It was 1960 when Chummy Plummer first met a boy from Texas who had come up with his father to fish Great Bear Lake. That boy is now in his 70s. But this summer, just like in his childhood, he’ll be heading to the Northwest Territories to go fishing with his family.
“He’s now bringing his grandkids,” says Plummer, owner of Plummer’s Arctic Lodges. “First it was his son-in-law, and then his grandkids started coming when they were seven years old. They come every year. It’s just one of those things that gets in your blood, I guess.”
What is it about those days out on the water that draws grandparents, parents and children together?
Part of it, Plummer says, is the opportunity to spend time together without all of the outside distractions – except for fishing of course. “They’re focused on the environment. They’re away from the telephones and the rest of the hectic world,” he says.
A special kind of bonding ensues.
“We’ve had people bringing their grandfather and grandmother and bringing a couple of the grandkids, and then the grandfather passes away and the grandmother keeps bringing the kids,” Plummer says. “That’s how much they appreciate the area. We’ve had groups up there with four generations.”
On one of his first-ever fishing trips in the Northwest Territories, George Kimmel remembers his father hooking a 36-pound Lake Trout that wouldn’t go down without a fight.
His father wasn’t well, but fishing was a revitalizing experience, Kimmel says. “Dad was having heart problems at the time, but it didn’t seem to bother him when that big fish was on the line.”
Kimmel, a long-time guest of Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge, has caught huge Trout himself – a 41-pounder gave him some bragging rights around the Barrenlands lodge. Kimmel first visited the lodge with his father in 1989, and has made it a lifelong tradition. “The fishing is great and the country’s great, and the friends I’ve made and people I meet just tops it off.”
For Kimmel and his dad, their annual fishing trip to the North was about just that – the trip. “We used to drive with our boat up there from El Paso,” he says. “We’d fish around Yellowknife for a week or so and then fly in to Point Lake.”
That’s a four-day, nearly 4,500-kilometre journey – but it was always worth it. Kimmel’s father recently passed away, but partly in his dad’s honour he’s continued the pilgrimage each year to Point Lake.
Some traditions are just too good to let go, he says – so he’ll be packing up his truck and heading North again in July.
“My dad and I fished all our lives, ever since I was a kid. He enjoyed beating me fishing. And I enjoyed beating him. But,” he says with a laugh, “that didn’t happen very often.”
With family members these days so busy with their own lives, Ken Yoder says some of the groups that head to his Hearne Lake Lodge are just looking for a chance to reconnect. He says about half the guests at the remote lodge just east of Yellowknife bring their families.
“We had a father and daughter up. She was headed to medical school and her father knew that over the next six years they weren’t going to spend a lot of time together. They came up for a week to get to know each other again,” says Yoder.
He observes that age is only a number when it comes to fishing trips – the lodge has hosted babies as well as anglers in their 80s. There are no restrictions on when guests can head out and fish, so Yoder says there’s plenty of time for groups to go for a Grayling, troll for Trout or tempt fish with a fly.
This also leaves ample time for catching up with those around you. “Times have changed,” Yoder says. “It’s pretty hard to talk to your 16-year-old when he’s got two devices in his hand. This is an opportunity to get away from the technology.”
“Up here,” he says, “if they’re out fishing in a remote area, the only communication they’re going to have is if they talk to each other.”
That’s why, for so many anglers who visit the Northwest Territories, fishing is all in the family.
For the whole story on family fishing trips, check out angling in the Northwest Territories.