On the Water
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Angling for Memories

A family vacation for fishing and fun
By Dan Armitage
Published: April 1, 2006
Half the fun of taking a fishing trip can be getting there. The author’s family traveled by automobile, train, boat and this floatplane to get to and from Lodge 88 during their trip to Northern Ontario.
Photo by Dan Armitage
“Would you rather play a video fishing game or catch a real fish?”
When my 5-year-old answered with the former, I knew it was time for a fishing trip.    
Two months later to the day, Ethan was screaming with determination and delight, with both fists wrapped around the butt of a fishing rod – fighting a walleye doing its best to yank the dancing fiberglass pole from his grasp.
Score one for the reel life.
The second score came an hour later as we ate crisp fillets from that fish, which we had fried over a driftwood fire.
“This is better than McDonald’s, Dad!” my kindergartner exclaimed.

It was a memorable start to a memorable trip that fueled more than a passion for the outdoors in a 5-year-old; a few sparks flew between Mom and Dad as well as we fell into the rhythms of a vacation pace set by Mother Nature. With no responsibilities to crowd our minds – beyond keeping reasonably fed and rested – we found relaxation like we’ve never known.
And with it, the time to appreciate every discovery made by our boy in the wild world by which he was suddenly surrounded.

We were deep in the Great North Woods at a fishing camp situated far enough off the beaten path that the only access is by train chose this camp was its reputation for plentiful and large pike and rainbow trout, two species of gamefish not available near our vacation home.
Our abode for the week was a snug cabin built of logs cleared from the lakefront site and our transportation a cedar-plank skiff powered by a small outboard motor.
With other cabins and guests within earshot, surrounding a common lodge where food and fellowship with other fishermen were offered, we were hardly on our own. But we were much closer to experiencing the real wilderness than anything we could find back home in suburbia, or even at our riverside vacation home.
While we began and ended each day in camp with a hot meal at the lodge, we made each fishing day an adventure, packing only the hardware needed for preparing our mid-day meal. The shore lunch kit consisted of a skillet, oil, lemons, salt and pepper, potatoes, onion, bread and baked beans. Whether or not we got to break out the Crisco and breading depended on our own abilities to put fish on the stringer each morning. A lack of walleyes or perch meant we ate cold beans out of the can in the boat.

The opportunity to catch fish species not available near home – like this fat brook trout – is reason enough to take a fishing vacation.
Photo by Dan Armitage
Photo by Dan Armitage
Photo by Dan Armitage
The self-imposed challenge provided incentive for us to angle in earnest each day, and every morning as we cast off and headed in a different direction across Esnagi Lake was like a fresh adventure. The fertile Canadian Shield lake was large enough for us to quickly get out of sight and sound of other boats, and as we explored inlets, trolled across broad, grass-filled bays or motored up narrow, winding rivers to the first deadfall or beaver dam that blocked our way, it was easy to pretend that we were trappers or explorers, the first to see the natural wonders along the way.  
During our daily sojourns, we did not eat until we had at least three fish on the stringer – one for each of us – and that meant a few late lunches. Once we reached our quota we would beach the boat on a stretch of sand or pull up to a rock point and prepare a place for the fire. After the meal, we shared in the cleanup, explored the area around the site, rested a bit in the sun, went swimming or played stickball with driftwood and a tennis ball we kept handy for just such times.

Fun Fishing, and Just Fun
The balance of the day was for “fun” fishing, when we typically targeted Northern pike using surface lures so that we could see the explosive strike before battling and releasing the catch. When it got hot we’d beach the boat and swim, and on the day a storm blew through we retreated to an abandoned trapper’s cabin we had found during one of our shore lunch explorations. We waited out the rain while looking at rusted traps, an ancient lantern and hand-hewn pelt stretchers that had been left behind.
Over the course of the average day on our fishing vacation, I figured Ethan’s lesson load included firsthand experiences with reading the weather, safe boating, fire safety, outdoor meal prep, cooking and cleanup, fishing safety, catch and release – as well as how to get his fist around a fish fillet when a fast food restaurant isn’t an option.
Those are experiences that no electronic game can render, and one of the best excuses for taking a “fishing” trip that comes to mind.

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