) and a Yukon Gold beer.

Signs outside Bullock's
Signs outside Bullock’s

Thursday, July 24: Shared a hotel room with Steve. I thought he was going to set the alarm for 6:30 am in order to meet the group downstairs at 7 am – and he thought I was going to set my alarm. I woke up and looked at my watch and saw 7 am so I woke Steve. I showered quickly and he followed. Then he looked at his watch and it was 6:15 am. Without my glasses I had misread the time.

Margaret Peterson had prepared our traditional breakfast on the dock of Air Tindi, where we catch the float plane to the lodge. Cinnamon buns, strawberries and two bottles of Pol Roger. Our flight was delayed because of the smoke from forest fires. From the air we could see plumes of smoke from random small fires that got denser the further we flew from Yellowknife. The lodge is 200 miles north of the city. When we arrived we could see the smoke sitting above the lake like dense fog. At the docking area we were greeted by Chad, Margaret’s son, guides John and Jeff, and Jack and George, who keep the lodge running on shore. Tanya, the camp cook, was back from Nova Scotia and she prepared a lunch of vegetable soup, smoked turkey and cheese and ham and cheese sandwiches with chocolate cookies for dessert. All washed down with Moosehead beer. We were on the lake by 1:45 pm (temperature in the lodge 26.1°C).

The Gospel according to Chad Peterson
The Gospel according to Chad Peterson

My first day’s fishing partner was Harold. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a boat and not getting a bite while your partner, using the same lure, is pulling fish out of the lake as if there is no tomorrow. Harold caught eight fish, including a 32 lb lake trout, before I got a fish. I finished the afternoon with two fish, a shaker (3 lbs) and a 10-pounder. Dinner in the communal dining room: Smoked meat from Centre Street Deli, fried potatoes, rhubarb cobbler and whipped cream. The wines: Chateau des Charmes Gamay Droit 2010, Tawse Wine Club Syrah 2010, Southbrook Triomphe Syrah 2008. Steve and Art presented us with a new fish T-shirt emblazoned with the legend: “The Trout, The Whole Trout And Nothing But The Trout, So Help Me Cod.”

Sunrise through smoke at Peterson's Point Lake Lodge
Sunrise through smoke at Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge

Friday, July 25: I’m sharing a cabin with Cliff and Bud. There was thunder overnight but no rain. The temperature is 11.5°C. At the camp there are outdoor toilets. Two rules in how to navigate them:

  1. Breathe through your mouth.
  2. Do not look down.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs and bacon and the banana bread my wife Deborah made. We were delayed getting on to the lake because of the fog and smoke. Finally got off at noon with Art as my fishing partner. Fished for two and a half hours and got skunked (only two strikes). Lunch at the lodge cooked by Steve, who cooks all the shore lunches: wasabi-crusted fish, fried rice and smoked meat sandwiches. The wines: Tawse Sketches Riesling 2009, Kilikanoon The Lackey Riesling 2009, Hidden Bench Felseck Gewurztraminer 2012. On the lake by 4:45 pm and fished till 7:25 pm. Caught two fish at the river – 4 lb and 10 lb – and late in the evening another 10-pounder on a cisco rig. In another boat Steve caught a 43 lb lake trout, which turned out to be the biggest fish of the trip. Dinner: Rib eye steak, baked potato, cauliflower au gratin, caramelised onions and cole slaw. Rhubarb cobbler and cream followed by a selection of cheeses. The wines: Niagara College Meritage 2007, Creekside Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Cabernet Shiraz 2011.

Chad filleting a lake trout for shore lunch
Chad filleting a lake trout for shore lunch

Saturday, July 26: Breakfast: pancakes and beef sausages. We were fogged in again this morning but made it on the water by 10:30 am. Fished with Cliff today. Before lunch I caught three trout, 4 lb, 14 lb and 12 lb. Shore lunch at Pigpen, so called because the cabin is a mess and hasn’t been inhabited for years. The place has three double bunks and is fully equipped with three boats, motors, tackle, canned food (some visitor left a $10 bill to pay for pancake mix he’d used) and old magazines, including the September 1981 issue of Playboy with Bo Derek on the cover. Beer-battered fish, fried potatoes and baked beans. The wines: Creekside Viognier 2009, Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué 2009, Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué 2010.

Tony with Playboy at Pigpen
Tony with Playboy at Pigpen

The fishing gods are fickle. They give and they take away. In the afternoon I caught ten fish – 25 lb, 21 lb, four at 14 lbs and the rest smaller. Having landed a fish over 20 lbs I am now on the board in the lodge which records all fish caught above this weight. Dinner: Smoked salmon from J. Willy Krauch & Sons of Tangier, Nova Scotia, lasagne al forno, broccoli salad, Greek salad, garlic bread. Dessert: spice cookies and egg tarts and Art’s wife Ellie’s chocolate cookies. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Noir 2010, Seghesio Zinfandel 2012, Rockaway Reserve Syrah 2011.

My 25 lb lake trout with guide John
My 25 lb lake trout with guide John

Sunday, July 27: Breakfast: French toast and bacon. More fog and smoke on the lake that delayed our departure till 12:30 pm. Fished with Bud today and quite early on we got a double header. Mine was 20 lbs and his was 28 lbs. Lunch again at Pigpen: Fish pasta truite espagnole, Steve called it. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Grigio 2013, Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2013, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013. In the afternoon I caught a 16 lb and a 9 lb, then I missed the largest fish I have hooked in this lake. It towed the boat! Played it for three minutes or so, then it spat out the hook. (We fish with barbless hooks and only keep what we eat for shore lunch.) Dinner: Roast Cornish hen with basmati rice, peas and braised cabbage. The wines: Angels Gate Mountainview Pinot Noir 2010, Villa Maria Marlborough Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010.

Art relaxing with Pinot Gris
Art relaxing with Pinot Gris

Monday, July 28: Breakfast: scrambled eggs and turkey sausages. Another day of fog on the lake. Could not get out until 11:45 am. The lake was like glass but visibility was about 200 yards. Chad had to hug the coastline as he guided the boat. Fished with Steve. Before lunch I caught four fish; the largest was 8 lbs. We lunched on Carter’s Island. Steve cooked blackened fish with dirty rice. The temperature must have been 28°C. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Gris 2011, Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Vineyard Riesling 2009, Hidden Bench Felseck Gewurztraminer 2012. A great afternoon’s fishing. I caught seven fish, the biggest 16 lbs. Steve got a 30-pounder and we had two double headers. Dinner: Moose Bourguignon, potato soufflé, turnip puff, cole slaw, salad and Saskatoon berry cobbler. The wines: Rosewood Merlot Reserve 2010, Tawse David Block Merlot 2008, and with the Stilton, Graham’s Vintage Port 1980.

Steve cooking dirty rice
Steve cooking dirty rice

Partnering the Stilton
Partnering the Stilton

Tuesday, July 29: Breakfast: pancakes and bacon. Today we wore the black T-shirt that Bud had given us: “O.C.F.D.,” an acronym on the front in large capital letters which meant Obsessive Compulsive Fishing Disorder. On the back: “I bait for a cure.” Fished with Harold today, four fish in the morning, none of any size. Lunch at Sand Island. Wasabi-crusted lake trout with chaud-froid sauce and pasta salad. In the afternoon Harold caught a 20-pounder and I had a total of seven, 10 lbs being the biggest. In this competitive game, size matters. Dinner: BBQ steaks (huge!), baked potato, carrots and peas, salad and bok choy salad. Dessert: rum egg nog cake. The wines: Maycas del Limari Chardonnay Reserve Especial 2010, Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007, Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006. We drew straws to see who would be fishing with whom on our final day. I drew Harold.

The board for trophy fish
The board for trophy fish

Wednesday, July 30: Breakfast: quiche, beef and turkey sausages, muffins and banana bread. We were on the lake by 8:45 am and had rain for the first time on the trip. I missed a big fish. Harold caught a 14-pounder and I ended the session before lunch with two tiny fish as we trolled into the Pigpen shore lunch. Traditionally, on the last day, Steve makes Bouillabaisse, having brought the stock, the mussels, shrimp, scallops and roux frozen from Toronto. He then adds the fresh fish. Always the meal of the trip. The accompanying wines: Tawse Sketches Riesling 2010, Tawse Riesling 2010, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Fished for three and a half hours after lunch and had one strike that got me a 4 lb trout. But it excused itself from my line when it saw the boat.

In the evening before dinner the sky went black and there was a tremendous storm with lightning, thunder and torrential rain. Dinner: Chicken Divan, rice pilaf, homemade brown bread and carrot cake. (Tanya had overheard me say I love carrot cake and she made me one.) Then a selection of cheeses. The wines: Exultet The Blessed Chardonnay 2010 and Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010, Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2010.

The guys outside Pigpen: (standing l-r) Art, Steve, Cliff; (seated) Harold, Bud, Tony
The guys outside Pigpen: (standing l–r) Art, Steve, Cliff; (seated) Harold, Bud, Tony

Thursday, July 31: The wind howled all night. The temperature dropped to 5.4°C. We packed our gear, cleaned up the cabin and swept the floors. Breakfast: toast and peanut butter and carrot cake. The float plane arrived at 10 am carrying a group from Minnesota who followed us in last year. We took off at 10:30 am for Yellowknife. Flying back we could see vast tracts of burnt out trees. The land below looked like a huge counterpane of camouflage – browns and blacks and greens and rust colours stippled with patches of grey rock. In the sunshine the lakes shone like pools of mercury. As we approached Yellowknife the smoke in the air got heavier. With the tail wind the trip back took an hour and fifteen minutes. Margaret Peterson and her daughter Amanda were on the dock to welcome us back. Margaret drove us to the airport and on the way showed us the first schoolroom in Yellowknife – a tiny log cabin. We passed a church with a sign outside that read, “Pray for rain.” Last year, Margaret said, the sign read, “Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?” Amen to that.

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