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The place sounds too good to be true. After a long mid-June drive to Senneterre, Québec, northeast of Val-d’Or, the reality that we’re headed to a five-star remote fly-in lodge with exclusive fishing and hunting rights to 75,000 wilderness acres, begins to set in.
As the floatplane arcs and descends over a magnificent lake dotted with islands, the lodge comes into sight and oh, what a sight it is: a massive log structure set back in a clearing just feet from the sandy shoreline.
At the dock, St-Cyr staff greet my cameraman and I, and help deliver our gear to our rooms. On entering the lodge, the first thing I notice is the pebble flooring plus billiard table in a common area. From there it’s upstairs to what can only be described as the most relaxing room on earth.
There are cathedral ceilings, massive windows, and a stone fireplace surrounded by carving, fish, and game mounts from nearby woods and waters. There are also leather couches and a snack area next to the dining room.
As I stop to take it all in, the owner welcomes us over to the bar with a wave and offers a beverage. He tells us that the nine-year-old lodge is one of only a few remote five-star operations in Québec.
After a meal fit for a king, it’s off to get some rest. True to form, each guest room has a view of the lake, as well as a private washroom that would put a Hilton hotel to shame. At St-Cyr, it’s clear there’s nothing we will do without, including having our bedsheets turned down each night.
We’re only here for two days. The next morning, I tell our guide I want the full fishing experience. What follows is a 60-kilometre tour of enormous
Lake St-Cyr, stopping to fish rock bars, points, and narrows with Storm swimming shads. Each stop is as good as the last. We catch solid 15- to 22-inch walleye one after the other.
Bald and golden eagles soar overhead as we cruise this beautiful lake surrounded by boreal forest and rocky outcrops. Although it would be easy to just relax and enjoy the walleye experience, the photos from the lodge’s website of guests holding Jurassic-sized northern pike stay in the back of my mind. We decide our second day will be all about hunting down a pike: the crown jewel of the trip.
The next day, we slowly idle into a creek-fed back bay where we drift and cast to scattered weeds tight to shore. Here I hook several decent pike and with each fish my anticipation grows. I wonder if I will be able to hook one of St-Cyr’s monsters. Then, not five casts later, it happens.
The shallows come alive with a shark-like wake trailing behind my swimbait. As my retrieve comes closer to the boat, there’s a turbulent boil in the water but no contact with the fish. I make several attempts to get it to bite but it seems the fish has disappeared.
Moving further toward the back of the bay, one of my casts lands within what must have been inches from a sunning ‘gator. The water erupts. My line tightens to fight a 40-incher that reluctantly comes to the boat for a picture and quick release. After an hour, we return to the spot where the leviathan followed my bait.
I cast and begin reeling back to the boat. With only a few feet left in my retrieve, the fish jets out from under the boat and charges my bait — just as I’m lifting it out of the water. My heart stops as the fish strikes short and disappears into the dark waters. After a deep breath and a heavy sigh, I compose myself. Knowing the day is coming to an end, I make another cast to the same area, hoping the fish has set up again.
Sure enough, within two turns of the reel handle, my rod buckles and the massive fish is on. It charges straight at the boat as I burn the reel to keep up and put some leverage into the fight. The beast turns and makes a series of powerful headshakes, yet also seems to be tiring. In my mind, I begin celebrating and reach for the landing net that would finally tame this beast for all to see.
With one powerful rush, the fish runs straight at me and under the Lund. It pulls my rod beneath the water and practically to the other side of the boat. Once again, it flares its gills, shakes its head, and then spits the barbless spoon, sending it fluttering to the bottom of the lake.
The fish is gone and I know I won’t get another chance. Having my crown jewel slip through my fingers only adds to an incredible experience: the lodge, the food, the fishing — and the heartbreak. If you think you can handle the fishing trip of a lifetime, you should check out St-Cyr Royal and maybe put that crown jewel in your collection.
Getting there: From Senneterre, Québec, drive 110 kilometres on gravel road #806 to the fly-in base on Berthelot Lake
Contact: Call St-Cyr Royal
May to Oct. 819-737-4684
Oct. to April 802-524-9486
Originally published in the Jan-Feb 2019 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine