A Canadian Fly-In Adventure

By Scott Stankowski - September 1, 2013
If you are like me, then you have dreamt about taking a Canadian fly in fishing trip for a long time. Perhaps you have done it in the past and consider it an annual pilgrimage. If so, then you are certainly blessed.

The boys and I, along with camera man Eric Brittnacher, recently headed to Armstrong Station, Ontario, Canada, for our first ever Canadian fly-in experience. It is something that every avid fisherman needs to do at least once in his life, and if you have done it once, you’re probably like us and cannot wait to experience it again.

Not knowing what to expect was part of the anticipation as we headed into uncharted waters. Picking the right outfitter was probably the most important aspect of the entire trip. In February, good friend and owner of Michele’s restaurant in Stevens Point hosted a Canadian Fly-In show co-sponsored by Thunderhook Fly-Ins. There we met Debbie Alexander who organizes and runs the outpost camps that Thunderhook has. Having great references and high energy, I booked a trip with them for the middle of August.

It was a 12-hour ride from Stevens Point to the base camp. The trip was picturesque and besides being detained for half an hour by the Canadian border patrol for no apparent reason was fantastic. Going into Canada at the border is not to be taken lightly and a traveler best be prepared.

We met Drake Dill, co-owner of Thunderhook and headed to the bunkhouse for the night. He filled us in on what we should expect and ensured us of the great time we were about to have. The next morning we flew in by float plane to our outpost camp on Smoothrock Lake. The lake was like none I had ever seen. Imagine taking a baseball and throwing it through a window and the glass cracks but does not shatter. That is what the lake is like with every spider crack a 5-7 mile long bay of the main basin to explore and fish, full of shoreline, islands and weed beds.

We were told to pack light, yet by week’s end we had not packed light enough. We brought food back home but that was our own fault as we ate fish at every meal. We did plan appropriately for that by bringing ingredients for a plethora of dishes. We shore lunched five different times, eating dishes from traditional fried fish, to fish tacos, to poor man’s lobster to walleye provencal. It was the key to enjoying the bounty of our harvest and keeping our taste buds happy.

The fishing was outstanding and I would suggest if you travel to Canada to pack your items into a Rubbermaid dry bin. We unpacked it at the beautiful cabin that we had and then repacked our daily rain gear, cooking supplies and snacks in case of foul weather or fish in the boat.

There were plenty of fish as the boys caught more than they could ever want. On average we took in 100 fish a day between the two boats and we spent a lot of time sightseeing and exploring. We were fishing in the middle of August, the water temperature was 70 degrees and we found walleyes anywhere from 5-22 feet of water with our most productive spot being in an 8 foot bay that brought in fish after fish that ranged anywhere from 14 to 22 inches. Our set-up was a quarter ounce jig, tipped with a Northland tackle impulse twister tail with either a leech or minnow, which Debbie had ample supplies of for us.

Having to pack light, we did not bring water bottles or beverages with us, instead we brought water jugs that we filled in the morning and traveled with them as we fished. It was the lifesaver we remembered to bring by chance.

Heading into the trip I was skeptical of the boys’ ability to handle the adventure. They brought books and their Nintendo DS games. Not once did they play electronics. CJ read a book for a little while, but was entertained by the beauty of the wilderness. Our longest day we spent 13 hours out of camp taking a break here and there and stopping for shore lunch, there was no ADD up here.

We checked out a one room trappers cabin, explored the Wabakimi falls, and ate a ton of wild blueberries. The near shore landscape held few insects during the day, providing the perfect backdrop for our curiosities. We found a deep drop off that we could cliff jump off of. Watching the boys jump twenty feet off a rock wall into thirty feet of water was inspiring. Debbie had kayaks for the boys to use, and the base camp was offset in a bay that provided the protection needed by incoming winds to tool around in them and swim.

The highlights of the week happened right away as I landed a 44” 23-pound northern that pounded my Northland tackle mimic minnow on the first night. Later in the week, CJ caught a 36” beast that slammed his walleye set-up, he fought it like a champ on his 7 lb test bionic line and I thought he was going to fly out of the boat as he jumped from seat to seat in celebration. None of us ever hooked into a beast of a walleye, but catching fish that averaged 3 pounds was more than we could have asked for.

I would highly suggest checking out Thunderhook fly-in fishing adventures, as they provide the much needed resources for a first time fishing trip to Canada. If you are skeptical of bringing your children, there is plenty to do to keep them occupied, besides I think the importance of getting away from our crazy world made a huge impact on them. Coming back to a cozy cabin, friendly staff and first-rate facilities made the trip of a lifetime. The only problem is that it will have to become more than a trip of lifetime for the Stankowski boys as we will certainly be heading back soon.

Author Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski is the senior outdoor writer for centralwisconsinsports.net and produces weekly articles, typically highlighting getting kids active in the outdoors. His family prides itself on living off of the land. Scott also takes the mantra into the classroom where he teaches environmental science at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Scott and his sons have won numerous titles in turkey and deer calling at the state level. Scott and his sons have a national outdoor television show titled Growin' Up Wild and can be found on Facebook.