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I like to push myself to try new things that are outside of my comfort zone. A good example of this is when I hiked up a volcano in Panama earlier this year. Although it was definitely out of my wheelhouse, these are the sorts of things that help open my mind up to new and possibly great experiences.
So when my cousin Dennis told me they had someone back out of their big week-long fishing trip in the bush of Canada and asked me to join, I was torn.
First of all, it was last minute – this was less than a week before the trip. If you read my last post from a few weeks ago, you know that I was exhausted and just needed a break from things for a while.
Since that post, we still had to go to North Carolina, pick up all the furniture we bought, and move it back to our new place. When he invited me, we still had boxes piled everywhere in our apartment (and we still have a lot to sort out even now!).
The last thing I should be doing is taking another trip.
On top of that, we stuffed a good chunk of more money into Series I Savings Bonds earlier this year and spent about 3x our normal spending in June during our road trip. That’s outside of the costs we incurred from our move from Panama and our travel to Mexico. We should be good throughout the rest of the year with our annual spending money, but the breathing room isn’t huge.
As far as the actual fishing goes, I’m not a regular fisherman by any means. I do have a good time though on the rare occasion that I do get to go, which also usually happens to be with the same cousin inviting me on this trip.
But this was different. Instead of a few hours of fishing, this would be a week of fishing pretty much all day every day. That’s a big commitment to do something you’re not even sure you’ll enjoy. What if I flat out hated it?
On the other hand, that’s what it’s all about… a new adventure. This fishing trip was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was far up in Quebec on a massive lake with essentially no one else anywhere around. We’d drive a crazy amount of hours to get there, take a small prop plane to get to the cabin, and then settle in our no-frills cabin in the bush. Be careful and don’t get hurt because no one’s coming to pick you up for a week.
This whole fishing trip idea was crazy in my perspective yet fascinating at the same time.
My cousin offered me a deal and cut my cost to get on board down from $2,140 to $1,000 as a last-minute offer just because they needed a fourth person on the trip. He also said that he would provide all the equipment. He’s big into fishing and this works out well because I don’t own any fishing gear.
Decisions, decisions… I really was struggling to decide. This Canada fishing trip sounded like a great adventure but between us trying to get settled into our new place, me needing a break, and even the additional cost (though still a steal!) made it something to think about.
So I asked my wife her thoughts. I was expecting her to hem and haw about it based on those same factors I mentioned… but she didn’t. She flat out said that she thought I should go or I’d regret it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right.
So I ecstatically let my cousin Dennis know I was in. Let the fishing trip to Quebec begin!!
Wow, this location is really far north!
My cousin is about a week older than me and has been doing fishing trips in various parts of Canada every few years since he was just 12 or 13. He would go with his brother, his dad, uncles, etc. Time has a tendency to change things though – uncles have passed away and his brother is now busy focusing on his family.
So for this trip, it was Dennis, his dad, his buddy Nick, and me. He booked it through his friend Jim Saari at Bushland Adventures as they’ve done for years and years now.
The location for this fishing trip was on Lake Evans (technically, Lac Evans in French) in Eeyou Istchee James Bay in western Quebec, Canada. With an area of 185 square miles, it’s not a tiny lake either.
Now, if you’re like me, you might not have realized just how far north into Canada that really is…
Yeah, that’s pretty far from a lot of the U.S. for sure!
Even from the Cleveland area where we would be coming from would make this a haul to get there…
And that 16 ½ hour drive is assuming that we never stop to use the bathroom, eat an occasional meal along the way, etc. Plus, those directions also are just to the air base. Once we’d get there, we would still need to take a small plane about 15-20 minutes to the cabin.
In other words, it’s one helluva haul to get there to make this fishing trip happen.
Dennis had rented a Ford Expedition for the journey and, after loading up some of the gear on the roof, the car fit the four of us about as comfortably as you can get for a crazy-long drive.
Be it as it may, we made the excursion successfully after staying one night at a hotel in North Bay, a city in Northeastern Ontario.
The plan was to then stay in a small cabin beside the air base for the next night to ensure we’d make the flight the following morning. However, Jim, the owner of Bushland Adventures, called Dennis while we were driving and said that we could get into our “real” cabin on the lake a day earlier if we wanted to… hell yes!
Our new home for the next week…
With that, we drove right to the air base, unloaded all our food, clothes, and gear from the car, and then worked with the pilot and another worker to get it all loaded into the seaplane.
And off we went…
I had never been on a seaplane that takes off and lands in the water so this was a new experience for me. It was an easy 15-minute flight with very little turbulence and a smooth takeoff and landing.
Then we arrived just outside of our new home on Lake Evans. We unloaded everything from the plane and brought it into our new cabin.
There was nothing fancy about the cabin – just a simple place right on the lake to sleep and eat with easy access to the boat docks.
For such a simple cabin for this fishing trip, I was surprised (though happy) to have a urinal in the cabin – it makes those late-night pees a lot easier (sorry ladies!). I also appreciated a shower there – yes, it was lake water pumped through it, but it was nice to have a hot shower a few times throughout our time here.
That said, the outhouse for the other business wasn’t as bad as some outhouses but it was still an outhouse nonetheless. That was the one thing I was happy to get away from after this trip!
Right next door to our cabin was where our guide Connor lived.
Connor is a guy in his mid-twenties who kicked @#$ as the guide and caretaker on our fishing trip…
Not only did he help tell us what we needed to know on the fishing side of things, but he would show up to help us get through small parts of a connecting river on the lake as well. He also made sure daily that the boats were always working properly, filled with gas, and beached during bad weather.
Additionally, he ensured we had firewood and took care of all sorts of other tasks as well.
After a few days into the fishing trip, we were inviting him to have dinner with us nightly. He was great to talk to and we had a lot of fun. He even brought his acoustic guitar over one evening and basically gave us our own concert… super cool. He’s a fantastic guitarist with a lot of classic rock knowledge!
Every morning of our fishing trip, Connor would start the generator to give us electricity to get the day started (lights, coffee maker, etc.). Then when we’d head out in the morning on the boats and he’d shut it off. We’d get back in the evening and he’d start it again. And once we turned off the lights at night, he’d shut it off again.
The one big surprise was that for the first time since this place had been around, they had internet access through Starlink satellite. We barely used it since that would take away from our time in the bush, but it was nice to be able to check in with our families and let them know we were alive when we got there.
How did the fishing go on this crazy fishing trip?
Ok, so now that you know more about where this Lake is and where we stayed, let’s get to the important stuff. It’s a fishing trip in Quebec, Canada after all – so how was the fishing???
In case you’re not a fisherman and don’t know (I didn’t), you come on a fishing trip to a place like this to mostly do catch and release of northern pike. And, of course, the aim is to catch big pike at that. Aside from that, we planned to do a small amount of walleye fishing just to be able to have a couple of fish dinners throughout the week there.
When we first arrived on Friday evening, we were all beat down and wanted to get some rest and start fishing early Saturday morning… everyone except for Nick that is.
He decided to go out on a boat with the guide and get rolling for a few hours. And it’s a good thing he did because he caught the biggest fish of our entire trip… a 47″ northern pike!
That got everyone pumped for the week.
Each day of the fishing trip, we would go out with two guys in two boats and rotate who was with who to change it up a little.
Unfortunately, we mostly had a rough week of fishing as a whole. Nick pulled off catching two other big pike during the first few days (a 45″ and a 42″) but the fish just weren’t biting much in general and we spent more time casting and reeling back empty lines than we expected in a lake that’s usually giving a lot more action.
My uncle (Dennis’ dad) said later in the week that this was probably the least amount of fish caught that he’s seen since they’ve been doing these Canada fishing trips over the decades. It probably didn’t help that we had a fair amount of rain and bad weather stirring up the water and making it very muddy and murky. If fish can’t see your lure to go after it easily, it’s hard to catch ’em!
Aside from that, the weather was a little chilly but not bad. Most of the days, the high temps were in the high 50s through the mid-60s. Throw in the chill of the wind while cruising through the lake and also that I tend to be a freeze baby and you shouldn’t be surprised that I dressed in heavy layers. Every morning, I put on all of these layers (including the long johns shirt), the boots, and one of these hats, and would strip off a layer or so as the day went on.
Additionally, I was throwing on a heavy raincoat and rain pants when the weather was bad. You would think I would have melted on this fishing trip, but I was surprisingly quite comfortable.
Regardless, everyone was doing ok on the fishing. There were decent amounts of pike being caught, but most of them were just small 12-20″ fish… and where’s the excitement in that? Even the walleye were pretty elusive most of the time in the lake (though we did manage to have a couple of awesome walleye dinners as planned!).
Dennis pulled off getting a 37″ northern pike about mid-week so he was feeling pretty good. He also had a 32″ and a 30″ and lost a big one.
My uncle caught a lot of smaller pike but was still hoping for a big fish to top off the week.
So everyone was doing decent on the fishing, except me. I just wasn’t doing well at all. Keep in mind that I haven’t done much fishing at all over the years and when I would go out with my cousin Dennis, we were just trolling in his boat.
Throughout the week though, I asked a lot of questions, learned some extremely important pieces of info, and continued to improve my game. At the start, I was reeling in a little too fast. And when I would get fish on the line, I kept losing them. It turns out I wasn’t setting the hook properly (yanking the hook into its mouth when it was on) and that actually cost me what Nick was guessing was a 45″ fish… what a crusher!
It was a tough week for everyone, but at least they had some decent fish on the board.
Then it happened…
We were all looking forward to our last day of fishing on Friday since it was going to be a beautiful day with a high of 75 degrees. It also didn’t rain the day before so we were counting on the lake not being as murky. Hopefully, that would make for some better fishing.
My uncle rocked out a 33″ pike that morning so he felt good about getting on the board.
The fish were biting and everyone was pulling in a good amount of fish – it was so much better than earlier in the week. I was doing much better and pulled in a handful of smaller pike throughout the morning.
I even took a few minutes and reflected on the fishing trip and how, even though I didn’t catch a big fish, this was still a great week. Even though I was a little iffy about whether I’d enjoy it, I spent over 60 hours fishing on the lake (Dennis and Nick spent even more) and I loved it. Throw in that it was a guys’ week while spending time outdoors and that made it a great week.
But then it happened.
With only a few hours left of fishing, I got a bite… this one was no small fish.
I had told Nick previously to start barking orders at me if I ever got another big fish on the line and he coached me along… Point your rod up and keep the line tight. Keep reeling slowly. Ok, let him run a little… no, don’t let him get into the weeds! Ok, try bringing him this way so his head will be toward where I’m going to drop the net.
I listened to every word and my adrenaline was rushing as a minute or so passed by… I can’t lose this fish, too!
I didn’t lose him.
As soon as Nick netted him, we both yelled so loud they probably heard us in the U.S.!
I was ecstatic as you can imagine. We hurried to unhook it, measure it, and take a few photos before gently putting it back in the lake and ensuring it was good to swim off.
It was a 38″ northern pike and I caught it. This was the biggest fish caught on the fishing trip except for the monsters that Nick had brought in earlier in the week. We’ll chalk my fish up to beginner’s luck but I don’t care.
My fishing trip was even more complete now. My heart was still beating fast and I took a break from fishing for about 5-10 minutes while I reveled in what just happened. What an awesome feeling.
For those who know fishing and are curious, most of the big fish we caught were by using either the Johnson Silver Minnow Silver 2 ½ inch, ½ oz (including the beauty I caught!) or the Johnson Silver Minnow Silver 3 ¾ inch, 1 ⅛ oz.
We also seemed to do ok with the gold series – the Johnson Silver Minnow Gold 2 ½ inch, ½ oz and the Johnson Silver Minnow Gold 3 ¾ inch, 1 ⅛ oz. However, silver seemed to outperform gold most of the time.
It was a good day of fishing – not just for me but for all of us. I also caught a 25″ pike that day so that was a nice one as well.
And that rounded out our week. I’m glad the best day of fishing fell on the last day instead of the first. Ending the fishing trip on a good note made it a little better in my mind.
The drive back from the fishing trip was tough
We spent eight nights in the bush of western Quebec. It was an incredible experience and a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, we had to drive back the next day and we knew it would be painful. We decided to just rotate drivers and not stop at a hotel if possible.
After the seaplane showed up and flew us back to the mainland, we loaded up and started driving at 11 am. I got home at 5 am the next morning. That’s 18 grueling hours in the car with only a few brief stops along the way.
We were all toast. I purposely only slept for about 4 hours when we got back on Sunday morning so I would still be tired that night. And tired I was because I went to sleep at 10 pm on Sunday and slept like a baby until 8 am!
Was the drive miserable? Yes. Was it worth it for this trip? Yeah, I would say so. What a cool trip.
Let’s wrap this up with some random awesome photos from the trip…
In the end, stepping out of my comfort zone paid off yet again. Even being someone who isn’t an avid fisherman, this fishing trip in the bush in Quebec, Canada turned out to be another awesome adventure.
This was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would likely have passed on years ago if offered. But broadening my horizons and doing something different proved to be so worth it!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!