Big Lake – Big Lake Trout

Big Lake – Big Lake Trout

Okay, this might be kind of a weird way to start off a story about a fishing trip, but, I’m doing it anyway. It’s about these, um, these… sausages.  That’s right, I said sausages!  The most amazing, mouth-watering, involuntary drool causing sausages known to man.  And, the only place I’ve ever seen them, is at Rusty’s Lodge in Northern Saskatchewan.

Never in my life have I ever tasted sausages soooooooo good! I found out they were made locally by an independent butcher shop in Lac La Ronge, SK.  They are filled with pork, locally harvested wild rice, and some very secretive spices, that, even with a background as a chef, I could not nail down personally.      Bummer.

Being one of these “TV guys” and travelling all over the place to hunt and fish, I get a really good look at what goes on in the hunting and fishing tourism industry.  I visit a lot of lodges, so I can compare apples to apples.  es, I have been to some dumps.  Yes, I have walked out (or at least flown out) of a few camps. And, yes, I have been to some “middle of the roaders,” but Rusty’s falls into neither of those categories. First, the staff really does care that you are a happy camper.  They will do their very best to see that your meals are prepared at a high standard, (no Kraft Dinner and fried Spam at this place…), they also make sure that your cabins are spotless and the boats and motors are clean and in good working order too.

Okay, now for the rugged stuff – the fishing!  I am the first to admit that I am spoiled rotten when it comes to fishing, because I get to fish in a lot of different places each year.  I have a lot of experience having been all across Canada several times. Lac La Ronge has for many years, had an outstanding reputation for not only lots of fish, but BIG fish too.  And, this was my goal, as Jordan Fornier, my cameraman and I set out to achieve in July of 2003 when we arrived to tape a show at Rusty’s Lodge, right on spectacular Lac La Ronge.

At Rusty’s they have a great variety of fish available.  Northern pike are abundant, and there are some huge ones too.  In June, after the spawning sessions are over, you’ll see northerns pushing fifty inches, loafing in three feet of water.  This is the ultimate fly rod challenge!  There’s awesome walleye fishing, and they’re probably my fave for the awesome shore lunch.  But, my goal was a huge lake trout.  I’ve caught tons of lake trout in my life, but I had never caught a really big one.  My personal best was a 25 pounder, also taken in Saskatchewan, the year before.  Earlier that winter, while discussing the trip with Tim Ismond, the camp Owner, I asked him if there was a decent chance of catching a 40 pounder.

Now, you must realize that in my business, I constantly hear people bragging about their great fishing. And, often, when I roll into camp, it’s the same thing.  ”RD, you should have been here last week.  We just hammered ‘em!  But, they seemed to have slowed down a bit the last few days or so.”  Tim told me straight up, that they often catch trout in the 40 pound class, and there was a good chance of me nailing one on video tape for my show.  Then he told me about their head guide, “Tubs.”  That’s right, I said Tubs.

You might think with a name like “Tubs” the guy would be about 4’11″ and weigh about 675, or so.  No, no, not this guy.  Tubs got his name from back in the “good ol’ days” long before the catch and release theory became a reality.  Tubs was so well known on Lac La Ronge, that the locals said he always came home with “tubs of fish.”  So, there you have it.  The guy is not 4’11″ and he doesn’t weigh 675.  He’s just a damn good fisherman!

Tubs was born and raised on Lac La Ronge and he knows this lake extremely well, especially if you consider its enormous size.  He is also an all around nice guy, and he is easily one of the best guides that I’ve ever worked with, and I worked with hundreds.  There is a saying on Lac La Ronge, “If Tubs can’t catch ‘em, nobody can.”  When I arrived in camp, I asked Tubs what type of depth finder he uses.  He gave a quick, yet honest reply.  ”The one in my head.”  That pretty much spells it out for you.

The first day out on the lake, we started out with one of Tub’s favourite techniques for deep water trout fishing, and that’s jigging.  Using stout rods loaded with 17 pound test mono, we dropped 2 ounce jigs dressed with white and chartreuse bucktail skirts, all the way down to the bottom.  In no time, I was learning some cool, new stuff from Tubs.  He has some different techniques that work well on “his lake” and it turned out that they worked well for me too.  In just a few minutes, we boated our first lake trout. A seven pounder that came out of ninety feet of water on the edge of a reef, which was chiselled out close to a small island.

The rest of the day was much like that.  Tubs took me on a run ‘n gun trip around the lake that gave us plenty of video footage for one day.  Enough for the whole show, in fact.  Most fish were between five and twelve pounds, and were caught while jigging in deep water.  The next morning, I wanted to try out my new downrigger.  So, we set up some rigs, and away we went.  (After eating about a dozen sausages, and a half dozen eggs, that is.)

Again, the fishing was easy.  After about a dozen or so average sized fish, I changed my lure to a gold Lucky Strike Lizzard, and then it happened… my rigger rod nearly popped out of the holder!  ”There’s one,” yelled Tubs.  Could this be the one, I thought to myself.  Well, after a wicked, half hour long, drag-burning battle, I had the answer to my question. “Ohhh ya, this is lookin’ pretty rugged folks,” I said to the camera, as Tubs and I caught the first glimpse of this mammoth brute, 20 feet down in the crystal clear water.  I suddenly, (without a whole lot of thought as to the fact that we were taping a TV show) screamed out, “Holy $%#*!”  (We had to do some fancy editing before that part went out to broadcast). “It’s freakin’ HUGE!”  And, huge it was.  A few minutes later, Tubs cradled my 37 pound lake trout, my biggest to date.  A record I’ll have some trouble beating.

After a quick photo, the huge, grey fish was released back into the crystal clear waters of Lac LaRonge. The trout must have been excited about his TV debut, because he kept on smiling and waving to the camera, while I was showing him off… “Look, kids, I’m on TV!”

I highly recommend Rusty’s Lodge for an exciting, Canadian fishing adventure of a lifetime.  It’s easy to get to, although still relatively remote.  If you take a float plane into camp, like I did, the ride is short, at about 15 minutes from the town of Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan.  You can boat your way in if you really want to, but that would be a little tricky if you don’t know the lake.  Lots of islands… take the plane.

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