I just got back from my annual fishing trip to the George and it was the best trip ever. The fishing was fantastic, the weather better than normal and I’ve truly fallen in love with the place. It’s become my fortress of solitude, my get alone and think place, but it wasn’t always that way. I smile every time I think about my first visit there, three years ago. At the time I was suffering from a bad case of retirement shock after being pushed out of my thirty six year banking career. I was moping around the house most days and out of the blue came a call from my old fishing buddy five star Joe. I had lost contact with Joe for awhile (retirement shock will do that to you) and his call was a welcomed relief. He told me that a spot had opened up on his annual fly fishing trip for Atlantic salmon, one of the regulars couldn’t make the trip that year and he asked me if I wanted to join in the fun.
While I love fishing I hesitated accepting the invitation because of the mood I was in. Things that I used to enjoy didn’t seem to hold the same appeal that they once did. I started presenting a number of excuses why I couldn’t go but thankfully Joe would have none of it. My wife “the Contessa” also joined in knowing that I badly needed a distraction. She told me that Joe would only go five star (hence his handle) and that I would have a great time doing something that I truly love. I started to have visions of going to one of those famous fish camps like they have on the Miramachi in New Brunswick that I have seen on TV. The ones that have a swimming pool, hot tubs and best of all roast carving stations and I just love prime rib. Let’s just say I finally started to get excited about something again and couldn’t wait to go.
I really didn’t have a clue where the George was located and really didn’t care. I just needed to get away. Before long I found myself in a car with Joe, Gerry and Harry driving in a car full of fishing equipment headed to Dorval Quebec. There we stayed the night and left early the next morning to the airport where we boarded an Air Inuit flight to the town of Schefferville which is near the 55th parallel about 1,250k northeast of Montreal. It was hot in Dorval when we departed but cold in Schefferville which should not have been that surprising being that far north. I felt a little uncomfortable being there in my shorts and sandals but figured I would warm up quickly after a quick dip in the hot tub upon arriving at the lodge. After purchasing some more supplies in town we boarded a floatplane for the final flight to the George River Lodge which is located about 225k south of Ungava bay.
The ride on the floatplane was beautiful seeing the countless lakes from the air. I was fascinated by the scenery. We were north of the tree line and I’ve never experienced this part of Canada before.
After about an hour and a half we landed on the river and taxied to the camp. When I stepped out of the plane I couldn’t see the camp, the one I had envisioned in my mind, and was told ‘”your looking at it” by Melvin one of the guides. I thought that was meant as a joke but he was right and I was looking at it.
Once the initial shock wore off I began to realize there wasn’t any five star to be found. This was a real fishing camp for real fisherman. There was no hot tub or roast beef carving station and to top it off it was cold and windy and did I mention rainy? My bare legs started to turn blue and when things seemed at their very worst I received one of many gifts that I was to receive that week my first black fly bite. It surprised me that blackflies could still be around that far north at the beginning of Sept but I soon learned that the northern blackfly is a hardy beast which would not be denied.
At some point reality sunk in. I started to feel sorry for myself and wanted to call the Contessa to whine but discovered that they have no phones or computers up there, they are truly off the grid. They do have benefit of a satellite phone to be used in emergencies but calling and begging the Contessa to find a way for me to get out didn’t qualify. There was only one way in and one way out and the float plane wasn’t expected back for another seven days. I was trapped and upon realizing that I cried myself to sleep at night while trying to stay warm. I didn’t think I could make it at the beginning. I was out of my element and was in a weakened state largely due to the retirement shock that I was experiencing.
One thing I did realize that week is that you have to be a little crazy to fish on the George. To willingly stand in cold water and attempt wading over unstable and slippery boulders with strong winds hitting your face laced with ice-cold drizzle or hail depending on mother nature’s mood that day is not normal. The wind might not blow all the time on the George but it does most of the time which can make casting very difficult. I can’t count the number of times I casted into a heavy wind and watched the line hit what seemed like an invisible wall and collapse at my feet. It’s hard to adequately describe how much the weather there can change in the course of a day. One minute golden sunshine the next sheets of rain hit you full in the face. Then the cycle repeats itself throughout the day. Let’s just say the George is not a place for wimps. They should have warned me. But then again if they had warned me I probably would not have gone.
But something magical happened over the course of the next few days. I started to get into a rhythm and by the third day I actually started to like the place. The George hardened me in a good way and got me out of the funk that I was in. As the week continued to pass I realized that in spite of everything that I had gone through it was going to be alright. I had in me the ability to adapt and survive, I just hadn’t tested myself for a long, long time.
TO BE CONTINUED: