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BIG SAND LAKE: In their words -- Matthew Thom

MATTHEW THOM NECHE, N.D. Day Zero Sunday, July 1, 2007 Today, we got everything ready to go to Big Sand Lake and then took off for Winnipeg. We arrived in Winnipeg about 4:30 p.m. and met Bob Kerr and Jeff Awes, the WDAZ guys. After we ordered a ...

MATTHEW THOM NECHE, N.D.

Day Zero

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Today, we got everything ready to go to Big Sand Lake and then took off for Winnipeg. We arrived in Winnipeg about 4:30 p.m. and met Bob Kerr and Jeff Awes, the WDAZ guys.

After we ordered a pizza, we went to bed.

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Day One

Monday, July 2

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready to leave for Big Sand. At 5, we met in the lobby of the hotel and got to meet with everybody from our group going on this trip. We arrived at the airport, boarded the plane and took off about 6. I don't really remember the airplane ride because I kind of lost consciousness for about three hours - or at least until we arrived at Thompson, Man.

After we arrived at Thompson, I could not sleep anymore because I was so excited.

We arrived at the resort about 10 a.m. and then walked to the main lodge from the landing strip - or gravel road, as some people would call it.

Once we arrived at the main lodge, we immediately sat down for breakfast and then met Rick Bohna, the lodge manager. After breakfast, we met our guides and then headed to our cabins to get ready for a few hours of fishing. Dave, Brittany, Brad and Kevin had experienced guides, and Bob, Jeff, my dad and I had guides who had only been there for two days.

The first place we fished was 26 miles from the resort so I got to catch up on some more of my sleep. Once we arrived, my line was barely in the water when I spotted a moose crossing the lake so we had to go take pictures of it and when we got back, the other guide said there was a bear standing on the shore so we went and got pictures of that also.

After we caught a few walleyes (a.k.a. pickerel) and northerns (or "jackfish," as the guides called them), we headed back for supper and then went out fishing again. We caught about the same amount of fish and then headed in to get some sleep.

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Day Two

Tuesday, July 3

The day started out with breakfast and then we headed out to fish again. Almost immediately after we arrived at the location we wanted to fish, I brought in a 29-inch Master Angler walleye, so our guide took a few pictures and released him back into the lake.

After a while of catching the same thing as the night before, we headed to an island for a shore lunch. The walleyes we ate were probably even better than the stuff you can get at a Red Lobster.

Once we were done eating, Brad and Kevin's guide, Ernie Moose, brought his hot sauce-covered beans over for the seagulls to eat. The seagulls would attack the beans and then realize they were hot and take off for the lake at full speed.

We headed back to the lodge for supper and then headed back out fishing. We caught about the same thing as the night before and then tried for lake trout. We didn't even have a bite so we headed back into the lodge.

Once we arrived, we sat in the lodge for awhile to exchange fish stories with the other guests.

Day Three

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Wednesday, July 4

Day three started out the same as the other days except for a little more trout fishing. My dad and I didn't catch any but Dave caught two, and one was a Master Angler. We caught a few walleyes for lunch and headed to another island to eat.

We tried for more trout and ended up with the same results as before so we headed back in for some supper. We headed out once again and caught a few more walleyes and northerns.

Day Four

Thursday, July 5

After breakfast, we tried for more northerns and walleyes and then headed to another island for lunch. During lunch, I met another guide who was a medicine man so that was kind of cool.

After lunch, we spent the entire afternoon fishing for trout and again didn't catch a thing. After supper, we tried for trout again and finally I got one. At first, it felt like reeling in a dead tree but as soon as it saw the boat, it shot straight back down to the bottom of the lake.

Once we got it in, there were two other boats coaching me on, and they even took a few pictures. The trout turned out to be a 36½-inch Master Angler and was the biggest trout caught out of our group . . . so far.

Day Five

Friday, July 6

The day was the same as every other but everybody in our group thought it would be cool to switch guides. So, Brittany and I were in the same boat and we had an experienced guide, Allan Dumas.

After lunch, Ernie (Brad and Kevin's guide) did the same thing to torment the gulls, feeding them beans covered with hot sauce. The dumb birds would take off running for the lake at full speed, but they'd always come back for more. Every place we went there was always a gull with only one leg; the other leg probably was taken off by a big northern as the bird was sitting on the lake.

We tried a little trout fishing and didn't catch anything, but Bob caught a 38-inch trout, which beat mine by a few inches. Besides the trout, all we caught were walleyes and pike so we headed in for a steak supper.

After supper, we went out fishing again, and I caught one walleye; we headed in a little early so we could see the wolves. Every night, the cooks took the leftover food to the wolves, and they came out every night so we had a good chance to see them.

We went to see the wolves, and they followed us to the feeding grounds; even though we didn't see them, our guides said they were there so we believed them. There was one big black one and one big white one. Unfortunately, we never got close enough to get a good picture but they were there.

After the wolves, we headed to the cabin to pack and go to bed.

Day Six

Saturday, July 7

The last day we are supposed to eat breakfast and get going but our plane broke in Winnipeg, and we had no way of getting back. After breakfast, Ernie and Allan, the two most experienced guides, and most of our group went for a nature walk to see some wilderness. On our hike, we got to see old sled dog cabins, the shooting range for moose hunters and a tree stand built by the guides for tourists to watch the wolves when they came to eat.

We headed back to the resort and played pingpong and five-handed rummy until Rick came out to explain what was going on. He said the plane did not get fixed in time so we had to take smaller planes out.

There were about 35 people in the resort, and the planes could only hold eight people at a time so we had to wait. Everybody had taken off already, and Dave, Brittany, my dad and I were the last group to take off.

The floatplane arrived, and we had time for one more photo opportunity and then we took off.

We were flying to Lynn Lake, Man., where a large plane was waiting. Lynn Lake was a 20-minute scenic flight. On the ride, Dave and I saw three moose swimming in the lake, and my dad and Brittany saw nothing. We arrived in Lynn Lake and went straight to the airport, where we were greeted with cheeseburgers, compliments of Rick at Big Sand Lake, and then took off for Winnipeg.

As usual, I remember pretty much nothing about the long flight except for landing.

At the airport, we said our good-byes and headed home.

Thom, who now has the lake trout bug, will be a sophomore at North Border High School in Pembina, N.D.

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