From the Yukon and Alaska to Northern Ontario. Where I believe was the only other time in my life where I needed any kind of survival real life skills, was when I was a fishing guide at a fly-in fishing resort called Slippery Winds Wilderness Lodge in 2016.
As a guide at the lodge it was a part of my job to take fisherman into back lakes via portage, where our boat would be the only boat on the entire lake. No cottages, camps, or any other human being for ? Well? Who knows how far really. I was to utilize my skills as a guide, not only to put our clients on fish but to make sure those clients were fed with fresh caught fish over a natural camp fire which I made every single day. Then the daily plan was to return to the main lodges. This is where the clients of the lodge would all gather for a nice homemade dinner (via the lodge chef, and tell fishing stories of the day.
There was only 1 time as a northern fishing guide where I had a slight scare, & survival skills came in handy. We were on one of the remote lakes and at the far end of said lake to boot. Our motor over heated and I had to follow the shore line closely, at slow speed, while pouring lake water over the head of the engine to cool it down as much as I could just to keep it cool enough to try and get back to the dock, I was just trying to get the clients safely back to the lodge.
Well It was the impeller that stopped working that afternoon & then the motor quit. I had no choice but to get those men to the closest shoreline, and make shelters for the night, this is the only time I’ve actually had to utilize some survival skills in a dire situation with the skills I possess today.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Survivorman (Less Stroud) or Bear Grills) I don’t claim that in the slightest. I do not have enough knowledge in the old memory bank to be considered a pro survivalist! But I do know now, that I’d be fairly confident in knowing what do, in order to get through a few days in the wild. At least in a harsh Canadian, or North American wilderness environment. Not just survive it either. I’d thrive it. Utilizing knowledge of plants& animals, natural environment, knowledge of North American Geography, and self taught reliance skills. I’m confident given a decent knife, & ferro rod, I’d be able to make it through almost any situation thrown at me where I need to put those kinds of skills to the test.
From the Yukon days of knowing nothing about survival and or bushcraft, to guiding in the middle of the wilderness north of Fort Frances Ontario, there has been a lot of learning and experiences in between
Every day before you leave with clients to go to 1 of 6 lakes that surround the main lodge area. We were required to write down on a chock board, what lake we were taking our clients to that (morning, or afternoon,) or weather you planned on being at a particular lake for a full day. By writing the expected lake on the board, it did 2 things! It allows the other guides and guests to know how many boats were available at the other lakes and it allowed the lodge to know where we went. Incase of just such emergencies.
The plan was in such an event, that the lodge would send out someone in the morning if there was not enough time left in a day before the sun went down, and we weren’t back at the lodge in time for supper. It was suspected there was a problem and a rescue and search was planned for the following morning.
Knowing a rescue plan for first light would be put in place. A decent system for sure but the fact was if you got stuck out on a lake close to dark? it’s hard enough taking care of yourself in that type of situation let alone having the responsibility for others as well.
These people were paying huge money for a wilderness experience, which they definitely got, but most of them lacked some serious survival abilities, it reminded me of myself and Brian when we left for our Yukon river trip! We knew absolutely nothing. Paying that kind of money, those people expected to be waited on, hand and foot, & catered too.
As a guide you are the leader of the group. You need to step up and take control of the situation and be able to adapt to ever changing circumstances. Which I did. One of the guys in my small group of 3 (myself included), when I suggested we make a shelter WE being the key word he laughed as if thinking I was joking. He said to me just call the lodge, they’ll come get us? Lol I had to explain to him, “there isn’t any reception for cellular network where we were” I replied. “And we don’t have a satellite phone either. “ I reminded them they were paying to have a true Canadian wilderness experience & it doesn’t get any more Canadian than this scenario. I said, “sometimes things go wrong in the bush, when they do, everyone pulls their weight, no exceptions or excuses, so that we can all make it out safely.” So “get to collecting firewood” I told him. If we were to try and get back to the lodge on foot, it would have taken us the better part of a week to get there & that’s if we don’t get lost.
A shelter is what we are all going to need for the night plus a signal fire which will also help us stay warm and the bears away. I said.
I had 2 other people (one very reluctant) to start collecting fire wood straight away and the other person, (myself) start clearing an area for a shelter, and fire, and I began building camp for the night.
I remember thinking to myself we would need a fairly fast shelter because dark would be upon us in just a couple hours.
so we needed to get enough shelter for 3 people and fast. Well we had a small 14ft aluminum boat with us, so I would use that as a main structure to help shield us from the elements, Rain, wind, any falling debris from the trees ect.… So while the guys were collecting wood. I emptied the boat of all our gear, got the motor off of it and drag the boat a shore to a spot we could all be comfortable sleeping on the ground.
I cut a couple small trees down as I always carried an axe in the boat, (mainly for gathering firewood for shore lunches) and I put the bow of the boat upside down over the stump of one of the trees I cut. Then I just started cutting some other smaller pine trees down in the immediate area to help make a lean-to and use the bows as bedding and also to create more of the shelter for a nights sleep. It wasn’t pretty but would have worked just fine.
By the time the shelter was made, the other people had collected enough fire wood to make a decent fire for the evening, for cooking up some fresh fish, some warmth, to keep the bears and other wild animals at bay, and of course to signal for help.
Just as we were finishing cooking up some fish for dinner, we heard a boat off in the distance, the sun was setting and our fire signalled the other boat right to our location. It was 2 other guides towing another boat behind them, they came to rescue us. We ate our fish, even fed our rescuers. Then left our camp sight and boat shelter as it was and headed back to the main lodge in the dark. My clients were happy to have a nice bed in a cottage for the night.
A video of a client that fell overboard in cold waters at slippery winds wilderness lodge
So between these 2 stories I started off knowing almost nothing about bushcraft and wilderness survival. To being able to comfortably take a small group of people into the wilderness and not just survive there, but Thrive there. Knowing that things can happen in the wilderness and being prepared to deal with the circumstances is good examples of bushcraft and self reliance.
why I’m writing these blogs and turning them into books?
It’s not because I want to sell my stories. It’s because these are my journals of my own life that I’d like to pass on to my children and their children when I’m long dead. I’ve already had people borrow the books to read, and I’ve had people ask where they can get a copy of my books. Well they are not for sale. There are only 1 copy of each and they are keepsakes for me and my family lol. Of course I’m happy to lend them out to family and friends that want to read them. These stories were all online on several websites I was paying annual fees to keep in order not to loose these memories and stories written. Anyone was able to look and read these as they were available online. However now I have shit the blog sites down because I have these stories in hard-cover form now lol.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Survivorman – (Less Stroud) or Bear Grills) I don’t claim to be like them in the slightest. Those 2 guys, mostly Less Stroud, I have watched and studied over the years and tried many tricks he showed on his TV show so I could learn specific skills myself.
I do not have enough knowledge in the old memory bank to be considered a pro survivalist! But I do know now, that I’d be fairly confident in knowing what do do to get through a few days in the wild in a harsh Canadian, or North American wilderness environment, and not just survive it either. I’d thrive it! This is the very definition of Bushcraft and survival.
Utilizing knowledge of plants& animals, natural environment, knowledge of North American Geography, and self taught reliance skills. I’m confident I am able to make it through almost any situation thrown at me where I need to put those kinds of skills to the test. I still have lots to learn but I absolutely love it, and it’s become a great hobby. Next is a night of frigid temperatures while I learn to do some winter bushcraft training.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey through Northern Ontario as a fishing guide at a fly-in fishing lodge.