This year’s Christmas letter begins in September. Mainly because my mind went blank trying to remember anything beyond that point! “What happened yesterday? What did we do last week? Where were we when such and such took place? It all happens so fast! As I settle into composing our annual Christmas letter, the details of an exciting season full of firsts and unpredictable events gradually fill the void. It was a remarkable year!

A cool crisp fall morning has developed into a beautiful afternoon. The sky is an overcast patchwork quilt of puffy white and grey clouds. Dotting the seams are luminous hints of vivid blue. The air is warm and calm. A comfort we all crave through the long winter months. The growing season has passed its peak emitting a delightfully pungent fragrance. The rich aroma of leaves, trees, soil and water is strongest this time of year. Fall’s cooling patterns have steadily lowered the water temperature. Perrault Lake takes on a thick quality in comparison to the summer months. Crossing the lake on a windy fall day is like smashing through an endless parking lot of speed bumps with the accelerator pinned! On this day, however, the lake is soft and smooth, a malleable mirror reflecting the pillowy heavens above. It is mid-September, just a few days short of the autumn equinox where day and night are perfectly balanced. This is an important detail. Cooling temps and longer nights signal change. Winter is coming. Forest dwellers forage and fish gorge. It is the feast before the famine.

Is it coming back to you, the soft water season? Slowly trolling along lush green shores, weedy bays and wide-open water. Can you recall standing at the bow of a boat basking in northwestern Ontario’s pristine wilderness? It is peace, comfort and joy! You windup and thanks to years of meticulous repetition release a perfectly placed cast. Your favorite top water bait sails through the air with a satisfying zing! The delicate glass along the shoreline is shattered by an exciting splash. A quick twitch and reel in. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the simplicity of a gentle wake rippling into an infinite V and the serenity of its soundtrack, an even trickle as the propeller glides over clear water. How charmingly uncomplicated! What a treasure it is to cast the day away as you explore Perrault Lake’s huge expanse of concealed structure in search of the big one fattening up for the harsh freeze ahead. Hopefully, your tranquil surroundings have not dulled your senses. Without warning the velvety wake blows like dynamite in a ferocious eruption of water, teeth and fins. Engage death grip! Your lure is going for a ride! Diving down, pulling side to side, drag squealing as the rod end jabs into your gut. Fish on! Instinct takes you both on an adventure. Those magnificent mature fish bend the rod in half and run the line out as they erratically zigzag toward deep water. While your catch flips between survival responses you must suppress the urge to fight. Experience encourages patience. Let it run, enjoy the ride! Life Lesson… Don’t rush through the moments that make incredible memories. This could be the fish of a lifetime!

Exciting tales of fishing adventures are thrillingly shared week after week, year after year around here. The Leader Board will attest to this! The 2018 Leader Board highlights many angling accolades worthy of great congratulations.

Our first round of applause goes out to Mike Stalknecht of IA. Mike and his dad, Jim, annually visit us mid-September. That glorious fall day I described, experiencing the strike and power of one of Perrault Lake’s finest, most senior inhabitants. That was the scene of Mike’s great catch. A 43” Northern Pike! Better yet, this beauty is just short of his largest, a 43.5” Northern boated last year on Perrault Lake. The equinox is good to these two! Furthermore, I must amend an error. Last year (2017) I credited two anglers in a tie for the largest northern pike at 42 inches. Sorry, Beth and Heidi, your fish were gorgeous but I made a mistake. I humbly extend my sincerest Canadian “Sorry Eh!” to Mike & Jim. Congratulations on your catch and release of the largest Northern Pike two years in a row and best of luck next year for a 3rd!

When it comes to walleye we are particularly pleased to recognize Cody Maeder of WI for an extraordinary first. He caught the biggest walleye ever recorded on The Leader Board and tied the largest walleye that we know of boated from Perrault Lake. With the exception of his lovely wife Beth, this was legitimately Cody’s catch of a lifetime! Labor Day long-weekend found this pair in the right place at the right time to connect with a monstrous 34” Walleye. We happened to meet them at the dock when they returned from this epic day on Perrault Lake. It was an honor to share in the fulfillment of their adventure, which ended in a safe and healthy release. This was truly a trip to remember! Well-done!

This year’s largest smallmouth and musky awards go out to friends in KY. Congratulations to Bart Williams on his catch and release of a 21” smallmouth bass.  And last but certainly not least, congratulations to Charlie Guffey on the catch and healthy release of a 50” musky. Premiere Canadian Fishing folks! No wonder this group has been fishing Perrault Lake for 37 years! A tremendous achievement in itself! We too look forward to what your 38th year will bring! Check out the complete Leader Board on our website and cheers to all our anglers!

The tradition of a Canadian fishing trip is truly an incredible thing. Perrault Lake and PLC are rich in history and time honored traditions thanks mainly in part to the success of this bountiful fishery. To all our guests, whether you are a seasoned veteran, a rookie freshly forming your annual practice or somewhere in between, it is an honor to have you with us. Thank you for choosing Perrault Lake Camp and thank you for your commitment to conservation through the Trophy Release Program! The Leader Board, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc. all tell tales of wonderful adventures in the Canadian Wilderness. A huge thank you to everyone for posting your photos and stories as well as your comments, likes, shares, tweets and so on. Fantastic memories from fantastic people! That’s what it’s all about! Our greatest achievement would find Mark and I 37+ years from now, enjoying these same traditions with the generations to come!

No wonder I can’t remember yesterday, I’m already talking about the year 2055! Yikes! Fingers crossed that when that day comes Mark and I are still alive and able! Back to the present… This season was a little more special with our new addition, Lucy! Lucy came to us in April. She was 9 months old and a good fit from the start. She was in need of a good home and we are so happy to share that with her. Lucy is a sweet and gentle black lab mix. The unknown mix made for great conversation among our fellow dog lovers. The most commonly suggested breeds were pit bull and boxer. Whatever her paternal lineage, she is a wonderful blend of intelligence, vitality and companionship. She came to us from a temporary home underfed and terribly submissive. We were told that as a pup she had a loving stable home, she was house trained and good with people, especially kids. Her original owner also mentioned that she liked to hug. This was all true!

Shortly after her arrival Lucy was settling in well. She had begun to establish trust in Mark and I and had made friends with the kids. One evening we were all at ease in the living room. Lucy sat on the floor and I sat a respectful distance in front of her. I offered my hand, her tail wagged. She closed the gap at once and sniffed. Then she sat and looked at me with beautiful dark round eyes. A minute passed. I waited, she watched. Out of the blue and ever so delicately she put her paw on my shoulder. It was accepted. She inched forward, head low and hesitant. She was face to face with me. Eyes lower than mine. She was nervous. I sat calmly. She placed her second paw on my opposing shoulder. It was also accepted. She was shaking; the tension in her was unmistakable. Our family watched. Lucy inched forward as close as she could and slid her paws around my neck in a hug. I gently wrapped my arms around her tiny frame and embraced her too. Lucy’s nerves calmed as she lovingly tucked her head under my chin. She does like hugs! It was a very precious moment and the first of many. She then began to lick my face and that’s where I draw the line. Hug over! It’s someone else’s turn. Gross!

Lucy’s first season at PLC was full of fun, love and learning experiences. As we expected she started out the year very anxious. All of the activity that comes with the weekly turnover was certainly a foreign concept to her. Good thing our girl is bright! It didn’t take long to understand that most of these new people really like dogs. Thank you for being so sweet to her. Moreover, congratulations Lucy, you won the lottery! Not only is there a constant supply of caring people and room to run, there is wildlife! Once Lucy felt comfortable around the yard a whole new world of fun opened up to her. Pine martins, squirrels, otters, foxes, ducks, grouse and geese; if it’s in her yard she is after it! One fall morning Mark and I were enjoying the view from cabin 2’s deck. The bay was calm and thick dew covered the grounds. Lucy was off somewhere in the trees until she noticed a family of geese resting at the end of the main dock. Without hesitation she came barreling down the hill at full speed. The loiterers heard the commotion. As soon as Lucy hit the dock they were up at attention and ready to fly. Warning: the dock is not usually slick with dew. As the geese lifted off Lucy realized her brakes were no good. She began to slip and skid along the boards, momentum hurling her like a bowling ball down the lane toward absent pins. SPLASH! Into the drink! Priceless puppyisms!

 

 

Speaking of wild animals and learning experiences, our children are amazing little creatures. They too thoroughly enjoy life at PLC. Jackson is 7 and Carmen is 4. They are avid anglers, sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, conservationists and social butterflies. Opening day is extremely exciting for them. Last spring Jackson was elated in telling all his teachers and friends that, “The customers are here!” He is always so pleased to welcome familiar faces back to camp and to meet many new friends. For now Carmen is content to follow Jackson’s lead but don’t be fooled, she is one determined little lady. She is never to be left behind and keeping up to her brother is no easy task. This winter the kids are learning new skills. Jackson is playing hockey. He absolutely loves it. He smiled through the entire first practice and wishes that every day was a practice day. Luckily, the lake ice froze smoothly this year. We have a rink!  While Jackson is out there zipping around, shooting pucks and learning to stop like a pro Carmen is learning to skate. It didn’t take long. Like many small town Canadian kids she learned balance and stride by pushing a stool around the ice. After two days she was flying across the rink (with the stool). She also learned to catch her edge, hold on tight and whip around in a wild pirouette. That kid can keep up! We are so proud of both of them. They are growing and learning so many important lessons. Our most heartfelt thanks goes out to all our guests for the kindnesses and consideration that you show our children. Thank you for chatting with them, allowing them to help with bags, tackle boxes and ice. Thank you for including them in games and allowing your young ones to play and visit with them. Thank you for the toys, trinkets, books, treats and tips throughout the season. It all means the world to them! They say it takes a village. What a magnificent little community it is!

One of the most memorable parts of the season was our hot dry summer. On a positive note, it was ideal vacation weather –fabulous for kids who want to jump in the lake 300 times a day. From an adult’s perspective it was troublesome. Late in May winter finally and abruptly switched off and summer was on. Within a week we went from ice on the lake to open water and leafy trees. Perrault Falls was hot and sunny with very little rain. The water table was low to begin with and sunk to the lowest Mark can remember. Fire bans were in effect through most of the season. As the weeks went by the conditions were dangerously dry. Fires ignited across the region. The slightest breeze brought the unsettling smell of woods on fire.  The summer sky was steadily streaked by shades of grey distorting the sun from its bright yellow shine to a sinister ball of orange fury. In addition to numerous local wildfires, record-breaking forest fires raged out west. Strong wind patterns imported massive clouds of dense smoke. Some days the sun was blocked out entirely.  Local media captioned the scenes apocalyptic. Everything green was brittle, shriveling and browning. Another positive, the grass didn’t grow. Rather than mowing every other day Mark would run the pump from the lake to soak the lawn. If you visited us in July you may remember Mark or myself trudging across the yard hauling the hose to the next crispy section of grass. One afternoon we spotted a dark plume of smoke filling the sky to the northeast. Fifteen miles as the crow flies an island on Lake Seul had caught fire. Thankfully, it did not pose a threat. That was the closest cause for concern. We were lucky this year. Fire bans and careful attention prevented disasters close to home. I hate to admit it but we are hoping for lots of snow and steady rains in the year to come.

As summer came to a close we were presented with a few exciting firsts. To start, the kids are both in school full time. Our feelings travelled from anxious to accepting to Wooo Hooo! Just kidding. We are pleased to report that they both like school. The kids are doing well in their studies and having fun with their peers. So, what have we been up to with all this free time you ask? Well, after years of rebuilding and renovating we dove into our biggest project yet. A goal in which Mark has aspired to achieve for many years. We are building a new cabin! It sits along the lake, behind cabin 5, formerly the campground. For now we’ve dubbed it cabin 5 ½. The project began early in September with the removal of a few monster poplar trees. My dad came out to help Mark excavate the stumps, level the ground, set the footings, and build the floor. They successfully accomplished this after spending most of their time wrestling with tree roots the size of smart cars in the mud. Remember the Sonora desert summer we had?  Be careful what you wish for! Shortly after the first trees fell, it started to rain. It rained and rained and rained and rained… This was quite possibly the wettest and coolest fall ever! However, Mark and my dad are two of the hardest working people you will ever meet. Their creativity and determination kept the build on schedule. Thank you for your help dad!

A few weeks later the water level had risen a little –although still low, the mud began to freeze, the risk of wild fires was ZERO and the bulk of our building materials had arrived. We prepped for the next stage. Towards the end of September our friend JR, who conveniently happens to be a contractor, came out with his coworker Aimee to help frame the walls and install the trusses. Their experience and assistance in uncharted territory lifted a huge weight from our shoulders. When they left, the exterior walls were up, the trusses were installed, the roof and walls were sheeted and Mark had acquired a multitude of knowledge and skills. Thank you JR and Aimee!

Since then we have completed the metal roof, installed the soffit, fascia, windows and doors, framed the interior walls and installed a temporary wood stove. Our goal is to keep plugging away through the winter months to have cabin 5 ½ ready for the spring. Once complete, it will be cabin 6. Our newest cabin will feature a lake front view with covered deck facing the east. Large windows and a sliding glass door grant access to the deck and scenery. Cabin 6 will offer an open and spacious living room, kitchen and dinning room, 3 bedrooms with 2 twin beds in each room, 1 full bathroom, 1 half bathroom and a utility/mud room with plenty of additional space for coolers and gear as well as a second entrance adjacent to parking. We have taken a short break from the build through the Christmas season. Despite plenty of other activity in our household we often discuss cabin 5 ½ and very much look forward to tackling this project in the New Year! Check out the Christmas Album on Facebook for photos of our progress.

Mark and I are often asked, “Do you guys ever get a chance to get away?” Yes! With the little ones in school we are enjoying spending more time working together. We are also finding time here and there to get out and adventure like the old days. This fall we went hunting. It has been years since the two of us have been out in the backwoods. We set our sights on the elusive deer. Towards Dryden and Kenora deer are plentiful, literally running through the streets. The farther north you travel up the 105 populations are scarce and far less bold. We set out to explore the terrain, locate sign, establish a pattern and hopefully see some antlers. We read the signs as we walked the sparkling snow covered trails on a sunny winter morning. Deer tracks weaved on and off the path, rabbits darted across, foxes and wolves followed behind. They all tell a story. Despite nature’s infinite beauty she is harsh. Small paw prints elongated suggesting a chase. Wild scattered prints point toward the brush; a few random feathers lead to scarlet stained snow and the last of the grouse’s tail feathers. Carrying on through the glittering branches, it’s easy to loose yourself in the wonder of it all. Stay focused or the swift lash of a stiff twig on your frozen cheek will snap you back to reality! Just like old times. This only happens to me. Mark is a master woodsman. He is vigilant, silent and calculating. It is amazing how effortlessly he moves up hills, over uneven terrain, without even the slightest splash or squish through a puddle. As we rounded a corner leading in to a clearing we stopped and he whispered, “Ok, as we go forward lets be really quiet.” Man! I was already giving it 110% effort to be as soundless as possible! Needless to say, we did not see a buck. We saw tracks and several females but no antlers. Not a loss, it was still a good time.

Looking back at the year in review, I can see why September in particular was so memorable. Not only was it recent, it was significant. For Mark and I the fall brought renewed spirit. Perrault Lake Camp had a record-breaking season. For one, the fishing was phenomenal, some of the best we have ever seen. We were also busier than ever, eager to host a first class crew of people and to push forward with our plans for PLC.  We have been at this game for over a decade. When we began we were just two kids starting down the road of life. We were fresh out of college, green as the grass though a wet summer, livin’ on love. We were going to be outfitters! Way back in those first few years someone kindly said to us, “You have to be progressive.” Life lesson right there! Every step in the yard introduced a new viewpoint to assess the greatest need, evaluate the scope of each project and weigh out our options. There were some bumps and sharp curves… we kept going. Here’s another insightful adage, “The days are long but the years are short!” Miles down the road, we found ourselves once again taking it all in. Realizing the changes we have made and appreciating the experience and outcomes of our endeavors as we plan for new and exciting goals. Not only are we grateful for the ride thus far, we are blessed to travel together. There are jobs around here that regularly find us in precarious positions; straddling the top of a ladder, scaling a steep slippery roof, etc. We remind each other, “Be careful, I can’t do this without you!” A partner in life is one of the greatest gifts. We recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I know what many of you are thinking… we’re still babies. Maybe. But we are realizing what a treasure it is to be mostly happily progressing down the road of life together. Yes, mostly. All you experienced couples know that there are a few potholes and detours along the way.

This season was indeed remarkable, a special chapter in our book. Once again, we thank all our guests, friends and family for being a part of it. We are always so pleased to hear from you and happy to have you with us. Very soon the days will be getting longer, eventually winter’s tight grip will ease and spring will be here once again. We very much look forward to it and to what the 2019 season will bring. In the meantime, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May you be blessed with good health, much happiness and the cheerful company of your family and friends. May your days be filled with fun, love, learning experiences, and many Lucy sized hugs! And be sure to check out our social media outlets for photos of all the fun and adventure throughout the 2018 season.

Your friends,

Mark, Amy, Jackson, Carmen & Lucy Tycholis

P.S. Maybe next year Lucy will sit long enough to be in the family photo