Beauchêne on the brain
Stunning scenery, awesome angling and backcountry bliss. No wonder they keep coming back to this slice of Quebec wilderness
BILLY SHIELDS: After making five annual pilgrimages to this 206-square-kilometre, 40-lake Quebec wilderness preserve, I consider Beauchêne to be synonymous with remote locales, thriving wildlife, natural splendour and fish. Lots of fish. It’s about 90 kilometres northeast of North Bay, just inside Quebec’s western border with Ontario, past Tembec Inc.’s wood-processing plant in Témiscaming. That factory on the Ottawa River is your last glimpse of civilization as you head up the dusty, rolling gravel road leading to the White House, Beauchêne’s main guest lodge.
Walk into the 94-year-old lodge and you’ll see photographs of visiting anglers holding their trophy catches—walleye, pike, bass, trout. One hundred metres away are the lodge boats tethered to docks on the shore of Lac Beauchêne, awaiting all comers. And spread out across the surrounding peninsula are luxury chalets, while three outpost cabins await the more intrepid anglers.
One year, within minutes of arriving to check in at the White House, we were met with a 600-kilogram moose hanging from chains in one of the out-buildings. Lodge manager Tony Avramtchev’s dog Foley, a gamely Labrador retriever, was dancing and sniffing around for scraps, repeatedly shushed away by the focused hunters preparing to gut and quarter the moose. The spectacle of the great beast hanging there stupefied me, an astonished, moisturized Toronto suburbanite. So this is how it’s done, I remember thinking.
One of my most memorable experiences at Beauchêne was my introduction to sight-fishing. That was two years ago, when fishing partner Pat Trudell and I ventured into a treacherously shallow bay at the north end of one of the many back lakes. We had to make our way slowly, it was that shallow, but awaiting us was a 10-acre expanse of calm, clear, shallow water, shielded by rising stands of pine. You could see the lake bottom all around—and all the fish, mostly smallmouth bass. There was no wind that day. Once anchored, cast our lines, and for hours we reeled in our quarry, one after another. It was amazing—my first sight-fishing experience.
As with any excursion into the wild, who you go with makes a difference. I travel to Beauchêne with a group of guys from a variety of backgrounds. We’re all different. There’s a house painter, a web techie, an editor type, an event videographer and me, an economics nerd, and that makes for some interesting conversation after a day on the water in the middle of nowhere. And some lively debate, too. We don’t always see eye to eye on things, but when we all remember where we are and what we’re doing, any disagreements fade away like the sun setting behind the pines of the Beauchêne wilderness.
Read about Patrick Walsh’s past Beauchêne escapades at www.outdoorcanada.ca/beauchene. And to learn more about the lodge and outpost camps, go to www.beauchene.com.