“What are you looking for?” my wife inquired while I was stirring near the kitchen table.
“I’m trying to find my chair,” I replied.
“There it is!” she said after scanning the room. “It’s by the front door!”
Cheryl’s attempt to jam the chair under the doorknob was unsuccessful; the top of the backrest was too short.
Actually, our cabin didn’t need to be locked. We were surrounded by good folks who had rented weekly cabins at Vic and Dot’s Camp on Whitefish Bay at Lake of the Woods, one of the world’s largest inland lakes. Nestled in the woods between Nestor Falls and Sioux Lookout in Ontario, we were primed for a week of sightseeing and fishing primarily for northern pike and smallmouth bass.
Fishing camps — there are thousands scattered throughout Canada — vary in accommodations. They are part of the experience when fishing up north.
They go from full American plans where you show up and just about everything is taken care of to do-it-yourself cabin rentals where you bring your boat and cook your meals. I’ve always chosen the latter.
After arriving on Saturday evening at the fish camp, we checked in at the main office. Robert, the host, escorted our group of five — which consisted of my wife, her parents, her brother and this scribe — to the cabin where we’d be making memories.
When Cheryl booked the outing in early March, Robert said a group had recently canceled and our family would be filling their slot in a new cabin. With such short notice, we were tickled pink there was an opening. As for staying in a new cabin, what a pleasant surprise! We caught two breaks.
How much better does it get than that? At least that’s what we thought at the time.
While walking with Robert to where we were going to stay, I noticed a cabin under construction.
“Are we staying in the new cabin that we booked?” I asked.
“No,” the host replied. “I apologize. We weren’t able to get it finished.”
“Oh well,” I said disappointedly without making a fuss. “That’s the way it goes.”
Although our group was looking forward to staying in the new cabin, it wasn’t the end of the world. I was confident everything would work out just fine.
The host gave us a short tour of our cabin. A spacious screened-in front porch overlooked the bay, where we observed Canada geese and goslings at play. Joining them was Punch, the hosts’ 9-year-old mixed Labrador retriever. Because the weather had warmed considerably, he was taking a dip in the shallow bay to cool off.
In addition to the roomy porch, the cabin consisted of a living room and kitchen combined, a full bath and two bedrooms. One bedroom had two twin beds and the other a full. The futon in the living room converted into a bed as well. The living quarters for five adults would’ve worked, but it would’ve been cramped. It would do, though. We could make it work.
A few minutes later, while we were unpacking our gear, Robert approached with a proposition.
“I’ve got a cabin that you and your wife can stay in if you want,” he said. “It should be big enough for the two of you and all of your stuff.”
“Really?” I replied with a smile.
My curiosity was piqued.
“Where is it located?” I asked.
“It’s over there,” he replied while pointing to the east.
The cabin was close to the one we rented, and the bay was still visible.
At first, Cheryl was a little hesitant because she had her heart set on sharing the same living quarters with her parents and brother. The four hadn’t been on a vacation together since she was a child. However, she quickly changed her mind after we discussed the pros and cons.
Although the complementary cabin didn’t come with a shower — a shower house was conveniently located nearby — it had a half bath, two bedrooms and a living room and kitchen combined. At the very least, the cabin could’ve easily accommodated two adults and two children.
For more than 30 years, I’ve rented cabins at several Canadian fish camps with no regrets. Fancy they are not, but that’s always been fine with me.
Here are a few pointers:
• Plug-ins are usually far and few between. A power strip or two from home comes in handy.
• Few rooms have overhead fans or air conditioning. I always make it a point to bring a box fan.
• There are usually nails in the walls to hang clothes. They’ve always worked well for me.
• In most cabins, there’s usually not enough open shelving to organize your belongings.
• Housewares are at bare minimum but usually enough to get you through the week. Most cabins have a cook stove, microwave and refrigerator. Some have heating stoves.
Every cabin I’ve stayed in through the years has been clean and for the most part free of ants, crickets, spiders and other annoying insects. The bedding and restrooms have been clean. That goes for the kitchen sinks, refrigerators and housewares as well.
I wouldn’t want fish camps to be any other way. If the accommodations were much better, they would cease to be fish camps. The atmosphere would be ruined. Please bear in mind that you’re not staying at an upscale, fancy resort or five-star hotel.
Up next: I’ll share stories about four days of fishing on three bodies of water: Caliper Lake, Lake of the Woods and South Narrows Lake.
One such story will be about the big one that didn’t get away.
But for now, I’ve got to go. My wife texted from the other cabin and said that farm-fresh eggs, hickory bacon, sourdough toast, my mother-in-law’s award-winning homemade strawberry preserves and a hot, steaming cup or two of arabica bean coffee is awaiting my arrival.
Now, when a hearty breakfast in the Canadian wilderness overlooking a gorgeous lake is calling my name, I must answer. After all, it’s the right thing to do.
Keith Costley lives in Baxter Springs, Kan., and is an avid fisherman and hunter.