Fishing and Flying

It’s common knowledge that the some of biggest freshwater fish live in the waters way up north — those places where bear, moose, and wolves roam the shores; the eagles fly overhead; and the loons and beavers glide on the surface of sparkling blue waters. At least that’s how the stories go. If you’re a fisherman you dream of luring those monsters to take your bait and give you the thrill of a lifetime. Though the excitement of the catch lasts but a few brief moments, the memories live on, preserved in the stories and bragging rights that accompany such passionate pastimes.

Those of us who live in the heartlands and love the pursuit of this kind of happiness find ourselves confronted with an interesting challenge. “Way up north” usually exists in lands far away from where we call home. Luckily flying helps shorten the distance and adds a whole new realm of enjoyment and experiences to such adventures. And yes, did I say stories. The combination of fishing and flying takes the art of telling tales to a whole new level, and it’s a level that few ever achieve.

And so this story begins, nearly three decades ago when the men in our family began the annual pilgrimage to the northern waters for fun, fellowship, passing down of ancestral history, general male bonding, and yes, even a little fishing.
We canoed, camped, and now with a 90-year-old dad, enjoy the more luxurious accommodations of renting a cabin. Our travels took us everywhere from the boundary waters of northern Minnesota to the fly-in only lakes of Canada. We traveled by car, van, RV, and most recently by plane. Some years ago we traded our wheels for wings and days on the road for a breathtaking beautiful morning flight.

Our fishing and flying adventures began just 10 years ago when a good friend who owned a cabin class twin engine Piper Chieftain volunteered to pilot us north. “Bubba” as my wife affectionately dubbed his plane, could carry a whopping useful load of over 2600 pounds. “Doc”, as my nephews call him, owned Bubba. He taught me a whole new respect for weight and balance.

First we carefully calculated the fuel requirements for destination, an alternate, and legal reserves. Then we weighed each item to be loaded strategically placing it in either the wing lockers, forward and rear baggage compartments, or one of the numerous nooks and crannies throughout the plane. Next we added to that the weight of each passenger and figured seat assignments that properly balanced the load. Being a seasoned charter pilot, Doc explained a need to figure for the “creeping weight syndrome”. This condition arises when passengers show up for the flight with things they forgot. (My dad and older brother became famous for this symptom.)

For nearly five years Bubba dutifully carried us to the waters of the “True North” before being downsized to a single engine Cessna Centurion. My brother helped fill the need by becoming an instrument rated pilot and owner of a Piper Cherokee 160. Now Doc, my brother, and I share the joy of flying our planes each summer to the boundary waters of northern Minnesota. Guided by the lessons Doc taught, we carefully calculate our fuel and baggage loads to safely make our journey.

Dad continues to tell us stories from his days of flying B-17’s while Doc, now like family, entertains us with tales of his charter pilot days. With a few hours under our belts even my brother and I seem to hold the men’s attention with some lofty narratives of our own. Oh, and yes, we still catch those monster fish.