In spite of my broken ribs we did fish a lot, hung around camp a lot when the wind was up, spent a fair amount of time in the tent during the downpours, and once in a while explored. On the back burner, I had a bug to someday fish an unnamed lake, not only fish one but also find it to be an undiscovered gem of virgin water. Off to the sides of Wedge lay a pair that might fit the bill. Our map showed the most enticing to be three hundred acres but a swamp-interrupted, mile and a half bushwhack to the south. A true wilderness trek such as that was beyond our capabilities and would have taken the better part of a day to get ourselves, the canoe, and fishing gear to its shore, much less back. A few years later me and my fictitious Uncle Emil did do the bushwhack and even camped on the lake for close to a week in my novel. Maybe there was no way Allan and I could pull off such an adventure but that didn't stop me from daydreaming and writing of having done it. Imagination is a fine thing.
However, at the east end of Wedge, no more than a half-mile slog away, was a second choice. She wasn't but a hundred, island-free acres, for sure held less appeal but did meet the requirements. So, one day we fished our way up lake with the half-hearted intention of trying a bushwhack. As we cruised the swampy shore there was little doubt as to where the lake was. Also little doubt we'd make it to and from without wet knees. I'd wimped down quite a bit from my Mekong Delta days when wading belly button deep streams was normal. We paddled on, fishing as we moved, my eyes continually scanning the shore for a trail. Hadn't seen a deer in the park before but we had seen evidence of caribou. There were islands here and there that seemed to be stomping and crapping grounds for herds of the animals and I come to enjoy the sound of dry caribou crap crunching under foot. I had no true idea how they traveled from place to place but being in the deer family I figured them to cover the same trails again and again much like the white tails of Minnesota. Wasn't but a few hundred yards ahead that I spied one. Made me feel like Natty Bumppo in The Leatherstocking Tales. We beached the boat and climbed out. I was pumped.
A bit of scanning and we spied a blaze on a tree. Felt like I'd traveled a century into the past. These days surveying crews use blaze-orange tape to mark reference points and trails. Shaving bark down to the wood was a technique as old as the axe. Centuries ago the Voyageurs marked their passages with lob pines by lobbing a number of branches below the topknot of a tall one to make it stand out. Blazing was done for the detail work. At the moment I wasn't thinking history, I was thinking virgin fish. Ahead was another blaze, between was no obvious path. Though the blazes were grayed I doubted they were very old. However they were definitely pointing somewhere with a purpose. We waded into the ankle deep moss to see what we were facing before we hoisted the gear. Better than a quarter mile ahead found us on the shore of a lake. The distance across the water was only a few hundred yards but we weren't expecting a lake of size. All was as it should be. Till we noticed, off to our right, the little lake opened into a much larger body. Seemed we'd bushwhacked our way from one bay of Wedge Lake to another. The balloon popped. We laughed (though inside I was bummed. Still am). Sometimes the highlights of a trip are lowlights.
Yes we did catch a lot of fish though only one stands out (besides the minnow Al impaled with a number five in-line spinner). On a typical mid-afternoon you'd find us in camp, snacking, Allan shore fishing, and me in a camp chair reading aloud. On this occasion Al had wandered to a spot where I couldn't see his cast, so why he started yelling for me to come over wasn't obvious. Yeah, I figured he had a fish on the line but didn't join in his excitement till I saw her. Yes sir, she was indeed bigger than a dog, not a real big dog but surely a cocker spaniel. Where Allan came up with a dog as a reference of size is a mystery but it is his standard for large pike. I ran for the camera and needle nose pliers. Al played the pike like the master he'd become, shored it, and hoisted the pike for a quick snapshot. She measured at forty-six and a half inches. To this date it's the second largest pike caught in Wedge Lake. You can check that out with the Manitoba Master Anglers Awards (though the date is fudged for reasons we don't want to talk about).