Tazin Lake, Saskatchewan,
The Boundary Waters. The Badlands. Bone Lake. Lac qui Parle. These are some of my favorite places on the planet. And now I have to add Tazin Lake to that list. (Would I have to change that to “favourites” then?)
This clear, deep lake sits in the far northwestern corner of Saskatchewan. During the summer, the sun never really sets; it just drops behind the horizon and shows up again a couple hours later. You could probably leave your flashlight at home.
The flight in to Tazin Lake Lodge is via floatplane and you get an aerial view of the vast, awe-inspiring landscape. You pass over the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park, the “most northerly active sand dune formation on Earth,” according to Wikipedia. Small prairie lakes pockmark the ground with water so clear you can count the spots on a northern pike. Then two geographical features greet you at the end of your flight:
- Lake Athabasca. This is the 8th largest freshwater lake in Canada. It covers over 3,000 square miles and is 176 miles long.
- The terrain. The mountainous shorelines that cradle Tazin feature jutting rocks and conifers with swampy valleys meandering in between.
When we flew across the granite hills on our way out, we spotted three moose winding their way through the trees – an added bonus on this fishing trip.
And that’s what this is: A fishing trip. Although not just any fishing trip, but an excursion that could see you break provincial records and even possibly, the world record.
In 2006 a lake trout estimated at 72 pounds was caught. That would put it right at the top of the list for the world record for lake trout caught by an angler. Last year, during my first trip to Tazin Lake, I ended the trip on a high note catching a chunky 56-pound giant on our last night at Tazin Lake Lodge. That fish would live on in infamy as the featured photo on my business card.
This year Jamie Dietman would be with and he’d finish with personal bests in the lake trout category (46.5” x 28.5”) and northern pike (44”).
I’d tie my personal best for pike with a 43.5” gator. Coincidentally, I set that personal best record last year at Tazin with two fish that touched the 43.5 mark on the tape.
Of course we had our share of giant lake trout too, boating nearly 20 over the forty-inch mark. And other guests this summer have been in the 60-70 pound range. Hooking into one of these monsters will not only test the limits of your tackle but your forearm strength as well. Each time I’d catch one of these goliaths I’d be left with shaking hands and arms that hurt for days. I loved it.
One of my all-time favorite ways to fish was learned at Tazin Lake from owner and guide, Trevor Montgomery: using streamer flies to catch mammoth pike. I’m on the board for only one pike over 40-inches prior to my trips to Tazin. Now I’m at ten or so-to be honest if they weren’t in the low 40’s, we barely lifted them from the water, let alone measured them.
The key is to use some stealth as you approach fresh water. Casting as far as you can with big pike baits like cranks, swim baits or spinners. I was using a #5 Mepps with a flashy spinner with a white and red tail. If the fish aren’t aggressive enough to hit the big bait, they might follow it back to the boat where they can be tempted with the fly.
Within the first few minutes of entering one of Montgomery’s favorite pike bays, I had fooled two trophy pike with this method right next to the boat. One of them is in the video above.
Tazin Lake, along with the friends I’ve met there, has quickly become one of my favo(u)rite places to go. It’s an adventure to get there but this 7-day fishing trip qualifies as “bucket-list” worthy and I haven’t even mentioned the world-class chef that prepares meals that would make Anthony Bourdain blush. I plan to be back next summer, with stronger forearms and a streamer fly in hand.