Fly-In Fishing

I’m not much of a fisherman. But when a friend invited me to go to Canada for some fly-in fishing I jumped at the chance. The key word was ‘fly’ and I like to fly. I figured I could endure a few days of bugs and handling leeches. He said there was room for eight and he had invited some other guys.I was a little bit apprehensive about the cost. My buddy was a farmer and even though it might look on paper as though he was dirt poor, I had never known him to be short of cash. Besides, he was the one with a brand new four-wheel drive pickup and lavish home. I lived in a 100-year-old house that I had been remodeling for the last ten years. Tim told me he figured I’d only need about $300 or $400. I decided it was best to double that amount. Besides, he might be thinking in Canadian funds.The first thing I did, of course, was to clear it with my wife. She was her usual understanding self. “I think that would be great for you.” She gushed. “Besides you haven’t been out of the house for a long time.”Then she gave me the same look that usually made our kids breakdown and spill their guts. “Just how much will it cost?””Oh, Tim said about $200 or maybe $300 tops.” I hedged.”Well, you deserve it. If you think we can afford it, go ahead.”I kissed her on the forehead and left the room while my resolve was still intact. Then I went to phone Tim. “It’s all set. As long as nothing happens at work, I’ll be going.””Well if you don’t go, I’ll have to take my brother-in-law. He never has plans or anything pressing, so he could go if I needed him to.””Yeah, sounds like my brother-in-law.”I decided it would be best if I bought a new fishing pole. After all, the rod I had used last, about three years before, was broken. I had used it to try and move a cinder block in the garage without moving my car. It almost worked, too. ‘Til it broke.Down at the sporting goods store I told the salesman I was going fly-in fishing in Canada.”What part?””Uh, north of here.” I shrugged my shoulders.”Well, we could set you up for under a thousand.””I’ll, uh, just browse by myself.” I said.I found a spin-cast outfit on sale and plunked down my credit card. “Is this all you need?” He asked me.”Yeah, my tackle box if full of stuff.” I smiled. Actually it was. Stuff I’d collected since I was about twelve and had found a bobber, a package of rusty hooks and a homemade lure. Over the years I’d added to it here and there. It was odds and ends, but when my grandfather died I ended up with a few of his lures. And I had neatly stuffed it all inside this plastic container I found next to a trash truck.The day we left, eight guys piled into two beat-up trucks and we headed to our rendezvous point, on the north side of The Lake of the Woods. We were all in good spirits. We stopped after hours and hours of driving at the Canadian/US border. The officer stepped out of his little booth and looked us over.?”Going fishing, eh?” He asked.??”Yup.” Tim said.??”Anything to declare?”??”Naw.”??”Not bringing anything illegal in?”??”Naw.” Tim yawned.??The border guard waved his hand. “Go on then. Good luck, eh?”??We stopped in a town with a shopping mall so we could get out and stretch and also we needed to convert our cash into Canadian. It took me awhile to get used to the strange colored bills. We drove the rest of the afternoon until we reached some remote place in Ontario. There was a motel, a sports shop adorned with a stuffed moose, a restaurant and plenty of mosquitoes. We all went in the restaurant and Tim whispered to me. “You know all the malt machines in Canada are broken.”??”Really?”??”Yep.”??”You think so?”??”Just order a malt.”??When the waitress came to take our order I waited my turn, ordered the obligatory cheeseburger and then said. “And how about a strawberry malt?”??”I’m sorry,” The waitress said without blinking. “The malt machine is broken.”??”See?” Tim told me.??After we dined we all went to the sports shop and perused the very expensive tackle.Everyone was buying something so I gave in and found the cheapest thing I could, a package of hooks. We had to buy fishing licenses, too. I started counting my money and even though I had more in Canadian than I did in American, I was starting to get worried. “How much will the motel room be?” I asked Tim.??He shrugged. “You can pay me later if you want.”He smiled or had a pain, I’m not sure, then he added, “When we divide up the cost for gas.”??We retired to our two motel rooms and the four of us in my room promptly got our tackle and started organizing. I showed the guys my new fishing pole and they showed me theirs. “You’ll probably need heavier line than that,” one of ‘em frowned. “Won’t be many bluegills.”??”You think so?”??”You want to use some of my mine?” I glanced at the tangled mess of blue nylon string in his hand.??”No,” I said as I looked back at the complicated reel attached to my pole. “I think this will be okay.”??He shrugged, “If you lose a muskie, it’s your own fault.”??Well, the motel room kept out most of the mosquitoes and by six the next morning we were dressed and ready for the airplane ride. The guys finally all made it up to checkout by seven and we went for breakfast. I just had some coffee. I knew we still had to pay for that airplane ride.??At the dock we parked close to a big yellow airplane with a radial engine. Several other airplanes and boats were floating in the river. We promptly unloaded our gear and carried it out to the dock with all the precision and organization of a troop of cub scouts, without their den mother. And then Tim ushered us in to the ‘office’ to pay for our transportation. I was near the end of the line, sweating and counting my funny colored Canadian bills over and over.Finally the word was passed down what it would cost. I would have a twenty left, and I sighed. Of course, I owed Tim for the motel and the gas. I figured I could either not eat on the way home, or I could not fish and return my new fishing rod. I started to worry about what my wife would say.??We went back to the dock and waited for the previous party to finish moving their things and then we were allowed to load up.It was all pretty exciting, climbing up and down from the dock to this floating airplane with sleeping bags, and tents and fishing gear and duffel bags and coolers of food and bait.??I was really excited. I was a pilot but had never flown anything as big as this airplane. When we climbed in the guys told me to sit up front with the pilot. “That way,” they nodded with the logic of men about to go fishing. “If he dies or something, you can at least get us back on the ground safely.”??I didn’t tell them I’d never flown anything this complicated. But it was great fun.Finally our ‘bush’ pilot untied the airplane from the dock and climbed into the pilot seat. The guy who had taken my money pushed the wing and we floated away from the dock. The pilot pumped things and twisted things and finally got the big radial engine roaring to life. I thought to myself, here we go. But we didn’t.??The pilot pulled out a thermos and poured himself a cup of coffee while we floated around on the river.??”What are we doing?” I asked??”Having a cup of coffee.” He said with an annoyed look.??I nodded my head. “But why are we waiting?”??He sighed and pointed at some gauges. “Waiting for the oil pressure and temperature to come up.”??”I see.” I forgot about that. It was pretty cool out that morning. I remembered shivering while sitting on the dock.??I turned and looked back at my group of fishermen. They were all looking out the window and chatting with each other. They looked excited, dirty and badly in need of a collective shave. I wondered if we would all be so friendly after four days and three nights together.??The pilot burped, opened a small vent in the window and threw out the rest of his coffee. He secured the thermos under his seat, wedging it between important pilot stuff. He looked back and hollered at us.??”Buckle up!”??He looked at me and said. “Pretty morning, eh?””Sure is.” I started to say, but he lifted a lever and the noise of the engine made it impossible to hear. His feet pumped the rudder pedals and the nose of the airplane swung out towards the north. He pumped something and then put on a pair of sunglasses. For a while it seemed we were in a big, heavy boat, flopping against waves on the river. Finally though, we lumbered into the air. I turned around and gave the guys the thumbs up sign. No one paid any attention to me.??We flew for what seemed like hours over lakes and small hills of rocks and spruce trees and rivers. I watched for landmarks in case I had to find my way back alone, but it all looked the same.Finally the airplane banked and the engine throttled back. I looked down and saw a small lake. I tried to watch what the pilot did, so I could repeat it if it came to that, but got lost in all his movements. Soon we were inches above the smooth water of a clear lake in northwest Ontario.??The airplane settled down with the sound of a big toilet flushing. Eventually we drifted towards a wooden dock next to a rocky hill in the middle of the lake. The pilot opened his door as he shut down the engine. He deftly climbed to the end and managed to jump to the dock while holding a rope. He pulled the airplane close and tied it to the dock.?Since my door opened on the lakeside, I had to wait until the other guys got out of the airplane. None of them thought to grab any stuff so when I came to the door, Dwight was waiting for me.??”Hand down the stuff, will you, Paul?”??”Huh?”??”From the back of the plane. You know our stuff?”??I ducked back in and pulled out the duffle bags, sleeping bags, fishing gear, food, coolers and whatever else looked like our stuff.??”That’s it!” I said as I climbed down to the float and crossed over to the dock.??”You know what to do if you need us?” The pilot asked Tim.??”Sure.”??”We fly over at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, so just lay out the sheet if you have any trouble.”??”Sheet?” I asked nervously.??”Yeah, the big orange sheet. In that bag.” The pilot pointed. “If you have an emergency.”??”Emergency?” I looked at Tim. He was shaking his head at me.??”Nothing to worry about.” He said to the pilot, looking embarrassed for me.??”Well, you guys have fun. Good luck.” The pilot said as he untied the airplane. “Give me a shove, eh?”??He jumped on the float and looked at me. “On the wing, give it a shove, eh?”??”Oh, sure.” I said. I grabbed something hanging from the wing and shoved the big yellow airplane towards the middle of the lake. Losing my balance I quickly rotated my arms and narrowly missed falling into the water. The guys who saw, started laughing, along with our bush pilot.??”Thanks. Good luck!”The pilot climbed back in the airplane still chuckling. “You’ll need it!”??I turned and looked for my sleeping bag. The guys had already set up my tent.??”You’re with us,” Ron said as he grabbed his sleeping bag. “Where’s your clothes?”??”I don’t know, I don’t see my suitcase.”??”Did you see it when you were unloading things?”??”I don’t remember.”??I looked around watched as the gleeful men quickly threw things into one of the two piles and then ran for the boats. “Hey, guys!” I hollered.??”What’s wrong?” The other Dwight asked me.??”I don’t have my clothes.”??”Too bad.” Dwight laughed. “I’m going fishing.”??”Got your fishing pole?”The other Dwight asked me.??”Yup. And my tackle box, but no clothes.”??The other Dwight shrugged.??”C’mon!” Tim hollered at me. “Let’s go!” He was already sitting in a dirty aluminum boat, starting the motor.??I grabbed my tackle box and my new pole and swung around to head for the dock.??”Hey! Watch where you stick that thing!” Norm yelled as he pushed the end of my rod out of his stomach.”Sorry.” I said. I didn’t want to make Norm mad. He was crabby enough when he was in a good mood.? I deftly climbed into the aluminum boat and Tim patiently waited for me to get just one foot inside before he revved the engine up and turned the boat around. Loosing my balance I fell face forward almost into the clear, cold water of the lake.??”Sit down!” Tim commanded. So I did.??”Not on my tackle!” Tim scolded.??Finally we were out in the middle of the lake. Tim had two poles out in the water, a fish finder beeping and was opening a can of soda. “Aren’t you going to fish?” He asked me.??”I, uh.” Said with my head down. “Gotta rig this up.”??Tim sighed heavily. “Here.” He put out his hand. “Watch my lines.”??”Whatta’ya fishin’ for?” Tim asked as he quickly cut into my brand new line.??”Huh?” I asked.??”Lake trout? Northern? Walleye? Bass?” Tim said as he watched the scope on his fish finder. “There goes a bunch.” He pointed.??”I don’t know, what do you recommend?” I asked feeling wimpy.??”Probably for you, uh, Northern, or maybe the small mouthed bass.”??”Oh, okay.” I said starting to feel like a sportsman again.??”Almost anybody can catch those.” Tim added. “Where’s your weights?”??”I uh, my what?”??”Sinkers?”??”Uh, I think I have some I found a few years ago…or did I use them for my model airplane?”??”Never mind.” Tim said. “I’ll use mine.” He sighed deeply. I just knew he was wishing he had taken his brother-in-law instead of me.??”Got any spoons?”??”Yeah, but I left ‘em with the food.” I pointed back towards our camp.??Tim shook his head and sighed again.He reached into his own tackle again and pulled out a red and white shiny thingy with lotsa hooks on it. “This is called a spoon.” He said as he attached it to my line. He handed me back my pole. “Try not to hook me with it, okay?”??I laughed nervously as Tim started reeling up one of his lines. “A lake trout, I bet.” He said with the first smile that I’d seen since we got in the boat.??Carefully I drew back threw my spoon thingy in the lake. “What about a bobber? I asked as Tim wrestled with the biggest fish I’d ever seen come out of a lake.??”If you get a strike you’ll know.” Tim said. “Now this is a nice sized lake trout!”??Suddenly my line went tight and my reel made a whirring noise.??”You got something!” Tim hollered. “Reel it in! Not so fast! Faster, your line is slacking! Not so fast!”??Eventually a silvery looking monster was swimming wildly next to the boat. “He’s too small for the net.” Tim said sounding exasperated. “But you better grab him ‘cause he might break your line.”??”How do I…?”??A loud sigh and Tim reached into the water and pulled out my small mouthed bass. “You hold these like this.” He said as he pinched its lower lip between his finger and thumb. “See?”??”Sure.” I stuttered. “Can you unhook the fork?”??”Fork? You mean spoon?”??”Yeah.”??”They’re fun to catch,” Tim instructed me. “But the walleye and trout are better eating.” He handed me the fish. “Here, you release him.”??I reached out my hand but just before I took the fish I chickened out. Tim thought I had it, and it fell into the boat, thrashing about.??”Will you just pick him up?!” Tim shouted.??I reached down and timidly caught the poor lake creature by its tail. Scooping it with both hands it seemed to jump right back into the lake. “Got it.” I said as I wiped my hands on my pants. I tried to sound like I was competent and knew what I was doing.??A little later Tim had three lake trout and was setting up his gear for another when another fish ran off with Tim’s spoon on my pole. Trying to reel it in, but not too fast I brought the twenty inch long northern to the side of the boat.??”How do I get him in?” I asked excitedly.??Tim ignored me, pretending to be busy with his tackle.??Trying to copy Tim, I grabbed for the line close to the fish’s mouth as it swam close to the boat and picked it up carefully, while at the same time I knocked Tim’s hat into the water with my pole.??”Ow!” He hollered. “Watch it!”??”Sorry I said as I heaved the heavy fish up. It was slippery and big, and scary looking. It made me nervous and as I tried to work the hook out of it’s jaw I dropped the poor, crazed lake monster into the bottom of the boat. Using all my skill and physical prowess I gingerly stepped on its head with one foot, kept my balance with the other, and luckily my hook fell out of its jaw by itself.??Using my tried and true method of the two-hand scoop, I neatly threw it back in the water. “There,” I said wiping my hands on my pants again. “That was sure a big one!”??”You really ever even been fishing?” Tim asked with a strange look on his twisted face.??”Sure.” I said as I threw the fork, er, spoon thingy back in the water with a magnificent cast.??”That’s going right into the prop!” Tim hollered as he shut off the engine.??”Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “I was aiming the other way, and you know, uh further out.”??Tim unwound my fishing line from his shoulder and then the boat motor. He didn’t say much, but looked like he wanted to.??”You might need some, uh, sun screen.” I offered. “You’re looking pretty red.”??The day flew by. Not really. But eventually Tim took me back to camp and made me fish with Norm the rest of the day. Norm was afraid we’d capsize so he wouldn’t go any further than five feet from shore.??”Let me drive the boat, Norm?” I asked.??”No.”??”Aw, c’mon, Norm?”??”No.”??But even with Norm I seemed to be able to catch fish. I got a northern, a bass, and an ugly perch, but at least I got lots of practice holding the fish and unhooking the hook. I had only a few bad moments when the hooks went through my fingers.??Then that night, as the sun was setting and we were sitting around drinking lake water Kool-Aid and munching on lake trout and fried potatoes, the mosquitoes seemed to thicken. It wasn’t long before we decided to go to bed in our tents.??”Okay fellows,” Ron warned us. “I’m EXTREMELY claustrophobic. So no jokes.” He was pointing a rather large hunting knife at us. “And I sleep with this under my pillow, so be careful you don’t wake me up too fast!”??”You sleep next to Ron,” Norm said to me as he dived for the end of the tent.??The other Dwight offered Ron the other end of the tent.??”Nope.” He said as he slid his knife under his pillow. “I got to be by the door.”??”Are you guys going to talk all night? Or sleep?” Norm asked as he pulled his sleeping bag over his head.??”Sheesh! What a grouch!” The other Dwight whispered.??”No kidding.” Ron said. He looked at me. “Will this window leak if it rains? I think its going to rain tonight.”??”I don’t know, maybe.” I answered.??”Shut up!” Norm growled. “Let’s get some sleep!”??The other Dwight snickered as Ron pretended to jab his knife at Norm. We all laid back and listened to Tim and Dwight in the other tent.