With only three full moons between the summer solstice and the first day of autumn, it is no wonder our summer seasons seem even shorter than they already are. Accelerated by the amount of rain we’ve received this summer, a blink of the eye and it is now September.
In August, my partner and I booked an island campsite for a couple nights getaway. Forecast rain tried to dampen our plans, but we weren’t having it. Loading up the boat, we headed to our very own isle of heaven in central Ontario. Vague location, right? You better believe it.
The first night was windy and a storm front was moving in, but the fish were on board with it, and so were we. Responsive to both crankbaits and crayfish patterned flies, there was no shortage of action. Andrew was more so present for the camping and exploring new terrain than the fishing, so I was quite pleased to see his excitement with every smallmouth brought to the boat.
We continued casting as the night drew nearer and nearer. Losing light, I decided to make a few more casts while Andrew took the time to thoughtfully refill our water supply. Thankfully, he was the voice of reason, as I was otherwise engaged.
For about five minutes, subtle takes, almost as though the tail of my fly was just tapping bottom, were driving me mad.
"They must be minnows," I thought to myself. Setting the hook once again on the irritating strike, to my surprise, I actually made contact. Adding to the delight, a slim form broke the surface and I caught a flash of white on the tail.
"A walleye!" I exclaimed. My first on the fly, to be exact. This trip was quickly becoming even more special.
Thunder rolled in slower than molasses, but the threat of lightning was not to be toyed with. We unitedly decided to head back to camp to start dinner before losing light and dry cooking space.
As the storm rolled lazily from the west, August’s full moon rose in the east. The storm turned out to be a mere false alarm; we were treated to a warm, dry evening for sleeping and a fresh, still, lake to fish that morning.
Andrew had more luck than I did at the start of the day. There were several feisty bass willing to eat a perch-coloured joint bait double some of their sizes, while my old faithful olive woolly bugger went unnoticed.
I took in the scenery as we maneuvered through a dwarfed archipelago made up of small islands and baron rock shelves. This water was intensely clear. Once the sun rose above us, the larger smallmouth wouldn’t be able to hide. Until then, we had to find them.
Taking us into deeper water with large boulders, I decided that if we were going to catch anything, we might as well try to catch one tank instead of 12 smaller ones.
Success was an understatement. A few short casts into tossing old faithful, I hooked into a giant slug of a smallmouth. Knowing she was bigger than the last, but not knowing just how big she was, I played it safe with 9-pound tippet. After a heart-pounding game of tug-of-war, she was netted, and I got to see just how big she was. Officially my personal best smallmouth on both fly and conventional gear, I was over the full-moon ecstatic for catching her on a fly rod.
The sun was now high above us, casting harsh shadows on our campsite of primarily conifers as we moored the boat for lunch. High on fishing fumes, sustenance was indeed required. With hearty sandwiches stacked as thick as our camp mugs were high, we discussed our game plan for the afternoon’s fish.
We settled on heading back to the rock shelf that provided us with so much fun the previous evening. Once again spoiled by feisty scrappers, we took the opportunity to grab some shots of their translucent colouring.
Waves gently collided with the shorelines while eagles cooed in the white pines high on the cliffs. Everything was perfected when Andrew set the hook and asked for the net. His rod doubled over with solid continual head shakes. We both knew this was a good fish. Sadly, with a few more head shakes it released itself from the hook.
"Damn, that was a good one too," Andrew said as his shoulders instinctively sunk a little lower.
Unfazed by the small defeat, we cast long into the evening until darkness threatened our ease of making dinner. Another warm night, another bright day for us to enjoy. Deciding we’d rather fish than rush home to unpack, we planned to stay late in the afternoon.
The lack of responsibility rewarded us with an open-water feeding frenzy in eight feet of sand bottom hunting grounds, shortly followed by lowering pressure and looming storm clouds.
We hightailed it back to camp, waiting out the rain while keeping our gear as high and dry as we could. It felt as though all of the rain forecast for three days was falling at once.
Shrugging our shoulders, we both agreed that the only thing worse than packing up camp when it's wet would be packing up camp early when we could’ve been fishing.