BACK IN SESSION
On part one of this two-part Fish’n Canada Show, we hosted the first ever “Fish’n Boot Camp” at Chaudière Lodge on the French River. Joining us was good friend and world-renowned fishing legend, Roland Martin, Johnny Unser from the racing world’s famous Unser family, Roy Armes (CEO and president of Cooper Tires), and 40 other very special guests (or recruits).
Putting on an event such as this was no easy task. Add to that the filming of a television show, and you’ve got one huge project!
After a very short sleep in Ontario’s beautiful bush country—did we mention our boot-campers like the nightlife as well?—our recruits awoke to a classic misty morning on the French River. It’s a perfect time to wait for the fog to lift and to take advantage of the downtime with more in-class sessions.
BAITCASTING WORKSHOP – IN THE CLASSROOM
The campers quickly started to connect the dots and associate what they know about fishing with what’s being taught in the classroom—topics like baitcasting vs. spinning reels. One of Angelo’s favourite things to teach is baitcasting. Mastering the dreaded baitcaster is a surefire way to take one’s fishing to the next level.
“Not everyone is willing to admit that it scares the bejesus out of them to throw a baitcaster,” says Ang. “And even fewer are willing to demonstrate their lack of finesse in this area. It can be a very humbling experience. But it can also be one of the most satisfying and rewarding lessons learned at this camp.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Ang continues. “Teaching these guys to baitcast from scratch, and watching them use their newfound confidence out on the water, turned out to be one of the most satisfying moments of this camp.”
SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS
As the fog and dark clouds finally parted, giving way to sunshine and rainbows, the last of the Boot Camp recruits headed out for another day on the water. During this outing, Angelo took out our emcee for this event, SportsNet 590’s own Dan “Gibby” Gibbons, for a shoreline Bass clinic.
Ang wanted to see Gibby demonstrate what he had learned. Even before this Boot Camp, the two of them had worked together for years, trying to get Gibby to follow through on both his technique and his persistence. In fishing—as with most skills—practice makes perfect.
Well, this outing must have worked. With minimal tutoring, Gibby set into a gorgeous French River Largemouth. “I dedicate this catch to Mr. Viola,” he said as he released the fish.
THE FISH OF 10,000 CASTS
On another boat, Chaudiere Lodge guide Marcel (who specializes in muskie) had a group of guests out for a long day, stalking the legendary fish of 10,000 casts. For this outing they were trolling, which is a much easier way to muskie fish with a group of people.
The result: a fantastic French River muskie that the boys hooted and hollered about. They couldn’t wait to recount the experience to the rest of the campers later that evening.
MAKING THE ROUNDS
While all this was going on, Angelo dropped Gibby off and picked up Roland Martin and Roy Armes. Together, the three of them made the rounds, checking out what the other boot-campers were up to.
At one point they came upon a group being guided by Steve Niedzwiecki. Roland started giving them additional advice—something very few on this earth have experienced.
“I hope these guys appreciate the magnitude of having Roland Martin giving them on-the-water coaching,” said Ang. “Heck, even Pete and I are waiting for that one!”
Roland Martin is an incredible man. Even when he’s relaxing, he’s on.
With the boot-campers grouped together by such things as species and interest, the French River is dotted with pockets of education, inspiration, and good times all around.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
While all this was going on, Pete was giving tips to another group for working shallow Largemouth.
“Although the guys started out throwing all kinds of baits, I gradually had them pretty much all move to some kind of Senko. One of my guy’s (Wayne Sandford) previous fishing experience was catching a single Mackerel—that’s it. I like guys like this since they are a hundred percent open to suggestion and are eager to learn. I set Wayne up with a four-inch black Yamamoto Swim Senko and gave him my thoughts on how to work it. Lo and behold, he proceeded to haul in Largemouth after Largemouth.”
Not to be outdone, the rest of Pete’s group quickly gravitated to Senkos.
Pete says, “Teaching people to fish is rewarding on its own. But watching them succeed? Man, that’s as good as it gets.”
It was looking like everyone was having some form of success, and all were having a fantastic time at Boot Camp—and that was our intention.
Later that evening, Angelo got word from a good friend and local muskie expert Pat Tryon that he had seen a giant muskie holding on a shoal not far from camp. Pat thought it could be catchable for a few hours.
“I had already decided to take two of the students from the baitcasting workshop out on the water that night to see what they had learned,” says Ang. “This would be the perfect stage to show off their newfound skills.”
BAITCASTING WORKSHOP – ON THE WATER
We set these guys up with 8′ Carrot Styx and big inline bucktails. This kind of gear isn’t the easiest to use, but with Ang’s on-boat mentoring, our boys should fare very well.
“As we prep to catch this last sliver of daylight,” Angelo states, “the excitement level for this big-fish adventure had just hit an extreme. Anything could happen. What a bonus it would have been if those boys encountered Muskie Magic that night!
“Just knowing we’re about to enter the realm of a giant fish,” continues Ang, “was making me a little bit nervous. I had two totally green big-game fishermen, we were on a time-clock with dwindling daylight, and a fifty-plus inch water wolf was lurking under the surface, waiting to annihilate something—anything. Things could have gone real bad, real quick. I don’t mind telling you this felt very surreal. And we hadn’t even made our first cast!”
Not only was Ang’s newfound muskie team challenged with firing giant baits on big stiff sticks for the first time, but they were also doing it in quickly fading light. Casting baitcasters is scary enough on its own. But under those conditions, it can become a real monster in a big hurry!
“Well, unfortunately, the boys didn’t catch that giant French River muskie of a lifetime,” says Pete. “But it’s safe to say they all brought back a lifetime of memories.”
“They call the muskie the fish of ten thousand casts,” says Ang. “Now Mike and Doug know why. But I’ve gotta’ hand it to both of them: If I was heading into battle, these are the kind of soldiers I’d want next to me. They were so focused on mastering the baitcaster challenge, that connecting with a fish might have just distracted them from their real goal. To me, the boys passed with honours!”
As the fishing for the last day ended and the entire group gathered back at the Boot Camp headquarters, all that was left was the awards ceremony.
Congratulations to Ryan Ulias, the overall champion; Wayne Sandford for the mystery award; Harold Boake for the Horse’s Ass award; and finally Greg Beauchamp for the skunk award.
Angelo ends the show with these promising words: “Hey guys, when do you want to start working on next year’s camp?”
Let the games continue…