Now and Then: Take a break and head to the lake

So, here we are, immersed in the dark depths of winter.

There is relief to the dreariness though, as I offer an easy and inexpensive way to brighten and lighten the winter-weary days. Simply sit back in your favourite easy chair and let me take you on a summertime boat tour from Little Athapap to Schist Lake.

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Imagine it’s early in the morning anytime from the end of May to mid-September. Let’s get up early – say, around five. There’s lots of light.

We’ve already packed a lunch ahead of time so we can grab a quick breakfast, make a thermos of tea or coffee and then head for the Bakers Narrows government boat dock.

The water is table-flat in the calm of the early day. The bush air is damp and sweet. A loon calls out. There is a light mist along the shoreline. The glow of sunrise has painted the lake in shades of… I’m sorry. I just can’t find the words to describe that colour.

We have our gear, but may decide not to fish. Okay, we’ll fish. The motor idles and with a light touch to the throttle, we pull into the channel, pass the rocky shores near the park beach and docks and make our way around the point. The expanse of Athapap down to Camp Whitney greets our view to the south but we swing to the west with Blondie’s Beach to our right.

We are the only boat on the lake. The water gives way with gentle waves, for we are taking our time and enjoying the view.

The wide mouth of Schist Creek calls us to enter its ever-diminishing shores. Whoa! Slow down! Let’s just idle back and glide our way as the pine trees stand tall in darkness on the south shore and in soft sunlight on the north shore. There is a bit of warmth felt from the rising sun.

Ahead, the channel narrows at Barrel Narrows – so named from the empty barrels that were used as boulder marker buoys back in the early days. We talk about those times in the late 1920’s when barges and boats travelled this route loaded with supplies for Mandy Mine then for the great Flin Flon ore strike.

But those thoughts leave our minds as we anchor in and set to jigging for pickerel.

Word has it that pickerel have been biting here lately. But then, you never know.

Croaking away from the top of a fir tree, Raven joins us as we crack open the thermos for a spot of tea or coffee. The water is not deep but has great energy as it flows through the constraints of the channel. Our anchor holds.

Darn those perch! They nibble the bait right off the hook. Hand me that bag of Spitz. Might as well do something useful. Hey! Igotabite, Igotabite, Igotabite…

Later, we pull anchor and make for the narrow, winding passage that takes us to Schist Lake. There are marker poles to guide the way. We may have to lift the motor a bit to clear the weeds at the big bend.

With the motor barely turning over, we leisurely meander by stands of birch and a bit of poplar mixed in with their coniferous companions. Just ahead is the railway bridge. It was the completion of the railway that brought an end to the lake freight hauling to the mine site.

We swing to the starboard as we run north, parallel to the tracks, through the narrow rocky channel at the top of the creek and onto Schist Lake.

There’s got to be a few pickerel in here. Last week I got a few just west of here.

Maybe we caught a few fish. Maybe not. Who cares? A day on the lake in the early morning beats anything.

In time, we make the return journey. Someone suggests that with the creek flow and the right wind we could actually drift all the way back to Athapap and save gas.

Great idea! If only we had a day to do it in.

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