For the love of fishing
by Steve Bezanson
Saturday, July 21, 2007

Silver Cross Lodge gives visitors the outdoors with touch of elegance.

Thanks to the teachings of my dad, a coal minerís son from Westville, my noble notion of the ideal fishing trip has always been old school. You know ó arise at four in the morning, drive three hours to the back country, plough through the alder bushes to get to the fishing hole and then wade waist-deep through a tree-strewn stream, all the while being eaten alive by blackflies and mosquitoes. The end reward ó a few nine-inch trout, one of momís peanut butter sandwiches (a poor manís gourmet meal) and a good belt of rum mixed with river water. For some unknown or perhaps perverse reason, though, it seemed like Heaven. But for those who like a bit of elegance in their outdoor adventure there is another option. And, trust me, after experiencing a couple of days at Blaine Ogdenís fishing/hunting camp on Lake Mattatall in the Wentworth Valley, it would be easy to join the ranks of the converted. "Essentially, we are trying to provide the outdoor experience without sleeping in a tent," said Ogden, 46, who began fishing as a five-year-old and has been pursuing his passion ever since. "Quite a few years ago I was fishing with dad (Chuck) in Labrador and thatís when it first hit me that I would really like to become a professional guide." Mission accomplished, albeit some years later, and the result, Silver Cross Fishing Lodge.

Situated on a private 12-acre lot, the lodge offers all the comforts of home ó a spacious 1,800 square foot cabin, a 60-inch big screen TV with satellite, a loft that easily sleeps a half dozen and a five-star menu produced by your host. Throw in a 22-foot pontoon bass boat (fully equipped with fish finder, four swivel seats, CD stereo and electric trolling motor), some of the best small mouth bass fishing in Atlantic Canada, three four-wheelers and a Rhino (1,000 miles of trail to explore), and you have all the ingredients of the great outdoors less than 90 minutes from Metro. While not exactly a philanthropist, neither does Ogden harbour any Donald Trump aspirations.

"Maybe Iím crazy but Iíd like to think thereís a market for it," said Ogden, who for the past 13 years has run a Pizza Delight franchise in Truro. "I donít expect to make a living at it and youíre not going to get rich. However, it would be nice to cover your costs while still doing something you really enjoy." Ogden, a former world-class darts player (eight national championships representing Nova Scotia and a win over former world champion Dennis Priestly of England in an exhibition match), has over 30 years experience hunting, fishing and four-wheeling as well as more than 25 years in the hospitality industry. "I think I had my first BB gun when I was eight, my first 20-gauge shotgun when I was 14 and Iíve been fishing for as long as I can remember," said Ogden, who each summer also hosts a world-class bass fishing tournament (100 participants) at his lodge. "The outdoors is just something that really appeals to me, whether itís sitting by a campfire, listening to the call of the loons or four-wheeling up into the mountains. Nothing against the city but thereís something extremely peaceful about being out in the wilderness." Standard operating procedure for most wilderness camps sees guests up at 7 in the morning for breakfast, on the water at 8 a.m., back at 11 a.m., lunch at noon, back on the water at 1 p.m., then back for supper at 5 p.m.

Ogdenís view allows for guests to pen their own timetables.

"If you want to be on the water from dawn to dusk or maybe spend more time four-wheeling than fishing, weíre totally flexible," said Odgen. "I really believe the computer age has resulted in a lost generation of fishermen. Fathers and sons donít go fishing together like they did 20 years ago. Iíd love to see a return to that era." For those keeping score, I spent about five hours four-wheeling (mainly riding shotgun in the Rhino) and about four hours on the water. The four-wheeling was a first for me and thoroughly enjoyable (ended up high in the mountains above Wentworth ski hill) and the bass fishing, also a first and to my surprise, was even more enjoyable. Although a couple of weeks before prime season my buddy (also a novice) and I still managed to hook and release close to 20 bass, including a 1.7-pounder that hit the bait like a small salmon. In its first year of operation, the lodge is open from June 1-Sept. 30 and caters to only four guests at a time. There are five-day and week-long packages (mainly catering to Americans) but also family packages and overnight excursions. All packages include: return transportation from Robert L. Stanfield International Airport (for out of province guests), accommodation at the lodge, all meals (including Atlantic salmon, steak, lobster, chicken, etc.), all fishing licenses, rods, tackle, pontoon boat and guide, plus all-terrain vehicles, gas and guide. "I feel the lodge offers something for almost everyone," said Ogden, who is the younger brother of two-time Canadian mixed curling champion Steve. "Whether itís a group of guys, a family, or a husband and wife, Iím sure theyíll enjoy the experience."

For the record and despite being a lifelong insomniac, during my stay I never felt compelled to turn on the television. By the time we had told the last of our respective war stories and left the intimate little camp fire it was already into the wee morning hours.

Turning on the TV to hear some unpleasant news from the so-called real world was the last thing on my mind. In fact, a day in the hills among good friends, eating food cooked outdoors in a frying pan and enjoying fine camaraderie.

IF YOU GO For booking, or more information, contact www.silvercrossfishinglodge.ca, or email: blain.ogden@ns.aliantzinc.ca, or call 1-902-897-8860

Pricing

1 and 2-day packages: minimum of 2 people required. Call for pricing.
5-day package: $1,000 US plus tax, per person.
7-day package: $1,500 US plus tax, per person.
All packages include return transportation from Robert L. Stanfield International Airport, accommodation at the lodge, all meals (including Atlantic salmon, steak, lobster, chicken, etc.), all fishing licenses, rods, tackle, pontoon boat and guide, plus all-terrain vehicles, gas and guide.