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Stick A Pin In It - Lake St Joseph Trip Report

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Root Bay Outpost, Aug 2020

Moving down the river I was trying to remember what Ryan had said “the key is to be in the deeper water”, as I watched the fish finder I noticed I was getting shallow fast, so I popped the boat into gear and turned sharply towards the channel. Just as my bouncer touched down and I felt the familiar shimmy of the harness I had a vicious hit. Being solo I was forced (okay, I wanted to) give Colin and Dave the play by play “She’s got shoulders” “Oh man, it’s a good fish” “It’s 24.5 inches and fat” “Man, what a first fish” Welcome to Root Bay and welcome to the Pin Cushion.

Build Up

I have probably over mentioned how much planning goes into our trips. I have 4 posts to prove it! Trip Plan Part 1 Trip Plan Part 2 Trip Plan Part 3 Trip Plan Part 4 Out big trips (Fly ins) happen every two years and we do a lot of work to make them special. This year was always going to be different. We were going further North, we would fly commercially to Thunder Bay to cut down on travel time (post to come on that experience soon) and we were working a new outfitter, Slate Falls Outposts Slate Falls Interview . Then Covid 19 hit. For a while we didn’t think it would happen. Then it was determined that instead of Miniss Lake we would be going to the Root Bay Outpost on Lake St Joseph. This wasn’t a big deal as we had debated hard between the two lakes but we did need to scramble a bit to re research Lake St Joseph. Ryan was super helpful and Mike Borger of Canada Fishing Guide had fished at this outpost and had done a thorough report (and also graciously chatted with my brother providing even more intel). Then our flights got changed and changed again. Our initial rental car company closed its two outlets in Thunder Bay. You get the point. This year was just different and in the end that was alright.

Walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Colin with a nice walleye caught trolling between two islands

Sunrise photo from a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Take off on our flight out - love my new Iphone for photos!

Travel Day

Our flight was scheduled to leave Toronto at 8:50 AM so that meant getting to Pearson airport early, checking baggage, arguing with various airport staff about whether or not a rod holder and a tackle bag was two pieces of luggage or 1 (tip its 1 and is clearly stated on Air Canada’s website!). We got to our gate with enough time to chat, grab a coffee and wait to board. Just as we were boarding the Air Canada rep announced that there was bad fog over the airport in Thunder Bay and while the plane would depart on time there was a chance we may get turned back. Great. Well sure enough we flew all the way to Thunder Bay only to have turn around and head back to Toronto. Muted panic ensued. Did we have to scramble to find a new flight? Rent a car? We were scheduled to be on a float plane at 7 AM the next day! For the record it’s an 18-hour drive from Toronto to Sioux Lookout. After a gut wrenching 30 minutes the pilot announced that we would refuel in Toronto and basically turn back around and try again. We sat on the tarmac for an eternity (about an hour) and sure enough we were back in the air and successfully landed at around 4:00 PM (instead of 11 AM). A long ride, especially in masks and no food service on the flight. We grabbed our gear and headed to the rental counter and we were in luck our van was ready. As we packed up our gear it became apparent. We were not going to fit. Well maybe we would have fit but we would have to spend 4 hours in the van covered head to toe in groceries and other various items. New plan required. We headed back in, rented another small car and were on our way to pick up groceries and beverages. After all that the drive to Sioux Lookout was beautiful and uneventful. One interesting fact - we did change time zones. We were confused why our GPS said 4-hour drive but has us arriving in 3 hours, then we passed a sign saying we had entered Central Time – who knew! We pulled into Slate Falls bunkhouse at 9:30 PM and pulled out our sleeping gear and had a few well-earned cold ones. The setup there is great, plenty of room and we were right at the airbase. I honestly meant to take some photo’s but we were bagged and I have one shot of us outside it – oops, my bad.

Slate Falls Outposts Bunkhouse in Sioux Lookout Ontario
The crew outside of the Bunkhouse - an awesome option if its available


Ryan Runge, owner of Slate Falls Outposts had let us know he would meet us at 6:00 AM to chat with us, go over some spots and settle our bills. After an epic day of travel that should have been early enough but Dave and I were up and jittery at 5:00 AM. A quick map search let us know that there was a Tim Hortons around the corner so we took down the coffee and sandwich orders and picked them up. We checked in with Ryan, got a sense of the lake and where he thought we should focus our fishing. Sure, enough at 7 AM the pilot from Slate Falls Air pulled into the lot, we weighed our gear and were on our way! I was nominated to sit in the front seat and I captured lots of video and photos. It was a 30-minute flight and soon enough we make the sharp bank (I can’t lie I thought we stalled and I was filming my own death) and taxied up to our home for the week. The set up was impressive, I have done a walk-through video and will get it posted soon. We quickly unpacked our gear, made up our rooms, strung up our rods and had some sandwiches for breakfast. With all that we were on the water and fishing by 10:30 AM, much earlier than previous trips. Similar to our Ogoki Lake trip report 2018 Ogoki Lake Trip I am going to break down each days fishing for the rest of the report followed by some keen observational science…

Getting ready to board a flight for a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario
Getting ready to jump in the Otter at Slate Falls Airways

Day 1 - Poking the Pin Cushion

During our research one spot kept popping up “the pin cushion”. Basically, it’s where the root river exits lake St Joseph towards the Root Bay dam. At the entrance it gets quite narrow, generates a ton of current but also has good depth. It also happens to be a 5ish minute boat ride from the cabin (depending on the boat configuration, the 14 foot boats with 15 HP move well but better if you were the solo fisherman that day) The week before we headed into the camp Ryan had been in fishing with some guests for a few days and he told us it was on fire, first spot found! We were all super keen to wet a line and we started off getting a lay of the land trolling/drifting worm harnesses on bottom bouncers. Within 5 minutes I landed my first fish which would also happen to be my biggest – a fat 24.5-inch walleye. Over the next few hours, it was epic, we caught lots of walleyes on bouncers and jigs. It was all about getting a controlled cast or drift or troll through the river channel. More specifically it was about maintaining consistent bottom contact through the deeper stretch and waiting for the telltale tiggle of a walleye. The average size was impressive as well. Over the course of the week we caught loads of fish over 20 inches in the pin cushion including 8 between 24 and 26 inches. After a few hours we headed in for a bite to eat and refresh our beverages. We looked again at our maps as well as the one Ryan provided and decided to fish a few more spots close to the cabin. We did okay, it was no pin cushion and with higher winds boat control was tough but we started to get a sense of the lake – NOT, we started to realize how different Lake St Joseph and the area around Root Bay was. When fishing new spots, I like to take a few passes over the area while looking at my depth finder to understand the structure. In most cases I am trying to visualize the low part (basin) and the high part (shoreline, top of hump or reef). Then I typically turn around, move out to the deep side, drop down a bottom bouncer or crank or jig and slowly troll my way up the structure looking to get a sense of where the fish are. This rarely worked. Sometimes there was another reef within 15 feet of the other spot or there was a roller coaster where you went up and down 3 times before you hit shore. Honestly it took us a while to get used to it. We spent a few hours doing this, picked off more walleye and a few pike and then headed back to the Pin Cushion prior to heading back to camp for some celebratory beers and a campfire.

Total Fish Count – 105

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Ontario, Canada
The author with a Pin Cushion Beauty

Day 2 - Highly Irregular

It was an early morning for me, up at 4:00 AM, then 4:30 and finally at 5:15 I just decided to get out of bed. I headed down to the dock to see if I could get a good time lapse video of sunrise. In the end it was hard to do off the dock so I took a bunch of pictures, re tied my rods and even caught a few walleyes off the dock – a nice way to kick start the day. At 6:30 I put some coffee on to percolate and the other guys started to stir. We decided to fish a new section of the lake that Ryan had marked up. I am terrible with direction but its where the Cat River starts to connect to Blackstone Lake. The wind had picked up again and while we did well, we hadn’t quite got a handle on boat control in the current and the wind. In certain area’s it was easy to get stuck in neutral between the current and the wind. A few boats did however catch some nice walleye this day. My brother caught a 25.5 that looked part boa constrictor with the size of its gut and Mark got a beautiful 25 inch. Colin and I found a few spots and after a few passes we started to get a handle on the structure – highly irregular! After a beauty lunch on an island we headed back out for a few more hours when someone made the call “Pin Cushion” We made the run down and needed to put some fish on a stringer for tomorrow’s shore lunch. Again, it was on – lots of fish and a few real beauties. My brother caught what was to be our largest fish, a nice 26-inch walleye on a jig. At this stage we were starting to get more confident in our jigging abilities, a big goal of ours as a group. Most of us had started with heavy 3/8 to ½ ounce jigs but were already starting to downsize (except for Mark The Jigging Gnome who was always using a 1/16 ounce or less) Overall another great day and we were confident we were getting a handle on Lake St Joe! No fire that night as a massive thunderstorm moved in. The show from the covered porch was incredible the sky seems like it was being lit up from all sides

Total Fish Count – 158

Walleye fishing in Northern Ontario with Slate Falls Outposts
Dock walleye!

Day 3 - As#h#le Shoals

We awoke to a clear morning with lots of sun and limited clouds. After studying our maps, considering the weather we decided to make a longer run and head to the main lake. Today was also going to be our first shore lunch so we put together a kit (dry wood, two large frying pans, a grill, plates, cutlery, fish, potatoes (pre boiled), baked beans, chocolate and beverages). It took us about 35 minutes to get to the spot, not a super long run but considering it was only about ¼ of the map (which didn’t cover the entire lake) it gave us respect for just how big Lake St Joe is. Put it this way Ogoki was the biggest outpost lake we had ever been to at approx. 17,000 acres, Lake St Joe is 140,000 acres – almost 10 times the size. As we finally pulled into the bay, it happened. The event that set the tone for my morning. I was driving the boat with Mark in front, we were cruising in 34 feet of water and approaching a small island and a point. Being cautious I slowed down and cruised through a shoal that ran for about 100 yards at 10 feet, we returned to 34 feet and I started to open the throttle when boom. We ran into another shoal that was just under the surface. Heart attack aside we were both okay and the boat and engine were fine. As we got to the other side and looked back (without the sun in your eyes) you could see it. A tractor trailer sized shoal. The guys checked to see if we were okay (check) and we spread out and started to try to find the various spots we had in this section. We had only been fishing for a few minutes and everyone was calling out fish on the radios. Right around that time the wind shifted and started picking up. That seemed to kill the bite. We checked a few other places, spotted a nice spot for shore lunch and made a run further into a bay that also had a few spots marked. I swear I gave myself leg cramps and a headache tensing for the next shoal. I am sure I drove Mark nuts slowing the boat down anytime I saw the depth changing (even from 30 to 15) just in case. I was a bit spooked! We didn’t catch much and I think we were a dispirited bunch heading for shore lunch. As mentioned, Mark and I noticed a spot that looked like it had been used before for shore lunch. The other boats followed us (very slowly, they no longer trusted my driving either!) and we beached the boats and had just an incredible meal. Normally we have had a propane stove or two with us for shore lunch so cooking over an open fire would be a new treat. Mark quickly got us organized and in no time, we had that great Canadian tradition of potatoes, beans and fresh fish cooking over the open fire. The food was excellent and the experience priceless. We decided to make our way back to camp stopping at a few spots for pike that Mike B had marked off and an island that Ryan had pointed out. Again, we picked off a few quick fish then crickets. Soon a call came over the radio – two words. You guessed it Pin Cushion! This was the only day that the pin cushion was “off” Again we caught fish but not at the previous days pace. Keep in mind compared to most of our fishing forays and even previous trips it was incredible. One very cool thing happened at the pin cushion. I had commented the other day that I had never seen any wildlife in these trips (other than gophers, eagles, squirrels etc.), as Mark backed up the boat to chase a snag I just happened to look behind the boat to see a juvenile bear wander out of the bush, jump into the river and motor to the other side. We both got some video which I will post soon – amazing! We returned to camp a bit shell shocked (mainly me) with a dent in our confidence. Maybe we just weren’t that good? That night we had planned on going to bed early, no fire we just sat on the deck having a few beers and brainstorming tomorrow’s plan. Somewhere past 9:30 I happened to wonder out from under the deck to see an all-world light show. For the first time there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars had come out to play. Soon enough we were down on the dock, Shine on You Crazy Diamond on the radio enjoying more beverages than planned. Personally, I reminded myself that these trips are about more than fishing (and as#hole shoals)

Total Fish Count – 78

Shore lunch on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Mark working his magic for our shore lunch

Scenic shoreline on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Views for days at our shore lunch spot

Day 4 - Confidence Restored

Today Ryan was scheduled for a check in flight. One of the selling features for Slate Falls is that they do multiple check ins during the week. Due to Covid SFO was only operating the Root Bay camp so we had just the one check in but that was great. We had called Ryan on the satellite phone provided for a few items (potatoes, onions, a case of ginger ale) and he had told us no worries – I will bring them in. Ryan had said he would show at 8 AM weather permitting and sure enough around 8:05 AM we heard the plane taxiing to the dock. Ryan jumped out to greet us and immediately started walking through the map for us. He indicated that with the front that came through the fish would most likely be a little deeper, more tentative. We had planned on running back up towards Blackstone, ideally getting to an area called Rebecca Narrows and Ryan confirmed it was a solid plan. His advice, go slower, deeper and smaller and it turns out he was bang on. We decided to run a spot that was close to our end destination and check in. The we would go as far North as we wanted to fish, meet up and divide and conquer to get a pattern going. Scott and I pulled into an obvious neck down area started to poke around to recon the spot. One side was deep and featureless but where the point jutted out it got shallow quick with some obvious boulders and rocks. We prepped our bouncers and proceeded to poke around. Our first few fish were right where Ryan said – hanging in the basin or slightly up the break. By freak chance or bad driving I ended bumping us along the top side of the break in 20 feet of water and Scott picked up a nice 20 incher. Interesting, we motored along again and Scott hooked into something big. Turns out it was a huge pike, one of the bigger ones I have ever seen. With only a small net we were starting to decide our plan but when that pike saw us or the boat or both he made a Moby Dick like run for the bottom and broke off. Damn. The other guys had picked off a few walleyes and some pike as well but we decided to run to Rebecca Narrows to check it out. Again, we found walleyes where they should be. Nothing huge but generally we did well. Mark and Colin had motored down into a nice big bay that we had marked for pike so we all followed and met up at a nice sandy beach for lunch. After lunch we decided to go deeper into the bay and focus on pike, something we hadn’t done a lot of. Scott and I picked up two 27 inchers in a rare pike double header but nothing of size. Still trolling a Rapala J 13 I hooked into a nice 23-inch walleye at a small pinch point between two bays. We turned around for another pass and sure enough we both picked up walleyes. As we were mulling making a run Dave got on the radio to say he was getting a lot of walleye on a deep diving Rapala and Mark/Colin were getting pike. I am not sure whose suggestion it was but Scott and I decided to go back and drift through the gap with jigs – great call. We picked of 5 or 6 walleyes quickly, while not a big deal on its own the size was – all of them were over 20 and two were fat 23 inchers – sweet! Finally, we decided to make our way back towards camp. Tonight, was pasta that would be quick to cook so we hit the pin cushion on our way in and thankfully it was back to being spectacular! That night the stars were back to play so we had a quick fire, some great conversations and a few pops. We felt successful again lol

Total Fish Count – 104

Huge walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Dave with a huge walleye caught bottom bouncing off a shoal

Day 5 - Dam! Fishing

We awoke to a cloudy and cool morning. Once again, we geared up in our rain gear and tuques prior to heading out. At this point I will mention how nice the setup is at Root Bay (I did a very bad Mike Borger walk through video which I will post soon). The boats were brand new 14-foot Alummarines paired with 15 Horsepower Honda 4 strokes that just sipped gas. Another great feature is the docks. The boats just slid into (and stayed), handrails to assist with getting in and out and walkways leading back up to the cabin. Right at the top of the dock was a large gas tank with a hand pump for filling the boat tanks– compared to previous trips (where we had to lug up/down jerry cans) it was awesome. Today we had decided to check out the Dam further down the root river. Ryan had mentioned it as did the gentlemen we replaced at the camp – every cast is a fish they said (yeah right, I thought). We meandered down the river, enjoying the scenery, dodging rocks as we tried to stay in the channel. Once again, I felt like I had woken up in a Sigurd Olsen novel or a Group of 7 painting. We finally made our way to the dam and pulled the boats up on the shore. We really weren’t that sure where to start and finally after walking around I spied a path to the right side (if in front of the dam). Colin, Mark and I made our way down and ended up at a large rock face beside the roaring whitewater of the dam. As we tied on jigs (Ryan’s advice was to cast up current, let the jig sink for 3 seconds and start reeling) we pitched casts all around. It didn’t take us long to start to find fish and it was incredible. At one-point Colin and I went 7 for 7 with multiple double headers. Unfortunately, Dave and Scott had gone down the other side, so we called them over and Colin and Mark went to bushwhack a bit further down the river to make room. After some convincing the other guys came down (their adventure on the other side was a rough hike) and we started casting again. I had really sold the spot and so my hands started to sweat a bit when no one was hooking up. In desperation I fired a cast directly into the white water and to my surprise hooked up with a chunky walleye right away. It was back on! We must have sounded like little kids, cast, shout fish on and just start laughing at the craziness of it. I had a walleye chase my jig into 6 inches of water and hit within 10 feet of me, it was just nuts. We caught many 14 to 16-inch fish but also a few 18 to 20s and a nice fat 21 incher. In total we caught 80 fish in about 1.5 hours of fishing and I am sure we could have caught more if the 5 of us were in the same spot the whole time. Soon it was time to head back so we could fish the main lake and find a spot to grab some lunch. The rest of the day was also amazing. We fished the pin cushion (of course!), checked out a few spots Ryan had Marked near Baas Island. On the way-out Dave and I noticed we crossed a large reef that was shaped like a ski jump. I think on most days we would have blown by but two factors kicked in 1) we had already caught oodles of fish, so why not try and 2) fishing the pin cushion had given us more confidence in fishing jigs. As we started to work our way around the structure casting and back trolling jig, we caught quite a few good fish. Some were at the bottom of the reef, some on the rise and some right over the top – sweet! The rest of the afternoon was just a successful – when we found good structure with depth, we got fish. Back to the cabin for a late dinner, some beers and some map study. We may have had a campfire; I can’t honestly remember.

Total Fish Count - 168 (including the 80 fish from the dam)

Fishing at the rapids on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
A shot of the dam - we were amazed that the fish held right in the whitewater!

Walleye fishing on a fly in trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Dave posing with one of those "dam" fish

walleye caught at a dam on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Kamikaze walleye who hit my jig 10 feet from me in 6 inches of water

Day 6 - Toronados (Of the Walleye Kind)

We awoke to a blustery morning but the sun had come back. Lunch was to be another shore lunch but we had decided that we would come back to the cabin for it. We were near the home stretch and our legs and backs were starting to feel the 8 – 10-hour days in the boat. In camp Ryan has a great fish fryer set up and we wanted to use it. We had a few more spots within a 20-minute run that we hadn’t hit yet – Greg’s Bay was to be our first destination. I was fishing solo today and it was a tough fish with the wind. The Alummarines are tough and durable boats but they ride high (probably to help with the as#hole shoals) and if the nose caught the wind suddenly you were spinning. I found two good runs in deeper water near Greg’s Bay and Baas Island. When I played the wind right and got my bouncer or jig onto the bottom, I got bit. I had one run where I went 10 for 10 but there was a long lag in between fish because as soon as I caught a fish my run or drift was blown. The others did okay but struggled to control the boats as well. We jumped around a bit and around 2 PM went back to the cabin for lunch. Colin and Mark are both excellent cooks and for the most part they took over chef duties. I was cleaning up when I walked out to see them rolling fresh walleye in bacon so I pulled out my camera and shot a video that I will post shortly. Walleye Toronados , baked beans and potatoes – awesome! We were a bit slow getting back to the boats after that trip – I was inches away from staying put and taking a nap but eventually my fishing brain convinced my lazy brain to head back out. We did another little run back to the area where there is a small outlet which on the map leads to a section of rapids. We all poked through the gap and motored around. It didn’t take long to realize that this would be a slow and tedious run – rocks everywhere, lower water = not fun. We switched gears and spread out in the general area. I had marked a ton of fish as we went between a small island and the shore heading into the outlet. On my first cast with a jig I hooked into a 16 incher and I quickly blew out of the spot. Undeterred I motored back out of the current and tried casting into the deep water and jigging back to the boat. I picked up a few more fish but felt like I didn’t have it right yet. I tired anchoring deep, I tried back trolling but it was the same thing as the morning fish – when I got good bottom contact, I got bit but that seemed to happen 1 out of 6 times. I was readying for a new spot when the call came across the radio “Pin Cushion” I was happy to get out of the wind and fish. Once again it was easy fishing. I bottom bounced the whole time as it was super easy by myself to maintain my speed and catch fish. The other guys primarily jigged and I did notice that overall, they got much bigger fish that I did – note to self, go to the jig! We ended the day and headed back to the camp to think about dinner and start our preliminary packing. I must say the last few days of a trip come with mixed emotions. I am starting to miss my family and thinking about being home yet I am sad to think about leaving such a beautiful spot. In 2020 I found this to be amplified. It was nice to disconnect from the news, not see people in masks and basically to just think about eating, fishing and drinking but at the same time I found myself thinking more about the people at home – was everyone healthy, safe and happy? Weird times indeed.

Total Fish Count - 105

Fly in fishing trip for walleye and pike in Northern Ontario, Canada
The Alumarines resting for the night

Fish lunch on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
A proper fish lunch of walleye toronados, baked beans and home fries.

Day 7 - Wet Wrap Up

Our plan for the day was to take our time in the AM, have a leisurely breakfast and get most of our gear packed. Mother Nature concurred and we woke to a cold drizzle. Colin made us a lovely breakfast of bacon, hash browns and sausage for most of us. My brother Dave is vegan and he had some of the potatoes and a bagel w something on it. Overall our meal plan was a hit – I think I will do a follow up to this post Meal Planning for Trips and specifically layout our plan for Root Bay which included catering to someone who doesn’t eat meat or fish (staples for the rest of us). Eventually we were ready to head out into the lake. I was fishing with Colin, Dave with Scott and Mark was running solo. We headed back to a few different shoals and reefs we had marked but not yet fished. It was a good run, we picked off fish on jigs primarily but Colin and I also had a bash at trolling crankbaits. One interesting thing for Colin and me. On almost every spot when we were done a drift or troll, we tried to fire a few casts with jigs onto shallow structure. Almost every time we were able to pick off walleyes or pike sitting in 3 – 8 feet of water – need to keep that in mind for our next trip. Mark primarily fished for pike and did well but no real size. Dave and Scott got on a good run and were picking off walleyes off a mid-lake hump they found. Eventually we made our way further up the lake, spread out but chatting on the radios about our success or trying to talk on the radios. With the cloud cover and low ceiling, it was tough to make out what someone was saying. It sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown for the most part and then you would pick up one or two words. So “wha wa was rock, was wah wha jig” Great – fish rocks and jigs - that only covers the entire lake lol. We went back to the cabin for a late lunch and just as we pulled in it started to pour and thunder. Good timing. We quickly pulled lunch together and continued packing up our gear while the storm blew. Eventually it cleared up and we made our final run to the pin cushion. We needed fish to take home and knew it was our best spot to pick up healthy 18 inches and under fish (Lake rules, 2 fish per person under 18 inches) Well once again the spot did not disappoint. We caught lots of fish, grabbed our take homes and got into bigger fish. Multiple fish over 21 inches and a nice 24 incher caught by Mark. We got arrived back to the cabin wet but happy. I quickly got a fire roaring in the wood stove and we all dried out our clothes, rain suits and various boat gear that we needed to pack up for the trip home.

Total Fish Count – 141

Walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Scott with a beauty at the Pin Cushion

An artsy shot of the new Northern Jacks hats and travl mug prototypes - see merchandise tab for more details

Total Weekly Fish Count - 859

Note: we bring clickers and count everything. Over the years writing up the reports I was always estimating how many fish we caught so for our Ogoki trip we bought some clickers (the ones used for golf) and started to record everything. I would guess that 95% of the fish were walleye. Ogoki Lake in 2018 was our most successful trip by far with 514 fish. Root Bay and Lake St Joe blew that out of the water (or by 345 fish).


Most of our fish were caught on crawler harnesses on 2-ounce bottom bouncers and jigs with paddle tail or grub bodies. For the harnesses no colour stood out but we did find the big (#4 or #5) Colorado blades worked well. A few of us also really liked the slow death hook on the harnesses (great for conserving our worms!). For jigs and bodies no clear winners – sizes ranged from ½ ounce to 1/16 ounce but would say 3/8 ounce was most common. In terms of plastics Northland Paddle Tails in Funky Chicken or White were good, 4-inch grubs in chartreuse, pink/white and black were all effective.

We did have some minnows for this trip but based on results I don’t think we would bother again – no real difference between tipping w a minnow vs a worm. Worms are generally cheaper, easier to keep alive longer and we found a piece of worm was good for a few fish.

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Colin with a beauty caught on a jig/minnow combo


To catch our flight back to Toronto from Thunder Bay we figured we needed to be at the Slate Falls Air dock by 9:00 AM. Ryan confirmed that it wouldn’t be an issue (weather permitting) and they would be picking us up at 8:00 AM. Ryan was coming into fish for a few days himself with family and do some work on camp. At 7 AM we called Ryan to confirm they were able to leave and he was already on the way. Sure, enough at 8:00 AM sharp we heard a plane come in, a small one at that. To get us out on time Ryan had arranged for a small two-seater and a Beaver to pick us up. Mark climbed into the two-seater (Hard pass for me) and the rest of us piled I the Beaver. The service with Ryan and Slate Falls Air was impressive. Our pilot did a longer run to take off and it felt like he was pushing the plane to maximize speed. As we landed, he turned and said, “You guy’s said 9 AM right” Well sure enough it was 9 on the nose. He laughed and explained the reason for the long take off was to avoid a slower taxi to get the plane aligned for an easier departure but that he knew of our time limit. We quickly loaded our gear into our two vehicles, stopped at Timmies for a quick bite and were on our way. We made good time to Thunder Bay, returned the rentals, checked in and had plenty of time before our flight left. A simple ride home and I was in a hot shower in my own house by 7:00 PM – now that was smooth!

Note: The airport staff at Thunder Bay were old pros with handling our fishing gear. Big rod tubes, huge tackle bags, cooler full of walleye, they didn’t flinch and it was much smoother than Pearson in Toronto.

Catching our commercial flight for a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Colin waiting for our flight at the airport.

Keen Observations:

1) We have an amazing group. Each guy brings a different element: Colin, chef, DJ, easy going boat partner. Dave, calming force, strategist, outfitter point man and fire maker. Scott, boat and electronics expert, chief gas man and overall MacGyver. Mark, chef, unflappable, happy and master jig fisherman. I consider myself lucky to be a part of the crew

2) I can’t say enough about Ryan, Slate Falls Outposts and the team at Slate Falls Air – but I am going to do my first outfitter review, stay tuned

3) I am still learning how to truly enjoy this trips. I can easily get anxious or stressed out at times and it took me a few days to just enjoy the process. Don't get me wrong, I love every trip and experience in the outdoors but I still have a lot to learn about staying present, not sweating the small stuff and smelling the roses to lump a bunch of clichés together.

4) We liked flying commercial – even with the bumps on our flight to Thunder Bay I found it less exhausting than a long drive

5) Each trip we become better anglers, this time around I would say we improved our jigging, got a better understanding of fishing in currents and fishing complex structure

6) It’s all in the prep. Leading up we all got hooked on watching Tom Boley videos on Youtube. His “how to jig like a pro” got watched a lot and I think it really helped us. Tom Boley Youtube So much so that we were often saying “Yeah, we ended up turning the boat around and Tom Boleying a few walleye” Or “In the Pin Cushion today you really needed some Tom Boley to entice them (jigging as opposed to dragging)

7) Having a “grocery store” is awesome. Credit to Andrew Bunker with coining the term. Here’s his report where I first saw the term Bunks Kesagami Grocery Store. It’s a spot where you know you can easily get into fish. For us that was obviously the pin cushion. It gave us confidence in jigging, it was a spot to try something new, it gave us confidence to explore other parts of the lake and if needed we could always get our eater fish.

8) I really enjoyed fishing on my own this trip. Sometimes when I am driving the boat for someone else, I feel “pressure”. Pressure to put them on a spot, pressure to ensure they have a good bounce or good contact and pressure to not hit shoals… By myself I could do what I wanted. I wouldn’t want to be solo the whole trip I realized I liked it more than I thought. Plus, typically solo boat has the cooler with lunch and beverages – a nice perk when you light up a cigar!

9) I (and I guess the whole group would nod their heads) need to spend more time for pike. I go in with the best intentions but after a few annoying hammer handles I switch back to walleye. I do know that my pike rod combo has seen better days – I think I am going to research spinning gear for my pike set up (or maybe I just want to shop to extend the buzz)

10) Disconnecting for a week is amazing IMO. Beginning of the week I had would reach for my phone to check email or social media and then remember – that isn’t happening. As the week went on, I became less aware, more focused on what was right in front of me (except for that as#@ole shoal) and man was it awesome. I rode that vibe all the way home only turning on the phone to let my family know my progress. I plan on doing this more in the future. Life is short and I want to spend more time in it than reading it.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more content from this trip including: Outfitter Review, Swedish Fire Log Video, Pros and Cons for flying commercial vs driving, Fish finder Review (we had 3 new portable units on this trip), Lithium Battery Review and much more I am sure (hey I need justify the cost of this thing to my better half!)

For those wondering about the Northern Jacks hats and T shirts featured throughout this report - you can now buy your own!(cheesy infomercial voice engaged). Right now I am just selling hats but will most likely add t shirt and worm harnesses soon. Check it out here

Don't miss more gratuitous Northern Ontario fishing trip photos below!

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Dave with a beauty caught back trolling a jig

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
The Jigging Gnome with a beauty caught on a 1/32 ounce jig...

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Scott with a pan sized fish caught trolling a bottom bouncer and worm harness

Nice walleye caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Colin with a nice Pin Cushion walleye

Nice pike caught on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
The author with a chunky pike that decided it liked my worm harness!

Beautiful cabin on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
The cabin at Root Bay - we spent so much time out on the big deck. Walk through video will be up soon!

Sunrise over the lake on a fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Sunrise on our first morning - makes one feel alive

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