An easy Quebec road trip to a sure thing
As we arrive at our cabin overlooking a secluded lake in Quebec’s 265 square-kilometre (65,000-acre) Kenauk Nature reserve, it doesn’t seem to live up to its name — Chalet Rough. It looks too nice. Especially when Stephen Bates, OOD’s national sales manager, spots a shiny, sheltered barbecue.
The attractive wooden structure even has a roof-top solar panel and propane for lighting and running a water pump.
Inside is fully furnished with full kitchen appliances, bathroom, and hot shower. It’s our home for the next two and a half days.
Outside, a spacious deck offers a shaded peek through towering pines at the small rainbow trout lake, cradled by shield country.
Along with Alain Parenteau, with the Federation des pourvoiries du Quebec (Quebec Outfitters), and Patrick Racette, a Quebec marketing manager for Canadian Tire, we settle in quickly. Since it’s late afternoon, we resist fishing fantasies in favour of an early dinner. Stephen sizzles tantalizing steaks on the grill, while Alain tosses a superb salad.
Meanwhile, Kenauk’s Olivier Maurais — guide, game warden, and all-round reserve expert — arrives with batteries and electric motors for aluminums at the dock. Still suppressing our piscatorial penchants, we savour a leisurely feast and then eagerly hit the water for an evening session with trout.
Alain and Patrick, trolling traditional trout spoons with mono droppers and single-hooked worms, skirt the lake’s shoreline. Stephen and I ply the middle with ultralight spinning gear and three-inch soft-plastic shiner imitations on jig heads.
The wind picks up and dark clouds top the hills, but it’s manageable on the lake and rain is holding off. The trout seem scattered and aren’t exactly jumping into the boat.
As often happens when fishing, a slight presentation change — intentional or accidental — improves our catch rate.
The wind whacks our drifting boat and sends it surging sideways. Jokingly, as Stephen turns into the wind with the electric for better lure control, I start snapping my jig even faster — walleye ripjigging style. I’m shocked when an eager rainbow smashes it. Turns out, the technique also riles up the ‘bows.
The sun peeps out again, but as evening shadows invade the surrounding woods, and with a respectable tally of feisty 12- to 14-inch pewter and red-striped ‘bows, we finally call it a day.
Relaxing in the cabin, we discuss next morning’s trip to Surprise Lake for bragging-sized brookies. The lake is not far from us, but the rolling shield country requires a circular route back down the main reserve road and then north again to get there.
We meet Olivier bright and early at the turnoff and follow him towards the lake. Almost there, we run into a road crew replacing a culvert. There’s a huge trench, with no way around.
Dejected, we drive back to Chalet Rough for another crack at ‘bows and lunch, while Olivier checks options.
We’re going to Jackson…
No, not the Jackson of the Johnny Cash tune, but Jackson Lake, which Olivier comes through with for the afternoon, where we mess around with brookies averaging 12 inches. One hook-jawed crayon coloured buck we catch stretches to 16 inches.
We happily scratch our second trout species off our bucket list and head back to Rough, as rain returns.
A “grey” day
Next morning is bright and clear, though, as we meet Olivier at Lac Papineau. He’s ready for us with a 16-foot motorboat. Lakers, or greys, are on the agenda.
He seems puzzled that we want to vertically jig, not troll, but stoically heads for one of his favourite spring spots. It’s late June, and he says the fish might have gone to deeper water.
Nonetheless, Stephen stands ready with a big white tube jig, while I stare at Olivier’s fish finder. When a bait ball displays with a big hook under it, I yell, “Trout.”
Stephen drops his jig to bottom and works it up. A smashing strike is followed by big head shakes. Topside, the six-pound laker completes our trout trio.
A smashing strike is followed by big head shakes. Topside, the six-pound laker completes our trout trio.
After a gargantuan shore lunch of barbecued brookies from the previous day, salads, and scads of other filling fare, we snooze in the sun before leaving Papineau for a fling at trophy ‘bows on the Twin Lakes.
A furious silver finale
Almost immediately after we leave the dock at the Twins, a savage strike and a long run, followed by six pounds of silver and pink trout soaring in the air, has me in fear for my tiny rod and four-pound test mono.
After the rotund fish splashes down, switches direction, and dives to bottom, a see-saw battle follows, before the fish, finally spent, is beside the boat. Catch and release is in effect on the Twins, so I revive the glimmering trout and watch it swim away.
Wondering if the quick catch was a fluke, we barely start trolling again when Stephen and I hook a doubleheader. Chaos reigns as we struggle to prevent tangling lines.
We’re in trout heaven. Only minutes seem to pass before one of us hooks another brawling ‘bow. We lose count after 20 fish estimated at four to six-plus pounds. In three hours, our fishing itch is well scratched, as a looming thunderstorm chases us off the lake — with permanent grins on our faces for the trip home.
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This article originally appeared in our 2016 Fishing Annual issue. Ontario OUT of DOORS is available in both print and digital formats. Subscribe today.