Five things to intentionally forget during a fishing-camping stay
In collaboration with Émile David, fishing enthusiast.
It’s 6 a.m. I’m navigating without a care in the world toward Grande Baie, where our campsite neighbour suggested we look first to find walleye by the ton. It’s the last morning of a fishing trip in Réserve faunique La Vérendrye, and noting that the topographical elements surrounding me are now familiar is a reminder that there's something fascinating about exploring a new waterway.
Lac Granet is a labyrinth of 1,000 islands, bays, tributaries, and natural traps forcing us to keep our heads high and our eyes peeled, a lesson I learned by scraping the engine's propeller on a rock submerged just the day before. What a wake-up call for the senses! Say what you will, our senses become dull when we navel-gaze or get stuck in a rut. There’s nothing like an outdoor adventure to escape those urban and virtual funks.
It's also said that adventures are born first out of a lack of preparation, so I’m offering you the fruit of my experience in that regard. Here then is my list of the five things to neglect in order to make a fishing-camping adventure less comfortable, but oh so adventurous.
A big boat
My first fishing trip ever was to Réserve faunique La Vérendrye. I was 14 or 15 years old, and one thing which greatly marked my imagination was the size of the boats. It's always ticked me off a bit to think that one needs 17 feet of rivetted aluminum, a flat floor with a Persian carpet, a 120-horsepower motor, and the accompanying gasoline to catch a half dozen fish, which seemed as complicated to catch as they were delicious to eat.
So this time, my pal Kevin and I took on Lac Granet with a fibreglass freighter with a modest four-horsepower motor that we didn't have to fill a lot. We didn't make it to the other end of the lake very often, and our neighbours passed us like pigeons on the sidewalk, but the fish didn’t seem to see the difference. They kept biting anyway. Don’t me wrong! I’ve got NOTHING against big boats, as one sleeps much better on a carpet than on fibreglass.
I was sure that I’d brought a fork or two, but finally, we used our fingers, pocket knives, and a few branches. The need for and sensation of hot oil on our fingertips awakens our inner Homo Erectus. Also, it means way fewer dishes to wash!
During other fishing trips, it actually occurred to me to think “on the last evening, we’ll eat fish,” while in the end, this didn’t really happen, and we ended the trip around a handful of blueberries and a slice of greying baloney. Since then, I tend to be a lot more careful when grocery shopping for a trip. That said, at a destination like La Vérendrye, remaining fishless is a long shot, and I recommend at a minimum leaving the canned tuna on the grocery store shelves. Having to take up a challenge in order to eat is certainly a change of pace, and in the worst-case scenario, it gives a group member the opportunity to perhaps become the hero of the stay by producing a last-cast pike to be savoured like there’s no tomorrow.
On the way, Kev shared his only dream for the trip: “a fish that’s too big to be held with one hand.” As for me, my only wish was for my friend to have fun. I think that an angler must keep expectations to a minimum. Keeping things simple makes surprises sweeter, and Kevin’s a good example in that regard. During our first walleye fishing evening, he caught a nice pike that met his unique criteria for a successful trip. The rest was a bonus, and four days of bonus isn’t something that happens often in life. From my point of view, one needs objectives that are a little half-baked to achieve such success.
The mosquito tent
We didn’t have a big camping setup, especially compared to the 78-foot RV of our campground neighbours, but Kev had nevertheless equipped us with a nice near-new mosquito-netted anti-insect tent. During the first day, we ate in it thinking we had to. The next day, we left the door open and the anti-insect tent became the tent for insects. They ate us inside, we ate outside, the stars were beautiful, and everyone was happy.
(Suprise) The shower
The shower at the Granet-sector rustic campground is a well-kept secret. With hot water no less! For my part, I think that a shower isn’t appropriate for a rustic campsite, but what the heck. It isn't too big, it’s easy to miss and to pretend to ignore, and to have a nice stay all the same. The real place to bathe when camping, as everyone knows, is in the lake with a handful of gravel and two or three piercing cries. First of all, I have to admit that I’m no dermatologist, and it’s certainly not recommended by doctors, or anyone else, but I’m convinced that a three- or four-day break from soap is good for the soul. Second of all, the cold water sure does put some order in one's thoughts.
All that to say that a lot of the flavour of a camping stay is in the unexpected and in the space that we leave for nature to surprise us. Réserve faunique La Vérendrye is a generous place for those with open eyes and an open heart.