Lake trout are a tough catch for most float tubers. They often frequent depths beyond the easy reach of fly tackle. They also tend to inhabit very large lakes. A lot of things have to come together to pull a laker up to your tube. So when my friend Rob extended an end-of-September invite for some float tube lake trout, I was all over it. On a sheer effort per fish basis, it was likely one of the most challenging – and complex – trips I’ve ever taken.
We started in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the middle of the prairies. After loading the tubes into Rob’s van at about 4 AM, we drove about 2 hours east. That put us in the heart of the Canadian Shield – evergreen forests, granite outcroppings, and lots of fishable water. As the sun came up, we were on the Pointe du Bois dock of George Lake Outfitters, loading our tubes into their shuttle boat.
The shuttle boat’s outboard roared to life and we headed 15 minutes down the Winnipeg River to our next destination, which was the portage to George Lake. Once there, we hoisted our tubes onto our backs and pocketed the keys to a rental boat at the other end of the trail. Our trusty shuttle driver said he would be back at 5 PM and wished us good luck.
It was about a mile hike to the George Lake rental boat. With visions of lake trout pulling fly rods out of our hands, that mile may have been the shortest I’ve ever walked. The tubes went into the rental boat and we cranked its small motor to life. In another 15 minutes, we had chugged across George Lake and were looking at the portage to our final destination of Forbes Lake. In this part of Canadian Shield, there are only a few lakes that actually hold lake trout and Forbes was one of them.
Again, visions of lake trout fueled us across a one mile portage. Forbes Lake came into view relatively quickly and we hastily unpacked our tubes. Rob had his tube inflated and ready to go almost instantly. Mine had an actual inner tube for a bladder and required a bicycle pump for inflation. Needless to say, it was a long, strenuous process. Rob waited patiently… And only kidded me a couple times about my antiquated equipment.
Eventually, we were in the water. Forbes Lake is a couple miles long and about a mile wide – a fairly ambitious size for most float tubers. However, Rob had done his homework and knew that the trout staged for spawning along a rocky shore not far from our launch point. According to my portable depth finder, the water temperature was fifty-five degrees. It made me happy that I had lugged in a pair of neoprene waders. Kick, kick, kick, kick. Float tubes are not built for speed and we could see the boulder-lined shore of our target area getting closer and closer.
At last! Target area acquired! We used intermediate lines to send baitfish patterns among the boulders and the trout responded. Although topping out at a fairly small size for lake trout – about twenty inches – they hit hard and pulled deep. After about a half dozen fish each, we decided it was time for lunch.
All our fish had been released and lunch was an old-fashioned wiener roast over an open fire. After that, we decided to start heading back. Boat rides, portages, and gear transfers take a fair bit of time and we also wanted to fish from the rental boat on George Lake. It was dusk as we were finally packing the gear into Rob’s van and heading home. Both of us were incredibly tired but also incredibly satisfied… Catching lake trout from a float tube is not that common!
At the end of October, I actually had the good fortune of experiencing more lake trout on the fly. The action took place in the deep, clear waters of Laurie Lake in the rolling hills of western Manitoba. Other than a 5 hours drive to the lake, I have to admit that a pontoon boat was the ONLY method of transport needed. The action was not fast but trolling a black leech pattern on a type III line tempted a couple. Being 2 miles long, Laurie Lake is a good size for a pontoon boat. Rowing to the other end and back was definitely a work out!