I’ve had all kinds of fishing experiences, and some of them–perhaps too many of them–have been in somewhat primitive, if not brutal, conditions. Roughin’ it is okay, I guess. I’ve done plenty of it, but now, as I get older every year, I’ve discovered that a little relaxation and indulgence goes just fine with fishing.
Which is one reason I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Selwyn Lake Lodge.
Where else can you fly into a wilderness lodge and have a Hot Stone Massage, “the ultimate form of relaxation” after a hard day of casting?
Owned and operated by Adventure Destinations, an award-winning outfitter, and managed by Greg Sproat, Selwyn Lake is way north of the end of the road. It’s so big (45 x 18 miles, 135,000 acres) that it doesn’t even fit in northern Saskatchewan. Part of it is in Northwest Territories, so you have to buy two provincial licenses to fish it all.
It’s so enormous, in fact, Sproat noted, “that we don’t even use all of it.” And he describes the catch rate as “fantastic,” mainly because of so much fishing water and so few anglers–only about 150 per year. Unlike most lodges, Selwyn uses 40-horse outboards on 18-foot boats to make getting around the massive lake faster and easier.
But size is not the only difference.
“The real difference is that we’re part of Adventure Destinations,” Sproat said.
That advantage, he explained, gives Selwyn Lake Lodge the flexibility to provide a variety of services other lodges can’t offer. “We can fly our own planes. We can bring in our own chef. We can provide a really relaxed experience.”
And Sproat has no plans to change anything going forward. He only wants to keep “this piece of Heaven” as it is–“keep providing a quality experience, keep the fishing strong.”
I’m sure all that contributed to author Michael Cardwell’s decision to include Selwyn Lake Lodge in his book, The World’s Greatest Luxury Fishing Resorts, one of only twenty in the world and one of three in Canada.
My fishing partner Gene Colling and I can testify to that. We not only had a relaxed stay at Selwyn, but also great fishing for both pike and lake trout–and also my darling, the arctic grayling. I spent one morning fly-fishing for the little sailfish of the north, catching one after another, including my biggest ever, a 19.5-inch beauty.
After fishing each day, guests gather in the main lodge for hors d’œuvres and drinks and to banter about the day’s catch and whether they made it “on the board.”
Most lodges have “boards” to record big fish, but Selwyn Lake has so many trophy fish caught that it has adopted slightly more aggressive “board rules.” You can get on the board early in the season with the minimums, a 35-inch laker or 40-inch pike, but as anglers post bigger and bigger fish you sink to the bottom and eventually get knocked off the board.
So, plan on catching a really big one to still be there at the end of the season, which is exactly what Gilbert Robbie of Medford, New Jersey, did while we were there. He netted the fish I’ve been trying to catch my entire life, an extremely rate 50-inch pike. I’ve read about those 50-inchers, but I’ve never been at a lodge where anybody actually caught one.
And I must ask: Where is the justice? I’ve spent a million dollars on fishing gear and a zillion hours flaying the waters expecting my next cast to hook that mythical 50-incher. Gilbert Robbie did it the first time in his life he ever fished for pike. Isn’t that how it goes?
But it does justice to Selwyn Lake, obviously the home of some enormous northerns.
Selwyn also consistently produces trophy lake trout. While we were there, Gene caught one for the board, a 35-incher, and I hooked several smaller, but still impressive, lakers on my fly rod.
After a morning showing guests where the big ones hang out, Selwyn Lake fishing guides take great pride in cooking up a scrumptious shore lunch–and not only the traditional deep fry, but many new, and perhaps more healthy, alternatives. When we were there, for example, we had Red Curry Pike sautéed in coconut milk with mixed veggies and poured over vermicelli pasta. That’s something you don’t see often out on a big flat rock on the shoreline of a wilderness lake.
Our guide Brad Semenoff summed up Selwyn’s shore lunch policy perfectly: “It’s the third helping that gets you every time.”
Another thing some of the guides do at Selwyn that I haven’t seen before is wear GPS transponders, so in the event of a failed motor or other mishap, the other guides can quickly find you. Sproat can track the GPS signal during the day on his computer back at the lodge–“and I can jump in a boat with some wine and appetizers and give guests a pleasant surprise.”
When you’re out there on those sprawling, island-filled shield lakes, miles from the lodge, you always wonder what would happen if the motor didn’t start. At Selwyn Lake, you probably wouldn’t even miss dinner.
Along with the GPS units, Selwyn seems a bit more high-tech than most lodges. It has satellite TV, voice-over Internet phone and Wifi, which helps the lodge appeal to corporate clients looking for an ideal retreat or incentive for excelling employees.
One thing a lot of northern Saskatchewan lodges do that Selwyn doesn’t do is offer bear or moose hunting trips. Being so far north, Sproat explained, providing hunting trips would offer a lot of chances for severe weather in both May and September when lodges typically have hunters in camp.
So, at Selwyn, the fishing-only action starts about June 15 and ends on August 31, a shorter season than most lodges, which translates into lower fishing pressure and more big fish netted.
Selwyn does provide fly-out day trips to five remote destinations for even more spectacular fishing, especially to a place called the Striding River where, according to Sproat, anglers can expect several trophy pike and a hundred or more smaller pike in a single day.
Selwyn only offers a full plan and prefers-four-day trips–no cooking your own meals or self-guiding. “Don’t even consider self-guiding,” Sproat said. “You’d go through a half-dozen props in a day.”
If you don’t have your own gear, though, the lodge can provide all you need. If you want something even more remote than the main lodge, you can stay at a do-it-yourself outpost at the north end of the lake.
On top of all that, Sproat noted, “We’re priced lower than most of the other trophy lodges.”
I guess the point is: If you’re thinking about a fishing adventure to the far north, there really aren’t many reasons not to choose Selwyn Lake Lodge.
Footnote: At 2010 Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence Jim Yuel and Adventure Destinations was the proud recipient of the Outfitter Legacy Award sponsored by Saskatchewan Outfitters Association.