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Napken lake trip 2

Fall 2015 

The first fishing trip here in 2014 (read about it here and here) was such a fun adventure that the group decided to make a return trip to Napken lake in 2015. We booked the fly-in for 2015 with Hearst Air when we came out of the bush in 2014. It was a long year waiting in anticipation of using our new found knowledge of the lake to track down more trophy pike, and to spend another week in such an idyllic setting. Finally, the day of departure arrived and after another ride in the float plane we were standing on the dock at Napken.

Unfortunately, during the long year of waiting, my fishing buddy Mark had made a terrible judgement call and was unable to make the trip. Mark had been having some issues with walking the ‘straight and narrow’ path. When we are young we sometimes do things that we shouldn’t and most of us make it through this period of our lives no worse for the wear but sometimes we go a little to far and can end up on the wrong side of things. Mark fell in with the wrong crowd and had been arrested for a DUI, among several other infractions, and was in the midst of some fairly serious legal battles. 

Due to these events, he was no longer eligible to cross the border into Canada. (He has since turned his life around, so all’s well that ends well. I guess). Anyway, the new member in our group was Ed. I didn’t know Ed before this trip but we quickly became friends and he did have a good time but I think towards the end he was ready to get back to civilization. So this year, the group consisted of: Larry, Bruce, Bob, George, Ed and me.

Within a few minutes of our arrival the fun began. 

After taxiing up to the dock, the first order of business is to unload the gear from the plane. This year we had flown in a Cessna Caravan, and like the Otter we had used the previous year there was a short ladder on the left pontoon that led into the aft side door. 

Larry was standing with one foot on the first rung and another foot on the second rung while the pilot handed him our equipment. He would turn and then hand it off to one of us on the dock and we would stack it to the side. As he was handed a large cooler, one of his feet slipped off the ladder and he fell backwards at a rapid rate. I was standing to his left towards the middle of the dock waiting to accept the next item from him and Bruce had just walked up and was slightly to Larry’s right. 

No pictures or videos exist of the next few seconds so you have to picture it in your mind, but as Larry fell he twisted slightly to his right and the cooler he was holding hit Bruce about chest high. Bruce instantly fell backwards, hit the edge of the dock, and did a perfect back flip headfirst into the lake. 

For a brief instant I didn’t know who to try and rescue first, Larry? Bruce? My brain told me that I should really check on Larry, since he had hit the edge of the dock with the back of his head pretty hard and could be seriously injured. It also told me that Bruce was a big boy and the water at the dock wasn’t any deeper than chest high so he probably wasn’t in any danger of drowning and as a matter of fact he was already coming up to the surface with eyes as wide as dinner plates. 

So, bending over to help my uncle, he said he was alright, stood up and brushed himself off. He had a slight scratch on his scalp but other than that he was fine. 

Bruce wasn’t quite as calm about the whole thing. He stood there in the water trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened and he wasn’t having a lot of success doing that. 

One instant he was happily on the dock and the next instant he found himself under water trying to figure out which way was up and how in the heck did he get here? Once we helped him back onto the dock and verified that everyone was ok, the laughter started. 

The pilot just stood at the door to the plane and shook his head. He was probably wondering just what our odds of survival would be, all by ourselves for the next week. Regardless, it was fortunate no one was hurt and we all get a big kick out of re-living that moment. I made a promise to myself that once we were back to the world my first purchase would be an action camera so I would have a chance at capturing these moments.

The rest of the trip was absent of any real life threatening events (with the exception of Ed taking an unplanned dip in the northern river) so we were able to focus on the reason we were there – fishing! 

All of us managed to catch a LOT of fish and everyone landed at least one fish approaching 40 with a couple of the guys getting in to the low 40’s on several occasions. If I recall the largest Northern Pike caught this year was 42 inches long. The largest Walleye was 25 inches. However, there was one fish that got away that would have been the trophy of a lifetime…

In the write up for our first trip to Napken lake the previous year I mention a ‘channel’ at the northern end of the lake where the lake becomes very narrow for approximately 150 yards. The previous year I had fought and lost a very large pike that we estimated was between 45 and 50 inches. This year I had it in my mind that I would fish that same channel at least once a day at varying times to see what else might be in there.

When we began the trip, Bruce had brought something unwelcome along with him – a bad cold. This virus made it’s rounds and by the last full day of fishing almost everyone was in some stage of recovery and was taking it pretty easy in the cabin. 

The day was chilly – probably about 45 degrees F. and it was windy and raining. I was a bit further along in my recovery so I decided since it was the last full day I would go out alone and since the weather was bad I would just fish close to camp. As the day progressed the weather didn’t let up and by 1 pm I was chilled and pretty much soaked to the bone. I started to turn the boat towards camp and as I did so I caught a glimpse of the far northern part of the lake and my thoughts turned to that channel.  

It would be a shame to not hit it one more time. I struggled with the decision – go or not? I had a nice warm cabin and hot food about 5 minutes away in one direction and the cold windy and rainy channel about 30 minutes away in the other direction. Being one who doesn’t give up easily, I decided that I didn’t want to have any regrets about not going for it so somehow the boat turned north.

Shielding my face from the spray I crossed the lake. The entrance to the channel is protected by a couple of islands on the western edge so as I got into calmer waters I began to troll. 

As the boat was just entering the southern part of the channel I had a hit. Fish on. I could tell by the weight on the line that it probably was in the 20 to 30 inch range if it was a pike so I put the motor into idle and began reeling it in. When it was still approximately 40 or 50 feet behind the boat there was  a huge SLAM on the line and not expecting that I nearly lost the pole! 

Two things crossed my mind at that instant, 

1. this fish is much bigger than I initially thought and 

2. maybe I had better kick the boat into gear and go after it because I was quickly running out of line!

 I no sooner had thought number two when all of a sudden the line went a little slack. I tentatively started reeling line back in and realized that the fish was still there, just not fighting at the moment, or possibly he was now swimming towards me. I finally had him about 15 feet straight out from the side of the boat when SLAM – another huge hit. I was only slightly more prepared this time but it was still a struggle not to lose the pole. Since she was much closer to the boat things were a little different this time. 

Suddenly a huge head and gills of a northern pike came out of the water WITH MY FISH SIDEWAYS IN HIS MOUTH! Just like a dog with a bone. After making a splash, this 2nd fish let the 1st fish go again. I don’t know the limits to how large a northern pike can grow but I had just seen one of a size that I had never seen before. I’m afraid to estimate the length but this fish was a true monster. I’ve had pike hit a fish on the hook before but I was a bit shaken by the enormity of what I had just witnessed.  Regardless, once she let go the second time I began reeling in the line with fish #1 still attached. 

At the side of the boat, just as I was reaching down to lift fish #1 in, she hit it a third time! Straight down she went with MY fish and just as quickly as it happened she let it go again.  Wow. I pulled fish #1 in, who by now was dead and completely shredded. A quick measurement showed that fish #1 was 23 inches long. Nearly 2 feet. I really need an action camera because I knew I was going to have trouble convincing the guys at the camp that this actually happened. Heck, I barely believed it. At that point I figured I needed a bigger lure (I was using a small Mepps syclops spoon) so I tied on something much bigger but I honestly can’t remember what. 

I spent the next hour trolling that channel and each pass I was rewarded with a nice fish. A couple pike in the mid 30 inch range and even a couple nice fat walleye. Then suddenly things went quiet. I spent another hour or two trying to entice mama fish back out to play but things had turned off so I eventually headed back to camp. I vowed to return the next year and luckily I was able to convince most of the guys that they wanted to come back for a third time as well.

Trip #3 coming up next…

Rod

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