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Fishing trip planning kicks into high gear

Early next month, we'll load up, six of us, in two pickups for a very long drive into the wilds of northern Saskatchewan.

We'll cross into Canada northwest of Minot and wind our way north through small prairie towns that will pass in the blink of an eye. We'll drive through larger communities such as Estevan and small cities such as Regina and Prince Albert, where we'll cross the Saskatchewan River and leave the prairies in the rear view mirror.

Some people might say there's a whole lot of nothing where the prairies give way to the wilderness, but in our minds, this is where the adventure starts to feel like an adventure.

I've made this trip before—the first time 25 years ago—and it's good fortune and the continued thirst for adventure that keeps me coming back.

The lake trout and the excellent fishing we've encountered in the past keep me coming back, as well. We'll have the lake to ourselves, and the cabin, while far from deluxe, has gas lights, a propane refrigerator and indoor plumbing.

A satellite phone will keep us in contact with the outside world, should the need arise

Hopefully, it doesn't.

It's a brutal drive, this trip to northern Saskatchewan, and not one I'd care to make every year. By the time we get to Lawrence Bay Airways, the floatplane base in the small community of Southend, Sask., on the south shore of Reindeer Lake, we'll be more than 900 miles by road from Grand Forks.

But the journey is part of the adventure, and that's the way one has to approach it.

We won't finish the drive the first day but will stay the night in LaRonge, Sask., one of the last road-accessible outposts the province has to offer. We'll have spent about 9 hours on the road by then, and that's enough for one day.

The next morning, we'll lose the blacktop a few miles up the road and finish the marathon on 125 miles of washboard-y gravel. When we cross the Churchill River, where whitewater rapids rush below the bridge and a wayside rest beckons, we'll know we're almost there. We'll stop a few minutes to stretch the legs and marvel at the scenery, and the sound of the rushing river will be a welcome reprieve from the bumpy road.

If history is any indication, we might see a wolf or two.

A bouncy hour or so later, we'll see the sign beckoning us to our destination and the floatplane base. If history is any indication, the short floatplane ride into Kamatsi Lake, the outpost camp that will be our home for the next week, will be delayed.

Hopefully, the third time's a charm, but delays have occurred on both of my previous trips into the lake.

The first time, weather and low-hanging clouds kept us grounded more than six hours. The second time, in 2014, the floatplane was deployed to help the province fight forest fires burning nearby.

Instead of flying into camp that afternoon as planned, in 2014 we spent the night at the main lodge on Reindeer Lake, one of those deluxe American Plan camps where meals and guide service are part of the package.

We flew into our much-less-deluxe outpost camp the next morning.

That's the way it goes, sometimes, when traveling by floatplane. One has to expect the unexpected and roll with whatever happens. It can't be helped, so there's no point in getting worked up.

It is what it is, as they say.

As this year's trip draws closer, the planning and anticipation will kick into high gear. There'll be email strings planning food lists, what gear to bring, what tackle to buy, how to pack, weather outlooks and umpteen other details that need tending for the trip to go smoothly.

That's part of the fun of any trip.

It will be here before we know it.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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