Within minutes after jumping into Lake Couchiching for his first ever long distance swim, Wil Wegman saw his first fish ... then another and another.
“We were swimming overtop lush aquatic vegetation mixed with a few rocks here and there. A variety of species scurried out of our way ... it was so cool to see them in the clear water!” he said.
Couchiching provides excellent habitat for warm water species like bass – and Wegman, who has been fishing bass tournaments on Cooch since the mid 1980’s still calls it one of his favorite lakes.
The 53-year-old told a TV reporter after the swim that, “Cooch is such a tremendous resource for both anglers and swimmers and whether it’s a charity swim or a bass tournament – these high profile events highlight how important it is to conserve and protect this valuable resource.”
This year there were 73 swimmers, 20 in the 1 K and 53 in the 4 K. They were all swimming to raise funds for the new Neonatal Care Unit of the local Soldiers Memorial Hospital. In total they raised about $20,000 according to Nicole McCahon, executive director of the Hospital’s Foundation. McCahon, said this was the highest in terms of swimmers and dollars for the annual fundraiser.
Wegman won a beautifully made cedar Muskoka chair for raising more funds (over $2,000) than any of the other swimmers. He placed 17th with a time of one hour 35 minutes and 30 seconds.
The swimmers who participated in the 4k swam from Fern Resort to Couchiching Beach Park in moderately rough conditions.
“The 10km wind that was predicted from the northwest was more like 20 KMPH”, said Malerie Beach, of Richmond Hill, Ontario. Malerie, a long-time friend of the Wegman family, did the entire swim using the breaststroke. She placed 24th (1:41:39) well ahead of many competitors who used front crawl – a stroke typically much quicker than breast stroke.
During the swim, Wegman was accompanied by his youngest son Izaak who paddled along in his kayak. Malerie’s mandatory spotter was Wegman’s oldest son Tyler – also paddling a kayak.
This swim and fundraiser had special meaning to Wegman as both of his sons (now healthy adults in their mid 20s) were preemies who needed special Neonatal care after they were born.
The greatest challenge for Wegman’s swim was not the distance, nor that the water was 10 degrees colder than the Bradford Pool where he trains – but staying straight and on course. He explained, “That darned NW wind kept pushing us towards Orillia’s waterfront … but we were supposed to go to their local beach. I over-compensated and every once in awhile would swim directly into those waves to try and make up for it, wasting a lot of time and energy … a real rookie mistake!”
“I am very grateful to all my friends, family, and even complete strangers who so generously supported this great cause. A special thanks to the broad range of support from the fishing community I am so involved with – like the Aurora Bassmasters who donated $350 towards my swim,” he said.
Wil Wegman would like to thank all the sponsors who helped support the Swim and Fundraiser ... especially Woodworker Don Scallion who made the custom Muskoka Chair. He can be reached at 705-327-1397.
For more details on the Sun City Swim: http://www.osmh.on.ca/osmh/top/event/suncityswim.aspx
Wil Wegman is an award winning outdoor writer from Bradford Ontario who is the Hooked on Fishing columnist for Lake Simcoe Living Magazine. He is former editor of BassMan magazine and his fishing articles have been published in most Canadian and several US magazines. You can read more about Wil ... and his fishing and swimming exploits at www.wilwegman.com.