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First Time Fly-In Fishing: A Journey to Remember

This is an account of one of my most vivid memories – my First Fly-In Fishing trip in a float plane!

Many times on previous trips I would be sitting in a canoe and see a float plane buzz overhead on it’s way to a destination I could only dream about. For me, that would be the ultimate trip, going to a remote lake where I could experience the thrill of being one of a select group each year to fish its waters.

After having spent many summers as a young lad portaging through bug infested forest the idea of simply climbing in to an airplane and landing on a far away lake was very appealing. I don’t mean to imply that doing the portage thing is second rate, it was always a fun and rewarding experience but I mainly wanted to fish and the quicker I could get on the lake the better.

It was the fall of 2013. Due to other responsibilities (raising a family) I had not been to Canada in several years. I was itching for an opportunity to get north when out of the blue my uncle asked if I would be interested in a fly-in fishing trip the following summer to a remote outpost in northern Ontario to do a little fishing.

Before I go any further, I should try and describe my uncle Larry. He is truly one of a kind – hard working, a sharp sense of humor and most of the time he is a delight to be around. He has inherited the outdoor spirit from his father just as I had from mine.

For many years he has used an outfitter in Hearst, Ont. (Hearst Air) to satisfy his moose hunting urge and occasional fishing trip. Uncle Larry had booked a fishing trip for late August 2014 for 7 days on Napken lake, and the best part of all was it was a fly-in fishing trip and would become a journey to remember! Finally, I was going to get a chance to ride in a real bush plane and to say that I was excited is an understatement. Now I just had to wait about 10 months for the big day.

Discovering Napken Lake : A Remote Ontario Fishing Experience

In order to be as prepared as possible for my first time fly-in fishing trip, I scoured the internet looking for photos and maps of Napken lake.

At the time, there wasn’t very much information on this lake and google maps became my friend. I was able to locate one very brief trip report but it didn’t go into any details about the camp or the fishing.

I studied the map and tried to find locations that might hold fish but as I was to discover there is no substitute for actually being on the lake and seeing it in person.

Napken lake is a shallow body of water. The deepest is a small depression that is marked on the map in the cabin as being approximately 40 feet deep.

There is a river mouth at the north end and in times of higher water the river is navigable all the way to a small chain of lakes at the top although the last 100 yards before entering the next lake is very shallow and the boats need to be pulled through.

If the water is low, a canoe and portage is really the only way up there. There is quite a bit of shoreline on the opposite side of the lake from the cabin that is quite rocky so care must be taken while operating a boat in these areas. It’s not a ‘go fast’ lake.

The “journey to remember” began early in the morning on a Wednesday. 

There were 6 of us, and all of our gear was stowed in the truck and we jumped in ready to get on the road. The route we took had us taking I-80 out of Pa. into Ohio, then catching I-75 North through Michigan and crossing the border at Sault Ste. Marie.

Shortly into Canada we found a motel for the night. Resuming our trip the next morning we skirted Lake Superior, turned right towards Hornepayne then onwards to highway 11 and into Hearst.

Arriving Thursday afternoon. We found our motel, ran out to the airbase to get the time for the flight in the morning, ate supper and hung around the motel until it was time to sleep.

Early the next morning we made the short drive to the airbase

 and everyone was ready for a 6:30 flight to our remote fishing destination.

Unfortunately the weather was a bit foggy so we loaded the Cessna Caravan with our gear and then waited for the fog to lift.

Somewhere around 10 am we finally got the word to go.

This was the moment I was waiting for and I paid attention to every detail hoping to never forget a thing about this trip.

Taxiing on the lake we turned into the wind and started our run.

I was mesmerized watching the water spray from the floats and in an instant she had broken free of the water and was now a true flying machine. Within 15 minutes we had left all traces of civilization behind, nothing but forest, marsh, bog and lakes.

There is a certain feeling of smallness flying over such a vast wilderness.

The flight was somewhere around 90 minutes, give or take 10 minutes.

As we slowly dropped in altitude I had my first view of Napken lake.

As we circled prior to landing, the whole vista was stretched before us and I thought that there was no way I would be able to get a good understanding of this lake in only 7 days.

Then we touched down and as we taxied to the dock I was a little disappointed that the flight was over, but I knew that in 7 short days we would get a chance to ride her back out.

In the meantime there was a lake to explore and fish to catch …

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