Sports
North to Saskatchewan
By Luke Clayton
Jul 31, 2022
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In past years, I have eagerly awaited my yearly fishing trip up north to the remote fly-in lakes in northern Saskatchewan. Thanks to the opening of the US./Canada border, I was once again able to make the trek up north to fish. This past week I went way up north to within a stoneís throw of the Northwest Territories.

Tazin Lake is as far north as Iíve fished and after spending five glorious days fishing with the folks at Tazin Lake Lodge, I can advise the avid fishermen to make plans for that trip of a lifetime where you will catch northern pike and lake trout until your arms are sore! But this advice comes with a catch - after that first trip; you WILL find a way to return!

Guide Trevor Montgomery (left) and Jeff Rice show off one of many hard-fighting northern pike landed at Tazin Lake last week. photo by Luke Clayton

This was my fourth time to fish a remote lake in Saskatchewan where the only access is float plane. Each trip Iíve made is unique. Some have been largely do-it-yourselfers where I was furnished a boat, cabin, fuel, etc. and fished on my own; others were guided trips. 

Tazin Lodge on beautiful Tazin Lake is a full-service operation, food, lodging, fishing tackle and guides are furnished. The north end of this deep (900 feet deep in places) lake is only a stoneís throw from the Northwest Territories and in true wilderness country; no roads in or out. Floatplanes are the standard means of travel.

Once your floatplane touches down on the pristine lake waters, you are in a different world, a place with only three or so hours of darkness each night, a place where your days are filled with nonstop catching with Ďactioní type fishing for trout and northern pike or sometimes hours of fishing for some of the largest lake trout in North America.

Guide Barry Prall shows off a big lake trout his daughter Rayne just landed. photo by Luke Clayton

With so much daylight, itís tempting to get too much of a good thing. There was a time when I possibly could have fished all day and most of the night for consecutive days but no longer. Many of the fishermen in camp were sixty and over and we learned quickly to pace ourselves and fish several hours in the morning and again later in the afternoon.

Many of the fishermen were there to catch the biggest trout of their career, big lake trout in the 30-65 pound range. Catching giant fish, like hunting trophy class deer, requires determination and the willingness to sometimes put in the hours to achieve the rewards. Tazin Lake is definitely the destination for trophy trout and pike hunters.

I have to be honest here; I like catching the occasional big fish but I love the almost nonstop action on hard-fighting, average-size pike and trout the lake provides. Much of my time was spent fishing with the two owners of the lodge, Trevor Montgomery and Barry Prall, and guide Kent Kulrich -- one of the guides that, like me, has an affinity for fast action on hard-fighting pike and average-size trout but Kent is also quiet adept at putting anglers on that one big bite of a trophy trout. 

My days were spent fishing with and learning from the very knowledgeable guides and my buddy Jeff Rice who was filming a couple segments of our TV show, A Sportsmanís Life for Carbon TV. The drill for catching giant trout was slow trolling with huge baits, sometimes using well over a pound of weight to keep the lures on bottom.

Most of my fishing was spent trolling or casting spoons such as the Mepps Syclops or Big Mepps spinners for trout and hard-fighting northern pike. Iím a self-confessed pike addict and would concentrate strictly on these Ďrocket fishí if it were not for the action provided by the lakeís plentiful trout.

There is something very exciting about watching a big pike streaking through the gin-clear water, headed for oneís lure! Pike are the most aggressive fresh water fish Iíve caught and catching them in numbers like I enjoyed here was about as good as fishing gets for me.

Shore lunch is always a treat and a highlight to fishing up north. We enjoyed the traditional fried fish lunch with corn, beans and potatoes which was excellent. One day while fishing with guide Kent Kulrich, we had a gourmet meal from the wild, freshly caught seasoned lake trout baked over coals, veggies and fried potatoes complete with a tasty brownie with strawberries! 

Watching Kent work his magic with hot coals and flame lakeside in the shade of a spruce grove was an education in outdoor cookery and planning.  Kent thought of every utensil, seasoning and ingredient needed for his well-planned meal. Iíve done enough outdoor cooking with simple ingredients to know what a challenge this is!

Mostly we fished bays and around the many islands but after that tasty lunch with Kent, we took a long boat ride, heading to a pike hotspot below a fast-moving connecting stream. As we motored into a remote bay, Kent spotted a dark spot on the distant shore. On closer inspection we discovered a big bull moose feeding in shallow water.

With some expert boat handling, our guide placed the boat in position for a downwind drift that would hopefully take us close to the bull. As we drifted slowly toward shore, the moose kept feeding, occasionally glancing our way. He couldnít smell us and we limited our movement when he was looking our way. Iím sure he though a downed tree or brush was floating out in the lake. I was able to photograph the bull at about 45 yards with my 300 mm lens! This was the closest Iíd been to a wild bull moose and an experience Iím sure Iíll never forget.

Fishing at Tazin Lake is world class but itís the total experience rather than all the fish I caught that I will remember. Our first day on the water while fishing with Barry Prall, we noticed something on the shore a couple hundred yards away.  The animal jumped into the cold water and took its morning swim. Was it a wolf? Beaver? River otter?  On closer inspection, we were privy to what I am sure is a very rare sight; a full-grown lynx. I began firing photos and captured the very wet lynx in mid-stride jumping from rock to rock as he raced away.

Chef Steve Driver assures everyone in camp is well fed and when he offered to take Jeff and me fishing, we were both all in. We learned Steve is equally good with his fly rod as with his culinary duties. When I asked if we could brine and later smoke some fresh trout, he said he was anxious to fire up the vintage smoker behind camp. A couple days in the brine then several hours in the smoker exposed to alder wood created some mighty tasty smoked fish!

I often hear folks mentioning their Ďbucket listí. Well, hereís a word of warning about fishing these remote fly-in camps up in Saskatchewan. You better have a very big Ďbucketí because one trip just wonít be enough for you. You, like me, will probably find yourself addicted to the call of the loon and the smell of the north woods andÖ.. the savage attack of a big pike on your lure!

For more information on fishing Tazin Lake, visit www.tazinlake.com or www.tourismsaskatchewan.ca.
A couple of episodes of A Sportsmanís Life will be devoted to this trip. Watch Carbon TV on Roku or one of the streaming networks or visit www.carbontv.com

Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org