Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Another Tale from post! I got some great feedback on my tales from posts, people seem to enjoy reading them and I really enjoy chatting with like minded anglers Tales from Posts – so voila, here’s another.
This time around I was lucky enough to speak to Adam Dempsey. I have had the pleasure of following and chatting with Adam for many years now. You may know Adam from his active participation on many fishing forums, always jumping in with his encyclopedic knowledge of fishing outposts, resorts and lodges or you may know Adam as the owner/chief webmaster of one of my favorite sites - https://fishingoutposts.com I love Adam’s site – it has the most comprehensive information about fly in fishing trip destinations (in my opinion), articles and depth maps. Trust me if you are researching a trip check it out! It was a pleasure to chat with Adam – I am sure his ear was sore after we got off the phone from all my questions!
– thanks for taking the time to do this. After chatting I thought it was interesting on how closely our journey into the world of fishing trips started – care to share your journey?
My story is probably very similar to most. My father introduced me to fishing at a young age. We lived in Windsor which had easy access to Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, which connects St. Clair to Lake Erie. He would often take my brother and myself down to the Detroit River to fish from shore on weekends. I still have fond memories of catching hundreds of Perch and Silver Bass (White Bass) when they were running through the river. It was something we always looked forward to in the Spring and Summer!
We also had an annual traditional, where my father would take my brother and I up north for a week of fishing. Each year our family and some family friends would make the long trek to a small cottage resort near Howdenvale Bay on Lake Huron. The 6 or so cottages were tucked away along a small, protected bay and we would spend our days sight fishing old dock pilings and rock piles within the bay from the small fiberglass rental boat. My father never learned to swim and was concerned about taking us young guys out into the big water, so we often just stayed within the bay. However, occasionally we would venture out of the bay for an hour or two if the weather was good. I still recall how incredibly clear the lake was. You could easily see down 20+ feet. The water outside of the bay was full of giant rocks and boulders that looked to be the size of small houses. At least, that is how 8-year-old me remembers it. We would troll over those giant rocks, catching smallmouth bass which never disappointed with their displays of aerial acrobatics. While this camp was certainly no fisherman’s paradise, I have many fond memories from our trips to Howdenvale Bay. The camp is no longer there, but I believe has since been turned into a public park.
Eventually our annual fishing trip moved to a place on Rice Lake in the Kawarthas. A friend of my brothers brought him on his annual trip to Rice Lake one year and afterwards he convinced my dad that it would make for a much better location for our own annual fishing trips. My brother was right! Rice Lake was a great lake to fish and became our new annual destination for the next 8 years. One of the biggest draws of Rice Lake was that you could basically fish one spot and you never knew what you would catch. Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Perch, Crappie, Bluegill, Catfish, Carp and even Musky were all possibilities.
Unfortunately, these trips were eventually put on hold while I attended University, and for many years I did not do much fishing at all. However, not long after I graduated and started my first “real” job, my brother invited me on a trip to Lady Evelyn Lake. That trip reignited my passion for fishing and the outdoors; and I have not looked back since. After that we managed to resurrect our annual family fishing trip, which resulted in many great adventures at various drive-in and boat-in destinations. Ultimately, my insatiable desire to experience even more remote and untouched wilderness led us to the world of fly-in fishing camps. I was now on a mission to discover and experience what Canada had to offer.
Do you have a preference between a drive to trip or a lodge vs an outpost?
I would be happy to go on any trip, but I must admit that I prefer flying into outpost camps. There is just something gratifying about having a lake to yourself and experiencing things as they would have been decades ago. Little fishing pressure, areas of the lake that have remained untouched for years and no concerns about competing with other anglers - are all part of what makes outpost trips special to me. However, some of my most memorable trips were the boat-in and fly-in trips to lodges. While these lakes can be busy with multiple lodges and private cottages, they are still large enough and well isolated that you only occasionally come across other boats. So, you can still get that remote experience in substantial comfort. Something that becomes more important as the members of your fishing group age.
Over the years how many trips would you estimate you have been on?
I started visiting more remote locations much later in life. So, probably only 15 different trips of significance. Most of which were east of Nipigon and only a handful where I traveled to Thunder Bay, Armstrong, Sioux Lookout or Pickle Lake. While I live in Ontario, getting to the Northwest of the province can still be quite a commitment. Typically, I have flown commercially to Thunder Bay and continue the drive from there. Otherwise, you must plan for a 17-to-20-hour drive, which really eats into precious vacation time and makes it much harder to get people to commit to such a trip.
I would love to visit many of the camps operating out of NW Ontario and hope to make that happen soon! Our trip to Arc Lake with Slate Falls Outposts was cancelled in 2020, so I would love to reschedule that. At this point any of the outfitters flying out of Red Lake, Ear Falls, Nestor Falls or Sioux Lookout have great appeal to me, as do the camps out of Armstrong. That narrows it down to about 300 camps. Can you tell I haven’t been anywhere in two years? I am like a starving person shopping in a grocery store.
Thinking about your past trips which lakes stand out as your favorites and why
Of all my trips, the lakes that were most memorable were those with outpost camps. While my trips to lodges were great in their own way, they generally did not compare to any of my outpost trips as far as the fisheries go. The solitude and unabashed fishing found on an outpost lake is nearly impossible to compete with.
North Caribou Lake with North Caribou Camps. I have been here twice, and they were some of the best fishing trips I have had. The lake is quite large and comprised of three or four basins of varied structure, including several rivers flowing in and out of the lake. Fishing for Walleye in these current areas is as simple and productive as it gets. It was too easy. However, the target on these trips was trophy Pike and there was never a disappointment. Landed some of my largest Pike on this lake, including a 46” beast of a fish! It sure didn’t hurt have Mike Borger at the helm. http://www.northcaribou.com/
Trident Lake with Nakina North Outfitters. This was an interesting trip. The camp was just purchased and re-opened the year we went. We were the first group in that May and helped open the camp. That included hauling in a 9.9HP Merc over to the portage lake, Marr Lake. Trident Lake is basically a widening of the Esnagami River. A very shallow lake with a deep silty bottom. What was interesting about this lake is that the Walleye were everywhere, even though it was 2 – 3 feet deep throughout most of the lake. However, that was not the intended target species. The main draw was the Brook Trout. There were three main areas where you could target Brook Trout – below the falls where the Esnagami River flowed into Trident Lake, canoeing upstream in the Esnagami River, and fishing the various pools, and wading the outflow into Merkley Lake. I really enjoyed the varied water we fished and catching 2 to 4 lb Brook Trout is hard to beat! I believe this outpost camp was purchased by Esnagami Lodge not long after we were there. We ran into the lodge owner and two guides while fishing along the river one morning. I think they were very surprised to see us there! They do guided trips for Brook Trout fishing on the river from the lodge. The lodge also owns an outpost camp on Merkley Lake. https://www.esnagami.com/
Napken Lake with Hearst Air. Another trophy Pike hunt! Napken Lake is one of Hearst Air’s furthest outpost camps, the exception being those on the Attawapiskat River. The lake is a widening of a river, the water flowing in at the north and out at the southeast end. The south end of the lake is more like a traditional lake, while the north end is essentially a long river. Walleye fishing was again dead easy, and we had little trouble catching Walleye at will. The Walleye were holding in typical current areas and near these large “weed islands”. I am not sure what they were, some type of grass that formed these large islands in the central section of the lake. Once again, I think I really enjoyed fishing this lake due to the varied structure. The frantic Pike fishing didn’t hurt either! I believe this was the trip where I caught my first 45” + Pike as well. https://www.hearstair.com/about/napken-lake/
Lake St. Joseph with Slate Falls Outposts. We stayed at the Root Bay outpost camp on St. Joseph on this trip. It is at the far west end of this enormous lake just above the river that flows into the hydro-electric dam at the south. Like all Slate Falls Outpost camps, it was a five-star rating as far as outpost camps go. It is all the little things make the difference – boat slips, easy access to gas, walkways between the buildings, motor guards - just to name a few perks. The attention to these small details tells you that they care about their operation.
Once again (and I do not mean to be repetitive here), the Walleye fishing was off the charts. Being right near the outflow of the river obviously did not hurt. There were so many Walleyes holding here. I did not manage to get down to below the dam, but others in the group had and did extremely well. It was completely unnecessary, but just added to the adventure.
We, of course, were targeting trophy Pike on this trip. It is not an easy task at times. We covered A LOT of water looking for them, and I mean A LOT. We barely scratched the surface of the lake too. It is such an incredibly massive body of water with so much varied structure and water conditions. We fished current, rocky bays that were 1 foot deep, rock ledges, little nooks, and very shallow pools from inflowing creeks/rivers. There was this one section of the lake that was basically a bog. Very shallow and full of these weedy muddy bog clumps that created this massive maze. We went in the spring, so the area was accessible and had little weed growth. I am sure come summer it would be impossible to get into. Honestly, I felt like we were Frodo and Sam on our way to Mordor going through here. The boat was constantly getting stuck in those mud islands. No trophy Pike were caught here though, but it was worth the effort. Eventually we found the motherload of Pike in this very shallow inflow. Although, the 1-hour ride from camp was not ideal, the fishing was incredible! https://slatefallsoutposts.com/ontario-outposts-fishing/lake-st-joseph-walleye-fishing/
That’s awesome – we loved Root Bay as well and North Caribou is on my bucket list! What would you consider your most memorable experience?
I have many fond memories of big fish and crazy days. However, one thing that sticks in my mind has nothing to do with catching fish or fishing. On one trip we were motoring along to our next location, and I noticed a large amount of water on the bottom of the boat. “Hmm, that’s strange. Is the boat leaking?” I didn’t really pay much attention to it and would deal with it when we stopped. I was the passenger on that trip, and since the next spot was quite a distance, I decided to light up a cigar and just sit back and enjoy the scenery. Well, not long after I started to smell something. “Is that gas?” Well, it turns out the extra jerrycan of gas we brought with us was leaking! So, here I am puffing away on my cigar while literally sitting in a pool of gas. Normally we travel such a large distance each day searching for Pike we always bring an extra can of gas with us. Since that trip I make sure that the cap on the jerrycan is tightly sealed!
Didn’t realize you were a cigar smoker – we need to get in a boat together with my brother – both of us love a good stogie on our trips. I know you are a bit of a “tackle collector” and are always trying new lures and set ups – so here goes – you have 1 tactic to catch a trophy walleye and 1 tactic to catch a trophy pike – what are you going with?
I do not feel like trophy fishing is about tactics or lures. It is more about timing and location. Anglers catch 40+” Pike trolling harnesses or jigging for Walleye all the time. It is just the right place and time. For example, on my trip to Kag Lake with Leuenberger Air the fish were late moving into Kag from their spawning beds. It was spring that was late, not the fish. Anyway, we were fishing for Walleye at the inflow from Van Poele Lake and it was non-stop Walleye. The type of fishing you hope for on a fly-in trip. Well, where there is Walleye there will be Pike. Especially in these conditions. I managed to land a 40” Pike on a 3/8oz jig and grub there.
When I target trophy Pike, I prefer to throw spoons. It is fast, efficient and you do not tire easily from doing it. This is particularly good in the late spring/early summer. Once the fish move out of the shallows as the water temperature rises, it becomes more of a trolling game. During those times, I start with trolling spoons and move to much larger baits like the Savage Gear Line-thru Trout. As for trophy Walleye, I do not really target them much. I think if I really wanted big Walleye, I would probably go TO them. Which would be Lake Ontario or the Bay of Quinte. What’s interesting for me is that my biggest Walleye were not from fly-in or remote trips at all, but smaller local lakes. I have caught only a handful of 30” + Walleye and some of those were on Rice Lake and Lovesick Lake. However, if I wanted a wall hanger from an inland lake I would probably go in the Spring and simply use a jig and plastic grub or paddle tail minnow.
I prefaced this as Tales from a Trip Junkie – and I what I really meant is that you (like me) really enjoy researching trips – enough so that you created www.fishingoutposts.com - what was the impetus for the site?
Well, it probably stems from my personality and that I have science background. I spend my days looking at and analyzing data. It is hard to escape that, so it carries over to my other hobbies, like fishing and gardening. When I first started researching various trips and outpost camps, I discovered there was very little information on what was available, their location on the lakes and what each camp has to offer. So, I thought it would be a good project for myself to start a website that offered a database people could search for this kind of information. My first attempt was satisfactory, but really lacked the advanced search features that I wanted. Unfortunately, that site was hacked and instead of simply restoring it I decided it was time for a full revamp. While I love researching fishing camps and lake maps, it is an incredible amount of tedious work gathering the information and media files. I still have not fully populated the database on the current site, but I am getting there!
Interesting – any plans for updates or expansions? I know like me you have a day job lol but as a fan of the site I am interested in your plans
Well, my main goal right now is to fully populate the database with all the outpost camps in Ontario. Next, I wanted to add lodges and eventually expand to camps outside of Ontario. I also hope to continue to write articles for the site as well. I could probably think of many more ways to expand the site, but this is already more than I can manage.
Very cool – so if you were explaining to someone who has never been one of the types of trips, we have been chatting about how would you tell them to start researching? Any tips out there on your most effective tools?
I am probably one of the worst people to ask that question. I am very detail-oriented and like to plan all aspects of my trips. For example, I scour satellite images of lakes that I am heading to and record interesting locations and rock hazards. All that data gets imported into my GPS. You would be amazed how well it works. I have marked rocks that are <8 feet in diameter with amazing accuracy.
However, I think the first few questions to ask yourself should always be:
1) What is your budget?
2) How far are you willing to travel?
3) What are your expectations?
4) What are your absolute must-have amenities?
From there you can start to narrow it down to specific outfitters through internet searches. Once you do that, you can then start to ask around on various forums and social media to determine which locations are most suitable for your needs. Of course, calling the outfitter directly should always be a priority. They should be able to help direct you to the right lakes that suit your needs.
Once you have narrowed down the lakes you are interested in, you can always start to plan how to fish them. As mentioned, I like to use satellite images to locate structure as well as depth and topographic maps to identify key spots for the time of year I am visiting. From there, you can select specific locations to target on given days. For example, on those days where the weather forecast is great you should go to the furthest locations. On terrible days, focus on the locations closer by. I use the aerial imagery from Google maps, Bing maps and Ontario Topographic maps.
I also look up historical weather for areas I have not been to before. For example, this year I will be heading quite far north in September, and I am not sure what the average high is nor if it will snow or rain etc. So, I like to look at the historical weather reports from the past 5 or so years. Although, these days I am not sure it is relevant since things are changing so rapidly.
I also get the sense that you are a detailed planner – any tips on once you get your destination settled how to ensure the trip goes smoothly?
I think a lot of that depends on the group you are going with. First and foremost, you do not want to have any problems with money and budgeting. Deal with that right away as it could easily create hostility and ruin a trip. This is particularly important for tipping, which is often overlooked. Next, everyone needs to contribute. So, give everyone a job to do. It doesn’t matter what it is. Everyone is responsible for making a dinner or if someone cannot cook, they are responsible for dishes. That sort of thing. Nobody likes a lazy ass and there is always enough to do that everyone can contribute.
Personally, I also like to plan the meals way ahead of time. Not doing this can result in some serious over-spending and waste. It also lets you take advantage of sales and reduces the pressure of getting everything done just before the trip. If you can pre-cook meals, all the better. I also like to be sure that everyone gives feedback on the menu. It’s amazing how many people do not like things like mushrooms or do not eat cheese. My goal is to always plan meals that everyone will enjoy. It’s not difficult to do but does require some discussion with your group. It is also a good idea to have only 1 or 2 people deal with the food shopping and menu. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to manage effectively. Of course, you should always discuss who in the group is responsible for bringing the other non-food related items as well. It doesn’t make sense to bring too much of anything when it comes to flying into a camp.
As for a trip going smoothly, well, it is best to plan that it might not! Having a contingency budget is good idea as well as a backup meal. I always bring pasta and sauce as a backup. You never know if you will be stuck at a camp. It rarely happens, but it certainly can. Prepare for blown tires, missed flights, getting sick, bad weather…everything. Might seem like overkill, but really, it is not difficult to prepare for all these things. On one of my trips, I got a bad head cold. Of course, that day we were scheduled to do a fly-in day trip to a small lake. Well, I cannot explain how painful it was for me due to the change in air pressure when we took off and landed. I did have cold medicine, so that helped somewhat. Maybe that was a bad example, lol! (Author’s note – I am going to link to this article on Adam’s site – if you are doing your first fly in I think it’s a must read https://fishingoutposts.com/how-to-pack-for-a-fly-in-outpost-fishing-trip/)
This one is a bit tougher these trips take time and money, but you (and me) seem to be “hooked” on them. Why do you think that is? If you were doing a sales pitch to someone who has never been on one what is it?
Adam: That is a very difficult question to answer. I am not sure I could convince anyone who isn’t already interested. I think you must have a passion for fishing to appreciate these types of trips. Especially trophy fishing. I think what draws me to these trips is that these locations are the closest you will achieve to stepping back in time. Not in the sense that you are lacking technology or are reverting to more primitive ways, but more akin to being in untouched wilderness. Fishing as it would have been if it were centuries ago. You may even be the first person to visit a spot in decades. To me, that is very special and something that is hard to come by nowadays. I am also particular drawn to the night sky. Often overlooked, but little compares to the dark skies of the north. Being able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye is something very special and underappreciated.
Prior to the rapid fire - are you taking any trips this year?
I only have one trip booked currently. Plans just have not worked out otherwise for obvious reasons. I am currently scheduled to fly in to Blackbirch Lake with Gray Wood Outfitters. Gray Wood Outfitters recently purchased the operation from Eddie North’s Attawapiskat Adventures. I will be heading there mid-September as part of a group of 6. I am very excited for this trip! Should be an incredible experience. I better be doing 3 or 4 trips next year, that is for sure. It can be very frustrating when you finally have the time and money to do these trips but cannot manage to make it happen. So even if I must go solo, I am going!
In closing a few rapid-fire questions:
1) Favorite time of year to take a trip?
2) Favorite Camp Meal
3) Lake you dream of going to
4) Spinning or Casting?
5) Lucky Lure
1) Springtime, because this is the best time for trophy fishing. It is the best time for any type of fishing, period. However, I really love going in the fall as well. More for the season and weather than the fishing. Although, the fishing can be incredible, and I have caught some of my biggest Pike in the fall.
2) Steak or Burgers. I know, lame. I think it is because I lived in a condo without a BBQ for so long, I really started looking forward to BBQ meals.
3) Oh, that is a tough one. Maybe Great Slave, Great Bear, or the Tree River? Athabasca is a good one too. Way too many!
4) Mostly spinning. I prefer lighter tackle but will move to my baitcasting set-ups for the big stuff!
5) A beat-up old Johnson’s Silver Minnow. This is one of the best lures for Pike early in the season.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Adam! You have been a great resource to our group and hopefully we see each other on a lake soon – I owe you a beer or three for all the help you have given and for how much I use www.fishingoutposts.com
I appreciate the accolades and am always grateful for the feedback. It gives me the incentive to keep pushing forward when I start to get burned out. It is also satisfying for me to know that there are others that are just as passionate about these trips as I am. I encourage you to keep producing content and growing your own site. It will be very rewarding in the end, and you will certainly feel accomplished for your efforts. I think we should try to make a trip in the future a reality!