It always amazes me when I see Northern Ontario from the sky. There is water everywhere! I often joke that if you were to ever get lost in the bush, all you have to do is walk for five minutes and you’ll fall into a lake or river. There are endless bodies of water as far as you can see and I often think of the vast numbers of giant fish that call Ontario’s water bodies home.
We arrived at Miminiska Lodge, a Wilderness North property and immediately got to work. Sure we were there to fish, but the purpose of our trip was to shoot an episode of The New Fly Fisher. We were scheduled to be at the lodge for the better part of 5 days fishing, and though you’re a good hike north of Thunder Bay, Ontario Miminiska is designed for those who are looking for something a little different.
The lodge is great. After a short walk from the landing strip to your personal cabin, and a quick tour of the lodge facility, we were ready to wet a line and head out for Walleye and northern pike.
Shooting a tv show at a location you’ve never fished is challenging at best and we rely on local knowledge to “cut the fat” and get right to the higher percentage spots that hold fish. Miminiska Lodge is fast becoming famous for good numbers of large fish – Pike and walleye – Pike in the 40 inch class and Walleye consistently well over 20 inches. So finding fish was not a problem at all. Though guiding is an option on Miminiska, we really didn’t need that service as the information given by dockhands and managers rivals that of any guide I’ve used. That said, guides do know the area brilliantly and you can rely on a safe round trip to the fishing grounds and back – lower unit and propellor in tact. A quick look at a map, and you’re all set to catch fish.
Catching walleye on fly can be seen as quite laborious, slowly dragging flies along the bottom foot or so of the water column. In all honesty, It’s not my favorite method or species. We were offered the chance to go to a spot stereotypically named “the honey hole”, a tried and true hot spot on the lake. I was nothing short of skeptical as every lodge it seems has a “honey hole”. The Honey Hole is a narrow cut separating the main lake and the very large Curry Bay. There is 1 foot deep flat on each side of the cut which I estimate to be about 8-10 feet deep. As we drove up to the cut, I thought I could see fish fleeing on the flat. We pulled up to the trench and I made a cast with a full sinking line and a black leech imitation. Bam! 21-inch walleye, 2nd cast Bam! 19 inch walleye. I ended up releasing 60 fish in the next 3 hours with zero sign of them letting up. That’s an average of a fish every 3 minutes. Walleye fishing changed for me that day – it was fun, active and literally non-stop.
While we were at Miminiska shooting the episode, there were others at the lodge as well. A number of military veterans from the international group Project Healing Waters were there. Alan and Krista Cheeseman welcome this group year after year to meet, tie flies and catch some fish in an environment that is open and with people of liked minds and experiences. All PHW veterans have injuries and it’s through the simple act of fly-fishing and fly tying these injuries are healing. It was very moving to hear the stories of the veterans, their struggles and their successes all related to the sport we love.
One of the more unique adventures available at Miminiska Lodge involves what I believe to be at the core of the Wilderness North business – adventure. Sure it’s fine and fun to go to a remote fly-in outpost camp and be able to fish the lake, but for me, and my money, I’m looking for something a little different – something off the beaten path. This place has it – and has it in spades. Here is but one of the adventures you can do while at Wilderness North. We were picked up by a bush plane and whisked away with canoe in tow to the headwaters of the keezick river. Loaded up, we made the short paddle down stream to the first brook trout pool. If you’ve never managed to, or had the chance to lock horns with one of Ontario’s wild native brook trout, do yourself a favor and put it on your bucket list. They readily take flies on the surface and on the swing and Im here to tell you, there are some true jewels of the north in these waters. In a couple of hours we managed to release 6 or 7 world class fish with the biggest going well into the six pound class. These square tails took dry flies and minnow imitations. Mid-afternoon, the weather rolled in and we had to get back on the plane to make it safely back to the lodge. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful week.
Miminiska Lodge is on the Albany River. A natural widening of the river sees countless habitat areas for northern pike, walleye and of course wild native brook trout. In a week, we didn’t scratch the surface of where to fish, and clearly didn’t put a dent into the fish populations in the area. Slot size retention regulations ensure the breeders get put back to do their job and the younger (and tastier) fish are kept to eat. The lodge is everything you’d expect a fly-in camp to be and more. Full amenities, wifi, 24 hour power and summer sun that allows you to fish almost around the clock. I hope to return one day to Miminiska, or any of the lodges and outpost camps Krista and Alan have in the Wilderness North family. The place is fantastic, the people are wonderful and the fishing is off the charts.