10 years ago my family had a hunting TV show called Just Us Hunting and my parents went on a trip of a lifetime to Brace Lake Outfitters in Nakina, ON. I didn't know it then, but a decade later it would be my turn to head north on one heck of an adventure.
Nakina is 17 hours north from the Bear+Fox HQ in Oxford County, ON. I knew this was going to be a trip full of logistics and pit stops and I needed a crew who could handle the long drive (PLUS the 25 min float plane ride to the camp).
When I asked Carolyne if she would be interested in going, she was an immediate, no time to think about it, yes. When I mentioned we might be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis, she was even more excited about that than the world class fishing we would be privy to. My husband Corby, in true Katniss Everdeen fashion offered himself as tribute. Of all my travels for Bear+Fox, he recognized this was an opportunity he would be a fool to pass up on. Next to join our crew would be Crandall - one of Corby's groomsmen from our wedding, and an angler who can tell some of the best fisherman's tales. You never know if he's telling the truth or stretching it, but he's always good for a laugh. Lastly to join our travelling circus was Todd from Kintore Coffee. Not only a business partner and friend, but he is someone who is always up for an adventure and over a couple beers one night, I managed to convince him to come up with us.
We packed the truck up late Saturday night and enjoyed a couple bevvies together before we headed on the road Sunday morning at 5:00am. The first leg of our journey would be the 12hr drive to Kap Outfitters, a place near and dear to my heart. Kap Outfitters has been running for 45 years started by my uncle Ron Marchand and now proudly owned by my cousins Raney and Robbie. Raney cooked us up a meal of philly moose steak sandwiches, which the crew drooled over and dreamt of the rest of the trip.
After staying up way too late solving all the worlds problems with Raney, the group headed out at 5:00am to complete the next leg of our journey - the 5hr drive to downtown Nakina, ON. Nakina was established in 1923 as a station railway yard on the National Transcontinental Railway between Grant and Armstrong. Today, Nakina is a small northern town known for mineral exploration and a gateway to some of the best remote fishing in Canada.
We flew out of the Nakina Airport with Nakina Air Service on an Otter float plane. Growing up in northern Ontario, and having an uncle with an outfitting business that offered fly-in fishing trips, I had flown in a Cessna through my childhood, as did my husband. But this was the first time that Carolyne, Crandall and Todd would get to experience taking off and landing on water.
The crew at Nakina Air Service were diligent, efficient and punctual. They have a well oiled machine running there, that's for sure! We were flying out in some fog and light rain, but that didn't seem to waiver Bruce, our pilot, one bit. From take off to landing, it was a smooth trip. The crew kept our eyes peeled below for any sign of moose or bear action, but didn't see anything except for what seemed like hundreds of lakes and miles and miles or remote wilderness.
Coming into Brace Lake we were greeted by the sight of bright blue steel roofs on the cabins. A welcome sight from the air! It made it so easy to spot and reference where you were on the lake throughout our stay. Our outstanding host Kyle was on the dock to greet us with open arms and a big warm smile. Even though none of us had ever met him (in real life) or been to the camp before, we felt a sense of home from the moment our feet touched the dock.
We were shown to our cabin and after settling in, we needed to hit the water. We were like kids sneaking a peek at presents on Christmas Eve. We knew we had a few days of fishing ahead of us, but we couldn't wait to get in the 18' cedar strip boats and start jigging! The weather was a little spotty - cool, misty and with a north wind - but we still managed to get on some fish.
That night we enjoyed some bevvies and campfire stories before going to bed and getting ready for the next day. The camp was in mint condition offering all the modern amenities we could ask for including a stove, running water and fridge. There were 2 bedrooms with 3 beds in each with some of the softest linens you could imagine. Were we in a 5 star hotel, or a remote fishing camp?!
The next morning we ate a big breakfast and then headed out for a day on the water. Kyle joined us today and I haven't had such a great day in a boat in a long time. From catching a fish on my first cast, to losing a monster fish at boat, it was non stop action. The sun was shining, the fish were biting and the company was great. The best was yet to come.
We stopped for a late shore lunch along the river where Kyle cooked up not only fresh caught walleye, but homemade onion rings, fries and beans. I've never had such an incredible meal. From the flavours, the ambience and scenery to the people I was surrounded by - this was a meal I will never forget.
That night after filleting our fish (and getting a lesson on how to clean pike from Kyle) we settled into our comfy cozy clothing and poured ourselves a couple glasses of rye. We didn't know it, but Mother Nature was about to put on a hell of a show for us. The Aurora Borealis that we saw that night, were absolutely breathtaking. Watching the greens and purples tickle the sky and dance to their own silent song was a memory I will never forget. I remember looking around at Carolyne, Crandall, Todd, my husband Corby and our new found friend Kyle and could feel some tears welling up. To know that we were all sharing in this adventure together, truly grounded me and made me extremely grateful for the adventure we were on.
The days following were filled with more fish than we could count, and more picturesque meals. Who knew roasting sausages and hot dogs on the shorelines of northern Ontario would make them taste so damn good. We indulged in tomahawk steaks, tenderloins, walleye roll ups and delicious hot pho.
Seeing the Otter coast to the dock on our final morning brought on so many emotions. I was excited for another plane ride and to start our adventure back home, but I was saddened to think about leaving this oasis in the north. I was excited to see my kids and tell them about the wild adventure we just went on. I gave Kyle a big bear hug before boarding the plane and again, I could feel the tears pulling at my eyes (thank god for sunglasses).
But while we were flying back to Nakina, I had a realization. This isn't a trip of a lifetime. I have a lifetime of trips ahead of me. I want to travel the north and I want my friends and family to come with me. I can't wait to see my kids with bent poles and reeling in big fish.
We're already planning our trip back to Brace Lake Outfitters - because I want to fish the Albany River - and they conveniently have an outpost there.
Get outside + do something that keeps ya happy.