Monday, August 07, 2023

The Best Laid Plans

 After several years of plague induced closure, health concerns (mine), and then fire, our buddies at Caesar's North Camps finally had us booked for a week at Hanotaux camp on the Goin Reservoir. Joe and I have been going up there since our youngest sons were 10 years old. (That would be 30 years ago!) We missed a few years for the reasons mentioned above. One year I took the family (without Joe) and Joe went once with his wife and another time with his eldest son and his daughter, but between us only fire and pandemic kept us away.

To alleviate some of my concerns about possible blood clots in my legs, etc., we arranged to rent a satellite phone from Ollie to be used in case of an emergency. 

We left the Aerie around 6 am Wednesday morning after Joe drove up from just outside of Jersey Shore, PA. The new Tundra (Tilly) behaved like a dream and the GPS app scooted us through Ottawa via a route we had never take before but, considering the amount of new construction going on, was very efficient.The GPS unit must have been feeling either puckish or impish, however. Once we got past Mont-Laurier--our usual final fueling stop--the ole GPS had us go off on a new route it considered shorter than our usual . We were game so we listened and went exploring. We were sent off on some narrow, dusty roads we hadn't seen before and which seemed very sparsely traveled but er persevered. Until we got to one recommended turn where the road was a mere track and the scrub trees were making it narrower than Tilly was wide. Nope we weren't taking that turn! Luckily our current road and some re-calibration by the GPS imps, got us back on tract and we were kicking up a huge cloud of dust behind us as we progressed to Clova and the offices of Caesar's. (When a vehicle came the other way, the dust made visibility impossible!)

We arrived at the new offices around 7 pm after traveling approximately 600 miles in 13 hours. Oliver greeted us sold us our fishing licenses, worms and lures, and collected the rent for the sat phone. Then we went over to get a pizza at the only restaurant in town--which was also the hotel. Actually our room was a block away in what had been Caesar's old office and Ollie's home in Clova. 


We returned to the new office/air base at 7 am Thursday, weighed and loaded our gear in the Cessna that was to be our ride. We had a new pilot, Peter, who spoke seldom and in halting English--not unexpected -- this is Quebec after all. We pushed off around 7:10 and were in the air 5 minutes later. 

Peter had to do some contour flying to keep below the very low ceiling and even then he passed through the lower edge of the clouds on occasion.We were in the air for about 30 minutes when Peter banked sharply and set us down in front of the Hanotaux cabin. 


There a group of four were readying to go out. The oldest of the group (a Dad?) told us they were from Wellsville which is just a stones throw northwest of the Aerie in the Southern Tier of NY. Asked about fishing, they reported fishing was slow but they had managed to find walleye in a couple of spots which they showed to us on the maps. They also helped us get our gear up to the cabin and we helped them get their down to the dock for loading on the plane. Since three of them looked to be fine strapping farm boys we asked for help in launching the boat they said was the better of the two with motors attached (Good thing we did, too. They had hauled the boat so far out of the water I doubt Joe and I--two oldish guys with four fake knees--would have gotten it into the water.)

We made the mistake of telling Peter we knew about all there was to know about changing out a propane tank and relighting the propane refrigerators, hot water heater, and stove pilots. And Peter believed us and hurried on his way with the Wellsville folks.

Joe and I packed our food away, chose our bunks and spread out our sleeping bags. Then we unlimbered our fishing gear and headed out to try our luck. That morning, afternoon and evening we had sparse luck but managed a few keepers which would be saved for dinner on Friday. The wind kept shifting and was producing 3-5 inch rollers with the occasional whitecap. Combination made jigging difficult. But we know we were holding on or close to the bottom. We lost more jigs in one day than we have on some entire trips.

The water was calmer and the winds light when we went out Saturday morning heading off in a southerly direction. There was a haze in the air which we learned later was due to fires miles to the north. Again we struggled to find the walleye under the direction/scorn of a pair of loons who thought we were trespassing. 


On the way back to the cabin for lunch, I managed to hit a couple of submerged rocks that were a good 15 meters off the shoreline. The motor ceased up and stopped--in forward gear. The winds, which had kicked up again blew us to the shore about 400 yards for camp.On the opposite side of the water. I put the oars (thankfully they were in pretty good shape!) in the oar locks and put my back into it.

First I crossed the water to the shore that was a bit more protected from the breeze. Then I turned and rowed along the shoreline until we reached the camp. It took a little over an hour and my back and shoulders were feeling the workout's effect. 

We made a satellite phone call to report our problem, Asked if we could still fish, we said yes because there was another boat and motor. We were told Oliver would be there the next morning. Ours wasn't a medical emergency. We went and left the red board on the dock (a mistake we were told as every pilot flying over reported an emergency at Hanotaux which is what the red board means). 

We fished that afternoon and evening while fighting the wind the entire time. We did manage to boat a few keepers that went into the freezer to be taken home. Nothing was too big to throw back and none of the handful of pike we hooked were big enough to keep and filet. 

During the night the propane ran out. While I slept, Joe went and changed out the propane tank and start the process of relighting the  hot water heater and the pilot lights on the stove and refrigerators. He got the burners on the top of the stove (not the oven) going but was frustrated on all the others. I managed, some how to get the hot water heater going but the fridges didn't want to cooperate. I put a second note on the door (there was already one there for the motor) and we went fishing. 


We weren't out more than ten minutes before we heard a plane heading in so we pulled our lines and scooted back to listen to Oliver who was trying to his temper while showing us how to light the damn pilot lights. (I think he was just as mad at Peter for not insisting we listen to his instructions as he was with us for brushing Peter's spiel aside because we had been coming here for 30 years and seen everything. Well we've seen it, but we didn't remember it!)

Ollie went on his way and we went back to our poor fishing. 

Sunday morning Joe wakes me up with words I didn't care to hear, "Rich, I've got a problem." Joe has been dealing with an issue with his right eye (retinopathy?). Sunday morning he had a large, yellow circle in the middle of his left eye. His ophthalmologist had told him that if he experienced any change to his vision--either right or left eye--he should get into the office/emergency room ASAP. 

The sat phone came out again and Joe called headquarters to request immediate extraction. We were told someone would be flying out that was around 10 am which gave us time to have breakfast, clean the cabin, and get our gear stowed and stacked on the shore. 


10:15 Jean-Luc set down to fly us out. He had to stop at another camp to deal with a motor issue (leaking oil). That stop let us see the multitude of skills a bush pilot like these guys have. They can pretty much deal with everything and, while it may not be perfect when they finish, it will be serviceable. 

Back at headquarters we told Jean-Luc thank you and to let us know if we owe Caesar's for the motor. 


It was about 11 am when we hit the road south with a huge cloud of dust rising behind us. We made stops in Mont-Laurier for a fill-up for Tilly, at the border for some beer and booze for us, and finally in Troy, PA to refill Tilly's tank. It was just after midnight when I pulled into the Aerie's driveway. Appropriately enough it was raining cats and dogs.

Joe shifted his gear into his truck and he was on his way. He texted me when he got home. Then again this morning he texted to say he had an appointment with the doc on Tuesday.

Maybe Mother Nature is trying to tell us older guys with infirmities that we should rethink our recreational choices?