Since before our season started, Goldie and I had been in discussions with the Canadian Sportfishing show about shooting a show on the West Arm. We weren't sure if it would come together this year (2014), but the crew contacted us in late September wanting to put something together later that month. Italo and the crew stayed with us while shooting. This is an area that Italo had not yet fished but had heard good things about. As long-time fans of the show Goldie and I jumped at the opportunity to. Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, Italo asked if I would join him on camera for the filming as co-host Aaron Shirley couldn't make the trip. I graciously accepted and the dates were set! The plan was to break production into 4 days and to target Bass and Northern Pike. The first few days would be spent pre-fishing with Italo and during the last two the film crew would arrive for filming.
Day 1 - Butterflies
I was actually pretty nervous at the prospect of meeting Italo. This is the man who taught me how to tie my first palmer knot! Around 12 noon he rolled into our parking lot with his Dodge Diesel truck pulling his Yamaha G3, with dog Mulligan riding shotgun. He stepped from his truck (my palms were sweating!). I awkwardly reached out to shake his hand while at the same time forgetting to remove my sunglasses (Da!). Italo left my hand suspended in mid-air and stared me down, almost melting my polarized lenses (Clint Eastwood in Dirty Hairy came to mind)! At this point I was visibly trembling. Then he calmly said, “Let me remove those glasses to see whose underneath”. He reached out and slowly took off my shades. I at this point I was speechess! Suddenly he smiled from ear to ear, chuckled and came in for the handshake. Phew!!
After chatting for a few minutes, I felt myself relaxing. Italo has a quality and presence about him that puts one at ease. We checked he and Mulligan into their cottage, launched his G3, and before long I was ripping down the west arm sitting next to a legend! By this time it was later in the afternoon, so we only had a few hours to spend fishing. I showed Italo some recently productive spots and we worked through them quickly.
Watching him in action was truly amazing. He flipped his baits twice for each of my one with pinpoint precision, all the while telling me more about the biology of different species of fish and the biodiversity of Nipissing –things I was completely unaware of.
That evening, we had Italo and his colleague Paul (who had arrived a little later) over to the Lodge for dinner. Goldie cooked salmon and rainbow trout, I think the best she’s ever made! We enjoyed a delicious meal and Italo entertained us with stories of his adventures over the years.
Day 2 - Cold Front!
It was supposed to be cold, and the forecast was spot on. The temperature dropped from 25 C to 12 C overnight –the dreaded cold front! That morning I met Italo in his cottage. He had a fresh pot of coffee brewed and we went over hydrographic charts for the West Arm and West Bay. After coming up with a reasonable game plan we were back in the boat, and off to assess a series of fishing spots. We fished a couple of spots on the West Arm and then spent the rest of the day working areas in West Bay (east of hwy 64). Unfortunately, by the end of the day we were unable to land anything of substance. The cold front must have really shut things down (although, Italo did manage to land this nice Smalie right by the bridge at 64).
I had to be home early that day to coach Russell’s (my son) hockey team so we had Italo and Paul over for a quick, late afternoon bowl of Chili. It was the perfect comfort meal after a long, cold day on the lake. After Goldie, Russ and I left, I couldn’t believe it, but Italo was back on the water flying solo. He couldn’t wait to hit the water despite the weather. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more dedicated and passionate angler, and I’ve fished with all kinds.
Day 3 - Lights, Camera, Action
The next morning, I met Italo in his cabin once again. He had more coffee on and was updating his blogs and returning emails to his fans and followers. Another thing that struck me about Italo was his overwhelming desire to help others, from fans to people he worked with –and to stay connected. He showed me pictures of some of his recent trips as well as how they put their shows together online and managed their social media accounts (very cool).
The camera crew were scheduled to arrive around l 12 PM for the shoot that day, so we had two or three hours more of prefish time. The weather remained l cold and I wondered if it would have a continued adverse effect on the fishing. We ventured to a few more spots that morning, but again, we were unable able to catch anything decent.
12 PM came quickly and we headed back to the lodge to meet the camera crew. At this point I was very nervous because I knew we had to produce good fish to film a show. Italo on the other hand, was perfectly calm. During the ride back to the lodge I think he sensed my nervousness. Hs chuckled, looked over at me and said “Regan, it’s fishing, you just have to have faith that it will happen”.
We met the crew back at the lodge -camera and sound guys Doug and Joe. After getting the micr’d sound checks, etc., we were back on the water once again but this time for the real deal! The camera crew rode in my Tracker Targa, which is where they filmed us from. One of guests and renowned photographer, Doug Ball, kindly volunteered to drive the camera boat and also snapped these pictures in the process (thanks Doug!).
Before leaving I gave our Muskie guide Danny Colomby a call and asked him for some last minute advice on spots to hit. Danny used to fish the Pike circuit has intimate knowledge of fishing in the area. He gave me a list of spots in the that he believed would produce. I scratched them down on a map before heading out.
We pulled up on the first spot near Oak Island on the West Arm. It was a shallow weed flat being fed by a creek next to a steep drop. Italo was throwing a shallow diving crank bait to target bass and I was throwing a Blue Fox Vibrax #6 targeting pike. After a few casts Italo had a good hit (things felt different in this spot). I threw my Vibrax to the same area and WHAM, I felt the reassuring sensation of a good fish on the line. Italo cued the camera guys and we were rolling. After a quick fight I pulled in a very decent sized pike and Italo scooped it up in the net. He spent a couple minutes discussing the area, strategy and gear on camera before releasing the pike, and before long we were back to work.
Less than 5 minutes later Italo nailed a nice 4 lb largie close to the same spot! PHEW! we were on fish! We continued working the same area. Italo was pulling them in faster than I could grab the net.
We hit a couple more spots for a few more fish before heading back to the lodge at sunset. I was feeling much more relaxed at this point to say the least! We didn’t talk much on the ride home until Italo turned to me and said, “You see Regan, you just have to have faith and it will happen”. I can’t honestly say that I thought we’d have that productive a day but Italo somehow did, so that was good enough for me! We chatted a bit more about the pattern we picked up on and the next day’s strategies before getting back to the docks.
After a nice Lasagna dinner the crew went back to their cabin and we were off to bed in order to wake up early for a 7 AM start the following day.
Day 4 - More fish and wrap up
Day two we miced up and headed out. This day, loyal guest and Musky comrade, Steen, volunteered to drive the camera boat for us.
We slowly idled away from the lodge while discussing what spot to fish next, camera boat in our wake. During our conversation I noticed Italo was distracted. He kept glancing at his Hummingbird sonar and commented on how, in all his years of fishing he had never seen bait stacked so thick in one spot. Whatever this bait was, it was in deep water and filling the bottom third of the water column for miles, and thick! Italo thought it might be huge schools of herring that were migrating from the main lake to the deep waters of the West Arm. Not knowing exactly what it was, we tried trolling suspecting it might be Walleye (Italo said he had picked up on similar patterns in the past so we gave it a shot). We trolled it for a few minutes with nothing happening (possibly because there was just too much bait for our crank baits to stand out). This was very interesting and will need further investigation; however we had to move on as time was short.
The first spot we rolled up on was a classic largemouth bass bay. Italo wanted to do a segment on the new TriggerX frogs and this was the perfect habitat. We worked the first half of the bay with limited results. I wondered if our luck was starting to wear out. Italo switched to twitching crank bait. I threw my frog one last time and had an explosion but it missed! Italo reacted by throwing his bait to the same spot and nailed a 5 lb largemouth! We got several more within a small area after that. Italo commented on how largemouth will sit tight together in these bays, almost like flocking birds, so persistence and patience in finding where they are is important. We continued working the bay and pulled in several healthy sized fish! Next, we hit some smallmouth spots and Italo boated several more, doing a brief segment and explanation of what was happening with each fish he caught.
By this time we had landed well over a dozen good fish, more than enough to film a show, so next we tried targeting some Muskie for bonus footage (we didn’t want to start with Muskie given our timeline)! We casted some of my Muskie spots, however it was clear that the fish either weren't there, or unwilling to cooperate. Later in the day now, it was time to head back to the lodge.
The crew did some filming of the lodge for Goldie and I. Before we knew it, we found ourselves saying goodbye (with the exception of camera guy Doug, who decided to stay with us for a couple days of fishing, likely itching behind the lens for the previous 2 days).
This was definitely an experience of a lifetime and one we won’t forget! After personally witnessing Italo’ s calm demeanor, professionalism and passion for fishing, I can understand why he’s the success legend that he is. The crew was equally impressive in the way the pulled they whole thing together- a very cool experience!
The episode will be airing in the 2015 season of Canadian Sportfishing on Sportsnet, WFN and several other stations (exact dates to be determined).