The white wolf’s breath steamed amidst the fog as he drifted peacefully through the trail into a clearing. For several hours, Roland Zeitz, a 40 year-old veteran outdoorsman, had been following tracks in the wet snow. The animal remained close, yet elusive. After crossing a few valleys and streams, Roland was cold, wet, and tired, but he only needed one shot… The wolf cautiously leapt onto the stump of an oak. Feeling his prey was near; Roland crouched into the clearing’s maze of fallen trees. Like a pile of forgotten corpses, the husks of dead branches surrounded him, their frozen hands extending skyward. Disoriented by the forest’s evening mist, he waited for a sign from the beast… Roland hated fog. It reminded him of the death-clouds of gas that crept between French and German trenches during the Great War. A sharp shooter in the Canadian infantry, he was badly wounded at Paschendale, lost consciousness and woke up in a field hospital with no recollection of how he was rescued. Upon returning to Canada, he settled in the Temiscaming area, got married and began working for Lawrence Jones, a rich Kentucky distiller who commissioned Roland to build and manage a summer retreat – a fishing camp on
Lake Beauchene. After building the main ‘white house’ lodge in 1924, he survived the hardships of the elements and the pains of the great depression, raising many children with his loving wife. As guardian of Lake Beauchene, he ensured the surroundings were rid of bears, wolves, or any other potential dangers. He had hunted many animals, but this one was different…
Suddenly, he saw movement. As the white shadow danced through the branches, Roland raised his rifle… He could barely make out its form in the mist. The forest held its breath… The gunshot thundered through the valley, scattering several black crows out from their treetop vigil. Racing out from his cover, Roland reached the spot where his target had been. Nothing. Cursing his impatience and pre-mature marksmanship, he suddenly heard a rustling noise… movement in the underbrush behind him. His heart skipped a beat as he swivelled to aim the rifle. The white wolf bounded off a mound of dead wood over his shoulder. Roland tried for a shot, but his aim only fell upon branches… He charged frantically after the animal, but soon stopped dead in his tracks, nearly stumbling into a large pit, around which lay the remnants of an old campsite. “Goldmine?” he murmured. During the depression, an old hermit would occasionally come wandering into Temiscaming with nuggets of gold, from a small mine within a day’s walk from Lake Beauchene. “This is it” he sighed. As he approached the pit for further investigation, he saw the silhouette of the wolf move, as if taunting him, deeper into the forest. Determined, Roland set after the animal, thinking he would return to the site at a later date. He followed the white wolf into the night, but never caught it; nor did he manage to find the goldmine again. Instead, he founded the legacy of a goldmine fishery that continues to grow today.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of photographing for the book project CADADA’S CLASSIC FISHING LODGES. I was enthralled by the rich history of our pioneer outfitters, a history that remains unknown to most Canadians. The hardships and visions of these pioneers helped forge our outdoor heritage. Roland’s time was another era. For example, although in complete isolation for most of the year, his wife Ethel helped raised their 4 children at Beauchene for 14 years without ever even going to Temiscaming, only a day away. For eight of those years, they hired a school teacher to educate their children, paying her only room and board and some spending money - 200 $ a year - a fine sum in the depression years. Roland was a consummate guardian. When the lake had been netted for food during the war, they began re-stocking with bass, and trout. In an amazing testimony of will, Roland once drove from the Eastern townships of Quebec to Temiscaming to fetch a new batch of trout. In order to keep the fish oxygenated in their barrel, he had to keep stirring the icy water with one frozen hand while the other held the steering wheel… for the whole half-day ride.
The Beauchene stocking story is similar to many Canadian lakes and watersheds that have seen foreign strains complement their native fishery. At Beauchene, the main success story is small mouth bass, trophy ones, and brook trout. In addition to the main lake, The Beauchene territory offers several intimate lakes to fish with small boats geared for bass and trout. The lake’s original species are lakers and whitefish. They are numerous and can be caught by the traditional trolling and jigging methods. I was attracted to Beauchene because it has fast become a sought-after trophy small-mouth bass haven. The Beauchene motto of conservation ensures it’s catch-n-release only for bass on the main lake, so very large specimens are not uncommon. On my first evening of fishing, a spectacular thunderstorm gave way to an overcast calm. As we drifted a magnificent shoreline of rocks and boulders, one of many, my companion and I switched from spinners and jigs to Pop-Rs and surface baits. Minutes later, my first 5 pound Beauchene bass leapt as if on command adjacent to a boulder field before being landed and released.
The lake offers a fine mix of clear water rocks and boulders, and gorgeous coves with backbays surrounded by fallen stumps and wood. Some of these bays even remind me of the Amazon, where one hunted for ferocious peacock-bass under fallen trees. Such structures are also attractive to the avid fly-fisherman, armed with popper flies. The lake is divided at its centre by narrows which also serve as a good spot to fish. Although ‘Beauchene’ means ‘beautiful oak’ in French, the name may also come from the Algonquin word ‘bauching’ meaning two waters. With respect to brookies, La Reserve Beauchene offers a mix of stocked and wild strains that can reach up to 5, or 6 pounds, namely in lake Taggart and David. Groundwater springs are essential for allowing incubating brookie progeny to survive the winter, ensuring they do not freeze in shallow water. Splake trout have also been stocked, but these cross-breeds do not reproduce in the wild. The barbless hook rule is enforced on all brookie lakes and it’s no kill for most them, including Joanna, Taggart, Jeffrey, Bobcat, and Tank.
Close to many of Eastern Canada’s urban centres such as Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal, the territory is only a few hours drive, and remains a quality angling experience. Trout fishing is best in spring as the fish are closer to the surface. Post spawn bass will retreat to deeper waters by summer, but return to their favourite shallow feeding areas often, especially in the early morning and evening. Not only is pike fishing possible as specimens of up to 20 pounds have been landed, but large walleye are also commonly caught. La Reserve Beauchene caters to corporate needs as well and private planes can land on the lake. In addition to choosing from 30 smaller lakes to fish, clients have the option of booking secluded outpost cabins, some situated on small islands, or simply taking a room in the fully staffed white-house lodge. As for Roland Zeitz… He lived to see his hundredth birthday and spent most of his retirement years in Bimini, where he built a house for his daughter. For more information, contact La Reserve Beauchene at tel: 819-627-3865, 888-627-3865; or visit: www.beauchene.com