By Kent Danjanovich
I have had the great opportunity to fish in many locations throughout Canada, some very specific in species available and techniques required to catch them. Most fly-in lodges or outpost camps can be very one dimensional and at the end of the week, although you may have had a great time, you feel like you have seen what they have to offer and when you are able to again plan a trip, you look to visit a different local offering new opportunities of its own. Now I am not saying that this thinking doesn’t have merit, but there is a lot to be said about destinations that offer so much diversity that at the end of your trip, you can’t wait to book your return visit before you load bags into the floatplane for your trip home.
Now, imagine being surrounded by thick, lush forests in seemingly every direction while navigating glassy, tea stained waters, all the while searching and hooking into some of the most prized sport fish in North America. I know that to many this might seem like just a dream, but that dream can come to reality with a visit to Ruffo’s Sportsman’s Lodge in northern Saskatchewan.
You can tell a lot about an operation from the first contact that you make with its owner, especially when that owner is involved in every aspect of the business. Their personality can be seen in all aspects of that operation and the years of blood, sweat and tears show in their commitment to making your stay a memorable one, one that will have you wanting for more! Well, Ruffo Schindler is one of those unique lodge owners and after over 30 years in the business and twenty as the owner of Sportsman’s Lodge, you won’t find a nicer, more accommodating person in the outdoor world. And oh by the way, excellent fishing opportunities, exceptional cuisine, his friendly staff and first class service have all contributed to why his lodge is one of Canada’s premier fishing vacation destinations.
Kevin Orton joined me on my trip to Ruffo’s Sportsman’s Lodge last June. After arriving in Saskatoon, we jumped in our rental car, set the GPS and headed out to the town of La Ronge, about 200 miles to the northwest. Now you can also book a flight on a small commuter plane, but we found that a little pricey and you know what, with high expectations of what was in store for us during our stay, the time literally flew by on our drive to the Waterbase Inn in La Ronge.
One of the nice things about Ruffo’s is that you can arrive on a mid-day flight into Saskatoon, make the drive to La Ronge, load onto your floatplane, and be at the lodge all in the same day. After arriving at the lodge, Ruffo and his staff grabbed up our gear and directed us to our cabin, one of a half dozen housing from four to eight guests each, all with oversized twin beds in separate rooms, full bathrooms and large common areas for relaxation after your day on the water. After settling in, we headed for the main lodge for a great meal and a little orientation on what they had in store for us during our stay.
Our next morning found a knock at our cabin door and a tray of coffee, hot chocolate and juice waiting for us on the table. A full breakfast awaited us at the main lodge at 7 a.m. and after heading back and getting into our usual waders and wading shoes and loading our gear into our dry bags, we made the short trek down to our awaiting boat and our native guide, Les. He asked us if we were ready for a little lake trout action and after a quick nod from both of us, be headed across Macintosh Lake to one of Les’s favorite lake trout runs.
On our first pass, I hooked into a nice 15 pound laker on a Rapala while trolling in about 30 feet of water, just as we passed by a rocky, underwater pinnacle. The fight was on with my medium weight rod and reel sporting 12 pound test line. I soon had my fish heading to the net and the first fish of the trip splashed and rolled in the net as Les gently retrieved my lure from its jaws and released it back into the beautiful tea stained waters. Four more nice lake trout found their way to our boat in the next hour and soon we found ourselves heading for a nearby, secluded bay in search of big northern pike.
You guessed it, I quickly grabbed my Redington fly rod and tied on my favorite red and white streamer pattern. No sooner had it hit the water, a quake could be seen coming out of the weeds and after a solid take, the fight was on. For the next two hours, cast after cast resulted in fish after fish ranging from 20 to 38 inches. Before we knew it the time for our first of many memorable Canadian shore lunches was upon us. We quickly headed to one of Les’s favorite walleye holes and in no time, six perfect sized walleye found their way into our boat and we headed for one of the lodges many campsites.
It didn’t take long for Les to put together a great offering of fresh walleye fillets, fried potatoes and seasoned baked beans. If you haven’t had the opportunity to partake of one of these unique shore lunches, those of you that have know what I am talking about. Simply scrumptious! After lunch, we headed back out for more pike fishing and you guessed it, more unbelievable action on both fly rods and spinning outfits. Some areas preformed better while throwing hardware (Mepps, Daredevils and Rapalas), but there is just something about stripping a big streamer through the weeded edges of the lake that brings out the big boys the best. If you haven’t tried a fly rod for pike, believe me, you need too!
Our next day on the water found us in a completely different body of water. This is one of the unique things about Ruffo’s Sportsman’s Lodge. Although you are always working out of the main lodge, the fishing opportunities are more like experiencing the adventure of a different outpost camp every day of your stay. You have to realize that this area of Canada is part of the massive Churchill River System and rapid areas of water can be negotiated by boat to a seemingly endless array of waterways throughout the area. We again found big numbers of northern pike everywhere we stopped and when we hit the holes for walleye for shore lunch, we were amazed at the unbelievable action on both jigs and spinners while vertically jigging or casting and retrieving.
Our third day found us heading across the bay from the main lodge. After reaching the shore, Les instructed us to grab our gear and we headed down the trail for about a five minute walk to a completely new piece of water. Another boat was waiting for us at this spot and we loaded in and headed downstream through a series of rapids. Soon we worked our way into the first of many secluded bays and again found the fishing to be nothing short of phenomenal.
By noon we had worked our way to the base of a small falls area and Les instructed us to grab our spinning rods and be ready for some fast walleye action and boy was he ever right. The next 15 minutes produced over 30 hook-ups and again a half dozen fish for shore lunch. After working our way across the underside of the falls, we unloaded the lunch prep essentials and Les instructed Kevin and I to grab our rods and see what we could do from the rocky shoreline. Well all I have to tell you is I caught eight fish in my first eight casts, making Kevin quickly utter the comment, “ This would definitely classify as catching, not just fishing!”
The first rain of our trip started to fall as we worked our way back to our starting point on this afternoon. After coming around a rapids area, Les pulled us into a piece of water just off of the quick flows and instructed me to make a cast to a grassy point. My fly hit the water and I looked down to see where my line seemed to be tangled by my feet. As I looked up, a big swirl appeared behind my fly. After a quick strip of my line, another swirl appeared, but no hook up offered itself. I quickly made another cast to the same spot and “Whamo”, the fight was on! This big boy quickly had me into my backing on my reel and by the weight and resistance on my fly rod, I looked at Kevin and Les and gave them that big fish look.
Finally, I was able to coax the big pike into the, too small for this fish net and quickly exclaimed, “Oh baby, that is a hog!”. The big northern measured in at just over 45 inches, a true trophy in anyone’s book. Kevin would soon get into the action, landing a nice 40 incher of his own and then sadly we looked at our watches and found it was time to head back to the lodge.
The last morning found us headed back out for a couple of hours of trolling for lakers before our floatplane arrived and again, the fish did not let us down. Six more nice fish in the six to 20 pound range found their way to our boat and we found ourselves at the end of our trip. We soon found ourselves standing at the dock, watching the floatplane glide across the water before smoothly settling in at the dock. A dozen new fishermen deplaned with their gear as we shook hands with Ruffo and his staff and then loaded into the floatplane ourselves for the short flight back to La Ronge.
Well, as you can see, we had another unbelievable adventure courtesy of Ruffo Schindler and his Sportsman’s Lodge. The fishing was spectacular, the accommodations, food and service first class and the atmosphere unmatched. We are proud to welcome Ruffo’s Sportsman’s Lodge into our Platinum Approved Outfitter’s family and would highly recommend them to all of our readers and supporters of Sportsman’s News. Whether you are looking for a great corporate destination, a family fishing retreat or a great spot for you and your buddies to experience some of the finest fishing opportunities you can imagine, give Ruffo and his staff a call today to book your next great outdoor adventure at 800-668-4558, Bohm Townsend ( US contact number 775-741-4539) or visit them on the web at our website or at www.ruffossportsmanslodge.com.