Fishing has always been about more than fish for me. In our often too-busy lives, it’s also a wonderful occasion to reconnect with old friends, and to make new ones. So I was really tickled when the phone rang this past spring and it was Ed Houck on the other end. My relationship with Ed goes back some 25 years; each of us spent a great deal of our professional lives working for Ducks Unlimited Canada. We’ve since both moved on to other things, and Ed was calling to update me on his current position as the general manager of Ena Lake Lodge in northern Saskatchewan. Better yet, he was calling to invite me up to the lodge to experience the wonderful fishing there. Of course I said yes!
Not too much longer he called again to let me know who else would be attending. The list read like a who’s who of long-time Canadian fishing writers: Don Lamont, Gord Ellis, Brad Fenson and TJ Schwanky. We’ve all known each other for 30+ years, and have fished with each other at one time, or several, over the years. But it had probably been more than 20 years since we’d all been together at one time. Also joining us would be Dana White of Fatal Impact television fame, John, his cameraman, and Darryl Dahl, an avid outdoorsman and friend to many in the hunting and angling community. This was going to be fun!
Fishing is a great platform for reconnecting with old friends.
Not having flown anywhere for more than a year due to COVID-related issues, it felt a little strange as we all gathered and said our hellos at the Edmonton airport prior to catching our chartered King Air that would whisk us to Uranium City. From there it was a 15-minute hop by a Caravan on floats into the lodge. After getting a quick tour of the facilities, my roommate for our stay, Gord Ellis, and I jumped into a boat with guide Josh to begin our exploration of the lake.
After more than a year of lockdown, it felt strange, but good, to be travelling again.
Ena Lake is relatively small for a lake trout water, only 27 kms from end to end. The shoreline is highly irregular and there are numerous islands, however, so there’s no shortage of fish-holding water. The ice had only been out for two weeks, and Josh cautioned that the lakers were still scattered, so we’d be trolling in a searching pattern looking for them. The fact they weren’t schooled didn’t bother Gord or I, as we were eager to catch up and simply enjoy the afternoon on the water.
As it turned out we managed to find fish, boating seven lakers in the six- to eight-pound class. Josh was a little disappointed we didn’t do better, advising us that the lake housed a healthy population of lake trout, including some reaching to 50 lbs, along with some large pike. Gord and I could not have been less concerned, we’d enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together.
Though not a large lake, Ena boasts a healthy population of lake trout, along with some big pike.
Through the five days of fishing, the routine was similar. Up early for breakfast, on the water by 8:00 am, return to the lodge at noon for lunch, and then back on the water for the afternoon, usually calling it a day by 6 pm. We enjoyed a scrumptious shore lunch of fresh-caught lake trout one day, but I applaud the lodge’s conservation-minded approach to limiting shore lunches and the number of fish killed.
Is there any meal better than a shore lunch of fresh lake trout with all the fixings?.
One of the niceties of Ena Lake, of which there are many, is not having to bring tackle. Every boat is equipped with new rods topped with Penn trolling reels with line counters, ideal for trolling, which is the preferred method for targeting lakers. The set-up was dead simple, depending on the depth we were targeting, a four-, six- or eight-ounce banana weight was affixed to the main line. Below the weight was a six-foot leader and snap-swivel. We used T60 Flatfish and Lucky Strike Canoe Wobblers or Half Waves most of the time. According to the guides, these were consistent producers that had proved themselves over the seasons. I didn’t spend much time fishing pike, but when I did, we were casting large spoons.
Another laker to net. Note the T60 Flatfish that was a staple lure.
Over the days at the lodge we took turns fishing with one another. Before heading home I’d fished with all my old friends, a couple new ones, and with each of the lodge’s four guides. And what an accomplished group the guides were - all young professionals with a passion for fishing, a ton of experience, and a knack for customer service. Each made you feel like a long-lost friend in as little as a half-day in a boat together.
Ena Lake Lodge is taking a slightly different approach than most lodges in their operating framework. While they’ll always take retail customers, they’ve adopted a membership model that will see members receive preferred booking annually. They support this model by providing guests with the finest in meals, accommodations and equipment. The lodge chef is classically French-trained, so I wasn’t totally surprised that the meals and wines were all five-star. The guest cabins are clean and warm with private showers, and the main lodge is nothing short of magnificent. Beyond the top-flight tackle and boats (G3s with 40-horse Yamahas), each guest is provided boots and Simms rain gear, and their own locker in the communal tackle room.
The boats, tackle and related gear is all first-class at Ena Lake Lodge.
And how was the fishing? I think it’s safe to say that while the guides were a little disappointed that the fish weren’t yet concentrated, we all managed to catch more than enough fish to keep us occupied and happy. Our best were in the mid-30s, chunky, good-looking and hard-fighting lakers to be sure, but not the mid 40-inch trout that Ena lake can and does relinquish every year. I followed the lodge’s FB page and saw evidence through the summer that those fish, indeed, are in the lake. Timing is everything I guess.
We caught numerous chunky lake trout, but Ena gives up fish nearing 50 lbs. every year.
Still, I would have to rate my Ena Lake experience as one of the best fishing trips I’ve enjoyed in a long time.
Long-time friends getting together to enjoy time on the water together.
My greatest remembrances won’t be the opulence of the lodge, or the dozens and dozens of fish we landed, but rather the chance to spend time with old friends doing something we all love. It’s funny, but fishing has a unique way of making us forget about the fish.