Published in Vue Weekly June 11 th
“These are barbless hooks. So once
you have em snagged don’t let up any slack or they’ll just steal your bait,”
instructed Shane as he rebated my hook.
“Right, now open your bail and cast it back in.” The Abu Garcia bail flicked open with a
smooth and satisfying click. As I
drew back the single piece quick action rod, I took in a breath and held it
like a sniper about to clear. The rod cut the air with a swish as I let fly my
20 pound test-line and barrel swivel.
It plopped 15 feet off the stern and sunk to the muddy bottom, where it
rolled and tumbled along with the current.
what makes this a good spot?” I asked while placing my rod back in the holder
atop the gunwale.
just look at the current here. See
how it bends around the bank there forming a little eddy behind us? The fish’ll just sit in that pocket waiting
for their food to come to them.
There, you can see how it bends,” replied Shane, pointing at the
riverbank. All I saw was a half
submerged bone pile. So I went
with the old nod-and-smile. “You
got a fish on,” he said giving a nod-and-smile of his own. I pounced on the rod and gave it a hard
jerk. Furiously I reeled in the
first of many, many fish. It was a
5 pound walleye, dark green and mad as hell.
was the quickest I have ever caught a fish,” I said as Shane grabbed the net.
woulda been quicker if you’d snagged that first one,” he reminded me with a
grin. We’d been on the North
Saskatchewan River for less than ten minuets and already I felt connected to a
history, to a lifestyle, to Alberta.
most Edmontonians think about getting away on the weekends for a bit of
relaxation, adventure, and fun, they immediately turn their gaze west. After all, the west has high mountains,
deep lakes, and wild animals.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the west; but after a trip through
Kalyna country with Shane and his chartered jet boat, I can attest to the
stress free fun to be had out east.
out of Lea Park, about two and a half hours drive east of Edmonton, Shane’s
chartered fishing and wildlife safaris is the only operator in the region. In fact, Shane only mentioned two other
operators on the river, one out of Edmonton, and one on the South
Saskatchewan. Fickle river
conditions combined with fluctuating migratory and spawning habits means only
the most knowledgeable river guides can successfully operate. Shane still explores and discovers new
encounters, and he’s been river guiding since 1997. The three make up a network of experience and knowledge that
monitor the river better than the Alberta government. Because of their volunteer tagging and data collecting
efforts, the decision to place sturgeon on the endangered species list – making
them illegal to fish – was rescinded.
Moreover, Shane proved the sturgeon weren’t simply surviving, but
thriving in the diverse river echo system.
addition to sturgeon, the river offers mooneye, goldeye, saugre, pike,
quillback, burbot, and walleye, depending on the height, clarity, speed and
season of the river. In short,
there’s always something to go after, but without someone who knows when,
where, and what to go after, you could spend all day catching weeds. If,
however, you’re looking to get skunked and just enjoy the scenery, Kalyna
country – and specifically Lea Park – is a great place for it. The campground
is expansive, well kept and cheap: $15.00 a night for either tent or 15 amp RV,
and $15.00 for a round of nine holes.
From here, the river and all it has to offer is steps away. In addition to the glimmering water,
brilliant wild flowers, and rich history, it is quite common to see baby
eagles, diligent beavers, curious coyotes, and patrolling black bears,
especially if you have someone who knows where to look.
the day ended, we pulled into the sun-drenched park. “Well Shane,” I began.
“That was a great day, thanks for taking me out on the river.”
no problem. That’s what we do in
Alberta. We sit inside for nine
months, then the sun comes out and we get out there cause we know what’s comin
for us just around the corner.”