Canadian Fishing Fly-Out Attracts Top Gun Pilot

by Dave Weiman

What pilot can honestly say that as they push in the throttle of their Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft or Cirrus, and roll down the runway, that they have never thought of the theme music for “Top Gun” (Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”)? Whatever he was thinking, former F-14 Tomcat and Top Gun-qualified pilot, Gary Black of Cirrus Aircraft, Duluth, Minnesota, pushed in the throttle of an SR22 and became the first pilot to fly a Cirrus to Miminiska Lodge, Ontario, this year for the annual “Canadian Fishing Fly-Out.”

For years, I have encouraged Gary to join us, telling him that we have attracted nearly every single-engine aircraft ever built and even some light twins to the annual event, but never a “Cirrus! So this year, Gary accepted the challenge in a roundabout way, as I will explain in the paragraphs to follow, and eagerly joined our group for some fine fishing and pilot camaraderie.

This year’s trip started at EAA’s Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet on December 12, 2014, when I was approached by Dr. Herb Zimmers of Milwaukee to help organize and promote a trip to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears and beluga whales. Herb had been after me for years to do this trip, ever since he joined us on a couple of our Canadian fishing trips, so I agreed to promote the trip if he organized it. Herb agreed and led the troops!

We decided that our group would meet up and stay overnight in Winnipeg (CYWG), then fly the 354 nm to Thompson (CYTH) for fuel before flying the remaining 215 nm to Churchill (CYYQ). We selected the “Lazy Bear Lodge” at Churchill for accommodations (www.lazybearlodge.com).

Unbeknown to us at the time, Gary Black, Great Plains Regional Director at Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Minn., was organizing a Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (www.cirruspilots.org) trip to Churchill on the same dates, August 6-10, 2015, and was also staying at the Lazy Bear Lodge. When I found this out, I contacted Gary and invited him to join us at Miminiska Lodge immediately following the trip to Churchill, since it was on his way home to Duluth. He accepted.

Our group to Churchill turned out to be six couples, flying three Cessna 182s, a Mooney Ovation, a Piper Archer, and a Cherokee Six. Everyone made it as far as Winnipeg on Wednesday, August 5, 2015, except for Peggy and me. When we stopped in Longville, Minnesota (KXVG), just north of Brainerd for fuel, we discovered a bad right magneto on run-up and immediately returned to the ramp.

Fortunately for us, this happened in the United States and not over the tundra of northern Manitoba. We were also fortunate to be in Longville, where the entire airport community came to our aid, along with the folks at Airmotive Enterprises in Brainerd, and Bolduc Aviation at Anoka County – Blaine Airport in the Twin Cities.

Airmotive Enterprises flew an aircraft technician to Longville that day and attempted to overhaul the mags, but he determined that it would be more cost effective to replace them. Fortunately, Bolduc Aviation had just gotten an extra set of mags shipped to them by mistake and overnighted them to Brainerd via United Parcel Service.

Special thanks to Joe Graw of Longville, Minn. for the use of his hangar; aircraft technician, David Ahlers, and director of maintenance, Mike Donovan, of Airmotive Enterprises in Brainerd, Minn. for making the repairs; Darrell Bolduc and Kevin Dunrud of Bolduc Aviation for their assistance; and our friends at UPS for their prompt and dependable delivery service!

By the way, my advice to any pilot planning a trip like this is to make sure you have your mags inspected at least every 500 hours as per FAA’s mandatory service bulletin. My mags had been inspected 437 hours earlier and still failed.

Despite everyone’s cooperation and efforts, by the time we got our new mags installed, we had already used up three of five days planned for our trip to Churchill, so we opted instead to fly to Winnipeg before flying on to Miminiska Lodge. Winnipeg is worth a trip in itself with lots of beautiful architecture, wonderful restaurants, and glorious hotels (http://www.tourismwinnipeg.com/upcoming-events).

While in Longville, we stayed at Camp O’ My Dreams, located within walking distance of the airport (218-363-2507), and spent some time with Peggy’s cousin, who happens to own a farm in the area.

Downtown Longville is one block from the airport and features a couple of restaurants including Patrick’s Fine Dining (218-363-2995). If the airport courtesy car is available, you can drive a few miles east of Longville and enjoy a meal at the Anchorage Inn (218-363-2236). Common Grounds of Longville is a coffee shop (218-363-2292), and Frosty’s is the place to go for pizza and ice cream (218-363-2299). Ridgewood Golf Course also has a restaurant (218- 363-2444), and there’s a casino 25 miles away in Walker.

I urge anyone flying to Longville to call ahead to check on days and hours of each restaurant, which can vary depending on the day of the week and season. All I know is that when we arrived on Wednesday, we just missed the weekly turtle race downtown. The Longville community is ideal for outdoor recreation, especially water sports (www.longville.com).

Longville Municipal Airport has a 3549 X 75 ft. paved runway, dozens of individual hangars, and an airport terminal building with a pilot lounge, kitchen, bath and shower. The airport hosts a fly-in pancake breakfast each year on the first Sunday in August, with all proceeds going back into the community through the Longville Chamber of Commerce. For additional information on the airport, call Steve Shallbetter at 218-821-0779 or email steveshallbetter@msn.com.

On To Miminiska Lodge

We departed Winnipeg for Miminiska Lodge on Sunday morning and stopped for fuel at Pickle Lake, Ontario (CYPL) – 62 nm west of the lodge.

Two of the aircraft, including Gary Black’s Cirrus SR-22, which was escorted by Phil Peterson of Oregon, Wis. in his Piper Archer PA-28, joined up with us at Miminiska Lodge on Monday, along with aircraft that cleared Canada Customs in Thunder Bay (CYQT). So we had planes arriving from Churchill, Winnipeg, and Thunder Bay – a first in the history of this trip, but it made the trip more interesting.

As much as possible, we encourage pilots to fly in a group of two or more aircraft, adequately spaced with the fastest planes in the lead. We also stay in radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz as an added safeguard, and monitor 126.7 Mhz for pilot reports, and the emergency frequency 121.5 Mhz.

Any pilot flying 25 nm beyond their departure point is required by Transport Canada to file a “flight plan,” unless a “flight itinerary” is filed with a “responsible person” who has agreed to notify air traffic control and search and rescue if their aircraft is overdue. Refer to Canadian Aviation Regulation 602.75 (2) for additional information.

Most pilots in our group called the Wilderness North office in Thunder Bay and filed a flight itinerary with management just prior to takeoff from either Thunder Bay or Pickle Lake. Upon our arrivals, the lodge manager – Karl Hodge, a ship skipper and owner from Newfoundland, Canada – contacted the Wilderness North office and informed them that we had safely arrived. Karl and his staff eagerly met us at our aircraft and hauled our gear to our cabins.

Each year that we go on this trip, we learn something that we can apply to future trips.

For instance, rather than fly direct from Thunder Bay to Miminiska Lodge, next year I plan to fly from Thunder Bay to Pickle Lake, top off with fuel, then fly the scant 62 nm on to Miminiska. That way I will have adequate fuel to fly to Duluth to clear U.S. Customs on my return flight and if necessary, I can file IFR out of Miminiska. Also by flying from Thunder Bay to Pickle Lake, I can file either a VFR or IFR flight plan, and cancel in the air or on the ground with Thunder Bay Radio at Pickle Lake. From Pickle Lake, I will file a flight itinerary either through the Wilderness North office in Thunder Bay, or direct with Miminiska Lodge, depending on the availability of a satellite phone at the lodge. Due to the lack of good radar coverage and air traffic control, this trip is intended to be flown VFR.

Miminiska Lodge is located 196 nm northeast of Thunder Bay. Lake Nipigon serves as a prominent landmark along much of the route from Thunder Bay to Miminiska. The only airport we fly directly over on that route is Armstrong (CJF6), located 83 nm south of Miminiska. Coming from Winnipeg, the last airport we flew over was Pickle Lake (CYPL). There is a road between Thunder Bay and Armstrong, then short mining roads here and there between Armstrong and Miminiska, but it is pretty desolate country. We urge all participants to identify airports along their route of flight in the event they must make an emergency detour.

While everyone on the trip has at least a portable GPS, we also encourage everyone to keep track of their positions with aeronautical charts, and have either a 406 Mhz Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT) installed in the aircraft, or a portable 406 Mhz Personal Location Beacon (PLB). Most of us who were flying to Churchill also carried a rifle or shotgun for personal protection against wildlife in the event we had to make an emergency landing somewhere. To transport a firearm to Canada, you pay a $25.00 fee for a permit through the Canadian Firearms Program (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp).

All pilots are encouraged to bring with them survival equipment, such as a first aid kit, food rations, tent, sleeping bag, knife, saw, waterproof matches, space blanket, whistle, compass, and a CD to use as a reflector. The hole in the CD is used to look through and spot a search plane, then by moving the CD back and forth in the sunlight, there may be a greater chance of attracting the attention of the pilot.

Miminiska Lodge, Ontario

Miminiska is Wilderness North’s premier American plan lodge and one of Ontario, Canada’s most respected full-service fishing destinations.

Located on the Albany River in northwest Ontario, and miles away from the nearest road, Miminiska Lodge offers guests the opportunity to experience the raw beauty of pristine boreal wilderness. Northern Pike and Walleye were caught in abundance.

Congratulations go to Greg Stratz of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who caught the biggest fish in our group this year – a 42-inch Northern Pike. Most fish caught are released to help preserve the fishing quality of the fishery. Fly-outs on a turbo Otter with floats were available to anyone who wanted to fish for Brook Trout.

Occasionally, we catch something unusual, which adds to the fun!

A few years ago, Rosie Zahasky of Decorah, Iowa, caught an old boot, and this year I caught Phil Peterson’s fishing rod and reel.

No, Phil did not cast his rod and reel into the water. Supposedly, the rod and reel was pulled from his boat by either a big fish (or so he claims), or he snagged some weeds while he was busy rigging his wife’s (Carol) fishing line.

The all-inclusive package at Miminiska Lodge included one of six clean, spacious cabins with room for four to 12 guests, or private accommodations located adjacent to the main lodge – perfect for two people.

Miminiska Lodge has 16 ft. Lund boats with 25 hp Yamaha 4-stroke, electric start motors and fish finders. The main lodge has a big screen television, free WI-FI Internet, full bar, sauna, billiards, and satellite television. And for those brave enough to go swimming in the brisk, cold waters, I say go ahead!

Meals are professionally prepared and were superb!

We woke up each morning with a tap on our cabin door and a fresh pot of coffee delivered to us. Daily shore lunches or box lunches were provided, although we opted to have the staff prepare shore lunches for the group on popular “Shore Lunch Island.” Evening receptions were complimentary!

Miminiska Lodge features a 2400 X 50 ft. grass runway with a clear approach over the lake to Runway 27, and low trees on the approach end to Runway 9 (CPS5). For additional information, refer to the Canada Flight Supplement published by Nav Canada.

Miminiska Lodge obtained a new windsock and frame from Neil Glazer at PilotMall.com (863-226-1106), which is now displayed on the sand point in front of the lodge. Neil is an avid pilot and aircraft owner himself, and has expressed interest in flying to Miminiska from his home in Florida.

Participants for the 2015 fly-out came from Wisconsin and Iowa. In past years, we have had pilots from Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, California and Arizona.

While the airstrip at Miminiska Lodge may not have been ideal for a Cirrus driver, and should only be used by experienced pilots who respect their weight and balance, Gary Black of Cirrus Aircraft told me later that he felt a rush as he roared down the runway when he departed for home. I bet he was thinking of that Kenny Loggins song!

Canada Fishing Fly-Out 2016

For 2016, pilots and their passengers will have their choice between a 3-Night/2-Day Trip, August 8 – 11, 2016, or a 5-Night/4-Day Trip, August 8 – 13, 2016, or a 3-Night/2-Day Trip, August 11 – 14, 2016.

Guests who arrive by 2:00 p.m. on the date of arrival can enjoy an extra 1/2-day of fishing a no additional charge! Guests depart immediately following breakfast on the last day of their trip.

For trip details and special group rates, email info@MidwestFlyer.com.

For reservations, contact Krista Cheeseman at Wilderness North toll free: 1-888-465-3474 (www.wildernessnorth.com).

“Whether on wheels or floats, this Canadian fishing trip is for you!”

Waiver of Liability & Disclaimer: The Canadian Fishing Fly-Out To Miminiska Lodge is a service of Wilderness North. Dave Weiman is acting only as a fellow participant, and neither he nor Midwest Flyer Magazine, Flyer Publications, Inc., nor their staffs and owners, or anyone else affiliated with the magazine, assume any responsibility or liability for the participation of others on the trips or for the trips themselves, and do not assume any responsibility for the reliance upon the information contained herein or elsewhere. It is the responsibility of each participating pilot to verify all information prior to departure, including, but not limited to rates, regulations, airports, fuel, navigation and customs, and to seek information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to AOPA, EAA, Nav Canada, Transport Canada, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. and Canada Customs.

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