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Lunch at the Bell Lakes

Outdoor World column
Outdoor World column - Don MacLean

The motto of the London Fishing Club is, “There is more to fishing than fish.”

While there is no question the main aim of any of fishing trip is to catch fish, there are other things which add enjoyment to our days on the water.

The chance to be outdoors enjoying nature is a big part of fishing. Another fishing-related activity many of us enjoy is the opportunity to have a shore lunch. Last week I had the opportunity to combine both activities with a trip to the Bell Lakes in the Cape Breton Highlands.

The Lakes are named after Alexander Graham Bell who built a cabin there around 1895. Apparently the cabin was used as a base for trout fishing and hunting caribou. All that remains of the camp today is the stone fireplace and I have been planning to make a trip to see it for years. So, with a group of friends, I headed up there last week to combine a day of exploring and fishing. Fortunately, one of our group knew the area well and guided us through the maze of roads which make up the Highlands system. With over 1,000 miles of woods roads up there it is very easy to get turned around.
When we arrived at the lake we found a group from Meteghan camped there to do some fishing and scouting before this fall’s moose hunt. They told us to use their canoes to reach Bell’s cabin, which was a generous offer, and saved us a short, but tough, walk through the woods to get there.

The cabin site is on the shores of the lake and must have been an impressive structure back in the day. I was pleased that we made the trip when we did as the ravages of time and weather have begun to work on the fireplace and it has a bad lean to it. I can only imagine the work which went into building it as apparently it was a 15-mile walk from Baddeck to get to the camp.

We had our fishing rods with us and made a few casts but the bright sun, combined with high temperature weren’t very conducive to catching. So we headed back to the truck for a bite of lunch with our newfound buddies.

The equipment required for a shore lunch can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. While many will vote for cooking over an open fire I prefer the speed, safety and convenience of a propane camp stove. Besides, in many areas fires are banned or fire wood is difficult to find unless you bring your own.

Utensils for cooking don’t have to be fancy. Most of my cooking gear came into my possession after my wife has retired it from the kitchen. While it may not be shiny as it once was, it still has years of service left in it. Menu items are up to you and fresh trout are always a favourite but I like to include a backup if the fish aren’t biting. Beans and wieners are a standby but on this trip I packed some precooked sausage which made for a quick lunch.

An important part of the job after any shore lunch, no matter how simple or elaborate, is the cleanup. If you pack something in make sure you pack it out. There is nothing more discouraging then to walk through the woods to your favourite fishing spot to find it strewn with garbage from someone too lazy to haul out their trash. Most people I know are very conscious of the need to protect the environment but unfortunately a few bad actors can spoil it for all anglers.

We left the Highlands with renewed respect for the work of Alexander Graham Bell and his vison of a camp in the Cape Breton wilderness.

Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

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