The Trials and Tribulations of Catching Your First Fish

Follow the hilarious and at times agonizing journey of Paul trying to catch his first ever fish on a 70 day canoe trip.

Catching your first ever fish is one of the most exciting times for prospective anglers - especially when you go through great lengths to do so like these two ambitious adventure seekers. It's an easy task if you're fishing in Sunset Country.

Do you remember the thrill of catching your first fish? The chase, the adrenaline? That exhilarating moment after securely setting the hook and knowing that victory was mere feet from your grasp. Do you remember - because this man certainly does?

Here’s the journal of aspiring fisherman Paul Schram and his paddling partner Hadley Burns as they embarked on a 70-day canoe trip on the Path of the Paddle (a 1200km water trail from Thunder Bay to Manitoba).

This sequence of channels encompasses the beauty of Northwestern Ontario and features many campsites along the route as well as portages connecting lakes and rivers which connect the waterways of Lake Superior, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Quetico, White Otter Lake, Wabigoon and Eagle Lakes, Experimental Lakes Area, Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River.

Northwestern Watertrail

Topographical map of the Trans Canada Trail

  • Day 1

Brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, we push off from Thunder Bay with a brand-new telescopic fishing rod and a tackle box full of every hook, line, and sinker we need to catch all the fish between Lake Superior and the Whiteshell. Although we are amateur anglers, ten weeks is plenty of time to develop our skills to enjoy some lightly fried fish fillets right?

  • Day 7

Still have not thrown out a line. Lake Superior is kinda big and cold and we are tired from Grand Portage. No worries, we still have nine weeks left.

  • Day 11

Today is the day I set up the rod. A calm night on Rose Lake in the Boundary Waters is a perfect night for fishing, right? I spend 45 minutes tying, re-tying, undoing knots, and dealing with tangled messes to get the dang hook on the line. Finally, I get out on the water while Hads cooks up some dinner. The first cast is a snag, while all others reward me with no bites. 

  • Day 15

Arrive at the perfect campsite to catch some walleye at Northern Light Falls. Fishing at these kinds of spots is like shooting fish in a barrel I hear. I throw out a line into the current and grab yet another snag. I whip the rod back and forth trying to get it free. I try one more tug. Hadley finds me walking back to the site with the brand-new rod in two pieces. No fish for us here...

More Path of the Paddle Adventures

  • Day 16

We buy a new rod at Northern Light Lake Resort for $5! Boo-yah!

  • Day 22

Sitting by the water after dinner in Quetico we meet two fellow paddlers Rob and Giselene. After chatting for a while we hesitantly share stories about fishing. We jump at the opportunity to partake in fishing lessons with them that night. Rob catches two fish. We catch zero, but still, have our first fish fry!

IMG 0955

Delicious fish fry on the shores of Quetico 

  • Day 23

Reenergized and motivated by the sweet taste of lightly fried fish fillets from the night before, we set out for a day of master angling...but I guess the fish were all having a nap...

  • Day 26

Bought another rod in Atikokan to double our chances.

  • Day 27

Floating in the canoe, preparing for an interview with Janet Stewart from CBC, and a pike JUMPS INTO THE BOAT. Literally! Not sure if this counts as catching a fish, but sure seems like a good omen!

  • Day 28

Feigning enthusiasm and excitement on this momentous day... Hadley's first time fishing and she catches three fish. Must be the new fishing rod..

  • Day 32

Hadley catches another fish. It tastes salty and crispy and delicious, but also of envy, spite, and misery. Why can’t I catch a fish!?!

  • Day 41

Another great campsite for fishing. At least it should be. After about an hour we are just about to call it quits when Hads shouts out that she caught something. It seems quite difficult to reel in, and in fact, as it comes closer we realize it is not a fish at all. In a heroic gesture, I grab the rod to help reel in this prehistoric creature. A claw appears out of the water. We caught a snapping turtle. I believe in catch and release though, so we let it go.

  • Day 45

THE GREATEST DAY IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. After setting up camp on our site in Eagle Lake's West Arm, we decide to throw a line in. I'm getting pretty jaded towards this whole fishing thing and I think my hair is starting to thin due to the stress of having to tell folks back home that I failed to catch a fish on a 70-day canoe trip. So there we are fishing away with Hads getting bites left, right, and center when the strangest thing happened to my fishing rod. It bent. It was as if something had attached itself to my fishing line and was refusing to let go.

I instinctively reeled in the line and as it drew nearer to the gunnels of our canoe, I saw a weird creature with no legs hooked onto my five of diamonds spoon. I pulled it into the canoe, and there in the flesh was the most beautiful pike you have ever laid eyes on. BUT it was like 6 inches long so I threw it back...BUT THE VERY NEXT CAST I CAUGHT ANOTHER FISH! HOLY COW! This one was a decent size so we string it up, fillet it, and eat the tastiest northern pike that has ever swam in the shallows of Eagle Lake.

 Life is good and as of this point, I'm "hooked" on fishing. Hahahahaha.


Hadley filleting a beautiful Pike

And then, only a week before their journey was about to culminate...

  • Day 60

Lost our tackle kit. Guess that's that.

Learn more about Paul and Hadley’s trip, The Path of the Paddle (The Trans Canada Trail) in Northwestern Ontario which features some of the most outstanding places to visit in Ontario’s Sunset Country.

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About Paul Schram

Paul Schram is in his last year of Education studies at University of Winnipeg. He and his partner Hadley Burns were Path of the Paddle's 2015 Trail Ambassadors and are heading out this summer on a two month, 1400km expedition from Wollaston Lake to Hudson's Bay. See Paul's favourite fish to eat is which ever fish has just taken the bait!

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