As highway 6 stretched further North, the small towns that were so frequent began to be replaced by lush vistas of the boreal forest. It’s funny how easy it is to forget that there is more to Saskatchewan than just farms and prairies. Saskatchewan is after all larger than France, and nobody mistakes France for being home to only winefields and sexy beaches. Regardless of our own assumptions of what Saskatchewan is, there is a lot more to this province than meets the eye. And I was anxious to dive in.
Why Lake McLennan?
The reason we chose Lake McLennan is that it is one of the furthest lakes up North you can reach without having to fly in. Which as you may have guessed it, can get pretty costly. The owners of Bears Camp strive to make Northern fishing getaways as affordable as possible. Driving in really can save you a bunch here, with float plane flights costing upwards of $1000 per person, it seemed like a logical choice for this time around. Despite knowing we were saving a bunch of money, I couldn’t help but want to see some of the float planes that are used to haul tourists and game fisherman up north. We made a quick stop at Missinipe to keep an eye out for planes departing or arriving. Unfortunately we weren’t so lucky, but I did manage to get some great shots of the parked fly-in planes.
The Arrival at Bears Camp
After 10 hours of driving from Regina, we finally made it to our destination. Bears Camp, located on the beautiful Lake McLennan. Our fishing trip gang included myself, my two brothers, my Dad, his friend, and his friends kids. We were greeted with smiles from the moment we walked through the gates. The rustic look of the camp fit perfectly in this rugged northern terrain. We were shown our fishing cabins, the firepits, the barbeques, and the outhouse, all of which were clean and spacious. We were informed that the only electricity that Bears Camp currently receives is by diesel generator, and the generator only runs during the day. So I made sure to score a quick camera charge before the generator was turned off and we were left in the dark. Vince and Tamara, the owners and operators of Bears Camp, were happy to inform us that if we were to stop by later on in the year that the camp would have electricity, care of some local mining companies putting in the lines nearby.
The valuable Old man
By the time we got settled in it was almost 7:00pm, and hunger was afoot. We threw some bratwursts on the barbeque and began getting our fishing rods ready. To be brutally honest, if it hadn’t have been for my Dad, we’d probably still be there fighting with tangled lines and setting up the rods for the “perfect cast”. Moments like those remind me that us young cats still have a lot to learn from the old man. Combined with his bratwurst cooking techniques, he already proved himself valuable on this trip. Chalk one up for the baby boomers.
Sunset in Northern Saskatchewan
After dinner and dishes, we got a campfire setup and watched as the late sunset consumed the sky and our attention for several long minutes. By the time I had my camera ready all the juicy sunset photos that could have been taken were long gone, thankfully we were left with a full moon that shone bright over Lake McLennan. The sound of loons calling one another from miles away took over the conversation. The loon is one of Canadas many national symbols, this one in particular is found on the one dollar coin, also known as the “Loonie”. We finished off our beers and called it a relatively early night as we planned on saddling up for a full day of fishing.
Wake up, we’re going fishing!
I woke up to my Dad barking at us young kids to wake up and get ready. How is it that as you get older waking up earlier gets easier? I had a mild headache from too many beers the night before, but after devouring some eggs, toast, and breakfast sausages, my million dollar status was just about back to 100%. We packed the 16 foot boat that we rented from Bears Camp with our fishing gear, a cooler with drinks, and a few apples to tidy us over until lunch. A quick splash of this cold northern water on the face was all it took to completely recharge my batteries. We were officially ready to commence fishing. The sun was shining, blue skies surrounded us and we had the entire lake to ourselves.
Note: A boating license is required in Saskatchewan to operate boats and pleasure craft – take your boat exam today!
Sunny Day for fishing
The 25 HP Mariner outboard engine puttered and purred, echoing across the lake. The old man cut the engines in a calm bay that was getting a bunch of sun. “No shame in getting a bit of a tan along with some dinner”, he mused. Without the engine running, the only thing you can hear is the rustle of leaves and the occasional splash in the water caused by our boat or some playful fish swimming about. We casted our lines into the clear water and sat back, relaxing. When you get this far up north you can put your line in just about anywhere and expect to catch something. This location wasn’t any different. The first catch wasn’t anything to write home about, but as tradition goes, we let the first fish caught go free, and casted our lines out again.
Oh BBQ, how I love you.
That night we cleaned our catches and prepared a massive BBQ. We breaded some of our fish, had a ham roast, some diced potatoes and onions, and washed it all down with cold beers. It was an amazing meal. The family, friends, and location complimented each dish fantastically. However, a fishing trip wouldn’t be a fishing trip if you didn’t forget something. In this case, it was a skillet. Thankfully Bears Camp is fully equipped to make your cooking and eating as easy as possible. They’ve got all the BBQ’s in place, along with the proper utensils and some of those heavy duty cast-iron skillets, perfect for frying fish. I’m surprised we weren’t greeted by a whole slew of bears, because this dish smelled good.
Campfires, Beers, and conversations with a local
My brothers and I continued with some drinking, we had another fire and spoke the whole night with Vince, the owner of Bears Camp. He told us stories about life up North, and how different it all is once winter hits. Bears Camp is one of the few places that remains open all year, particularly for the snowmobile crowd and the die-hard ice fishermen. When we asked how cold it’d be if we were to go swimming tomorrow, Vince just laughed and with a grin on his face said, “They call Lake McLennan a one inch lake. Because it doesn’t matter how big of a man you are going in, by the time you come out of that water, that’s all your left with.” Everybody at the campfire laughed, and I made a conscious decision that I was going to try my darnedest to find a good place to jump in tomorrow. Until then, my brothers and I had a whole cooler of beer and a bottle of rum calling our names.
Check out Bears Camp at Lake McLennan, Saskatchewan, for more information on fishing, boating, and experiencing an affordable Northern getaway.