We'd been warned and I didn't listen. Back in '98 we knew next to nothing of Grass River Park and began our search to learn the basics at the Forestry Department office in Cranberry Portage. There we were directed to the diner in town where the man who knew what we wanted to know was having breakfast. After he shagged me back out to the Jeep for my maps, the ranger kindly interrupted his meal to point out the locations of several portages leading to back country lakes. We were assured we'd find good fishing in any of the remote waters, assured, and then assured again. But I chose to ignore the man who knew every square foot of the park from personal experience. Yes, I was stupid. After we walked out Allan noted that every time I pointed at the map I used my middle finger. Talk about being the ugly American.
While north of the border I'd picked up a Manitoba fishing guide listing all the Master Angler awards for '97 including who, what, where, and when. Most every time I hit the John over the winter months I'd pick up the guide and plot and plan. Also spent enough time on my quest to emboss a toilet seat tattoo to my backside. Can't say I recommend that many hours in the sitting position but the second time we crossed the border it was with a purpose.
The guide told us most of the big fish were caught in June, so we went in June. Also said we were fishing the wrong lakes, so we entered from a different point. We came, we paddled, we camped, and we fished. After two days of basking in the sun of the north land we also came to know two things, there was a tremendous dragon fly hatch going on and we still sucked as fishermen. However, Allan did hook, play, and lose a solid fifteen pound pike. Had I known what advice to give him about how to play her he might've boated the fish but I was as much in the dark as he. I'd never seen a pike that big and didn't have a clue. Some father I was. After two days we paddled on.
And we ended up on The Rock. We'd camped there for one night in '98 and I swore we'd never do it again. But we did. The Rock was a tiny, rock slab of an island whose only possible tent site was a tad smaller than our tent. We were depressed and the fishing only improved a tad. That night Allan caught our first Canadian walleye. Think about that for a moment. This was our tenth day on water noted for its wonderful walleye fishing and all we had to show was one fifteen inch pickerel.
The following noon hour found us laid out in the sun discussing whether or not to head back to the cabin where at least we knew how to fool the fish. Lethargy and depression ruled the roost. Then Allan piped up and changed everything, "Let's go to Wedge Lake." I'd been dropping hints about Wedge right from the first moment of '98 but for some reason the lake held no appeal for Al. Why it didn't enter my head as we laid on The Rock, I'll never know. But Allan remembered, spoke up, and in a moment we were packing and filled with energy.
It was a simple four mile paddle to a two hundred and fifty rod portage. We were uplifted and the carry was easy. Finding camp on a tiny island was a snap. Less than four hours from Allan's suggestion we were up and running. A leisurely supper and by six we were pushing off accompanied by conflicted feelings of hope and fear that our hope was simple delusion. Yeah, this sure felt different but we'd built a strong track record of failure and wouldn't have been surprised had we been skunked. For Allan's first two casts we were. Then, he tied into a small pike where there was no reason for one to be. And that was immediately followed by another. I finally picked up my rod and tied into a fair-sized walleye on my first cast. That pickerel told me we were finally onto something and our fishing miseries were in the past. For the next three days we caught pike and walleyes by the bucketful. Most were small but a few were true beasts, the kind of fish we'd hoped for from the beginning. Seems like good times first call for a fair amount of dues to be paid. Ours totaled eleven days in the park, paddling a hundred and fifty miles on the water, and twenty-seven hundred miles behind the wheel. Made it all the sweeter.