By Mike Deming
When you get a referral from your dad, it is something that you can hang your hat on. My Pops made numerous trips to Tazin Lake Lodge through the late 90s and early 2000s when the lodge was owned and operated by another group. He always had lots of pictures of huge lake trout and northern pike after each trip and nothing but the finest things to say about the destination. Bohm Townsend, who is a good friend and the official booking agency for Tazin Lake Lodge under this new ownership, brought this opportunity to us here at Sportsman’s News. Bohm has traveled to more resort fishing destinations in Canada than anyone I know and with his endorsement and dad’s experience, we knew the lake had a lot of potential.
Tazin Lake is located in the far northwest corner of Saskatchewan, Canada, which means getting there is half the fun. The lodge is only accessible via float plane and the best jumping off point is Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. This area is thriving with oil and gas exploration, so all the comforts of home are available when you stay at the Chateau Nova hotel only a few blocks from the runway. Our week long trip to this far north destination would start off on the runway and we would then land on floats right in front of the lodge on Tazin Lake. The hour and a half float plane ride takes you over some very unique terrain and lots of lodges on some other well-known waters. I wondered why we would fly over so much other good water to go this far north, but over the next week, I would find out why.
I had invited Dave Holm (Aka Pops) and his new wife, Quenna Allery, to accompany me on this trip. I figured it would be a great time to hear about the way it used to be, compared to the new ownership with the new lodging. Bohm Townsend was also along to make sure we experienced everything the lodge had to offer. When we arrived at the lodge, it was obvious that the new ownership was serious about making this a great destination with great accommodations. Numerous new cabins were nearing completion and several more were already ready and set up for our arrival. Everything this far north is either flown in during the summer or hauled in during the winters on the ice roads. So usually, the expectations of higher quality this extremely far north usually has to go down. But, nobody notified the partners of Tazin Lake Lodge of this standard rule of thumb. When we departed the float plane, we were greeted by three quarters of the partners. Both Doug Forsberg and Trevor Montgomery are owners of the lodge and on site at all times. Peter Abrametz is one of the other owners and not always on site, but was there to greet us on our arrival to this fantastic destination. The fourth owner is Randy Hoback and with his commitments back in parliament, he wasn’t able to attend.
We were shown to our cabins to unpack and notified that lunch would be ready for us shortly, which would give us plenty of time for a full half day of fishing. Lunch was more than just a routine sandwich and bag of chips. The lodge had hired an executive chef of the highest caliber to cater to customer’s needs and desires for their short fishing season. Lunch was a prelude to much more to come in the cuisine department – gourmet soup, which would have been at home on any table in the finest restaurants in New York or San Francisco and some fresh fish was a good start.
Pops was chomping at the bit to finish his lunch and get out to some of his old haunts like Rosie’s Hole and try his hand at some huge lakers and pike. We paired up with a couple of people in each boat, but hung fairly close together. Right at ice off, these huge lake trout that Tazin is known for, come to the shallower water to spawn as well as fatten up. These guys knew exactly where these areas are on this lake. It didn’t take long before people were sounding off on being hooked up on big fish after big fish. Fish that I would normally consider as real lunkers were being hauled in one after another. Quenna landed the first blow on the real trophy status of Tazin Lake, with a 43.5” giant. Since we were filming for an episode of SNTV, I was up close and personal with the camera and could see the strain this big laker was putting on her and her tackle. After a solid twenty-five minutes of fighting, she finally got the big old warrior in the net. It was all she could do to stand up for photos with this big fish. She shook hands and patted the fish as it swam back into the depths to fight another day. Except for some shore lunch meals, all the fish are released to fight another day and all the big ones are let go every time.
Quenna was apprehensive about coming to a lodge where it was going to be all men, but she quickly overcame that apprehension with each big fish she landed. By the time we had finished the first half day of fishing, our group had landed three fish over forty inches and over a hundred fish total. I was totally blown away at the quantity and the quality of fish. Pops said, “The fishing is about the same, but the food and lodging sure is better.” It’s hard to believe we were going to have a full week of this.
The chef had appetizers out and ready when we arrived back at the lodge to go along with our drinks of choice. Each course of the meal got a bit better and it was once again hard to believe this was happening this far north. By the time the sun finally set, it was well past bedtime, but we savored the days fishing experience as the daytime gave away to the grey light of the north.
A gourmet breakfast and coffee were ready early, which would give us more than a full day on the water. This would be the plan for the entire week – send you off the dock by 8 or 8:30 with a full belly and a positive attitude. With the lake being about 12 miles across and 25 miles long, it’s hard to decide which direction to go, but our guides always had a great idea based on the weather, as well as water temperatures. Some days we would go to areas where we would stand on the bow of the boats and cast to suspended fish and other days we would troll the depths with various forms of flatfish lures. Although the casting to the suspended fish doesn’t always yield the largest fish, it was one of my favorite styles of fishing. Everyone was hooked up on multiple fish all the time and they ranged from 5-15 pounds. At one stop, we landed over 150 fish in a matter of a couple of hours, which makes for a full day of fishing. It’s pretty hard to get bored when the fishing is that good. The trolling and the deep water jigging was what yielded the largest fish. The largest fish for the week, which fell to these deep water tactics, was a 50.5” monster fish that looked prehistoric with its huge head.
Although pike wasn’t our primary target of this trip, it is something that is very common and big ones are abundant. Quenna landed a 48.5” whopper while trolling in some shallow water and some of the other guys casted to some bombers in the shallows. Even though I was running the camera most of the time, I managed to pull my fly rod out for a few casts and yielded some 43 and 45 inch pike.
On the very last day of the trip, my captain asked if I would be willing to roll out for some fly fishing without working. I knew we had about four hours before the plane would arrive and when he said Rosie’s hole was the target destination, I was all in. This place was home to many stories that Pops had told me about. When we cruised into the channel that held this shallow water bay, I started to get excited. The bottom of the bay was a light clay color with relatively clear water. I could see 4 to 5 feet long logs laying on the bottom of the bay everywhere, which would make perfect cover for huge pike. I was mesmerized when the first of those logs moved as we rolled over the top of it. Those weren’t logs, but huge pike which had come here to sun and breed! These huge females were everywhere. I pulled my ten weight out of the bag and stripped the biggest streamer I could find.
Nothing would give my fly a second look until we started the motor and spooked a couple of fish. Once they would get off the bottom and cruise, I could cast in front of them and after a few quick strips, it was game on. Forty-four, forty-six, forty-eight, forty-two, were the first four fish in the boat. Truly some of the best fly fishing I have ever experienced. My tenth fish was one that I felt was several inches past the fifty mark and a goal I’ve always wanted to achieve. I saw the take and as I set the hook, I heard the snap in my rod. I had broken it just above the handle. I grabbed for the front half of the rod and dropped the reel and handle to the floor. I was now fighting a fifty-plus inch monster with seven feet of rod and gaining ground. The fight lasted for over thirty minutes. As I swung the ‘ol girls nose towards the net one last time, it was obvious that she was ready to give up. She was exhausted and so was I. I had my entire fly line and a good portion of backing on the floor of the boat, as my reel was useless with the broken set up. She swirled as we tried to put her oversized body in the net. She wasn’t ready to surrender the fight once she had her nose free, but I had made the fatal mistake of stepping on my line when I felt the fight was over. I had been so cautious until now and I paid for my mistake with a loud snap of my leader ripping from the fly line. The old girl settled on the bottom in twenty feet of water and I’m sure she smiled at me with my red and white fly shining on her lip.
I was totally exhausted and my guide was extremely apologetic for missing the net job, but I just didn’t care by now. I had landed nine huge pike ranging from 41” to 48” and lost one that was definitely over 50 in a few short hours. I had just had the morning of my life and made memories that will be told about Tazin Lake Lodge for years to come. I’ll be back at ice off again in 2016 for another memorable trip.
Tazin Lake Lodge is one of two lodges on this huge lake. It’s the only full time lodge and is truly a trophy fisherman’s destination. Many big waters have a tendency of being susceptible to bad weather. That isn’t the case for Tazin as it has many protected bays and lots of islands to protect it from inclement weather. So, you should never lose a day of fishing because you can’t get out on the water. The guides utilize first class tackle and fishing equipment, so you don’t need to bring anything except a good attitude and the ability to have some fun. The food at this lodge is second to none and their attention to detail and commitment to customer service is what we look for in a Platinum Approved Outfitter and we are happy to have them as part of our endorsed outfitter family. You can’t go wrong booking a trip with Tazin Lake Lodge. Book your next adventure at www.tazinlake.com or call Bohm Townsend at 775-741-4539.