For more than a decade, I’ve made an annual trek from Chicagoland to Scott Lake Lodge, an oasis of luxury in the middle of a vast wilderness, right on the border of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. It’s my fishing home. When I flew into Scott on that trip, I recall pressing my face close to the window of GQD, the vintage Scott Lake Lodge Beaver. Over the 50-mile flight north from Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan I watched a water wonderland unfold. It was difficult, impossible really, to discern just what was an island, what was a peninsula or what was mainland. The whole concept of mainland disappeared into a blue/green maze of interconnected waterways. It was magical, especially when out of nowhere the lodge appeared.
But that wasn’t as magical as my first stop on that first day at Scott. We were running north on Scott Lake. The water clarity was stunning, even frightening at times, as Paul drove over reefs that appeared out of nowhere, some right in the middle of large expanses of water. Paul had a plan and a destination in mind, a bay in the northwest arm of the lake, about 15 miles into the Northwest Territories. This was late June, spring-time this far north, when the pike are still very shallow. Arriving at the bay, it was love at first sight and it had exactly the kind of dark silt bottom, creating conditions for warmer water, that pike dearly love early in the season. Paul knew this would be the spot. Standing on the casting platform, I was a voyeur in a private aquarium. There were pike everywhere and with the sun at my back, these fish were dramatically lit up. I had that kid-in-a-candy store felling, a sight casting dream. Picking the biggest fish of course, I made a cast with a fly of my own creation. Instantly the fish spotted my fly, whipped its body around, accelerated before the fly sank even an inch and smoked it: all this in about two seconds.
Explosive gamefish, pike like to put on a show and this one didn’t disappoint as it ripped around the shallow bay. Despite a dramatic “cuda crawl” of tail walking and the old dive-under-the-boat trick, the pike could not shake the hook; everything held together and Paul artfully lifted the heavy fish out of the water. The tape said 44 inches but was silent about the dramatic markings on this sleek creature, a thing of beauty. It was a true tundra shark, a name I love more than the other pike handles—jackfish, gators, fresh water barracuda, or water wolf. After the pictures were taken and the silt settled, the other pike were still there; they had merely changed seats. The rest were easy pickings. Wonderfully, my first day at Scott had just begun.
Since that first day at Scott a decade ago, I’ve caught thousands of pike from two feet to four feet, some huge trout up to 45 pounds and hundreds of arctic grayling, providing a relaxing change of pace from the adrenaline infused pike and trout fishing. I’ve sampled the fishing at nearly all of the lodge’s 18 fly out destinations in the Northwest Territories, ranging from a couple of dozen miles to over a hundred miles from Scott Lake Lodge, and ranging in size from a few thousand acres to a few hundred thousand acres.
For me variety is the spice of fishing. Most years one five-day trip just isn’t enough and I come back for one or two more. It’s just that good. Typically, my son or my wife or both join me in these expeditions. They love the fishing as well but also love the range of amenities that the lodge offers—the fine dining, the hot tub, the sauna and excellent spa with massage services, the comfortable cabins and most of all the extraordinary customer service.
We all love the elaborate shore lunches with just-caught pike or trout, expertly prepared by the guides. Will I be back in 2017, 2018 and beyond? Do pike like Mepps spinners or black bunny leeches? Maybe I’ll see you there.
By Mark Graf