Day 1 of 7
Sunday, August 19, 2012. 4:30 AM. Beep, beep, beep. Seriously? That sure came quick. Maybe I'm hearing things? Beep, beep, beep. Nope, that's the alarm all right! After grumbling about the time, the cold, and the discomfort of the gravel tent pad, we were shivering our way down the dark path back to the truck and driving to EP 16 by 5:15 AM. We completed the 175 rod portage from the entry point and were paddling by 6:45. A beautiful and crisp fog covered morning gave way to blue skies by the time we reached Nina Moose Lake, where we were greeted with a light but chilly north wind. We started meeting people near the 1st portage south of Lake Agnes. We were traveling the opposite way of the mass exodus, and were passed on that portage and river stretch leading out of it by no less than 15 canoes filled with people and gear. A BW traffic jam, Lake Agnes style! Soon we were in a mostly deserted Lake Agnes, but instead of people, we were greeted with a continuous stream of wind out of the north, blowing around 10-12 mph and gusting a little higher. Now, normally that's not such a huge deal, but I was paddling alone and even with gear loading down the front of my canoe, I was no match for the wind in the open water. Hugging the east shoreline I pushed further towards the NE portage and out of this hell-bent wind tunnel of a lake. Once we reached the Boulder River there was much less wind. We finished our paddle for the day and settled into camp by around 1:00. After setting up we fished the late afternoon and early evening hours, caught plenty of pike and smallies for a meal, and reflected on what a challenging yet fun day it had been. Our reward that evening was the best sunset of the trip, captured in a great series of photo's by Ben.
Day 2 of 7
Monday, August 20, 2012. Monday was a day of rest and fishing. We caught lots of smallmouths and pike, but the wind kept us mostly in bays and along shorelines again. All in all this was a typical BW day for us, without any major happenings that stick out. That is, until the campfire that night. While sitting around the campfire, 2 very interesting things happened. Captain Morgan had also made the trip, stowed away at the bottom of one our packs. But when in BW, what do you mix the Captain with? Well, at that campfire, Captain Mio was born; a delicious, almost refreshing combination of spiced rum, peach tea Mio, and filtered water. Another visitor also showed up that night- jumping mice! Our furry little friend hopped around the dying light of the campfire, entertaining us in a way only possible when in the BW. Once in the tent I began a restless night of sleep, only to be woken when something jumped on my chest and then on my head. I thought it was Pete messing with me, but before I could even say anything to him, he said "What was that?" and described to me the scurrying noise he had heard. After a short investigation, we figured out we had forgotten to zip the bottom of our tent between the gear vestibule and the sleeping area. Apparently a jumping mouse had come in, run across my sleeping bag, and then run back out through the vestibule! With the tent zipped and perimeter once again secured, we went back to sleep. Strangely enough, this would not be the last furry mammal to run across my sleeping body on this trip...
Day 3 of 7
Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Tuesday, time to head to Iron Lake. The ranger cabins, Lac LaCroix, Bottle Portage and Bottle River all passed by quickly. Arriving on Iron Lake, we had decided to head to the west campsite on 3 Island, which was of course already occupied. The east site on 3 Island wasn't to our liking, so we backtracked and headed south to an island Ben had stayed on in the past- aptly named Turtle Island (more to come on this soon) by their group on previous trips. Of course, the wind has switched overnight to a SW wind, making our travel from N to S through Iron a bit of a chore, and once again forcing me to follow shorelines and dip behind every possible island to get there, and at least doubling the distance I would have had to paddle were it more calm. Situated just north of Peterson Bay, the Turtle Island campsite gave us the excellent access to fishing we wanted, and turned out to be the nicest campsite I have used in my 5 year's of visiting the BW. We fished the 2nd half of the day, caught a variety of fish including a 20" smallmouth for Pete and explored the weedy bays around our campsite.
Day 4 of 7
Wednesday, August 22, 2012. Wednesday we decided to explore the rest of the east and north parts of Iron Lake and I made a solo trip up to see Curtain Falls and fish the river. I caught 4 pike that day between 25-29 inches in the river and was glad to have made the trip up that direction. We fished Peterson Bay in the late afternoon, where I caught 2 19" smallmouths within 10 minutes of each other. Pete and Ben had pretty good luck fishing as well, and we had a large fish lunch and fish dinner that day. We also broke out the Euchre cards for the first time this night after once again having some serious conversations with Captain Mio. That guy is just endless fun! The highlight of the day came after Pete and I had gone out to try and jig for some walleyes. The wind had died down to almost nothing, and we caught 2 nice eaters quickly. Although we couldn't replicate the success before the mosquitoes drove us back to the tent, we were happy knowing we already had 2 walleyes on the stringer for lunch the next day. Well, remember "turtle" island? Apparently the 2 walleyes on the stringer were just the motivation the turtles needed to come out and play. We went down to the water around 10PM, only to see a huge snapping turtle messing with our fish, and 2 others swimming around in the shallows nearby. Oh well, lesson relearned, no more keeping fish overnight...
Day 5 of 7
Thursday, August 23, 2012. Thursday already? Man, it's our last day on Iron and we haven't even started seriously walleye fishing yet. So, that's what we did. We fished some mid-lake humps and reefs and although we couldn't get the big one, we did catch plenty to eat again, along with a nice 31" pike. The wind got a bit crazy as the morning got later, with the 15 MPH + south winds finally convincing us to move off the fish and back to our site. Much of the afternoon was spent by all 3 of us napping (well earned if I may say so!), followed by a short stint fishing again to get a couple more fish for dinner. A late dinner and slow cleanup pushed us right to campfire time, but with the wind blowing, there were no mosquitoes at all, and Captain Mio came back out as well! Unfortunately he left us that night and was unable to return for the rest of the trip, and was sorely missed. His legend will only grow as time passes, and I'm sure our paths will cross again!
Day 6 of 7
Friday, August 24, 2012. Friday was the day to start the trek back towards our EP, and we paddled across a completely calm Iron Lake in the wee hours of the morning. The wind picked up for Lac LaCroix, Boulder River, and Agnes (of course!), but by then I was used to it and made the trip without many issues. We took a site near the south end of Agnes, and napped through the hottest hours of the day. Somehow during this time the chipmunks decided to check us out as we napped on the sloping rocks in the shade. One decided to sit on my chest while I slept; much to Pete's amusement; and when I woke up it ran down my legs and into the brush. Why do all these animals keep running on me? We did some shoreline fishing and caught a few smallmouths, but it was when I decided to start paddle trolling the open water areas of Agnes that the fun started. I caught 10 fish in less than 2 hours, including pike of 27 and 29 inches, a 13" crappie, and a 15" walleye. It was the last fish though that I have been waiting my entire life for. I hooked into a what turned out to be a 40.5" pike. I was of course alone, but managed to get it to the side of the boat after it ran out line multiple times to get away from me. There was no way this fish was going to fit in my net. I was able to paddle to shore with one arm while the other held the rod, stopping to real the beast back in twice after it again made runs away from the boat. I then quickly measured, photographed, and released the fish, sitting with it in the water for nearly 5 minutes while it regained its strength, after which it swam away quickly to the deeper, cooler water where it had come from. I was literally shaking with adrenaline during the entire process, and the natural high lasted for quite some time after. I think people could see my smile from across the lake! I know I could have held that fish on a stringer until my friends returned and taken a real trophy picture with it in my hands, but it was way more important to me to get it released healthy back to the lake, and I won't 2nd guess that decision ever. It was a great way to cap an unbelievable week, and something I will have to talk about for the rest of my life.
Day 7 of 7
Saturday, August 25, 2012. There never seems to be much to say about the last day of the trip. We packed up from Agnes, paddled back to the EP, secure the gear and canoes and began the 8 hour drive home. We reminisced, talked about next year, the upcoming hunting season, and a million other things. All in all, this was a great trip- the weather was near perfect (despite the wind), the fishing was as good or better than expected, and it was shared among good friends. It was a true vacation from life for a week, and will be stamped in my memory forever. Thank you BW for providing the backdrop for a wonderful chapter of my summer!