I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to walleye fishing, but I finally heed the advice of Timberwolf Lodge owner Gary Wallace and start to probe the deeper waters cradled within the undulating bottom of Nagagami Lake. My wife, Francine, and I are dragging three-ounce bottom bouncers over a bump that tops out at 28 feet and quickly drops to 60 feet on either side. At 44 feet, I feel weight and set into a heavy fish.
“It’s a very clear lake and the big walleye use depth for cover,” Wallace told us when we first arrived. “Deep” for me meant 25 to 30 feet and we’ve had no problem catching walleye up to 17 inches. But it isn’t until our first foray into the Nagagami depths that we start to experience the lake’s full potential. When Francine dips the net under what turns out to be a healthy 27-incher, we are well on our way to the full Nagagami Lake experience.
Keeping it personal
Timberwolf Lodge sits along the broad sand beach of a perpetually calm bay. A vertical log main lodge with central fireplace is flanked by rows of guest quarters. With a maximum capacity of 16 guests, the Wallaces are able to provide highly personalized service with a staff that consists of Gary, his wife, Cindy, and their daughter, Melissa. Now in their 11th season, the trio operate like a well-oiled machine, providing all our meals, preparing the fleet of 18-foot cedar-strip boats, and dealing with a wide variety of requests — mostly from me.
“Gary, do you have any spinner blades? Big minnows? Can you charge up this battery?” The unflappable Wallace addresses each request. And, after an embarrassing display of incompetence — I slice through the transducer cable of my portable Humminbird fish finder with the boat propeller — Wallace calmly points to the new GPS-equipped fish finders installed on every boat. “Depth map of the lake is loaded,” he says.
Go deep or go home
Nagagami Lake is deceptive. The low-slung boreal shoreline that alternates between brown sand and multicoloured cobble beaches gives no indication of the lake’s wildly fluctuating depths. Flying over the lake on our arrival, I’d noticed boats fishing right out in the middle of this broad expanse of water.
Now I know why.
Productive walleye zones are found virtually anywhere within the 12-by-six-kilometre oblong stretch of water. We use the depth map for reference and simply cover water with an eye on the sonar for the right combination of depth and structure. We find as many walleye out in the middle of the lake as we do tight to shore. It’s mid-August and we concentrate on the north half of the lake where mid-lake shoals shoot up from depths of over 90 feet. It’s a structure fisherman’s paradise, and once we adjust our presentation to depths of over 40 feet, we find flats, troughs, and ledges that hold profusions of walleye.
These walleye seem to like the flash of Gary’s loaner spinner blades tipped with a worm, leech, or minnow. We also catch fish on drop-shot rigs, jigs, and even weighted, shallow-diving crankbaits. The excitement of fishing Nagagami is that each time we set the hook there’s a real possibility of connecting with a monster. While I have nothing against angling eater-sized fish, having those bolstered by frequent four pounders is not difficult to take.
Scratching the surface
After a morning of probing an immense mid-lake shoal, the wind and waves pick up and we make for the sheltered tip of one of the lake’s few islands. We walk a cobble beach, picking up curiously shaped charcoal coloured rocks sculpted with near-perfect circular indentations. We eat our lunch under the hot afternoon sun and gaze out at distant whitecaps.
Although we still have one more day, it’s clear that we will leave much of Nagagami unexplored. There are weedlines to the south that I suspect hold shallow walleye and pike. We’ve caught a few scrappy incidental pike but Wallace says guests who target the species have landed northerns over 50 inches. I’d hoped to check out inflowing Foch and Obakamiga rivers as well as the Nagagami that eventually channels the lake’s clear water north
to James Bay, but this time around we’ll have to be content with the exceptional walleye fishing of the main lake.
The wind has died down slightly, but as we round the tip of the island, I’m thankful for the long and narrow Giesler Brothers cedar-strip boat that cuts smoothly through the chop toward Timberwolf, where Cindy and Melissa will be serving up a roast beef dinner.
On our last afternoon, it’s breezy, overcast, and threatening rain. We revisit a productive area along the eastern shore, and almost immediately Francine lands a fat 22-inch walleye. She rigs up with a fresh leech and we make another pass. While I am constantly adjusting my line for a near perpendicular presentation through steeply fluctuating depths, my wife is fiddling with her phone with one hand and holding her rod with the other.
Of course this is when the big fish hits.
Just as a wave of rain sweeps over us, my multitasking wife manages to stash her phone and keep pressure on the fish. A slow and steady retrieve is
punctuated by long runs, but eventually the fish surfaces, displaying the enormous yellow flanks of a jaw-dropping walleye. We lift the great fish for a measurement and photo, and then slide the 31-plus-incher back into the water.
We both angle a few more fish under increasing showers, then, with water soaking through our rain gear, we set a course back to the lodge. Aromas waft from the kitchen as we cozy up to a crackling pine fire that roasts the dampness from our bodies. Even though we fly out in the morning, there’s a contentment that comes with experiencing the generosity of Nagagami Lake from within the warm embrace of the Wallace’s Timberwolf Lodge.