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Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Buddies, Walleyes, and the Call of the Loon

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015: Outdoor Life, Stories.

In June, 1958, my dad and his buddies traveled from our hometown of Marietta, Ohio to Lady Evelyn Lake in northern Ontario, and returned a couple of weeks later with ice chests full of 6-9 pound walleyes, muskies, and northern pike, which we spent the rest of the summer feasting on.

My dad drove his 1954 Studebaker Commander Starliner coupe. They crossed into Canada at Buffalo, New York, heading north past Toronto for more than 300 miles to what was then Haileybury, where they turned west onto a straight gravel road which took them 28 miles to Mowat Landing on the shore of the Montreal River.

Marietta, Ohio to Mowat Landing, Ontario

Marietta, Ohio to Mowat Landing, Ontario

North Bay to Lady Evelyn Lake

North Bay to Mowat Landing

There are no roads into Lady Evelyn Lake – that’s part of the attraction to people looking for good fishing. At the ferry landing, they unloaded their gear, including two outboard motors they’d brought, left their vehicles parked, and raised a flag to hail Halverson, the ferryman, who carried them to just below the falls.

Their gear was trucked above the falls to the northeastern finger of Lady Evelyn Lake, where Bob Gilmore’s cabin cruiser was waiting to carry them to what was then known as Bob Gilmore’s Fishing Camp on Bob Gilmore’s Island, now known as Island 10.

Lady Evelyn Lake and Island 10

Lady Evelyn Lake and Island 10. Diamond Lake at lower left of center.

The men stayed in a log cabin and ate meals cooked by Ruth in the main lodge. For their daily outings, Gilmore had an assortment of classic cedar strip fishing boats made in Peterborough, Ontario.

One day, they navigated over to Frank’s Falls, on a western finger of the lake.

Midway through their time on the island, they cruised all the way south to the bottom of Lady Evelyn and portaged to Diamond Lake where they camped out.

They hog-dressed the fish they caught – popping the eyeballs, slitting them down the middle, removing all the entrails and blood – and spread them on ice for the duration. The mosquitoes were terrible in the evenings, but my dad came to love the eerie call of the loon.

On the way back, they stopped in North Bay on the edge of Lake Nipissing to pack their fish in dry ice for the drive home.

After that, it became a family ritual to set up the slide projector and screen so that dad could narrate the story of their trip and mimic the call of the loon. That slideshow was my first introduction to living off the land in an exotic wilderness. Apparently the memories sank in deep.

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