BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 30 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
Quetico - Lake Saganagons
July 07, 2006
Number of Days:
The majority of most trips that my family and I have taken in my lifetime have always seemed to be planned at the last minute, resulting in such things as delayed departure times and negotiations with bureaucratic types at odd hours of the day. This year would prove no different. Let’s just say that we liked to keep things “interesting” on our quests, to wherever they may be. Due to the fact that we didn’t know the exact date we would be leaving until a week before, we were unable to obtain Remote Area Border Crossing Permits online which take 6 weeks to process. “No problem, we’ll just pick them up in Pigeon River at the Canadian customs office in Canada.” As it turns out you are required to show both a primary and secondary form of identification in order to obtain such a permit. After digging through the documents at 12:30 in the morning we find everyone’s official birth certificate except mine of course, bummer. After searching the internet for ways to replace the birth certificate we see that the state office of vital documents is located outside of Pittsburg, 6 hours away on our route towards the BWCA and opens at 8:00am. Perfect!
At 1:15am we’re off, the four of us piled inside the Saturn ion, the canoe with two # 4 Duluths under it on top of the car, and the rest of our gear and food packs in the trunk. At 8:00am, after a McDonald’s breakfast with the locals of New Castle, we arrive at the government office where we are told after filling out the necessary paper work that it will take about an hour to process. 30 seconds later the office worker returns with my official birth certificate. Quickest hour of my life. We thanked the two ladies whole-heartedly and continued on the road. Not even the toughest of Border Patrol agents on the most vicious power-trip could spoil our trip to the Quetico now. 13 hours later after sitting in 3 hours of traffic through Chicago, we pulled into Tomah, Wisconsin in which the only place we could get a bite to eat at 10:30pm was the Ground Round. After quick deliberation we came to the conclusion that it must have been Karaoke Night. Oh boy! We thought, nothing like a bunch of drunken Wisconsiners singing Prince’s greatest hits to serve as motivation to finish your dinner. (No offense to you Wisconsin natives reading this, it was quite entertaining). After the concert we took full advantage of the Econo Lodges Whirlpool with a cold case from outside Wis dells and called it a night. A good travel day overall.
Up at 9am and back on the road. For lunch we decide on stopping at a local establishment called the “Covered Wagon” right off of 53, about 15 miles south of Duluth. It might as well have been called the “Covered Deep Fryer”. Why I chose to order the beef enchilada in addition to the deep fried pizza balls is something that I still can’t quite explain today……spontaneous craving I guess. All I know is that three quarters of us rolled out of that Covered Wagon that day feeling as though we had just taken 5 years off our lives. I think next time we’ll wait until we reach the north shore to eat. By 3:00pm we had made it to Grand Marais where we picked up 4 boxes of shore lunch (something elusive to east coasteners) at the IGA before heading up the Gunflint Trail. By 4:30pm we had made it to our destination, Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters. We promptly checked into our canoer cabin, made dinner reservations, and headed down to the bar for a drink. It felt great to sit on the dock by the lake and imagine that in less than 36 hours we would be in our canoes headed out for an exciting trip into the Quetico. At the bar we were informed that there would be live entertainment that night; two guitarists and a keyboardist from the Grand Marais area. It turned out to be the best live show that I have ever seen. The lead guitarist had previously toured with the Grateful Dead and the keyboardist had spent years residing in New Orleans. Truly Amazing guitar and keyboard solos. We stayed up late that night until closing thinking how lucky we were to have stumbled upon such great entertainment in such a remote location.
The after effects of our previous night’s activities led us to the decision that a little extra sleep in the morning wouldn’t be such a bad idea. After all, we wanted to look our best for our friends at border patrol. Upon heading back down the gunflint trail and traveling north up 61, we were able to catch brunch at the unique Naniboujou Lodge. A very interesting place I might add. Soon after my brother and I had almost put them out of business by taking full advantage of their all you can eat buffet, we were pulling up to the customs office. It turned out to be the American office but we proceeded to enter anyway. It was here that we would have first glimpse at America’s new policies toward border patrol in the post-9/11 era. After explaining our intentions, we were informed that in addition to needing a RABC permit to get into Canada, we would also need to go through the process of obtaining a permit to get back into the US (Finger print scan, photo, and a $16 fee per person). Since when does a US citizen need to pay money to get back into his or her own country?!!! I wanted to head for the exit, but it was too late, we were committed now, we would have to surrender to agent Larson’s terms.
At the Canadian customs office we were met with similar protocol plus 3 hours of waiting time in which we exhausted the office’s limited reading supply including pamphlets outlining the steps to take if you were crossing the border with over $10,000(somehow I don’t think my family would ever need to know this). We were entertained/felt sorry when a Winnebago was searched and the couple was forced to carry their firewood log by log to the dumpster in order to prevent the spread of organisms into Canada. Somehow during all of this we were successful in obtaining our permits and after a long day of dealing with bureaucracy I much looked forward to a ribs dinner at the gunflint trail-center. This is by far one of my favorite restaurants due to its rich northwood’s mystique, local feel, and the many happy memories I have gathered while in its walls during my few visits to the North Country. As we sip our beers out of chilled mason jars and examine the pictures on each of the custom menus we can’t help but notice a fleet of mosquitoes assembling one by one on the window screen. Tomorrow night we will not have such a man-made luxury.
Barely able to sleep, I awake at first light and begin to get all of the gear together for the outfitters to load in the van. It’s clear and chilly this morning. At a brisk 55 degrees I can see my breath and am quick to remember the ever-changing weather conditions up here as I throw on my fleece and vest. After a hearty breakfast at the lodge, I go down to the bait house to pick up 3 dozen leeches. I am hoping that they’ll survive for the duration of the trip. We see two red foxes and one moose on the way up to our drop off point at Trails-end. This is the first year that we have chosen to be towed up through sag and although I feel a sense of guilt as we pass other struggling canoeists, it feels good not having to battle the wind and white caps the first day. In a half an hour we reach hook Island on Sag and as the tow boat motors off, suddenly reality hits; we are on our own now. An hour’s paddle and we reach the Canadian ranger’s station in Cache Bay. After all of the hassle it took to obtain the RABC, we are not even asked if we have it….go figure. It seems that the ranger is more concerned with fire safety and environmental conservation issues, which is good to see. She tells us that lead weights and live bait of any kind will be banned from the Quetico starting next year.
After purchasing a few items to support the Friends of the Quetico foundation, we are back in our canoes headed towards silver falls. On the way we pass through a series of narrows surrounded by high cliffs where we were told that an Indian ambush had occurred between the Sioux and Ojibwa. It wasn’t hard to imagine the exact positions at which the attackers must have been perched or the terror felt by the victim tribe as they quickly realized the severity of the situation. I felt a sense of eeriness as if I too were being watched as we continued to paddle toward the portage.
As we rounded the point, we could hear the roar of the falls a few hundred feet away. This year we had planned to pack the lightest we have ever packed. Not light enough it seemed. We were forced to double portage the 130 rods. That was ok though, it felt good to get out of the canoe and get some circulation running through my legs again. Soon after exiting the portage we saw a nesting pair of bald eagles high up in a red pine to the right of us. A third one flew over our heads and out over the bay towards the opposite tree-line. At this point it occurred to me it is no accident that this bird was chosen as a symbol to represent our nation. Words cannot describe the commanding presence that this majestic creature demanded as it soared effortlessly over its fishing grounds.
Following the southern shoreline of Saganagons we stopped at the second campsite marked on the map and investigated whether or not it would serve as an adequate base camp for two nights. Its gravel canoe launch, grassy tent-sites, and wonderful 180 degree lake views made it hard to pass up. Frankly, I was surprised to see such a nice site actually open; a trend that I hoped would continue the rest of the trip. With the thought of fish on the mind, I hurried to set up camp and get some quick sustenance in me before assembling the rods and seeing what kind of luck the lake would have for me on this day.
Conditions weren’t exactly prominent for producing results as it was the middle of the day with temperatures in the mid eighties, full sunshine, and little wind. However, I can say that I was just happy enough to have a rod in my hand. My brother and I drifted down from our campsite and worked the shoreline. With no luck we paddled back in and decided on having an early dinner of beef stroganoff before heading back out to fish a series of bays that looked promising across the lake. The first cast that Adam put on the edge of the weed-line sent his spool racing. Bigger than a bass and unlikely a walleye, there was little surprise when he was bit off in less than 10 seconds by a large pike. We both quickly changed to steel leaders and cast back into the lily-pads in hopes of maybe getting our lure back knowing how aggressive northerns can sometimes be. No such chance. As the sun dropped below the tree-line, we decided to jig at the entrance to the bay with a silver spoon and leech. I quickly hooked into a small walleye and about five minutes later about a hundred mosquitoes were trying to set their hooks into me. It was time to go in. I’ve never been attacked so brutally on the water as I was this night. When we get back to camp it seems as though our site has been taken over by alien invaders. Wait….nope that’s just my parents standing onshore with their head nets on after getting into the vodka. Drinking with a head net on becomes quite the challenge. We soon surrender and take refuge in the safe confines of our tents. I must get to bed early. Tomorrow the fishing really begins.
With conditions similar to yesterday, I once again am forced to put on my fleece and vest. It is 5:00am and the only sounds I hear are those of a few birds chirping in the brush. Other than that there is complete and utter silence, the likes of which I haven’t heard since the last time I was up here 4 years ago. A nice change. After a quick breakfast of apple-cinnamon oatmeal, I slip the canoe into the water and head across the lake. Not a ripple on the water, it is 100% peaceful at this time of morning. I almost feel guilty for ruining the reflection on the water with each cast. After working my way down the shoreline for a half hour, I finally tie into a nice 21” walleye using the same spoon and leech combination as the previous night. I quickly throw him on a stringer, release the anchor, and continue to work the same area. With no more action, I move on, drifting across the channel toward a point that looks as though it extends nicely into the water, a good possibility for walleye habitat. Only 40 feet off shore, I am surprised to see that the fish finder indicates a lake depth close to 90’. In addition to this, large schools of fish appear to be suspended at 40, 60, and 70’. I quickly forget about my prospective walleyes and change to a black feathered quarter ounce jig and leech in hopes of bringing in a laker. After about a half hour of jigging and drifting out of position being that I am by myself, my patience runs thin and I decide to head back to the campsite. In the words of Arnold however……“I’ll be back.”
By the time I get to the site it feels as though it is time for lunch. I am quickly informed that it is only 8:15am. Being that this is the first year that I have taken fishing so seriously up here, I am not used to utilizing the entire day’s sunlight. Despite the time, I make some cup of noodles anyway and head over to a back bay full of lily pads at the other side of our site. This time I put on a white and gold mepps spinner in hopes of getting a couple of good-sized smallies. It only takes one cast before I have a nice smallmouth on shore. These fish sure are the toughest fighting fish pound for pound up here. Surprisingly, this is the only smallmouth that seems interested this morning and I turn my direction towards a section of water off the point. Three more casts and I feel a big hit on my line. Definitely no smallmouth. I get the nice size northern halfway in when it throws the hook. Damn those bony mouths! I am further displeased when I get snagged on a rock less than 10 feet from shore. It is always more frustrating when you can see your lure hanging on to that rock looking, almost seemingly laughing at you in the most subtle jesting manner. I quickly hop in the canoe and get unsnagged from offshore and continue to fish the point. In the meantime a group of kayakers passes by and offers us a nice 28” northern that they have just caught. Being that it’s their last day on the water they will not need it for eating purposes. We eagerly take it. Fresh walleye and pike for dinner tonight!
By this time my brother is up from his slumber and excited to experiment with his new fish finder. There seems to be little else electronically that a computer science major can tinker with in this remote wilderness. I inform him of the congregation of lake trout discovered earlier in the morning and we’re soon in the canoe heading once again across the lake. Sure enough, the lake trout are at the exact location as earlier in the day. This time I make highly exaggerated jigging motions with my trusted silver spoon and leech as I had read to do in Furtman’s “A Boundary Waters Fishing Guide.” My brother holds the canoe steady. After three minutes I suddenly feel as though I have caught a snag as I pull up on my line. Highly unlikely I think to myself, considering we are stationary and in 90 feet of water. Then my spool goes off as though it’s possessed. This is by far the hardest pulling fish I have ever encountered…..Ever. My heart races as we go back and forth between him running and me reeling. Since we were reluctant to bring a landing net, I quickly decided that I would have a better chance landing the fish from shore. I was already out of the boat before my brother could say, “holy shit is that him!” I look down towards the submerged rocks where I finally see the exhausted lake trout. God save me if I lose this fish I think to myself. My heart doesn’t stop pounding until I have secured the trout to the back of the boat with more knots that I can count on one hand. My first lake trout that I have ever caught measures 13lbs. and 31”. I have succeeded at my one mission this trip: to catch a lake trout. Everything else could go wrong the rest of the vacation for all I cared; I had accomplished what I had come here to do. That night we ate lake trout with fettuccini alfredo and fresh green beans. We don’t seem to be the only ones benefiting from the days catch either. It hasn’t taken the gulls and bald eagles long to locate the fish remains we had laid out on the rock off our campsite. Tomorrow we will move further east down the lake towards boundary point.
Another clear and beautiful morning though temperatures seem a bit warmer today. After packing up camp, we decide to take our time and drift down the lake, fishing as we go. For once it seems, the wind is at our backs and we still are able to make good time despite our lackadaisical attitude towards paddling. After a few casts, a northern takes interest in my silver spoon. Another one of decent size, this time however, I am careless and do not bother to wear him out before landing him. When I get him next to the canoe I am overly aggressive and with one lightning-quick thrash he breaks my line. I am starting to second guess my decision to go with lighter 6 pound test this trip. I try to forget about losing my all-star lure as we continue on down the lake. This does not take long, as from the left corner of my eye I see what appears to be the large brown silhouette of a moose emerging from the woods. My dad and I slowly turn the canoe around in anticipation of what the moose will do next. To our amazement the large cow begins to enter the water and heads across the lake right in front of us. We are stunned to see her swim a distance of over a hundred yards to the opposite shoreline. With a little shake and a final look around, she disappears back into the lush-green landscape. This was turning into one hell of a trip we thought, as we crossed moose viewing off the day’s activity list. After a side exploration up a stream surrounded by long green grassy vegetation, we stop for lunch on a nearby island. It was hot now with temperatures certainly exceeding 90 degrees. We welcome the brief reprieve from the suns rays as we eat our soup and peanut butter and honey sandwiches in the cover of a few small pines.
Back on our journey, I decide to troll the deep water looking to see if I can gain the interests of any creature that may be lurking in the depths of this great lake. I have never had any real success fishing this way and today would continue that trend. In twenty minutes I had grown bored and replaced my rod with a paddle; much to the satisfaction of my dad I think. My fishing interests had led us to fall far behind my mother and brother, now just a tiny spec on the water in front of us. In addition to this I had not been paying close attention to the map, knowing that if we just kept moving down the lake we couldn’t go too far wrong. The geography on this section of the lake south of Hunter Island and boundary point proved somewhat difficult to read being that it was hard to distinguish what were islands, points, mainland, etc……..Yes, I guess this is just my way of disguising the simple truth that we didn’t exactly know where the hell it is we were. Adding to our situation was the presence of a series of thunderheads encroaching from our rear. It was painfully obvious that in less than an hour we would be feeling the effects of this storm whether we were prepared or not.
Fate would have it on this trip that just beyond the next point about a quarter mile down existed a four star campsite once again conveniently abandoned. We quickly set up camp and just in time, for it was then that the lakes personality changed drastically. 45 mile an hour gusts violently churned the surface of the water and caused our tent to nearly blow back into the woods after its stakes were uprooted. The downpour felt wonderful but like most storms up here it only lasted for 15 minutes or so and did little to break the heat of the day. We soon fillet the northern and walleye to compliment a meal of rice and macaroni and cheese. I feel that I have liking towards pike and walleye more so than lake trout despite the constant encounters with the infamous Y-bones. On that subject, it seems that the few bones in the trout the night before if any had a tendency to dissolve during the cooking process. With our appetites filled we stayed up late that night enjoying the campfire and a deep red moon that reflected perfectly off the lakes surface from where it hovered above the opposite tree-line. Tomorrow would be a rest/recreational day.
I awake much later today, about 10a.m. and I believe it is my own armpit that has served as some sort of medieval alarm clock. Yes, today would definitely be a swimming day. However, as I eat my oatmeal I am quickly distracted by the presence of a large northern that has decided to sun himself in the weed bed just off our campsite. I quickly grab my rod and work a mepps spinner through the vegetation. I must have spooked him as he moves out of his cover and further down the shoreline. I follow him for another 10 minutes varying lures and retrieval speeds but there is still no sign of interest from him. I then switch over to a leech and work the channel just off the point of our campsite. My efforts result in a nice smallmouth. By this time my brother has awakened and we decide that today would be a good day to make buttermilk pancakes. By the time we are done with dishes it is close to 12 noon and once again hot. We take our parents advice and hike up to a series of ledges on the small mountain overlooking our campsite. This truly was a four star site with the spectacular views and large pines. After our hike, we quickly changed into our swimming clothes and climbed atop the large glacier boulder that was so conveniently placed right next to the canoe launch. After a quick investigation we deemed the landing area safe and both took the plunge into the dark water below. The water temperature was perfect. We spent the next hour taking turns jumping off this natural diving platform and then swam out to a series of rocks offshore. It felt great to be somewhat clean again.
By 4p.m. I deemed that it is time to go fishing again. With my brother showing more interest in taking an afternoon nap, I once again set out by myself. At this time in the day the winds are strong and my solo effort at navigating the lightly loaded canoe is meager at best. The fish finder indicates only a few fish as the wind blows me down the lake at a blistering pace. I am hoping that I will be able to paddle back against the choppy waves in my return. After drifting for 10 minutes, I decide to anchor in a bay out of the wind and work the weed-line with a yellow and red daredevil for smallies. I actually liked being alone in this environment as it gave me a chance to fish standing up stretching my back and legs, something that I had always been told never to do in a canoe. The first cast and I have one smallmouth, then another, and another. After about an hour I see that others have come to join the party. My mom, dad, and brother drift down the lake towards me. Now I have never considered my mom a fisherwoman?? (Man sounds weird), however today would prove otherwise. With her $15 rod, and an “I’ll put whatever lure on my line and cast wherever attitude,” she was ready to silence the skeptics. Sure enough that afternoon, she caught more smallmouth, walleye, and pike than anyone else. It was certainly her day. We continued to work our way around the large island east of boundary point. We would be damned if we didn’t at least lay eyes upon the large part of the lake even if we weren’t going to make it all the way down to the other end of it this trip. After my brother caught a nice northern of his own, the sun was beginning to set and it was time to head back. The island was certainly larger than we had expected, as it took close to a good half an hour of strong paddling against the wind to make it back to our campsite.
That night we enjoyed another meal of fresh walleye and northern compliments of my mom. Our late arrival back to camp resulted in us getting slaughtered by the fleet of mosquitoes that once again arrived at 9:00p.m. While seeking refuge in our tents, I made the comment, “If the voyageurs had seen us running around like idiots from the bugs they would have called us a bunch of pussies just now.” My brother quickly responded with, “%$#& the voyageurs.” There was something about his rapid delivery or glum tone that caused all of us to burst into laughter. He was right.
Later that night, we came back out and sat by the fire despite the continual presence of the reluctant little vampires. We found it impossible not to climb to the top of the boulder and gaze upon the stars and moon that had come to rise in the same exact spot as the previous night. Another great day.
Up at 7a.m. Weather slightly cloudy with what looks like rain approaching. We enjoy a quick breakfast and are loaded up and on our way by 8:30. Today would be a travel day. We paddle around boundary point and west up the lake towards the route to the falls chain. My mothers fishing luck continues as she once again catches another smallmouth and decent size pike with her silver spoon. By starting out early we are able to beat the wind and have made it to our destination by 11:30a.m. Once again we are surprised to see that the four star campsite recommended by our outfitter is vacant. It is just as she had described it: a large open campsite that is well above the water with a spectacular view of the lake. We set up camp and head out to gather fire wood before going for another afternoon swim. By this time the clouds are gone and once again it is hot with temperatures close to 90 degrees. We are only relieved by the presence of a strong steady breeze. At 5p.m. my brother and I decide to go fishing around the islands just north of the 75 rod portage. The fishing is fantastic. We doubled up on pike simultaneously on our first casts in one particular channel. I felt bad when a smallmouth hooked himself real bad in the gills and went belly up after being released. As we paddled away however, a bald eagle swooped down and clinched him up with his talons. Nothing goes to waste up here I thought to myself. It was hard to have to stop fishing but we didn’t want to get ambushed by the mosquitoes again tonight. For dinner we have fresh northern again. We’ve never had so much fish up here! Unfortunately, our friend the wind is no where to be found tonight making the forecast buggy once again with a slight chance of malaria. We stay up late that night anyway and catch a glimpse of the northern lights over the opposite tree-line. I am sad that tomorrow we will be heading out of Saganagons.
Up reasonably early this morning and packing up only takes about 20 minutes. We are really getting this down. Once again it is a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. Temperatures are in the 90’s for sure. We quickly made it to the 75 rod portage leading to the southern section of the lake and this time only my brother and I are forced to double portage. As we paddle around the point we are immediately struck by a relentless wind. Damn it!! Oh well it was going to happen at some point. We have all been in this situation before: Paddling as hard as you can and moving about a mere 1 mile an hour. Lake Saganagons wasn’t going to let us leave easily. It took us an hour and a half of intense paddling against whitecaps but we finally made it to silver falls. Not as bad as South Lake 5 years ago I thought to myself; what can be considered the battle of Normandy in my family’s ongoing war with the wind each trip. As we unloaded our gear at the portage, I mentally prepared myself for the journey across the 130 rods with the 75 lb. turquoise oil tanker of canoes that my parents refused to let go of. A real one of a kind. I am determined to make it across without stopping as sort of a personal challenge. In an effort to accomplish my mission I find myself bombing along at a good pace in order to maximize my distance covered before my shoulders go to mush. With a tremendous thud I suddenly come to a complete stop. Completely dumbfounded and struggling to balance the canoe, I tilt up the bow to see an entire tree suspended horizontally across the trail. “Well that wasn’t there a week ago.” Its presence was completely undetectable to someone carrying a canoe over their head. “Man am I glad no one saw that bone head maneuver,” I thought to myself. “I must have looked like a complete jackass.” I keep moving and just barely make it the full way without stopping. Mission accomplished. After telling my dad of the incident, he laughed then warned a gentleman heading the opposite way of the tree hazard. The man only muttered a cocky response, “Don’t worry about me, we encounter stuff like that all the time on portages,” as he struggled to lift the canoe over his head while carrying a # 4 Duluth. As he walked away, my dad and I both looked at one another and each let out a soft chuckle.
As we loaded up our canoes, we couldn’t help but notice what looked to be smoke over the tree-line in the direction that we were headed. Heading into Cache Bay we see not one but two fires burning in the distance; one smaller to the right that we can clearly see, and another major one that looks to be several miles away. Every three minutes we see a bright eruption of fire followed by a ferocious crackling as another pine would go up in flames. Man, sound really does travel over water. We made it to our last campsite of our trip, near Gull Rock in the middle of Cache bay, hoping that the smoke from the fire wouldn’t continue to drift towards our direction that night.
The campsite wasn’t the best, with its shaky canoe landing; however it did have its perks. One of these was its abundant supply of blueberries. My mother and I were quick to fill up our mugs with the tasty, much anticipated delicacy. After setting up camp, I just couldn’t resist anymore; I had to get over to that fire and explore its effects up close. With a little bit of convincing, my brother agreed to accompany me across the bay. By the time we made it over there it was as if we were on another planet; some desolate waste land destroyed by nuclear war; the kind of images that render in the depths of any imagination. Grey ash covered what was left of the smoldering landscape, the boulders still hot, several logs still burning. After exploring for a few minutes we decided that it was probably a good idea to leave seeing that the winds were shifting and thick smoke was on the way.
Like every trip I remember ever being on with him, my dad is always the poor soul who sacrifices himself in order to give someone else, usually us boys, the optimal chance of catching fish. Doing such things as steering the canoe to get us that perfect cast and paddling steadily as we troll etc.. It was time that he caught a fish of his own; the perfect topper to this thus far perfect trip. After dinner we headed across to the other side of the island and began casting spoons from shore. I had previously in the day had some luck with smallmouth from just off the canoe launch using a daredevil. While toying with a smallmouth myself I suddenly heard the sound of my dad's drag going off. “I’ve got something big!” he said. As he worked it in towards shore we instantly saw those infamous large pale-white eyes staring back at us. A walleye, Sweet! How much better could this trip get. It was like someone was reading our minds and accommodating our every desire. The 25” fish was the largest walleye of our trip. Fresh walleye and blueberry pancakes for breakfast tomorrow!
Being that it would be our last day on the water, I easily awoke at 5a.m. to go fishing and to enjoy my last sunrise. Smoke still rising in the distance, I walked down to the lake with my oatmeal and stood by the waters edge. No waves were lapping against the rocks, no birds were chirping, not tree branch rustling. Absolute silence. Whatever I was experiencing in this moment is not easily conveyable unless you yourself have been to the North Country enough times. The sense of peaceful eeriness is not something that I will easily forget in my lifetime. A rising fish rapidly awoke my ears and I remembered the foremost reason for my early awakening. Soon I found myself working the shoreline with my dependable spoon. The flies were terrible this morning. There must have been fifty of them hovering around my ankles alone. I still do not understand how they can bite through wool socks. After working the area that produced the walleye the night before with no luck, I drifted across the channel towards the other islands. Surprisingly the water depth between the islands surpassed 110’ and there were lakers suspended at 90’. I quickly dropped my line. After 10 minutes of attempting to balance paddling the wind to hold my position and jigging, I got frustrated and let the wind carry me across the channel. The next two hours only resulted in three smallmouths and I decided to head in.
When I got back everyone was up and it was time to make those blueberry pancakes and walleye. When my brother pulled in the line on the stringer it was evident that the fish had rocked himself. As my brother continued to pull against the weight of the rock the cord surprisingly snapped leaving the fish to swim away if it wanted to. Someone had to go after the submerged line to bring in the fish. It was 8 in the morning and the island’s shadow still shown over the water by our campsite. “He who caught the fish swims for the fish.” My brother and I failed to hold in our laughter as my fully clothed father slowly eased his way into cold water. His breath began to quicken as he tried to prepare himself for the full body plunge. All at once he went for the end of the rope lying at the bottom of the six feet of water. When he came back up we could all see that he missed it, which only added to the hilarity of the situation. Now he struggled to find his footing on the rocks below as he breathed heavily and did some kind of rendition of a doggy paddle. I could not control myself. This was absolutely priceless. On his second attempt he successfully grabbed the end of the rope and pulled in the fish. We immediately grabbed the camera and got a picture of him with his prize. I haven’t seen him that happy in a long time; standing there drenched, half submerged in the water holding up his walleye, a grin from ear to ear. This is what it was all about.
After our delicious breakfast we packed up and headed out to see the pictographs behind the other side of the bay before our pick up. I really wish I knew what they represented or what the story was behind them. After a quick stop at the ranger station we were back at Hook Island waiting for our tow. It felt as though we had just been dropped off. With the thought of a warm shower, cold beer, and ribs on our minds, the boat ride seemed longer on the way home. At the same time I didn't want to leave.
Trip remarks/things learned:
- Best trip I have ever been on up there
- Saganagons is my new favorite lake
- If you can, get your RABC permits ahead of time
- Silver spoon is killer on any kind of fish
- Next year I’m bringing a hammock and less clothes
- Kevlar canoes are the way to go
- Getting a tow is the way to go
- Watch out for trees blown down on portages
- Fishing is definitely better in July than August
- Fish finders are well worth their bulk/weight