1958 Yukon Nuggets
Fishing with Dief, the Chief
As fishing trips go, it was a whopper. Little wonder. After all, Canada’s newly electedPrime Minister was in town and 'Dief the Chief' was known as a fisherman of considerable skill.
It was September 1958. John Diefenbaker had just led the Conservative party to a smashing victory in the federal election. The long-time Saskatchewan politician was now the toast of the country.
On hand for the official welcome at the airport were Commissioner Collins, Mayor Gordon Cameron and MP Erik Nielsen. On arrival, a 12-car motorcade whisked the Prime Minister downtown in an impressive cloud of dust - no paved streets in ‘58.
Dief and his wife Olive had a grand old time in the tiny Yukon town, but on top of the Prime Minister’s “to do” list was fishing.
It was time for action. Kathleen Lake near Haines Junction was the chosen location and Dief’s simple plan for a day's fishing set so many official wheels in motion that it almost became a comedy.
Canadian press had a field day with the story. Off to Kathleen Lake, one hundred miles over the dirt road known as the Alaska Highway, went the cavalcade. But the official party was flown there and landed on an upgraded emergency airstrip near the lake.
The Mounties were there, in official scarlet tunics, shiny brown boots and spurs selling fishing licences.
The air-force flew in two transports from Vancouver and Edmonton carrying fur-trimmed parkas, fleece-lined leggings and boots, and red woolen toques.
The army moved in to set up radio communications, a large mess tent and cooking facilities.
The National Film Board and the CBC sent crews to record the event while Canadian National Telegraphs sent officials from Edmonton with additional teletype equipment to rush the news to the outside world.
How was the fishing? Well, wrote one reporter, “when finally a three-pound lake trout struck the Prime Minister’s line, it saved the Yukon’s tourist industry from the public embarrassment of having one of its most famous fishing guests go empty-handed.”
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.