Driving back from the cabin I began to fast forward to the Manitoba trip my son and I are planning for this July. As I'd written earlier, this won't be our first time into Grass River Park or on Elbow Lake at the far north end. We're both familiar with the drill of readying and going though there's little doubt I've spent more time over the years since replaying our time on the water than has Allan. Yeah, I'm an obsessive old bugger. What can you expect from someone who was once an obsessive young bugger? At least I'm consistent. In my defense, they were all good times and like a good book or movie, the rereads and reruns are near as good as the first time around. That we're heading off to the boonies while I'm still upright is a gift, pure and simple.
Our first trip came about as a high school graduation present for Al. Also was as much for me as it was for him. We'd done a half dozen Boundary Waters trips and by and large I was praised for sharing time with my son but I knew the truth to be otherwise. Allan was as much my excuse to canoe on wilderness lakes as it was about father-son bonding. That he seemed to be having a good time was a bonus and over the years our trips did grow to be a sharing experience.
I chose Grass River Provincial Park because it was barely within a very long day's driving distance, was far enough north to give me a feeling of real wilderness, and because I'd never heard of it till a couple of months before climbing in the Jeep. Hell, in my mind the park was so far north we could probably fish the nearby roadside ditches and catch arm-long walleyes. As it turned out, I was wrong.
Our 1998 trip was a bust as far as the fishing went. Could be we should have not gone in August. However, as I mistakenly thought, when we went was of no consequence. We did catch a few fish, a very few fish and could have caught a hell of a lot more had we fished the cabin lakes. Our couple of dozen pike, all under ten pounds, had me searching my soul as to why we didn't catch more. If the fishing five hundred miles north of what we thought of as north wasn't that poor, the reason had to be us. And by us I mean me. What was wrong with me?
Over the years I wrote a journal-like book about our trips north of the border and called it Learning Curve. As a book it wasn't much, but the title sure was on the money. What I came learn, as I had years before in Minnesota, was area knowledge has as much to do with fishing success as does technique. Allan and I rarely had a bad day on the lakes around our cabin once we figured out which lakes to fish and when to fish them. In short, what I discovered was necessary for me to be a success on the water was finding lakes where the fish were as dumb and innocent as me (though the bass and pike might feel a little insulted by such a statement).
What I'd like to do over the next few entries is recall some of the best days Allan and I had north of the border and maybe a few things I'd like to have done differently.