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Big Sand Lake Lodge, Canada 07-12-2005

As fly anglers, or as anglers in general, one of the great things about fishing is that we are all at a different place relative to our fishing experience. Where did we start out fishing, how do we like to fish now and what are our favorite species? Do we carefully practice catch and release on high mountain cutthroats with hatch-matching dry flies or are we off the coast tossing tuna steaks in the cooler with the smell of sacrificial sardines on our fingers. Either way... that's the beauty of this thing we call angling. There are countless angling approaches. And no matter which direction you take, most of us started out in the exact same place... dunking worms plucked from the garden then skewered on a hook attached to something other than a fly rod. So to begin... let's not forget where most of us came from.

Well, given what I just said... I'm guilty as charged. I completely bailed out on my conventional fishing roots more than twenty years ago in exchange for a fly rod. Why do we do this? As a kid, some of my fondest fishing memories centered on slimy baits, reflective hardware and miles of tangled monofilament line. The reality is, we as fly fisherman make up a small minority of the angling world. To rule out conventional fishing opportunities really does exclude us from some spectacular fishing.

I recently had a refreshing opportunity to return to my angling roots so to speak. I hosted a large corporate group of twenty anglers from Ferguson Fire and Fabrication Inc. Our destination was Big Sand Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba, Canada. Our focus this week was trophy pike, lake trout and walleye and thanks to carefully managed catch and release practices by the lodge, the fish here grow to impressive sizes and are found in great abundance. These two primary criteria, size and numbers are extremely important when planning a fishing event for a group this size. And with the angler's abilities and interests ranging form complete beginner to seasoned veteran, the fishing program at Big Sand Lake Lodge had something for every angler's fishing agenda, including mine... more on that later.

This rustic northwoods lodge was the perfect location for a corporate retreat. The Cree Indian guides, who by the way, own the lodge, woke us up each morning with coffee delivered to our cabins at 6:30 AM. Breakfast was served at 7:00 AM and the logging camp fare was plentiful and delicious. After that last flapjack had soaked up the remaining drops of maple syrup, it was off to meet the boats at 8:00 AM to begin the day's fishing. Cabin mates were usually boat mates and at this lodge, it is customary to fish with your guide for the entire week. The main lodge employs 16 seasoned guides and will accommodate 32 guests per week. Big Sand Lake is over seventy miles long and lies entirely within tribal land. With no other lodges to compete with, there is plenty of fishing space available. Anglers looking for a solitary experience are sure to be pleased by the vastness of this lakes many fingers, rivers and shallow bays.

Conventional tackle is the culture at Big Sand Lake Lodge. By using spinning and/or bait casting rods, an angler can probe the endless shoreline for big pike. For the lake's deep dwelling lake trout, trolling or vertical jigging are the most successful methods. In addition, small lead head jigs, tipped with curly tail, multi-colored, plastic grubs, were devastatingly effective on the structure-oriented walleye. During our week, countless quality fish were landed and released. Several of our trophies included lake trout up to 38", pike up to 41" and a spectacular 29.5" walleye which was the biggest walleye caught at the lodge all season. During our visit, I got to spend a few hours each day casting large, deceiver-type, saltwater fly patterns on my 9 and 10 wt. fly rods. Even though I did get some odd "rolling eye" looks from my Cree guide when I insisted he let me try to catch a lake trout on my fly rod, I was determined to see what I could do. After rigging with a fast sinking line modification, I made my first cast. Only minutes later, we were all stunned when I came tight to a 36", 15- pound, trophy lake trout. My guide was speechless! I however was not, as I whooped it up realizing a decade long dream of catching a trophy laker on a fly. It appears that Big Sand Lake's resident pike, walleye and even lake trout don't discriminate against long rods after all!

We had come hoping to experience the amazing fishing this area is known for, but the reasons behind such an occasion go way beyond simply fishing. Big Sand Lake Lodge offered our group a spectacular setting and a great opportunity to get away from all the daily stresses and pressures of a modern life. Here was a chance for all the Ferguson executives, along with their valued clients, to relax, unwind and become better acquainted with each other outside the workplace. Trips like these help build those solid, long term relationships so important in today's business climate. And there is no better way to accomplish this than on a great fishing trip! Nothing brings folks or business associates together like sharing a day on the water. Managers, reps, clients, prospects... whatever these guys started out as, in the end, they were friends! This sort of old school approach to business is a throw back to a much simpler era... a time when relationships developed over time and were stronger because of it... a time when a deal was settled with a handshake and honored because of a friendship. It seems that the Ferguson Group has rediscovered this better way of doing business in our modern fast-paced world.

Big Sand Lake Lodge is the workingman's equivalent to Never Never Land. Once away from the great fishing, with cocktails and cigars in hand, you can shoot a game of pool, gather around one of several poker tables, slap the ping-pong ball around or simply belly up to the bar. The atmosphere at the lodge is festive to say the least. Every evening of our stay we talked lodge management into running the generators well into the night so we could keep the lights on and bar tabs open. The party was on and the lights-out call got progressively later each night. We encountered little opposition from the lodge staff and maybe this was a function of the staff joining in with our group at the Texas hold-em tables!

In between all the fishing and fun we manage to have with all our individual clients, Angling Destinations Inc. has been managing the intricate details of corporate fishing events for more than 15 years. Over the years, we have come to realize that getting twenty, festive and enthusiastic guys going in the same direction for a week is not always an easy task. We take great pride in managing the detailed logistics necessary to flawlessly pull off a corporate event of this type. One of our many specialized services includes a professional staff photographer to take quality photos of your fishing experience. We then carefully edit and set those images to music and supply a memorable DVD slide show of the entire experience. It's the perfect post trip follow-up gift and a great memento for your valued clients and guests.

We have culled and collected some great quality destinations that specialize in large groups. Although difficult to find our destinations deliver superb service and consistently great fishing. Also, we have a great track record of matching the correct lodge with the angling experience of your group and the needs of your organization. Give us a call and let Angling Destinations help take the mystery out of your next corporate fishing adventure.

Written by Todd Sabine


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