For the first few years of our relationship, my girlfriend (now fiance) and I embarked on annual canoe trips to the Elliot Lake and Temagami region of Ontario. These trips created an incredible bond, not to mention the seclusion and fishing experiences some can only dream of. Eventually, Anna suggested that while she enjoyed these low key trips into the bush, she’d like to explore other options that might include a home base with some of the comforts of home, but with all of the outdoor potentials we had grown to love. I had to agree this might be a good idea, but due to the fact that our previous canoe trips were as much to do with financial constraints as they were with the quest for solitude, I was a little concerned. Regardless, I began to cruise the internet in search of a happy medium.
It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a website for Tamar Vacations, located on the south east arm of Lake Temagami. I had been visiting the Temagami area since I was a child and it holds a dear place in my heart, not to mention the fact that the rates were beyond reasonable for what was offered. I considered that it may be too good to be true, but figured we’d never know unless we tried. Anna and I asked our friends Dave and Kerry to join us and the trip was booked.
As we made the twenty minute drive down the Lake Temagami access road from Highway 11, I felt like a child again, rushing to meet the barge that would meander through the countless islands on route to our new northern home for the week. We had just a few minutes to spare, so of course I used them to stop at a small dump just before the Mine Landing to observe some bears, another fond childhood memory. We arrived just in time to unload our gear in front of a giant, well kept barge labelled Tamar Vacations. A few minutes later we met Bruce, the owner of the lodge. Within minutes I was very happy about our choice of vacation spots. The hour long ride on the barge to Tamar island served as a sight seeing tour, as well as a chance to pick Bruce’s brain. His honest, calm and down to earth demeanor was confidence inspiring, and the hour was gone in no time.
As the barge pushed through the last set of islands into the lower end of the lake, we got our first glimpse of Tamar island. Soon we were pulling into the cove where we were met by a four wheeler equipped with a trailer to run our copious amounts of fly rods and gear to our cabin. Shortly after getting settled into our cozy cottage , Bruce got us familiar with our boat for the week and we were off. Our map indicated a shoal just around the back side of the island which was actually visible by three protruding rocks. This seemed like a good place to start and we were quickly rewarded with two chunky walleye and a handful of smallmouth bass. This was already shaping up to be a good week.
That evening we met a nice group of people who graciously offered to take us to High Rock Lookout the next day, one of the many historical and spiritual destinations Temagami has to offer. We accepted, and spent the mid portion of the day admiring the wilderness sprawl from this awe inspiring vantage point. Of course it was back to business as evening approached. Bruce took a time out to go over the map with us and explain how to enter one of the numerous local bays safely to pursue some exceptional pike , bass and walleye action, and once again we were not disappointed. Austin Bay is just minutes from the cabins and can offer great opportunities for fly anglers and spin fisherman alike. Boulder strewn humps surrounded by weed beds provided just the environment we need to produce bass and walleye on slowly stripped leech patterns.
The next days agenda included a twenty minute boat ride into Cross Lake. Shortly after breakfast we packed a lunch and proceeded to snake our way through a long series of narrows, some of which created enough current to actually swing a fly. Just before the entrance to Cross Lake we were confronted with a fly fishing paradise. On the left hand side of the boat was a kilometer long stretch of stumps and weed beds, perfect for twitching mouse flies through for hungry bass and pike. As this stretch ended, the body of water began to widen just before it opened up into beautiful Cross Lake. Here we found crystal clear water that revealed some drastic smallmouth bass structure. After a fish filled hour or two exploring these waters, we headed to one of the lakes numerous pine clad islands for a shore lunch before heading home. Things just don’t get any better than this.
We met Bruce on our way up from the dock and stopped briefly to go over the giant shoal map he has mounted on the side of the boat house. This conversation prompted me to ask how he found his way into this business, so he offered us the chance to hear the entire history of Tamar Island later that night after he’d finished the work at hand. How one person balances that much work and remains so social is beyond me, but it might have something to do with the fresh northern air and living in paradise. That night we sat for quite a spell while listening to Bruce’s story of how his lodge came to be. It became evident that he doesn’t take any of it for granted and thoroughly appreciates this little piece of heaven that is Tamar Vacations.
The following day was calm, hot and sunny, perfect for swimming. We’d put in some serious fishing hours already, and I felt it appropriate to take a time out to spend some quality time with Anna and Finn ( our dog ). We set up camp with a few cans of Wellington on the front dock, which is primarily for sunbathing and swimming. Everything was going well until I noticed an old rock pile and wood frame that used to secure an additional piece of dock, and I just had to get the fly rod out. I could feel Anna’s frustration in the fact that I just couldn’t swim for an hour, but the visions of smallmouth hugging this structure was too much to resist. Over the remaining three days I must have caught 80 bass from the dock alone, slowly retrieving black wooly buggers and large dry flies over the top of this old dock crib. Not a bad way to fill your down time, not to mention the opportunities it gave me to demonstrate fly fishing to the others at the camp.
Leaving was hard to do at the end of that week. So hard in fact, it inspired some serious discussions about moving to the area. This will be our third summer at Tamar Vacations, and I already can’t imagine a summer without the experience of this beautiful place. A quick look at any detailed map of the immediate area makes it obvious that I would need decades to find and explore all of the things that this area has to offer, and that’s an undertaking I’m looking forward to.
Tamar Island, No. 856
Group Box 40, Temagami, Ont. P0H 2H0