The Otherside River Fishing Lodge - Where Fishing Dreams Come True

The title says it all.  I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to our northern friends in Canada - Lake Athabasca, Saskatchewan.  Lake Athabasca is in north western Saskatchewan and north eastern Alberta.  It's 230 miles long and 60 miles wide, making it; North America's 9th largest lake and the 19th largest lake in the world.

Why go there?  Trophy lake trout and northern pike fishing.  The largest lake trout was taken in the 60's near Spring Bay - 102 pound monster.  The pike get to be quite large, lots over 50".

I was fortunate enough to go with some one who'd been before, so I had some instruction, as well as the correct tackle.  My friend, Thom, and also my guide, Felix, made sure that I was well taken care of and had the time of my life!  How'd I do?  Well, I didn't really count, but as a rough estimate for 6 1/2 days of fishing, 500 pike.  I'm used to fly fishing for trout and a good trout is 16"-18", but the average sized pike was 28" - 32" with several that were larger than 36".  For nearly all the fishing, I used a 6 1/2 foot, medium action, Shakespeare Ugly Stick, rated at 8 to 20 pounds.  The reel was an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500C3 with 15 pound line.  Everyone but my friend, Thom, thought that this rig was too light.....nonsense!  If all you want to do is hook up and reel in without much of a fight, then use something much heavier.  For a total kick-in-the-pants, duke it out with the pike fight, use lighter tackle.  It was a blast!  My best for the trip was a very large 46" pike with about a 26" girth.  As Thom's dad said, "He was the Walter Peyton of pike - he had some shoulders.  The 'slender fish formula' for figuring out the weight of a 'slender bodied' fish like a trout or pike is (length x girth x girth) / 900.  (46 * 26 * 26) / 900.   31,096 / 900 = 34.55 pounds. So the monster I caught was roughly 34.55 pounds!

Something you'll see in some of the pictures - the lures used.  We were using 5" spoons of various colors.  One that worked quite well for me was a silver-white one with a blue stripe and red spot, the other was a 5 of diamonds - yellow with 5 red-orange diamonds on it. 

Since there were 5 in our group - Gavin and his granddad, Lloyd; Thom and his Dad; and me; each day our guides would take us all in the same general area and then have a spot picked out where we could all have lunch together.  That was way cool of them.  I had 2 advantages over the others. Gavin, Lloyd and guide were together in one boat; Thom, his dad and guide were together in another boat (with the exception of the last day when Thom joined Felix and I for some fly fishing); and then Felix and I in the other boat. Since there were only 2 of us, we could go much faster than the other boats, getting us to the fishing area of the day more quickly.  This was the first advantage.  The second and the biggest advantage is that Felix was the only guide there that was born and raised on Lake Athabasca. This gave me a HUGE advantage!  He knew the lake better than the other guides.

On our remote fly-out day, I even decided to get more adventurous and try my hand at fly fishing for pike.  I used a 9 foot Orvis Clearwater rated for 8 weight line (again, people said it was too light).   The reel was an Orvis Battenkill 7/8 disc.  The flies were all hand-tied by me on monstrous 00 hooks.  Each fly was between 4" and 6" long.  The first challenge was learning to cast standing (or rocking) in a boat. The second challenge was casting with a 9" steel leader - LONG PUASE on the back cast.  Once I got that down (took about 20 minutes), then I started concentrating on letting the fly sink then stripping in line.  The next big challenge was playing and reeling in a 34" pike from a boat, on a bent to nearly broken fly rod.  I learned a few IMPORTANT things very quickly after hooking up with my first pike:

As you'll see in one picture - pike destroy flies.  The ones pictured were the ones that were left over, several, I just had to throw away.  I probably caught 60+ pike while fly fishing and after 6-8 pike (depending upon the fight), I had to retire each fly.  You'll see one of them has a little ball with an eye on it.  It was part of another lure that Felix cut off and attached to that fly to make it sink more.  Yes, that helped in the deeper water.  On our remote fly-out day, Felix and I spent the entire afternoon in a huge bay that averaged 4'-6' deep.  He paddled us around so the motor wouldn't scare the pike and these flies were what I used.

After spending more than half the day fly fishing for pike, my best was a 39 incher at about 18 pounds. I wasn't disappointed, at all.

On Friday, our last day to fish, Thom joined Felix and I to do some fly fishing for grayling on Grease River. We motored across the lake to a beautiful sandy shore. We pulled the boat onto the shore a little ways and stuck the anchor in the sand to be safe. To my surprise bear tracks in the sand. They were about as big as my size 11 boot, so it was a large black bear. We had to hike up the trail next to the river and through the forest. I was antsy to fish and started at a spot that Felix didn't recommend. He and Thom went upstream further. After 15 minutes or so, I climbed back up to the trail and headed upstream to fish with them. I thought I heard some noise in the brush above me on the hill in the forest. Being startled, I scanned the forest only to spot what was probably the owner of the tracks we'd seen on the shore - a rather large black bear. He was probably 150' away and looking in my direction. I continued on up the trail, keeping an eye on him. He headed up the hill and further into the forest, so I wasn't too worried. When I met up with Thom and Felix, I told them about the bear and we started fishing. Felix wanted to help me by putting things onto the fly(ies) I was using. I turned him down and told him that fly fishing is my element and part of it for me is figuring out what to use. He smiled and said he understood and went to help Thom. Thom had the first grayling landed. I farmed (got to my feet, but not in my hand) 2 in and Thom had one more before we called it a day. The last 9 pictures are the last day's fishing.

By the last day, I had yet to catch anything larger than 42". I was mildly disappointed because Thom, his dad and Lloyd had all caught 47" - 49" pike and Gavin had the big one in our group at 51". We were supposed to be back at the lodge by 5 pm. Thom, Felix and I were sort of heading back, but fishing in spots on the way back. We stopped in front of an old, delapitated white house. I asked why we were stopping here. Felix told us he was born in that house and had caught many large pike right in this area. We started fishing and WHAM! I'm hooked up. I first thought I was hit and then the pike spit the lure and I was now snagged on some of the "moose food". The plants that grew in the water that moose eat is "moose food". Makes sense to me. Felix started laughing and told me that I was hooked into a BIG pike and to keep fighting it. At that point, Thom got his video camera out and started filming me and the fight. 15 minutes later, I got it to the surface. Pike have a big, wide, flat head and mouth that looks kind of like an alligator. On the video, when the pike pokes his head out of the water, you can hear Thom say, "Oh my god, you caught an alligator". A few minutes later, Felix netted it. He didn't bring his tape measure, bumming me out, but he scratched its length onto the handle of his net. Back at the lodge, he measured it to be 46" long and told us it was about 26" around; which is very fat. So, in the last hour of the last day, I caught my biggest pike with my close friend Thom there to witness AND get it on video. I COULDN'T HAVE ENDED THE TRIP ANY BETTER!! See the last 2 pictures - Felix' house and my big pike.

My next trip I'm going for the Athabasca Flush - at least one of each: lake trout, pike, walleye, arctic grayling and white fish.

If you get the chance to make a trip like this, it will be one of the most memorable you'll have.  The Otherside River Fishing Lodge - Where Fishing Dreams Come True.  It was true for me.  Visit their website at

Something you'll see in many of the pics - white spots.  To create the picture pages, I had to re-scan all the original pictures and they're starting to break down a bit.  These pictures were taken with an old, inexpensive Nikon FILM camera (don't see those any more). If I recall, I took 7 rolls of 36 exposures or 252 pictures. I used all 7 rolls and still have all the original pics, as well as the negatives.


Now for the mushy part -
I have to thank my wife, Susan, for helping me go on this trip; my friend Thom, for making sure that I was taken care of; Cliff and Stella Blackmur at the lodge and of course, the best guide on the lake - FELIX.

UPDATE - 20 years later (2020), as I update this page, I still get misty-eyed looking at the pics.  I've lost contact with Thom, but still consider him a close friend.  I still email Cliff every so often and he's always appreciative of hearing from me.  I tell him that in 2000, I had the time of my life and 'fishing dreams came true' for me. As you continue looking at my entire website and seeing some of the way-cool trips I've been blessed to do, this one still rates as one of the best. THANKS Cliff & Stella; Thom and Dad; Gavin and Lloyd; and especially FELIX!

The Otherside River Fishing Lodge - Where Fishing Dreams Come True!

To view the pictures - click here.