Calming waters lap against the aluminium boat as Francine and I drift toward a gravel shoal. The occasional squeal of laughter travels across the glassy water from the lodge a kilometre away. Our children, Islay 7 and Lillian 5, opted to stay at the lodge with our hosts for an evening bonfire. As the light fades the fire appears as a glow in front of one of the cabins.
The sinking sun is also the cue for walleye to crawl up on a long gravel finger that extends off a point. We pitch jigs and leeches over the shallows and pluck walleye from 4 feet of water. A distant train whistle sounds as I lean back into yet another fish, a reminder of just how far away a short train ride on the Algoma Central Railway can take us.
Tatnall Camp, perched on a mound of grass and granite, is a collection of buildings ranging from vertical log cabins to a fully insulated vinyl siding frame cabin. The main lodge is a sprawling log structure with pool table, store and satellite TV. A diesel generator provides 24 hour power to refrigerators, freezers and lights. Outhouses lurk behind guest cabins and there's also a central indoor flush toilet and shower room.
The lake is 17 km long, never more than 2 km wide, with two distinct sections separated by a narrows. The north end is flat-bottomed and no deeper than 14 feet. Day One, we head to a stretch of shoreline near the outlet of a creek where a slight breeze blows us along a rounded rock face. A minute into the drift and the girls are into their first walleye of the trip and we continue to pluck walleye to 17 inches under sunny skies, off points and over rock piles.
Over the next few days my desire to angle meets with a lot of competition at Tatnall Camp. We spend one hot afternoon swimming at the sand beach halfway down the lake; we cruise up meandering Tatnall Creek to see herons, eagles, ducks and the always majestic moose. The greatest diversion is the children's practice of catch and release of every conceivable creature that walks, crawls or flies near the lodge.
On our last evening I venture to the south end of the lake where casts over offshore humps connect with curvaceous walleye with increasing frequency as the sun sets. I work my way back to the lodge and join my family around the campfire. Between mouthfuls of popcorn and marshmallows the girls tell me about the three walleye they caught from the dock in front of the lodge.
The rumble of a passing train mixes with the crackling of the fire, reminding me of our departure in the morning. It seems too soon to leave but if we have to go, a few hours on the train is the best way to ease ourselves back to civilization.