With canoes overturned and tents pitched, we watch as Kiri Simpson grabs a fishing rod and marches down to the grassy shoreline. Bathed in the last light of the warm summer evening, the 9 year old casts into the dark waters funnelled between a narrows at the base of our campsite. Francine and I are sitting with Kiri's parents, Neil and Kathy, as well as Mike and Anj Cotterill while the rest of the seven children are winding down into their tents after a long day on the water. "I got a fish," Kiri shrieks, reeling quickly as a 15 inch walleye is pulled thrashing to surface.
Easy angling is one of the premiere ingredients for successful family fishing, and a great diversion for children on a paddling trip. However, when morning breaks it's my wife who is first to break the silence with a thrashing fish. I wipe sleep from my eyes as I head down to the water where Francine is standing on a large boulder where the slight current forms a large eddy. She is hauling in fish at virtually every cast. One by one pajama-clad children emerge from tents to form a growing force of anglers. I begin to feel like a soldier loading muskets in battle as I'm presented with a procession of rods that need to be untangled or retied. But the effort is a rare pleasure as all the children experience catching fish right from shore.
By the time the bite dies off many fish have been released and nine walleye lie on the bank for brunch. I clean and cook them on one stove while my daughter Islay makes pancakes on the other. A long line of children and adults forms behind the frying pans waiting for flapjacks and fish, a combination that only tastes good when camping.
We paddle only about 40 kilometres over five days, soaking in the sun-warmed, flat-rock landscape and pine-scented air of the boreal forest. Although we don't break any speed or distance records we strike a balance between paddling, play and angling. With predominantly hot and clear weather our progress is continually kept in check by the dark swirling pools at the bases of falls and rapids. While some in our party would swim, others would fish, deftly plucking large walleye from the stained water beneath thrashing bodies.