Log of the Big Fly-in Trip

by Joe Walkowski

This is a true story- Fact by fact, incident by incident. For those of you contemplating such a trip, this information may help you decide.


Drove into Auld Leekie Lodge at 7 PM- 9 hours from Buffalo. Lodge on a nice lake, caught some Bass before dark. Had five course dinner and ice cold Heineken. Slept in comfort. Wow! To fly out next morning to Otto Lake, forty miles into the "bush" (love that word!).

-----Day One: Met pilot at the pontoon plane dock as scheduled. After some courtesies and a lot of "Ay's?" (took notice that that word is always followed by a question mark!), we loaded gear into the pontoons-- found that interesting since I thought the pontoons should be filled with air so they floated?. Pilot then, with a jaunty toss of his head, said the magic words "Let's go see if the "F____R will fly today!" Not the words of sentiment I thought a pilot would have for his aircraft! ! Made us all a bit nervous. Relieved a bit when we noticed the call letters for the plane were "C-FUGR". Whew! Takeoff was fantastic! Impressed that immediately after lifting off the water, pilot said we were now at "cruising altitude". Never flew that low over so much wilderness! Never flew that low! I could probably have jumped higher! After a long, banking turn, I asked the pilot if it was safe to fly with only one hand on the wheel! He said, Hell- he could fly with no hands! Showed me! I said one hand would be OK ! He said relax, he'd been flying since he was a kid! He looked about 19 years old so I asked him if I was supposed to be impressed! He took his one hand off the wheel again so I didn't bug him anymore! Flew about 20 minutes over nothing but trees and water! A bit scary! Really got the feeling of "remote"! Asked pilot what we were to do if someone broke a leg or ran out of beer or something- he said "See you in 4 days!". He did mention that we would be given a complimentary emergency kit when we landed. Later discovered emergency kit contained a whistle and a 20 ft piece of yellow nylon rope. Still puzzled about how a chunk of rope and a whistle would be used as first-aid for a broken leg! Landed at the fly-in lake, Lake Otto. Landing as exciting as takeoff! Unloaded, exchanged "Ay's?" again, and waved as the FUGR left (referring to the plane, not the pilot). Plane saluted us by waggling it's wings, or the pilot was practicing no-hands flying again.

Upside down on the beach was a nice little ten foot aluminum rowboat, as promised. Hiked up the cliff to our wilderness abode. Nice log cabin complete with propane stove, lights, and propane refrigerator (which did not work, beer warm whole trip!), no water- had to lug it up from the lake in a bucket. Tried to conserve our limited supply of bottled water. Learned with the lake water that the trick was to let the bugs swim to the bottom before pouring drink! "Facilities" included what was called a "pit" toilet, but since the soil only goes down about 6 inches, it was more like a "pile" toilet, complete with stick to knock the pile over when it got too near the seat. Simpler than building the seat higher and higher. We made it a camp rule to always leave the stick for the next guy leaning against the wall "handle side up". Fished all day into evening. Caught a few small Pike. Left a $6 lure hanging 20 feet up in a dead pine tree as a marker for a particularly good fishing spot. Also left part of right leg in tree while trying unsuccessfully to retrieve lure when I found out very quickly the limb I was standing was dead!. Water dropped off quite abruptly from shore- way over my head just a few feet out from where I bounced off the boulders! Temporarily used a $200 rod and reel as an underwater marker for another hotspot when an unsuspected "bump" over a sunken log bounced it out of the boat, but buddy graciously (that means "for a small fee") snagged them with his sinking lure and retrieved them. Attacked first night by mosquitos and a bat (and that was inside the cabin! Larger predators stayed outside!). Used net and landed bat- about a pound and a half but was released. Used net to round up some mosquitos, too, which were only slightly smaller. I wasn't too bothered by mosquitos first night- seems a blood alcohol level of 4% tends to kill "em as soon as they bite.

-----Day Two: Learned the pattern for the Pike second day. Also explored a "walk-in" lake which reportedly contained walleye. Reports were wrong. Hiked about a mile along a squirrel trail to the lake which had a boat on it we could use. Windstorm had blown down a tree- yep! right across the aluminum boat! Fished from shore. Buddy fell through a beaver lodge up to his waist. I yelled that I'd go get our other buddy to help get him out- he yelled "He found his own beaver house further up the lake- I was coming to get you to help get him out!". Boy, beaver sure do leave little scratchy points on the sticks they build their houses out of! Learned to conserve Band-aids (the main staple of our first aid kit!-actually the only staple of our first aid kit!) by placing them lengthwise along scratches! Hot!-- temp in high 80's to 90! Ran out of warm beer! Had told buddies to lay off the day before! Switched to my medicinal bottle of warm Jack Daniels- just not the same without ice. Figured it helped kill the bugs in the lake water we mixed it with, though. Back at camp, heard buddy scream from outhouse- thought maybe he had forgot to knock pile over, but learned where bats stayed in the daytime. Took bath in lake- lake contains the largest leeches I've ever seen! Took two hands to pull them off! Had beer batter fried Spam with Tartar Sauce for dinner. Great meteor shower at nightfall but second wave of mosquitos chased us inside. Possible that meteors were mosquitos! Inside cabin, were attacked by platoon of cute little mice- found their nest in amongst the dishes we were using. Rinsed dishes in lake before using from then on! Cute little fellers, though. Discovered that boiling drinking water killed bugs but didn't make them disappear, only broke them up into little pieces. Tried to learn to drink water by straining through teeth. Jack Daniels getting low (and it was MY Jack Daniels!). In lieu of sufficient quantities of insect repellent in blood, slept by continually rolling over to keep the "skeeters off! Works!

-----Day Three- continued success with Pike, but all "small". Biggest was a measly 25" and most ran under 20". Some so small it took three or four casts before realizing something was hanging on to your lure. Typical of midsummer, small lake Pike! Big ones need big water and deep. No drinking- Jack Daniels supply too low! So much good Pike water- there was nothing to concentrate them. Pull into a spot- catch one- move to new spot-catch one, etc. Explored another lake which was a short hike overland. Lake should be more appropriately called a swamp. Dragonflies continually hit surface lures. I landed one after quite a struggle! Saw a family of beavers putting little sharp points on their sticks! Buddy found another beaver house! First aid supplies running very low. Back at camp, bathed in lake again- discovered that constantly moving in water keeps leeches off! Lake whipped to a soapy froth by the time we were done! Learned we should have gotten drinking water in bucket before taking baths! Rationed the last of the Spam and Jack Daniels! Mixed with lake/bath water, Jack Daniels made an interesting foamy, cloudy kind of drink. Thought of opening a micro-distillery right then and there, but not enough time. We discovered how knots on log walls resembled parts of the upper female torso. Pointed out many that we thought we recognized from high school, although we had been a few grades apart! Like playing the "That cloud looks like a..." game! Discovered that one buddy had dated a couple of same girls as I had in high school! At about the same time! Buddy said he saw one that looked like his sister when she was in high school. I pointed out one that reminded me of one of the "popular" girls in class I had known- said she sure knew how to make out in the backseat of my old Chevy Corvair! Buddy then mentioned that it was the one that looked like his sister. Ouch! We quit that game- afraid I would have found one that looked like my wife and he'd recognize it! Must have been the cloudy drinks! Said goodnight to mosquitos and mice, each one by name. Loons partying on lake- broke up about 2 AM when one loon accused another of fooling around with his mate. What a ruckus! Didn't know loons could fist fight and that they carried knives.

----- Day 4: Fished next morning for awhile- I marked another good fishing spot with a $6 lure. Buddy hooked a hungover loon but lost it on first jump. Struck too soon, I told him! Buddy claimed loon pulled a knife on him so he had to let it go. Plane came in right on schedule despite the wind. Wiping sweat from his brow, pilot asked if anyone had a broken leg or anything. We checked- negative. Pilot amazed, asked "nobody fell through a beaver house?" Checked again, but worst was buddy with multiple scratches from the little sharp points. The scratches and punctures on his legs made little images, but I didn't suggest any games. Another beautiful flight back to main lake. Didn't realize that in a wind, planes can fly sideways! Pilot had both hands on the wheel this time, glad his lifelong experience of flying led him to do so. Landed backwards. Found out someone had taken a 22 lb pike right out in front of main lake lodge and another group had caught over 100 Bass in a bay off the main lake while we were in the "wilderness". Hmmmm. Cold Heineken tasted vaguely familiar, but lacked the foamy head of Jack Daniels and lake water.

Packed up, exchanged "Ay's?" again, saluted the FUGR (this time the pilot) and began our 12 hour drive back to civilization, slowed only by frequent stops at rest areas. Seems that the wilderness life hadn't agree with us.

Concluding thought: "Wilderness is why man invented civilization".

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