In the wilds of northern Manitoba, anglers can expect the welcoming embrace of awesome fishing
Only a masochist enjoys a portage. The one we took the following day was manageable, however, with a 10-minute hike, then a short boat ride and a second 10-minute hike. It took us to a long stretch of lakes on the Laurie River system, including Pyta and Eager. While the lodge lake, McGavock, had good fishing, we soon learned this water, only fished by the small fraction of sports willing to put in some extra work, was like another world.
It was a clear, breezy morning as our two boats sped through Pyta up to Eager, and into a kilometre-wide, structure-rich arm that Alfred called “Psycho Bay”—because, of course, the fishing was nuts. Lynn, fishing with his son in the other boat, had a big morning, finally breaking in his new 8-weight fly outfit. He was casting a flashy white Clouser Deep Minnow, and pike after pike snatched it up as if it were candy. And as our boat ghosted along a rocky ledge, Joel cast a heavy spoon into the deeper water and battled in a 35-inch pike, his biggest of the trip.
After lunch, Alfred took Joel and me to his sweetest lake trout spot, where we dropped heavy jigs into a deep hole, resulting in almost instantaneous bites. We hauled up a dozen trout in an hour, including Joel’s first-ever laker—another milestone in his late-blooming angling career. To my immense delight, I even landed my first burbot.
Then we tried Pyscho Bay again, investigating the deepest part of the basin. Our golden reward was a matching pair of 28-inch walleye, caught exactly eight minutes apart, according to the time stamp on my photos. Mine smacked a banana-sized Supercharger fly—a shimmering monstrosity of red and silver tinsel; Joel’s crunched a big saltwater X-Rap.
Soon it was time to race back to the rendezvous, two lakes away. It had already been a very good day, but if we were lucky, we’d have time for a few more casts en route. As we idled into the nameless half-moon bay on Pyta Lake, and I took in the fishing conditions, I knew we had indeed gotten lucky.
Or make that, mostly lucky. The pitching boat and stiffening breeze made for challenging fly fishing. But thanks to practice sessions on the lawn, I managed to drop my bedraggled Supercharger among the waving weeds. I waited an agonizing 10 seconds for the fly to sink, then stripped it back: pull and pause, pull and pause. Nothing. Reversing into the wind, Alfred was barely able to keep the boat in position. As waves occasionally slopped over the transom, the conditions seemed to grow even wilder. I cast again, and again and again. Nothing.
Joel, using a spoon, didn’t get a sniff either. Perhaps I’d deluded myself about this spot. Then, not 25 feet from the boat, I saw the brief flash of a white jaw, and my fly disappeared. I set the hook hard into something. For a few long seconds, it didn’t move. Then it took off. The fish streaked around the bay, thrashing, rolling and using all of its tricks, but before long, I was easing 41 inches of seriously girthy northern pike into the net.
In the moments after landing and releasing a truly memorable fish, you experience many feelings. There’s exhilaration, relief, awe, satisfaction and maybe even vindication. This time, along with all that, I had a flash of something else. I’ve passionately loved fishing for a very long time. And that afternoon, at least for a moment, I felt like it loved me back.