Sometimes even Plan B won’t work. Sometimes ya gotta go with your dead-last choice when traveling.
During my trip to Nepal a year ago, I met two very pleasant people from Canada who invited me to visit them. They knew I was a photographer and that I liked to do night and landscape photography. Joel and Kathleen described the beauty of Canada and, due to its location in the zone where the Aurora Borealis occurs, the Northern Lights could be extraordinary. I began to fantasize about the photos I’d get there. Oh, and by the way, the fishing is great there too, if I was interested. Historically, I have found that fish, especially Rainbow Trout, are safe from me, so fishing wasn’t a big draw.
However, when I arrived in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, I could see my fantasy photography plans were at risk. A forest fire had been burning for days, spreading smoke over almost all of Saskatchewan and south to Minnesota. Daytime, the sky and landscape looked exactly like the exterior scenes from the movie “The Road”. In this movie the world was on fire and blanketed everything in dreary, ash laden soot. Central Canada wasn’t that bad but close enough for me to ditch my photography ideas.
The plan was the day after arrival, we three would drive the four hours up to their cabin on a lake and go fishing. The drive was pleasant and the conversation with them very interesting, so the time flew by.
A couple hours after arriving we were on a lake in their motorboat cruising to an area to do some fishing. Joel took us to an area guaranteed to get me my first Northern Pike, he said. The Pike is a finned beast I had for years read about and was best described as an “Attack Fish”. It didn’t just fight for it’s life when you set the hook, it tugged like it wanted to pull you in and devour you. And if you did get it reeled in, then you were confronted with some of the most vicious teeth short of a Great White Shark and possessed by one very pissed off slithering, writhing monster.
After arrival in a choice area with reeds and plenty of floating plants, we began fishing. Joel caught a Pike almost immediately. It was everything I’d heard of. It fought and fought and when landed in the boat became a safety problem with those angry teeth.
My luck with fish was, well, unchanged. I was up on the bow wearing my polarized lenses and could see down in the water. There were Pikes everywhere in the shallows and even though I was using the exact same lure Joel was, and the fish showed much interest, none ever took the hook. Dammit.
The next day, my luck changed. Joel and I went to another lake and used his canoe with a trolling motor to get around. After an hour, I began catching Pike. What fighters they were and every one I hooked was worth keeping. Joel caught them as well and soon we had the luxury of returning to the lake fish that weren’t big as we wanted. We fished all day at various lakes and it was a thrill to actually feel like I could be a successful sport fisherman. That evening Joel showed me how to fillet fish and we had a very nice dinner.
The next day we planned to fish in the morning then go back to the cabins to pack up and drive home. This morning Kathleen came along because we were going to a lake where a large beaver lived and she wanted to photograph it. Not long after being in the canoe we heard a splash as a beaver entered the water and began swimming around. Kathleen began clicking away with her camera and made some very nice photos.
I had it in my head that we would be after Pike again so when I hooked something very very aggressive and HUGE I figured I’d pull an Attack Fish out of the water. It fought for several minutes and because the lake water was “tea-colored” as Joel called it, I couldn’t see the fish. It pulled its way around the boat and I had to change sides just to keep up with its movement. Soon it began to leap from the water and for the first time got to see it. It was a Rainbow Trout. As I said above, I don’t catch these things. They flee my rig and I never catch them. Now I finally had one and it was big, big enough to be one of those you see on outdoor magazine covers.
I reeled it in and Joel netted it. What a magnificent fish. It was about 16 inches long and 2-1/2 to 3 pounds. It had a beautifully colored rainbow on its sides and was in perfect condition. You know, I was so impressed with this fish, I could’t see taking its life. So after the obligatory photo was taken of me with it, I gave it to Joel and he returned it to the lake. I had finally caught a Rainbow Trout and it was a beauty, any big time famous sport fisherman would be impressed.
So as it turned out, Plan A (landscape photography) wasn’t possible. Plan B (night photography of the Northern Lights) was also out as the night sky was clouded with smoke. Plan C, fishing, the one activity I had no interest in or hope would be memorable, was fantastic. What a great trip.