Hard to believe but in 32 years of full time fishing, including the making of a 156 episodes of The Complete Angler television show I had never been to a fly-in outpost camp. I guess call me spoiled but when we did our visits it was always the American plan five star plan. So when I agreed to host a trip for five people to Harrop Lake Outpost as part of a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause, I had no idea what to expect. Owned by Jacksons Lodges and Outposts, this camp was an hour and fifteen minute float plane ride from the docks of Adventure Air at Lac du Bonnet. Located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, Harrop Lake is part of the Pigeon River system, a fact that contributes to the excellent fishing for pike and walleye all season long. I have done a lot of work with Shaun Jackson over the years, including visiting his lodge on Amphibian Lake a few years back.
Shaun and his father Bob have been involved in the lodge industry for a number of years now and have steadily built a mini empire. While Bob prefers to stay and host anglers at Harrop Lake these days, Shaun is busy flying and dealing with a myriad of guests that visit one of the 20 outpost camps they now run.
Since I really had no idea of what to expect upon arrival I had done some homework in advance. Trina, who runs the bookings let me know what the camp had and didn’t have. This is important for novice trip goers to these remote locations to understand. First of all, most camps do not have fish finders on their boats. Packed on this trip was my Humminbird and portable battery pack and charger. Second, I made sure to bring along a portable rod holder to make trolling a much easier proposition. Ever tried holding your rod, handling a tiller motor in wind while netting your buddies fish? Well if you have, you’ll know what I am talking about. Most of the other stuff is common sense but if you value your rods and reels, make sure you have cases for both!
THE TRIP: After quickly loading the Turbo Otter, we were off on our three day adventure. Most of the guys had been on a fly in trip before, but the excitement of new water always turns on the juices. As we swooped into the dock, we were met by Warren who quickly had us to our big luxurious cabin that slept eight.
We were a bit overwhelmed by the accommodations. This cabin had a built-in deck with dining table, as well as a huge dining table in the main building plus a deck with two barbeques and a deep fryer. Since at an outpost you are responsible for your own meals, we were amazed how well equipped the kitchen was. It had every pot, pan and utensil needed plus a few more. There were two fridges and a freezer full of bagged ice. Not only that but the generator that powered the camp ran 24 hours…and believe me that is relatively rare even at five star camps. This was the lap of luxury, plus you could make up your schedule and fish as long as you wanted.
Speaking of which, in no time flat I was down to my 16 foot Lund getting it set up to my liking. We only had to fish two to a boat which meant lots of room and didn’t over tax the 15 horsepower four stroke Yamaha outboard.
Harrop is a medium sized lake which meant we could explore almost every corner fairly quickly. I don’t know about you, but this is maximum adrenaline time, when you first head out on new water!
Two other American anglers had flown in with us so I struck up a conversation with them. It turns out they had been to Harrop on three previous trips. They quickly passed out some tips on where to start fishing, which happened to be just five minutes from camp As it turns out it took us a little bit of time to find some fish, and then a bit more to get them to bite. We ended up in a small river that was connecting a huge shallow bay to the main lake. As I motored along, I found some deeper holes at the corners, water in the 12 foot range. Sure enough, I started marking fish on my depth finder. Putting the boat in neutral my partner and I started getting hits, then landing fish, mostly walleye.
Lo and behold this boat also had a good anchor! Now, again this is somewhat of a rarity and speaks of the attention to detail that Bob and Shaun Jackson put it into their camps. Soon all three boats were fishing in the same area, catching enough fish to make things exciting. Over the course of the next three days we caught a variety of fish, including a massive tullibee caught while jigging for walleye and fat yellow perch. Northern pike were everywhere while the walleye were using narrowed down areas that had rock rip rap bottom. This would make sense given that they were just in the process of spawning.
The biggest pike of the trip was caught tight to shore using a small yellow and red Williams Wabler but a lot of the northerns were grouped in among the walleye so you never knew what you would end up with on your line. Overall it was a great trip, at a camp that had all the feel of a full American plan lodge.
For more information on the different lakes you can try with Jacksons visit their website at www.jacksonslodges.com