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Fall Floatplane Camping in Ontario

There’s something special about fall camping that I can’t quite explain. There’s about a two-week window where the Canadian wilderness just lights up, and the sheer beauty of it is breathtaking.

The destination of this fall trip: Setting North’s Outpost Camp. My hunt and fish camp is for people who want to see the beauty of the remote Canadian wilderness. The outpost’s cabin is only accessible by floatplane, so it’s a true adventure!

We arrived to a breathtaking, late afternoon view of camp on a very calm day. The clear water lake sitting in a valley and perfectly reflecting the sky was both stunning and nerve-racking. The glassy water illusion causes a mirror image of the sky and hinders a pilot’s depth perception, making it difficult to tell the difference between 50 and five feet above the water. It requires a glassy water landing technique: landing in a flatter trajectory, with power, in a slow descent until the plane hits the water. This method of landing eats up a lot of lake while you slowly descend, so we had the extra challenge of performing the landing on a shorter lake.

Only minutes after a successful landing and unpacking the planes, Maverick, my Golden Retriever, was already itching to go fishing. Anytime Maverick and I are not fishing up at camp, Maverick is patiently waiting in the boat for the next opportunity to go. 

Giving in to Maverick’s wishes, we immediately went trolling for some Northern Pike in hopes to catch a quick dinner; we were not disappointed. The lake has no road or trail access and is almost never fished, which leads to some prime fishing opportunity for folks staying at the camp. After just 30 minutes, we had caught dinner for ourselves and Maverick. We headed back to camp to fry up a few fish and boil Maverick’s dinner. 

The next morning Maverick and I woke up before the sun and headed out in darkness to explore the surrounding lakes and hiking trails, verifying that the trails were open and everything was in place for future fishing and exploration adventures. One of the lakes along the way was more of a beaver pond, and every time I had gone through the lake I had come across ducks. I brought the shotgun along in case there was an opportunity to take a duck for dinner.

Along the way, we marvelled at the stunning colours, and Maverick had a great time playing in the water. It was a beautiful trip travelling up the surrounding lakes by boat and then hiking the trails between the lakes. When we got to the beaver pond lake we were greeted by a few ducks, but unfortunately we never got an ethical opportunity for a shot as we attempted to stealthily hike around the lake. Oh well, it was only loosely a hunting trip anyway, so we pushed on in search of the next lake.

For Maverick and me, these are the adventures we come up north for; it’s the reason I learned to fly. It’s heartwarming to be hiking and paddling through the wilderness from lake to lake, seeing Maverick in his element, so eager to explore. The fishing, hunting, and camping is a lot of fun, but nothing beats seeing the pure joy of Maverick spending the day in the wilderness.

After checking the trails, lakes, and boats in the area, Maverick’s day got even better. On our way back through the thick bush, I noticed some movement up ahead that looked like small game. I immediately put Maverick in a down position and flipped the safety off the 12 gauge.

As I got closer I saw a grouse hopping around – one of Maverick’s favourites!

I snuck a bit closer to get an unobstructed view while Maverick obediently stayed in his down position about 10 yards behind me. Once I had a clear shot, I took it and then sent Maverick off to retrieve. Proud of his work, Maverick carried the bird back along the trail to our boat on the previous lake with an obvious extra kick to his step as a result of a job well done.

After we crossed the next few lakes, we were walking through the marshy part of a beaver pond and saw several moose tracks of varying sizes from the bush. As I was investigating the tracks, thinking to myself that they looked pretty recent, I heard a grunt. Maverick and I both turned around trying to see where it was coming from (Maverick zoned in on the direction pretty quickly). Then again, another grunt from the same direction. This was a bull Moose during the rut, grunting at us; obviously not too happy about us being there. Had I been alone, I would have stuck around and tried to spot him for some pictures, but I had Maverick with me. The last thing I wanted was a moose charging at Maverick, so we got out of there pretty quickly.

It wasn’t until just before dark that we got back to camp. I immediately breasted the grouse, lightly covered it with flour, salt and pepper, and fried it. It was an amazing meal to come back to after a long day hiking in the bush and paddling the beautiful lakes in the area. We ate dinner outside, enjoying the beautiful view of the Northern Ontario night sky. It was a calm, warm, cloudless autumn evening with the stars on full display and absolutely zero light pollution. 

The plan for the rest of the trip was to fly an hour north to another lake that we wanted to explore, and then camp there for a night. The next morning we would head back to Setting North’s Outpost Camp and fish for Lake Trout, before packing up and flying south back to the city. With a jam-packed schedule, we were up at the break of dawn the next morning taxiing on the glassy water. It was a brisk morning with no wind so our takeoff runs were slightly longer than usual as the floats stuck to the water (calm water adds friction). Once one float was airborne, the other followed and we were off, northbound to one of the many lakes in Northern Ontario that are on my list for further exploration.

The views when flying up north in Ontario in autumn can’t be put into words. The mixture of colour is absolutely breathtaking and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be at this time of year. The flight was very smooth and hands-off on this beautiful morning with the tips of the colourful trees breaking through the morning fog in the valleys. 

Once we landed, I put on my hip waders and started looking for a place to park the plane. Camping at unfamiliar lakes always has the added stress of not knowing where a safe spot is to bring the plane to shore and tie it down. This lake didn’t have a beach, so I had to taxi close to the shore, watching out for shoals, and then hop out and cautiously pull the plane the rest of the way in. 

It was a while before we were both satisfied with the way our aircraft were tied down. You always have to consider the worst scenario – what if a storm came through, would our plane be safe? There’s nothing worse than having your plane tied to the shore then waking up to a thunderstorm in the middle of the night, wondering if your plane is holding on.

The next step was to get the fold-a-boat off the aircraft, set it up, put on the motor, and get out there and fish! I love fishing with Maverick; he stares at the tip of the fishing rod the entire time, waiting for it to bend. When you hit the bottom, get a snag, or get a fish, his tail starts wagging like crazy. If you start reeling in, his feet start tapping in excitement and his tail gets going even faster. The hardest part is dealing with the disappointment on his face when you pull up a log from a snag, rather than the fish he was expecting.

Luckily for Maverick, and for us, there was plenty of Walleye caught during this adventure. The wind started to pick up as we approached our limit of fish and we decided to head back to camp for the night. The journey back to camp was a lot more turbulent than the flight up. On the positive side, the lake was choppy, so no glassy water landing technique was required. 

The wind continued picking up as we got back to camp and dark clouds started rolling in for the evening. There wasn’t any stargazing that night! After we fried some Pike for dinner, we headed to bed for an early evening so that we could try to get a Lake Trout before we flew home the next morning.

It was another successful trip to Setting North Outpost Camp for Maverick and me.

The camp is available for fly-in fishing, hunting, hiking, exploring, and/or photography adventures. Visit http://settingnorth.com and email info@settingnorth.com if you’d like to get away and go on an adventure in the remote Canadian wilderness. For more from Andrew and Maverick, check out the following:

1 thought on “Fall Floatplane Camping in Ontario

  1. Great Story! I’m so jealous of your ability to go where no humans often go!
    Looking forwards to your next storey!

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