Whether it’s a jaunt across the border in hopes of catching a cooler full of walleyes or a trip of a lifetime to the far North for brook trout, grayling and Arctic char, a fishing expedition to Canada should involve some careful planning. Otherwise there’s the risk of spending too much money for too many troubles. Canada fishing usually lives up to its billing, as long you make the right moves when planning the excursion.
Basically, planning a fishing trip north of the border involves taking a careful look at the three key factors involved: (1) Background preparation, (2) travel to and from your destination, and (3) the actual fishing experience. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
With adequate preparation an angler can end up with some nice fish, like these stringers of walleyes.
Unless you live within a one- or two-hour drive and can make a quick jaunt north when the spirit moves you, doing your “homework” should be the beginning point for any trip. For starters, make a decision (and stick with it) about which species are your primary interest. There are plenty of places in Canada where you can catch several different species in one location–perhaps pike, walleyes, lake trout, char, and brook trout. However, with rare exceptions, a particular lake, river or region will have a single strong point when it comes to species. Plan accordingly.
With rare exceptions you will be dealing with a guide or an outfitter, and this is the making or breaking of many trips. Probably the best way to begin, when it comes to selecting a guide, is to contact the tourism authority in the province where you plan to fish. Or, if you don’t have a specific province in mind, get in touch with the Canadian Tourism Commission (305 2nd Ave., Suite 200, Waltham, MA 02451; tel. 781-895-4869; or www.canadatourism.com). They can provide general literature on fishing and fishing contacts that will help you fine-tune your trip.
Establish contact with at least three or four outfitters who seem to offer what you want. Begin by making a phone call to the outfitter to request brochures and any other literature he may have to offer (some have videotapes as well). The way in which your phone call is handled can tell you a lot about the outfitter’s professionalism in general. Once you have the requested material in hand, study it carefully. Read the fine print but also make a common sense assessment of what lies before you. For example, a poorly done brochure, filled with errors and printed on cheap paper or in a sloppy fashion, sends a clear message–look elsewhere.
If the outfitter passes these preliminary tests, and most will, spend a few dollars making some phone calls to check references. Obviously an outfitter is unlikely to list references he thinks will give a bad report, but you can still get a “feel” for what to expect from two or three conversations. One question you should always ask is: “Would you fish with this operation again?”
After taking care of this background work, make sure when you book the trips that nothing is left to chance. You should get a contract, have a clear understanding of what services the outfitter will provide, and it’s a good idea to spend a few dollars on trip insurance.
Getting there and getting back can be a problem, particularly given the fact that many of the finest fishing destinations involve floatplane trips in the aftermath of a commercial flight or a long drive. For starters, make absolutely sure you have the part of the travel you can control (that is to say, flight bookings, overnight lodging at the beginning and end of a trip, and the like) fully covered. Remember that rods and luggage can go astray, and this is something you might ask the outfitter about when you are in the booking process.
Make sure you have the necessary documentation to enter Canada. Either a passport or a birth certificate proving U. S. citizenship will work just fine. You can also arrange to get some Canadian money if you wish, although this really isn’t necessary. Guides will welcome your American dollars, and almost any other expenses you encounter or incidentals you purchase can be handled with plastic.
One final thought on travel. Air travel, at best, can be tiring and annoying. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to control weather or mechanical delays, and for that matter precious little you can do to address the all too common inefficiency or downright rudeness which characterize commercial air service today. Beyond allowing time and remembering that patience can be a virtue, you are in effect at the mercy of the airline with which you book.
A properly prepared shore lunch, with walleye fillets as the featured item, is a cherished part of many Canadian fishing experiences.
Now on to what matters most: the fishing. A good outfitter will do everything possible to make your fishing experience as enjoyable as possible. Good food and plenty of it should be a given, because that is something he can control. Likewise, you should have competent, caring guides, and if things go really badly with one, ask for a change. It’s up to you to do your part as well. Make sure you follow the outfitter’s guidelines on what fishing gear, personal attire, and other items to bring along. If it rains for five straight days and you get soaked because you only brought along a little plastic poncho, that’s your fault. Similarly, make certain you have plenty of basic fishing gear–a back-up rod and reel or two, extra lures, line, and what have you. There may be some basic items available in a remote setting, but don’t count on much more.
Finally, approach any trip with the determination to make it a success. If you do your part, from the initial planning right on through, chances are things will go well. A bright outlook, a cheery smile, and simple use of the two words “thank you” can often go a long way toward ensuring piscatorial pleasure.