Fishing for channel cats on the Red River

Who can say they went out fishing for channel cats on the Red River, but ended up catching the biggest drum bass her guide had ever seen instead?

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That would be me. Me, the girl from a B.C. fishing village who ironically doesn’t go fishing. I was determined to change this “girl who doesn’t fish” persona once and for all.

I spent the morning out on the Red River by Selkirk with the amazing Todd Longley, also known as the Rock ‘N Roll Fisherman, the owner of City Cats and one of Manitoba’s most renowned professional anglers. He’s the ambassador for fishing in Manitoba and runs fishing camps and seminars, and really loves sharing his passion for fishing with everyone, including newbies like me. It was an honour to be out fishing with him.

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Our goal was to catch a “Master Angler” catfish in the mighty Red River, and did we ever try! Todd would bait and cast the line, but once there was a bite, I would reel them in – easier said than done! I reeled in the first one with Todd’s expert coaching, and that catfish was about 29”, a little bit too small for a Master Angler.

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I then reeled in the next one, which was a little bit smaller.

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We caught about six of them in total, and while few of them came close, none of them were big enough to get me a Master Angler.

But then, came the big one. It was putting up an awfully big fight and I was huffing and puffing and struggling with my meek and feeble arms with all my might. And I pulled out a… a drum bass? The biggest bass Todd had ever seen!

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The thing was ancient and had certainly seen better days. I learned the hard way how to NOT hold a bass (cradled up cozy, close to your brand new Winnipeg Blue Bombers hoodie) – I got it covered in blood and stinky fish slime. But it was worth it. I even got a Big Fish Award lure for my efforts. Thanks Todd!

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We had anticipated fishing until I caught a Master Angler channel cat, one that was over 32″, but the clear skies of early morning rapidly morphed into ominous black clouds.

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This of course turned into downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. Although Todd really wanted to see me catch a Master Angler catfish – our whole purpose for being there – we pulled the plug 45 minutes early as the weather just got too hairy, and those bolts of fork lightning were coming a bit too close for (my) comfort.

Completely drenched, we docked the boat and drove to the local Smitty’s in Selkirk to dry off and grab some lunch. I even got my picture taken with Chuck the Channel Cat!

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I know I didn’t catch the Master Angler cat, Todd, but don’t worry – I had tons of fun (even with the lightning!). The best part is that I got a great Manitoba fishing story to tell everyone. And did I mention, I’ve been nominated for a 3rd place Master Angler award for my drum bass? Next time I’ll be back for a channel cat, you’ll see!

Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site

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In the afternoon I visited the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site where I was taken on an extensive tour. Situated on a picturesque bend of the Red River upriver from Selkirk, this original Hudson Bay Company post is North America’s only restored stone fort from the fur trade era. With many buildings on its 85 acre site, you could easily spend an entire day here exploring. From the “Big House” (Governor’s home), the fur loft, the sales shop, the men’s house, the guest cottage, the blacksmith, the farm manager’s cottage, the native encampment, the York Boat, and more… Lower Fort Garry at times feels like a village, and it must have been quite the settlement 180 years ago.

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Unlike traditional museums, Lower Fort Garry is interactive with costumed interpreters, many who are in character and eagerly willing to talk about their lives on the fort. You really feel like you’ve gone back in time, especially since practically every building has been set up as it might have originally looked. Did I mention that I even dressed up in my 19th century’s finest?

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Although a lot of the exhibits and historical interpretations are put on for us guests, it’s interesting to see that the staff are given liberty to pursue projects as well. For example, here’s Fraser House, an example of Red River construction, which would have been built by Scottish settlers.

LFG3Inside the staff had been experimenting with traditional wool dying techniques.

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Outside, there was an heirloom garden, all of it organic of course.

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I poked my head into the blacksmith where I was treated to an impromptu song.

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And before touring the Big House, it was quite the honour to be treated to a private musical performance by the Governor and his wife.

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Tour3In another room, Mrs. Anderson taught me how to write using a fountain pen and seal an envelope with wax.

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I saw the original York Boat moorings along the Red River, and also went into the fur loft, a massive storage warehouse of furs. It reminded me of scenes of my favourite video game, Oblivion: Elder Scrolls, with all the barrels and wooden infrastructure. I loved it!

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Just beforehand while we were walking through the grounds, those omnimous black clouds from earlier in the day returned and began to lower. I honestly thought we were going to see a tornado.

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Fortunately there were no swirling funnels, but the rain did pour in a way that could get you soaked in 15 seconds. It made me feel completely vulnerable, especially out in the open prairie skies, and I could only imagine what it must have felt like to live here back in the 1800s watching those famous prairie storms take shape.

But we fled the rain by waiting out the storm in the sales shop, where I got see all the goods, from china cups and tea and soap, to cooking supplies. I even met Rupert and Wiggles, the resident cats. They seemed to be waiting out the storm the way cats do best.

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Half Moon Drive-In

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Heading back into Winnipeg, I detoured over to Lockport to check out the Half Moon Drive-In, a 50s style diner famous for their hot dogs.

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I chowed down on a hot dog and a chocolate milkshake and took the time to quickly call up Trevor at CBC Radio One who had messaged me earlier in the day, trying to coordinate a radio interview about my travels. When I told him I was at the Half Moon Drive-In, he freaked out, giddy that I was at a special place of his childhood. Seems like a lot of Winnipeggers understandably have nostalgia for Half Moon Drive-In, a place where happy childhood memories were formed. Though recently 33, I was happy to be making my own nostalgic Manitoba memories, of hot dogs, forts, and the biggest drum bass you’ve ever seen.

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