Cold January day phone call.
Markus: “Hey Jackass, Cory is asking me if we want to come up to fish Great Slave this summer with him for a week. Interested?”
RJ: “Ummm. Hell ya.”
Markus: “When can you go?”
RJ: “Hell I’ll leave now!”
Boom, just like that planning, research and booking of flights began.
It was a trip I could only dream of doing. Spending $6-7000 to go to Plummers Lodge or elsewhere would never be in the cards for me. Not really because the money, just the fact I couldn’t justify that cost in my mind. It’s simply ridiculous.
All winter and into spring Cory, Markus and I would chat, just getting the lay of the land. Gameplans. What type of water would we be fishing etc. Then I dug in and did some research. Leaving no stone unturned in my mind I assemble to big Planos full of Laker and Pike baits. Sure I had a few smaller jigs for Grayling but they were definitely third on the list.
I packed up a few rods for the journey. Two Shimano Compre 7′ 7″Flippin sticks and 4 travel rods. Plenty to handle all the baits I planned to bring.
Once I heard the gameplan I was a bit taken aback. Cory wants to get us waaaaay out in the lake. How far? 5 hour boat ride, 103 Miles. And what’s out there 103 miles? An island to camp on. Anyone that knows me knows I’m no camper! I was apprehensive at first but man I’d be on GSL! Giver!
Birdee kissed me at the airport and I was on my way. It was tough leaving her but she was thrilled for us to be doing this trip. This would be the longest I’ve been away from home ever. Flight left on time and I was in Calgary in what felt like no time. Markus met me in Calgary about 20 minutes later. We’d both hop on the next leg together to head to Yellowknife.
The flight North was uneventful if you don’t count the turbulence leaving Calgary that nearly had my breakfast back for another taste. Ugh.
Landed in Yellowknife at 5 and were greeted by Cory and his daughter Emma. Grabbed our bags and off to their house for dinner. Thanks to Air Canada for all our stuff arriving with us!
On route to the house. “Wind looks good boys, ready?” Yes! Keep in mind that in NWT there is no darkness in the summer. We could make the run well into the evening with no issue. This would get us there and set up and would really give us another full day of fishing if we did it. It didn’t take much arm twisting, none actually. We “loaded” the boat and headed for the ramp.
Now when I say “Loaded”, I mean loaded!
We climbed aboard and cranked the Sirius satellite radio and off we went. Cory’s boat would run about 25 mph loaded down. Very smooth and hopped on plane with no issues.
Here’s where the fun started, ripping along in 700 plus feet of water in the Hearne Channel suddenly the Merc has a wild vibration to it. Oh oh. Shutter down. Raise the motor to see one blade sheered right off the prop. We didn’t hit anything! Poof, Gone.
For a brief moment I thought we were in dire straights til Cory says, “No biggie, I got 2 more.” Boom! Quick switch out under the midnight sun and we were back on track. Yes, this photo was taken around midnight!
We ran the rest of the way without issue and arrived to find our new home.
Coolest part about this island other than you could catch Lakers simply by circling it and casting was we weren’t the only ones living on it. We were visitors. Living up to its name of “Eagle Island” a Bald Eagle nest was above where we’d be setting up. Other than having to be wary of when the little one had to do a Number 2 over the side we had no issues! haha!
Mama was never far away, watching her bring food to the nest over our heads was a treat.
How we slept that first night I’m not sure. The anticipation of what the following days fishing would bring was palpable. Somehow under the daylight we slept.
We didn’t bother with much of a breakfast as we just wanted to get moving on the water. Cory was eager to let us work some magic with setups and took it all in. Though Cory is no slouch on the lake. His time on Mark’s boat in Ontario showed him a few tricks that have led to some giant lakers for him, including his best at 43 lbs. The fish below, Cory caught the week before we arrived. Oink!
We tweaked a few of his setups and it wasn’t 10 minutes and rods were poppin’. That day would end with 43 Lakers hitting the net. The next day was 37, we stopped counting when we eclipsed the 100 mark. Double Headers were too common!
We traveled to fish some new water everyday. Everywhere we went rods were poppin’ on the troll.
Meals were a treat on this trip!. We never went hungry! Had a classic shore lunch. Deep Fried Laker.
We decided one night to cross over and fish an area we could see with some wild high cliffs and bluffs. I’ve never laid eyes on anything like it on my life.
Once there we stayed on the troll until well after midnight, such a beautiful place.
One of my highlights of the trip was a double header with Mark that almost was big tangle but we stick handled our way out of it. He landed his fish, then we realized my fish was something we hadn’t dealt with yet. She stayed down and wouldn’t lift. What seemed like forever I finally got her to budge. When she rose under the boat and Mark slid her into the net we all let out a bit of a howl. New PB Laker, just what I came up here for.
I didn’t touch another rod all day, I had the fish I came for and was over the moon.
After we had our trolling fill, it was time to break out the jigs. Specifically Big Jim’s jigs. They were awesome and were getting munched! There is NOTHING better than feeling that thud on the jig.
Mark and I slid in behind a shoal for an hour pitching jigs up shallow. When I heard his excitement I turned to see two Lakers chasing his bucktail back to the boat, slashing at it like saltwater fish! Not by choice, he caught the smaller of the two (pictured below). The other was a GIANT. Seeing a fish that size in 3 feet of water was unreal.
Laker’d out yet? We weren’t but wanted to target some Pike too. While eating dinner we sat down with the map. Back Bay with a creek in it? Let’s go! Pure insanity ensued.
If 3 grown men giggling like schoolgirls is weird then call me a weirdo!
Dozens of Pike in the 32 to 36 inch range, yes dozens. Blasting every lure we threw. The Pompadour was a hit!
The Pike spawn was over up there a few weeks ago so hopes of landing a real giant were somewhat bleak. This one put a big grin on my yap and a new PB Northern. Check!
Markus had really set his sights on the NWT Grand Slam. Laker, Pike, Grayling and an Inconnu. Well the bugger got it! The Inconnu was a cool bonus as we came across it while looking for Pike. He was pumped! Cool fish!
Just when I thought my eyes were getting worse I’m suddenly a hawk-eye. One evening while working a shoreline I spotted a big Moose walking along the shore. Cory was fired up about it as he’d never seen one that far up before. The next morning near the same area I spotted these two Bulls crossing a small channel. So cool as we sped over to get closer!
Last one on the list was a Grayling. Cory felt they were a bit wonky due to some higher than normal winds on the shoals that may have pushed them off. Mark still checked it off his list!
Bonus fish while trying to jig up a Grayling. When I set the hook I caught a glimpse of the tail and had no idea what I had. Cory caught a glimpse of it and was some excited. Orange finned Laker. One of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever caught.
The ride back to Yellowknife was a little hairy at times but made it back safe and sound with HUGE smiles on our yaps.
Arriving back in town with an evening to reflect on the trip we left with a couple of noteworthy remarks.
Sure you could go to Plummers or one of the other lodges and be guided all over the lake to their preferred fishing spots their guides have found over the years. We did this on our own and that felt 10 times better than that ever could in our eyes. We were fishing, not catching. Some spots worked, some didn’t. Some baits were hot, some not so much. We pieced it together as a team and but over 200 Lakers over the gunnel and 150 plus Pike in 5 days of fishing.
Another thing we noted was no BS or drama. We all helped out with whatever needed to get done to get us back on the water. We laughed our asses off, had great conversations about our families and just anything and everything that would come up. Just three buddies enjoying themselves in an incredible place with unreal fishing.
This trip was what I thought was a Once-in-a-Lifetime experience. Maybe not so. Right fellas?
See ya in July 2016? Hope so.