Fishing Saskatchewan: The Grand Slam of Canadian Angling
Everyone likes a fish story. This one, however, isn’t just one of mine. It’s more about how you could make one of your own.
In my many years in the outdoor industry, I’ve had countless opportunities to fish in exotic places, often with some of the world’s finest anglers. Each and every destination offers its own unique blend of challenge, charm and reward. Some excel in certain aspects, like fishing, facility, boats, guides, food, staff, amenities, etc. Rarely does any particular one come too close to sweeping the Oscars in all categories. Except for one. Consistently.
That would be Wollaston Lake Lodge in Saskatchewan. Yes, the fishing’s fabulous—particularly for catching massive northern pike on a daily basis. Just check the photo brag board on their website, and you’ll be left in awe. Wollaston’s pike are true giants, hefty in the body and immensely powerful from snout to tail—a far cry from the long, skinny pike often found elsewhere. There are so many of them, everyone seems to come home with a personal best. Or five. Or 20.
Knowledgeable guides pave the way to success
Certainly, it has a lot to do with the veteran guides who take people fishing every day on Wollaston’s 1300 square kilometres (800 square miles) of cool, clear water. They are highly skilled in the people business, as well as the fishing business. Both eager and able to instruct avid anglers and beginners alike in what it takes to pursue, fight and land these giants on conventional tackle.
While you don’t need to fly-fish to catch Wollaston’s giant pike, doing so is more of a glorious experience and reward than a necessity. Nothing beats going toe-to-toe with a fish pushing 50 inches of length, often in less than 50 inches of water, with nothing but a long wand and tight fly line between you, whistling in the wind. In doing so, you’ll discover that there’s no better way to consistently catch these monsters than to tempt and tease them with a feather.
The thing is, you don’t even need to be good at it. The guides are so well-versed in instructing newcomers to the technique that even novices become relative experts in short order. I’ve found it to be a fantastic intro to fly-fishing. When you experience non-stop success on big, willing biters, you quickly develop the mechanical skills, confidence and desire to try fly-fishing for other species when you get back home.
A four-fold fishing destination par excellence
While pike are the main attraction here, other species lurk beneath the surface. That inspired the lodge’s trademark, four-species, grand-slam logo featuring pike, walleye, lake trout and grayling. Your quest during your stay is to catch some of each to qualify for the grand slam.
The challenge is not so much in catching them, but rather taking a little time off from pike every day to pursue other opportunities. A couple hours jigging or trolling for lake trout (which can be giants!). A few hours walking the banks of a turbulent river, casting spinners, spoons or flies for powerful Arctic grayling—the iridescently gorgeous, powerful though diminutive sailfish of the north—and walleyes, which may require no more than an hour or two of jigging in the Umphreville River, adjacent to the lodge. Between it all, squeeze in a shore lunch of fresh fish every day.
Plan a multi-day stay, you’ll need it!
No wonder you’ll need at least a four-day fishing package to squeeze it all in. If you need more, 8-day stays are also available, along with daily fly-outs to nearby lakes and rivers, or to distant portions of massive Wollaston Lake itself.
As good as all of this sounds, owner Mike Lembke instinctively knew it would take more than simply outstanding fishing to bring back guests year after year, please family groups encompassing all ages, and attract business groups to visit this outpost of civilization in the far north. So, he decided to build something exceptional.
In a nutshell, Wollaston offers the finest combination of comfort, service and professionalism you can imagine—true five-star service despite its remote locale. Exquisite fine dining. Amazing staff at all levels of the operation. Deluxe lodge and cabin facilities. A tackle and clothing shop to make you drool. A fly-tying bench and materials to tie up your own fish-killer designs in the evening. A direct flight on the lodge’s jet, between the lodge and the Winnipeg airport, to keep travel time minimal and comfortable. And, if you or your companions simply can’t bear the notion of totally withdrawing from the world, full satellite TV, internet and phone connections to the folks and frenzy back home. In fact, if you can think of something they haven’t anticipated, tell them. Chances are, it’ll be in place on your next visit.
Something to save for
Now, with setting such high standards of excellence, comes reality. An operation of this caliber does not come cheap. Understandably, those costs need to be passed on to their clientele. If you’re looking for a budget trip this year, you’d best look elsewhere. The average Wollaston customer either wants the very best regardless of what it costs or finds a way to justify a premium price for a majestic experience. One thing’s for sure, once you come here, you’ll compare everything else to Wollaston. You may not wish to go anywhere else.
I could easily fill another couple of pages with big fish photos, stories, adjectives and adverbs extolling the many virtues and wonders of Wollaston Lake Lodge. To me, it is the undisputed crown of all Canadian wilderness operations, bar none. Something you may wish to experience at least once in your life, and to compare all other against. Not just setting the standard but imagining the best of all possibilities. Then, turning the dream into a reality.
For more information on fishing adventures in Saskatchewan click here.
Dave Csanda has enjoyed 40 years in the fishing communications industry at In-Fisherman, Angling Edge and now, as associate editor of MidWest Outdoors. He is an inductee of both the Minnesota and National Fresh Water Fishing Halls of Fame, and maintains an active seminar schedule at sport shows.
Reprinted with the permission of Midwest Outdoors.