Another Tale from post! I got some great feedback on my tales from featuring Chris Brock Tales from the Float Plane , Gord Bastable Tales from The Lodge and Jeff Walker Tales from South Bend so here is another one.
This time around I was lucky enough to speak to Mike DeGrace or if you are familiar with forum handles – Fishquest. Mike is another one of the fine gentlemen that has provided lots of great intel either through trip reports or personal interactions about various lakes. I fondly remember a day when Mike uploaded many years of trip reports on Mike Borger’s site https://www.canadafishingguide.net/ For a trip research nerd like myself it was a regular treasure trove of information. Mike and his group had started their fly in fishing expeditions from a spot near and dear to me – the Temagami region of Ontario and eventually made their way further North and West – ending up in the Nakina region. I connected with Mike to discuss his adventures, passion for the outdoors and pick his brain on the lakes he has fished over the years.
Mike – thanks for taking the time to do this. As mentioned, I have been a big fan of your trip reports over the years. So how did you and your group get “hooked” on taking an annual fly in fishing trip?
Well it started out as a drive to fishing adventure. Back in “1988” my Dad and I loaded up a van and drove to the Temagami region to try to rent a boat, camp and fish some back lakes. A day into our trip and not having much direction my Dad decided to drive into town and ask the local bait shop for some guidance. Well after a conversation he was pointed in the direction of the owner of Lakeland Airways. He mentioned he had a new cabin on Aston Lake that was accessible by Air just newly built and never used yet. My Dad didn’t need much convincing and headed back to where I was at camp with the news he paid for us to jump into what we be one of many fly in fishing trips.
That is awesome – kudos to you guys for just heading out and making memories. So over the years how many trips have you been on?
Personally I have been on 29 fly in trips since that initial foray. We have fished all over Ontario – Hearst, Wawa, Temagami and Nakina. We have fished big lakes, small lakes and in between lakes. I would say I have never met a lake that I did not love and maybe not because of the fishing but because of the experience.
That is a lot of trips under your belt. I am assuming you guys have settled into your preferred way to fish a lake for walleye. What’s your favorite way to find and ideally catch walleye?
I am not sure I would say we have a favorite way – it probably depends on the lake, time of day and all of that. I will say we prefer to fish “structure” lakes. Lots of depth changes, granite shorelines, plenty of islands and lakes that have a significant inflow and outflow have provided some of our best fishing. Personally, I love to cast to structure throughout the day – maybe a jig, a spoon or maybe even sometimes body baits such as rapalas. But body baits scare me as many treble hooks on one bait can be challenging in a remote location and all with good reason as one of my trip mates has been nicknamed Dr. Hook ever since the incident. But throughout the trip we will try trolling or bottom bouncing – whatever the fish want, we will go to.
I know you and your group have fished quite a few different places over the years, from a variety of jump off points. What have been your top 3 trips and why?
Number 1 top trip was my first trip with my dad and the trip that started it all. Just the two of us on a lake with no outside contact to explore something new, fish and have fun without phones or concerns. It was a whole different world being from southern Ontario and only fishing Lake Erie for most of my life. Lakeland Airways
Number 2 would be Apisabigo Lake as I introduced my Nephew Scott to the group and the look in his eyes with excitement from the plane ride in (were the pilot gave him the stick to fly the plane while he got a pic for me) to every fish caught was fun to watch. He fit right in with the group and the 3 young lads we had with us fished, helped around the camp and a great time was had by all Air Dale Apisabigo
Number 3 would be my first trip in the Nakina area to Jungfrau Lake. My eyes were opened up to a whole new world of fishing and proving the point that the farther the drive the better the fishing. We had a non-stop walleye fishing that week and gave up counting numbers on day two. Its been my go to area ever since and now wanting to try all the lakes in that area. Leuenbergers Outposts
What would you consider your most memorable experience?
That’s a hard one to answer as I have so many memories over the years as each and every trip creates new ones. So how about going with a “What the heck is happening” story.
Mid day in camp we don’t usually sit in the heat in the 14 ft tinny, we prefer to head back into camp and enjoy an afternoon nap. The camp was quiet and the four of us in our bunks napping when there was a knock on the door. Being the only camp on a fly in lake something you would never expect to happen. We all jump up and look around at each other thinking did we just hear that. Then there was another knock, so I head over to the door to see 2 gentlemen standing there and a float plane tied up to the dock only 25 yards away. They stopped in to ask how the fishing was and when we told them it was a tough week, they thanked us and walked back to plane and took off.
I don’t know how to this day they landed a float plane taxied to the dock without us hearing a thing. Must have something to do with the fresh air making for a good napping, I guess.
Man – that’s a great one and it must have been freaky to hear that knock. I know on our trips its easy to feel like you are the only people in the world. After 29 trips are there any outfitters you have used over the years that really stand out?
I find they all stand out for one reason or another and I remember something good about almost all of them.
I will say over the last 30 years I only had 2 I wouldn’t return to and funny thing about them is they both out of business now.
My last few trips have been with Twin Lakes Outfitters out of Nakina. Twin Lakes Air
From the first time I chatted with Chad the owner on the phone I knew we would get along well. He had lots of time to talk about options and find out what I wanted in a trip to help me make the right choice for the group and have great trip. Over the last few years I have witnessed the changes in his operations as Chad has been diligently upgrading his camps and equipment to create a more comfortable base for his guests. It nice to see outfitters investing back into the business to make for a better experience and “earn” repeat business every year. The cabins, boats, motors, and the equipment are always maintained and ready to go. Even last year through the Covid border closures he was more than willing to make two trips work for me with different groups as my regulars could not get into Canada.
Are you doing any trips in 2021?
Heading back up for the annual fly in with Twin Lakes Outfitters for a return trip for the group to Sim Lake for sure in July if Covid rules allow and maybe back up in the fall for another fishing/moose hunt combo trip if I can swing it.
We were on Sim Lake 2017 and there is endless water to explore on the lake, so we’ll cover what we missed the first time.
Other than that, it will be fishing back lakes around the province for smaller trips. I consider myself very lucky to live in Ontario if you’re into putting the time into research and willing to work a bit to get to some lakes there is an endless amount of fishing that will be as good if not better then some fly in lakes.
Excellent – I enjoyed your first Sim lake report and will be eagerly awaiting the 2021 version! I believe you (like me) have a core group who have been doing these trips – can you give us a quick run through of your team?
Yeah, I have a core group of Characters that have stuck with me throughout the years.
The longest in the group would be my cousin Jacques who now resides in Nashville. He has been with me on almost all my trips (joined me in 1991) and it is usually the only time each year we get to visit anymore with lives being so busy and distance between us. He is our camp MacGyver, makes sure the boats are always good to go and if somethings not right he’ll make it work.
Then in 1993 Jim joined the group, he was childhood friend of my cousin, Jacques thought he would be a great fit for camp. An easy-going guy who became a good friend fast and is known around camp as Martha Stewart as he likes a clean camp and always brings along some homemade stuffed hot cherry peppers for me as he knows there one of my favs.
Over the years we had a few guys come and go until Jim’s son Dustin settled in in 2012 to be the fourth of the group. He’s energetic and lives for the outdoors, so he keeps us old guys motivated to get out and make the most of the trip while we have the chance.
Mike this one seems to be the toughest for people to answer. These trips take time and money but overall I think most of us who have done it quickly get “hooked” What’s your elevator pitch to someone who is thinking about a fly in but hasn’t taken the plunge yet?
Easy one for me, once you have stood on the end of the dock and watched the float plane that just dropped you off for the week taxi away, lift off and fly out of sight and you get the feeling of complete relaxation start you’ll be hooked.
I’m always out on the dock for that moment, usually the loons are calling sending off the plane it’s a nice feeling. It’s the start of my mind clearing and resetting it back to a better place. If you go into this type of trip with no time schedule and just enjoy mother nature with some good friends and good eats, I guarantee you’ll return a better person for it and as soon as you leave, you’ll start planning the next one and counting the days till then.
Coming from Southern Ontario some of the jump off points you have mentioned are a fairly long day of travel. What’s your groups routine for getting to these locations every year?
We really usually don’t have a plan or routine; we just wing it and if we have time to make a over night stop on the way there, we’ll do it and if not, we are usually making the one day drive. It all depends on who can get what time of prior to or after trip that allows us to travel a little less in a day. I think there is so much excitement to get up and close to the flight base time goes quick when travelling so its not that bad.
Alright - a fishing specific question: It’s a perfect walleye fishing day, you are looking for a personal best fish – what’s your go to lure?
Well, my go to bait will always be a plain and simple lead head jig with a twister tail usually in white or yellow, they never fail in the north and its keeps tackle bag easy for planning. I think the only thing that will change about my presentation will be size of the Jig and length of the twister tail. If I’m going deep I can go as big a ¾ oz jig head and 5-6 inch body as big fish eat big baits without worry if you can put it in front of them.
In closing a few rapid-fire questions:
1) Favorite Species to fish for
2) Favorite way to fish? (Casting tolling jigging etc.)
3) Favorite Camp Drink
4) Rock or Country?
5) Bucket List Trip?
1) Favorite Species to fish for - Walleye
2) Favorite way to fish? (Casting tolling jigging etc.) - Dragging or casting jigs around structure
3) Favorite Camp Drink? - Rum and Coke, must have ice though.
4) Rock or Country? - Older Country
5) Bucket List Trip? - Would it be bad to say the next fly In, as I have had some Ontario fly in fishing trips that would be as good as any premier outpost or lodge in the world. I think my bucket list is more about the experience and friends than the fishing.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Mike!
I appreciate you considering me for this and it put a smile on my face when you asked me. I can talk about fishing outposts for hours and find reading trip reports and cruising the fishing forums about Ontario help pass the winter cabin fever.
Northern Jacks has been a great addition to my time passing and its great to see other people’s thoughts and experiences.
For anyone considering a trip like this and is looking for information you’ll find a community full of knowledge on either Walleye Central Canada Or Canada Fishing Guide Trip Reports I know we are both big users of these forums and they can really help you find the perfect spot for a trip. Thanks for allowing me to be part of this.
Mike – you are most welcome and thanks for the kind words – glad the site is filling your trip fix! Those are great sites and I have also listed some of the others I love on the links page https://www.northernjacks.com/links