Thursday, July 28, 2016

Missed Opportunities

Sometimes I have to kick myself. I'm supposed to be a story teller. A reporter. But more often than I'd care to admit, when looking through photos of recent adventures, I'm confronted by the story angle I didn't pursue. The question I didn't ask. The opportunity I completely missed.

This picture of Daniel, studying the water, struck me in just that way.

I fished with Daniel for three days in Saskatchewan, out of the Arctic Lodge, and enjoyed every moment. We covered hundreds of miles of Reindeer Lake water and caught as many pike as we traveled miles. We laughed at each other's jokes, gave each other good-natured grief, and generally did what fishermen do. We fished. But I should have dug deeper. There was so much more to learn than how to catch northern pike. Stuff much more important.

Like how he'd been guiding this lake for forty-four years. How it had changed in that time. How the people, both those who lived here and those who came to fish, had changed.

Like his Cree ancestry and his involvement in the Paul Ballantyne First Nation. How his people are interwoven in the northern Saskatchewan landscape. How they exist and thrive in this harsh world.

Like how his grandchildren live with him, call to him, Papa, as we pass them as they swim in the cold lake waters beside his camp on the shore opposing the lodge.

Like how he was a tribal sheriff, or MP, or some manner of peace keeper that makes sense in the Cree context. I never fully understood, but that's not surprising.

Like his interest in the moose tracks along the shorelines and his knowledge of the movement of pike and his ability to identify birdlife from incredible distances. His connection to this place and its creatures.

Like how he lost a son, though this is a subject that we are both slow to discuss. We let it pass with a simple acknowledgement, a trite agreement that there's nothing remotely just in such a thing, and a prolonged shared silence. A bond wrapped tight in emotional barbed wire.

So I herewith apologize to you, dear reader, for failing to do my job. For not bringing back the story of a fascinating man, his community, and his history. A history that has as much to do with this beautiful and rugged lake as it does most anything else.

And, more personally, I apologize to Daniel for not getting to know him, and his story, better. In my defense, I was enjoying his company too much to pry.

I guess I'll just have to go back and get it right the next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I am captivated by tree-lined shores
Sharp-edged delineations between water and sky
Where the world turns upside down
Where the heavens are reflected, shimmering
Where existences mingle and take on alternate affection
Interleaved edges of reality, air and liquid
Fluid, each, in their own etherial ways.

Here, Saskatchewan.

Note: On most browsers you may click on the images for a better look.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


We banked hard right and lined up the dirt airstrip, barely contained on the small island. No margin for error in any direction, short or long, starboard or port, lest a watery touchdown be had. "Your seat cushion may also be used as a floatation device" suddenly took on pertinence.

Reindeer lake, dotted with hundreds of similar spruce-clad keys, albethey runwayless, stretched below us to every horizon. Visions of big northern pike danced in our heads as the Beechcraft danced on the north winds and dropped from the sky, touched down on the freshly graded runway, and taxied to the end where it buried its front wheel into the soft edges. The challenges of trying new aircraft in remote locations.

Out of the hold came the baggage, and into the waiting Crestliners. Well, most of it anyway, as some five hundred pounds had to be left behind, temporarily, to insure that we had the juice for the flight. Chris swears that we all stared at him when the weight problem was announced, but I promise you we were more discreet than that. We'd grabbed what was important, anyway. The rods and reels. Our clothes could follow at their leisure. The only second thought was not having that windbreaking rain shell as we motored from runway to lodge in the cool Saskatchewan spring air.

A small price to pay for arrival.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Out the Window

Friday, July 1, 2016

Flin Flon

It’s no secret that I hate commercial air travel. From the booking to the security gauntlet to the crowds to the litany of little indignities endured as one travels the terminals (and I think the term “terminal” is completely appropriate) of our major airline hubs, it's the evilest of necessities. And the cattle cars they call airplane cabins... Don't get me started.

But, on the flip side, I am fascinated with the little stuff. From tropical isle hoppers to tundra puddle jumpers, small aircraft are a joy. It would be easy to put down the fly rods and just fly if I could limit my birds to de Havillands.

So I was happy to escape even the comfortable confines of Winnipeg airport to board a more spartan Beechcraft for the final leg of our northern excursion. I was further thrilled when we dropped onto a modest airstrip outside of Flin Flon, a small mining community located on the central boundary of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, for a quick stretch of the legs and a refuel. Though it was a working Monday morning, the one-roomed terminal was closed so we wandered, instead, to an adjacent hanger to get out of the way while the Beech's tanks were topped off. What we found was a feast for the imagination and fodder for the camera.

Here's a baker's dozen of shots from that aviation toy box, a steampunk playground, the hanger at Flin Flon.

My only regret was that I left the Nikon in the Beechcraft and had only the point-and-shoot to play with. All for the better, I suppose, for had I carried the big gun, I might have just stayed in Flin Flon and missed the fishing altogether.