By Kent Danjanovich
Fishing means many different things to many different people. It can range from frequenting a local pond during our early childhoods, memories of summer vacations with the family to beautiful destinations throughout the “Lower 48” and if you’re lucky, a trip of a lifetime to magical locations around the world that talk of things that most can only dream of. Well, one of those magical places for me is Manitoba, Canada and the destination is Big Sand Lake Lodge.
My first trip to Big Sand Lake Lodge, some 520 miles north of Winnipeg, Canada, was back in June of 2005. I had never been to Canada before, but had heard about the big fish that lurked in the tea stained waters north of the border. Well, let’s just say that my first trip was a real eye-opener, an experience that I will never forget and one that I have been fortunate enough to experience many times since. Now, six years later, the Big Sand Experience is one that I look forward to as often as they will have me!
Everything about a trip to Big Sand Lake Lodge brings a twinkle to my eye and being able to help others experience that same excitement is a big part of what the great outdoors is really all about. The mystique of visiting another land, realizing the dreams of landing giant fish in seemingly endless waterways, hopping on a vintage floatplane for the first time…Well, as you can tell, it still brings chills to my spine every time I make the trek north. This past June was no exception, as I was accompanied by Rick Rosenberg, Colby Labrum and Clint Nielson to one of my most favorite places in the world.
Our trip started to take shape as we all met at the Sheraton International Airport Hotel in Winnipeg. Because we were to be picked up at 5 am the next morning to meet our Calm Air flight to Big Sand, our sleep time was a little shorter than most of us were used to, but each of our expectations of the days to come made it well worth it. The van picked us up and transported us to Calm Air’s hanger. Our bags were checked-in to be weighed and each of us took a seat alongside the other eager fishermen that were headed to our same destination. We found ourselves surrounded by wood-be fishermen not only from many providences of Canada, but also a handful of states in the U.S. and even two gentlemen from Germany that had made the long trek to see what all of the hoopla of fishing in Canada was all about.
We soon boarded our chartered plane for the roughly two-hour flight to Big Sand Lake Lodge. Our flight took a little detour as we stopped in Thompson for fuel and found out that we would have a little lay-over because of a heavy downpour at the lodge that had left the sand esker runway somewhat in disarray. The crew at Big Sand soon had the runway operable and we were again on our way to our final destination.
For those of you that have not been to this part of the world, the flight is truly breathtaking with alders, pines and water in seemingly every direction. Hundreds and hundreds of lakes of all sizes are part of a constantly moving river system that is home to not only giant northern pike, massive lake trout, world class walleye and beautiful grayling, but also Canadian moose, caribou and black bear of varying color phases.
Soon our plane gently touched down and we excitedly filed off of the plane, greeted by Rick Bohna, the general manager at Big Sand and his staff, our hosts for the next five days. Our luggage was quickly loaded and we made our way to the main lodge for orientation. After a quick brunch of freshly caught walleye, we teamed into pairs, met our guide for the week, headed to our appointed cabins to dress for the day and then made our way to the dock for our first day on the water. Expectations were definitely high as each of our boats headed out in search of big fish lurking in the clear waters of Big Sand Lake.
Our first afternoon of fishing produced good numbers of fish, but no real monsters that I had been accustomed to seeing on my past visits. We headed back to the lodge for dinner and after our first of many great meals, we headed back to the dock, with our guides Blair and Mark patiently waiting for us to head out for a couple of hours of trolling for lake trout.
A short fifteen minute ride soon had us rigging our lines, Rick with a herring rig and mine with a Northland Tackle Forage Rainbow Trout Spoon. Not ten minutes into our first run, my Redington rod lunged down and I set the hook on a nice laker. I quickly handed the rod to Rick and the fight was on (I had to man the video camera, as we were also filming for a future edition for our Sportsman’s News Television DVD series). Rick finally was able to bring our big boy to the cradle net and Mark hoisted our first trophy of the trip over the side of the boat, a thick 35 inch lake trout. The next hour and a half produced two more nice fish for Colby and Clint’s boat, with a couple of near misses for Rick and I. We headed back to the lodge at 10 pm and hit our beds for a good night’s sleep.
One of my favorite spots on Big Sand Lake is an area called Rut Bay and of course, it is located at the farthest most northern area of the lake. I told our guides of our wishes and we hopped in our boats (20 foot Alumarine’s, complete with 40 hp yamaha’s , depth finders and CB radios) the next morning at 8 am and buckled down for the long ride up the lake. At about 9:45 am we arrived at our destination and each of us quickly tied on a large streamer for a morning of fly fishing and let me tell you, the fish did not disappoint us, as each of use landed fish after fish, with many of the northern’s well into the 35+ inch range. The biggest fish of the morning was a monster 42 incher landed by Colby and needless to say, produced a smile that is still lingering on his face today!
At about 11:30 am we headed for an area called Peterson’s Narrows to catch a few walleye for shore lunch and then headed for the designated lunch spot. Two other boats joined us for lunch, as our guides quickly set-up the fire, filleted the fish, cut the fries, mixed the “Bad Assed “ beans and laid it all out for us for the first of our many perfect shore lunches of the week. Clint and I watched the preparation time fly by as we threw Mepps spinners along the shoreline, with the results northern after northern in the 18 to 30 inch range. After lunch, we resumed our quest for big northern’s on both fly rods and spincast outfits, with both producing as many fish as you can possibly imagine, with our estimated tally for the day being well over 150 fish for our two boats.
Our next two days found us fishing the waters a little closer to the lodge, with success still at a premium, with literally 100’s of fish hooked and released. But, our thoughts of our trip to Rut Bay had us still wanting for more, so on our last day, we again decided to make the trek to the northern reaches of Big Sand Lake. Again, our day was full of big numbers of fish, with our reels singing from the big runs of northern’s measuring to 40 inches and walleye a plenty stretching the tape measures to the magical 28 inch mark.
Our guides were probably glad to see us leave our boats for the last time, as each of us just couldn’t seem to get enough of the great opportunities at Big Sand Lake Lodge. You may travel to Big Sand for the fishing, but the word “Catching” would be a lot more accurate. We are proud to have Big Sand Lake Lodge as one of our prestigious Platinum Approved Outfitters and would highly recommend them to all of our followers at the Sportsman’s News. And, if you are looking for world class spring black bear and fall Canadian moose hunting at its best, give Rick Bohna and his staff a call today at 1-800-348-5824 to book your next great outdoor adventure.