Oddly enough I
nearly lost the brook trout—out of general pessimism I had neglected to bring a
landing net with me. But when my sloppy, diffident casting finally was
rewarded, I tailed the fish after three successive lunges with my frantic hand.
For some reason my luck changed after that afternoon, probably because the
weather broke and spring finally arrived in the far north.
In addition to
fishing, the area offered some fine walking terrain and a profligate amount of
birdlife. We counted eight different types of warblers in a single afternoon
and stalked a loon that slid from its nest like a plump feathered otter. The
local grouse were evidently unused to people. I chased several in circles and
was unable to get them to flush. They were the kind of grouse I prayed for in
my youth when weeks would pass without a single flying bird in the bag.
Only one other of
the lodge's 12 cabins was in use during the week we were there. It was occupied
by some hunters from Colorado who had come all that way for the spring bear
season. One day they struck a mildly discordant note by bringing in a bear that
appeared definitely cubbish to me—it was not all that much larger than my
Airedale. I'm no real enemy of mammal hunting, but the black bear, as opposed
to the grizzly, has always appealed to me as a huge, reasonably docile form of
my daughter's Teddy bear and not a fit thing to shoot at.
On our last
evening, staring down at the bony remnants of a fine trout dinner, we noisily
agreed we would come again. Canada was a readymade time capsule into our
sporting past—gentle, affable and not all that far away. No matter that we were
tired and fly-bitten, our dinner tinctured with the odor of kerosene and
mosquito dope. I walked down to the dock and watched the northern lights,
experiencing if only for a moment that great flow of wilderness, the
people-less territory ranging thousands of miles from the dock to the North
Pole, full of rivers, forests and fish.