BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 27 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1237 feet
Stuart River - 19
Stuart River to LIS Solo - Storms, Insects and Walleye
July 08, 2020
Little Indian Sioux River (north) (14)
Number of Days:
As I start the portage, it starts to rain harder and I hear intermittent thunder in the distance. It's about 75-80 degrees, and I'm having trouble keeping my glasses from fogging up. Since I'm double portaging, my plan is to leap frog my gear by taking my heavy pack, yak paddle, and rods about a 1/2 mile, go back and carry the canoe and small pack a couple hundred yards beyond that, repeating until I finish the portage. As expected, the portage is long, but the trail is not bad--very little mud or elevation change, mostly downhill to the Stuart. The first obstacle is a series of basketball-sized and larger boulders that are strewn across a 10-yard wide creek. They are quite slippery given the constant rain, but I manage not to break an ankle or leg. Then, about 200 yards from the end of the portage, I am faced with a flooded area that cannot be waded. I had read that a previous group decided to load their canoe and head to the right around the bend instead of paddling straight across the flood zone to finish the portage. They said later "don't paddle around the bend" as they lost about 90 minutes in the rocky, beaver-laden shallowness of that part of the Stuart River. So I paddle about 30 yards across the flood zone, unload my gear again, and about 200 yards later, I arrive at the muddy mess of a put-in to the Stuart R. The good news is I'm able to skirt to the left along the grassy hummocks and reload the canoe without going knee deep into the muck. From here, it's north to Stuart Lake. I'm on the water at 12:00, so this portage took about 2:15--not bad for a 60-yr-old with one knee already replaced. This first photo is the Stuart River put-in facing south and shows the mud. The second photo shows the scene I'll be paddling to the north.
The one good thing about it being overcast and raining is it should reduce the number of deerflies the Stuart River is renowned for. But as I begin paddling, I notice the sky is lighter and I can almost see my hazy shadow. The temp is rising and the wind is almost nil. And sure enough here they come like the Japanese over Pearl Harbor. OMG!! I absolutely hate deerflies, horseflies, and ankle-biting flies. I can handle mosquitos with deet. But nothing deters flies, except clothing over skin. Almost as bad are ticks, which I don't expect much of in mid-summer since I treat my clothing with Permethrin every trip. We'll come back to that topic tomorrow. Anyway, I'll be escorted by a squadron of deerflies while paddling and portaging for the rest of today all the way to Stuart Lake.
I quickly reach the take-out to the 500-yd portage on my left. Nice trail all the way. Ignore that finger in the upper portion of the photo!!
As I resume my northward paddle, I pass two couples in 2 canoes. They are smiling as they near the end of their trip. They tell me all the campsites on Stuart Lake are open. I'll find out in a few hours that not all were open. Next obstacle comes quickly--a massive beaver dam with a 4-5 foot drop. I unload on the ledgerock to my left, and snake my way about 10 yards between a large boulder and the dam down to another piece of ledgerock. As I push off, I leave a few more scratches to go along with the hundreds already scarring my Placid Rapidfire canoe.
The sky remains hazy cloudy, some darker clouds all around on the horizons. It's now probably about 85 degrees, very little wind, and quite humid. I'm sweating like a pig!! As I pass the entry into Whitefeather, I can look to the east and make out the lone campsite in this PMA--looks pretty nice. I make it through the next 300 yard portage on the right and continue my paddle towards and past Contest Lake. I note the really tea colored water and lots of rocks near the surface that add a couple more scars to my canoe. It slows my progress a little bit. The next 350 yard portage on the right is on a really nice trail with decent landings on both sides. Unless you lose your concentration and step off the grass on the take-out, which is what I did and next thing I know I'm shin-deep in muck with both feet. The good news is that it kept me from falling over the canoe into the water!! Thuuuwwwuuck as one boot comes out, and thuuuwwwuuuck as the next boot comes out, boots still on my fee--thank God.
Back on the water, paddling northward, I come upon another damn that requires hopping along boulders on the right as I struggle to pull the canoe through the damn dam. I'm too damned tired to look for a portage trail on either side of the river. Then I quickly move thru the short 100 yard portage on the right and come across 2 more liftovers of these damn dams--I just pull, slide and push the canoe over the beaver wood, trying not to lose my balance and end up in thigh deep muck. The river is really shallow now and I see the rock cairn on the granite face indicating the start of the last portage leading to Stuart Lake. I decide to keep paddling to the left around the bend where I've been told you can land on some ledgerock and resume the portage at about its halfway point. I find the ledgerock, but there is no discernible trail leading to the actual portage trail. After searching around for 5 minutes or so, I locate the portage trail, bombarded the whole time by very aggressive deerflies. Did I say I detest deerflies?? When I finally get to Stuart Lake at 5:00 pm, I can't be sure if I saved any time by paddling around the bend.
So, 7+ hours since I started from EP19. While in the canoe trying to escape all the deerflies, I clean off my really gross portage boots and socks and let my feet dry off as I paddle to the nearest campsite on the southernmost island. I really want to stay on the campsite on the NW corner of Stuart, but I pass close enough to stop by this campsite. As I get out of the canoe and walk up to the firepit, I'm attacked by half a dozen angry deerflies. The site is ok, a bit overused, ok tentpad. But the deerflies drive scare back into my canoe. 10 minutes later I'm heading north and west using my Steripen to purify a liter of much needed water and I look in the distance to the NW campsite. And I see a canoe paddling near the site. Nooooooo! My heart sinks. I veer to the right and paddle eastward to find the campsite on the eastern shoreline. Unsuccessful. I'm so tired, I think I lost my sense of direction and went too far north. Never did find the site. I end up on the northern campsite. Nice ledgerock landing, very open around the firepit, but no easy area for a rain tarp. And I'm seeing dark, really dark clouds coming my way fast from the south. It's about 6:30 PM and I'm out of options. I quickly set up my tent, and then run my tarp ridgeline and secure it so it's lower facing the south. The weakest link is the NE corner which is secured with a branch from a smallish birch tree. I use several additional tiedowns on the southern, SE and SW sides as the wind begins to pick up and the skies darken. I hear thunder and as I complete the last tiedown, it starts to rain. Heavy plops. 15 minutes later, the wind starts coming from the SE about 20 mph and gains steam. Its gusting well over 30 mph and raining so hard I can't see the shoreline 30 yards down the slope. I have to stand under the tarp and hold it up so it won't rip apart. Lightning is intense, flashes with deafening instantaneous thunder. I close my eyes a couple times hoping the lightning doesn't strike land near me. Then the wind shifts now out of the east, then the northeast, and I wonder if I'm experiencing a tornado. The branch on the birch breaks off and I notice my tarp has become lower and loose. So now I'm trying to hold the tarp corner in the wind and rain, and I'm soaked. My pants are wet, my shoes, socks, hair...my underwear is soaked!! Everything except what is in the tent or inside my tupperware containers gets absolutely soaked. So I stand there holding the tarp corner and after another 15 minutes the wind finally starts to subside and I retie the corner. The temp has dropped some 20 degrees. I am not a happy camper!! But hey, at least the deerflies are gone!!
I switch into some dry clothes, snarf down a triple decker PBJ sandwich, and crawl into the tent. I'm sore all over. It rains on and off till about 8 in the morning. My last thought when I finally fell asleep amidst the rain, thunder and lightning was, "I'm never coming back here again"!! A month later, I still feel that way.
I roll out of my tent at about 7:30 am. It was sprinkling throughout the night and it finally stopped around 8:30. I make a couple cups of Cafe Verona coffee with my Aeropress--you just can't beat a fresh cup of coffee in the morning in canoe country. Breakfast is Oscar Mayer pre-cooked bacon with OvaEasy eggs and some Cache Lake cinnamon-raisin panbread. It's overcast, wind slightly out of the southwest with sunny skies coming in the afternoon--that's the good news. The bad news is the wind is supposed to start gusting from the SW up to 25 mph and then switching to the W and NW thru the night. Great, just great. I really wanted to fish for the walleye here on Stuart Lake, but not in that kind of wind. And this site is not really protected much from a SW wind. Well, I decide to use this day to dry out all my wet gear and allow by body to recover from yesterday's long brutal trek. As my gear dries out, I rearrange my tarp so it provides somewhat of a windbreak, and spend the day reading, smoking a couple cigars, and taking a long nap. Just a few deerflies now and then--they don't seem to like hanging out under the tarp with me. I do a little fishing from shore with a Zulu ShadZ rig--no strikes but the deerflies attack me with a vengeance anytime I move along the expansive granite ledges--damn things!! As if that was bad enough, throughout the day, I find ticks crawling up my pant leg and my shirt sleeve. Unreal. I had put permethrin on my clothes at the end of May and figured it'd still be working into mid-July, but I guess not. I can't figure out why the ticks are all around here--perhaps the rain brought them out or perhaps its the grass that is quite prevalent on this campsite. I'll never know, but I really did not foresee having to deal with biblical numbers of deerflies and now ticks as well. I had planned to stay on Stuart Lake for at least 3 nights, but heck with it. I'm moving to LLC tomorrow. I eat dinner and get everything packed up. I'm in the tent at 8:30, read for an hour and fall fast asleep, dreaming of who knows what.
I'm up and out of the tent at 5:30 am. I have a quick cup of coffee. Breakfast is Special K with fruit and yogurt to which I added dried blueberries and Nido milk. I press another cup of coffee, load up the canoe, step in with my mug of coffee and push off at 6:45 am--that is almost a record for me!! My plan is to get into Tiger Bay of Lac La Croix around 11:00 am. I head west to the portage leading to the Dahlgren River. The W/NW wind is already starting to rise as I paddle by the NW campsite. The campsite looks really nice from the water, set in a large grove of red pine. Several guys are already up and about and I sense they are basecamping on Stuart Lake.
I reach the sandy shoreline where the 650 yd portage leads into the Dahlgren River. I unload and move the canoe off the shoreline into a shaded opening under the canopy of tall pines, maples, and some cedars. The temp is cooler by at least 10 degrees. I deet up as mosquitos are plentiful and hungry.
I take my big pack first across the nice, duff covered trail. What a fantastic scenic portage. Downfalls are plentiful, but most have been taken care of by the portage crews. But not this one about 50 yards in.
As I make my way along the trail, I see large old red pine all around. It's amazing how some have been snapped like toothpicks. Most are standing tall, some others are laying across the trail. As you near the end of the portage, young red pine dominate and litter the trail with soft duff.
It takes me about an hour to complete this portage which ends on a nice sandy put-in just past the small falls dumping water from Stuart Lake into this part of the Dahlgren River. Quite scenic. I snap a few photos and turn my canoe northward to the next portage that'll take me to the Boulder River and into Lac La Croix. [img]https://i.imgur.com/CqNL9oC.jpg[/img]
As I make my way along the Dahlgren, waterfowl are abundant. It's funny to see ducks take off in front of me, fly 50 yards, skid back into the water, only to take off again as I near. They escort me all the way along this part of the river. I push through 2 or 3 beaver dams as the river becomes choked with weeds. Several times there is no real channel and I just paddle my way through only a couple inches off the mucky river bottom.
Finally, I arrive at the next take-out which is very shallow and rocky. It's a struggle to get my gear out without putting too many more scratches on the canoe.
Unlike the last portage, I do not particularly like this one. It's about 800 yards, seemed longer. Lots of muddy spots, tons of mosquitoes which became my lunch as I musta swallowed at least half a dozen. And of course, a squadron of deerflies pretty much follow me all the way to the end. Damn things!! The only good thing about carrying the canoe is I can escape the deerfly onslaught. It's almost 10:00 am as I flip the canoe over and slide it into the Boulder River. I'm sweating profusely and totally out of drinking water. At least the wind, which is only about 5 mph is blowing right into the put-in and cooling me off nicely.
I load the canoe, untie my portage boots, get in the canoe, paddle into the river, take my muddy boots socks off and rinse them in the river. I paddle barefoot along this shallow boulder-strewn river, pass a couple canoes along the way and enter Boulder Bay in short order. I fill up my Nalgene and use the Steripen to purify the water. I'm surprised that the first couple of campsites on the eastern shoreline are actually open, but my goal is to snag one of the nice ones in Tiger Bay. As I exit Boulder Bay, I stop at the open campsite on the southern tip of a big island and am greeted by the resident red squirrel. Not a bad campsite, lots of red pine cover for my tent and tarp, and an elevated open firepit area with expansive views to the southeast. I figure if Tiger Bay is full, which is quite possible, I'll come back and stay at this one.
I make my way eastward towards Tiger Bay and can see that the nice beach campsite to the NE is occupied as is the well-known 5-star site at the entrance to Tiger Bay. As I turn south into the bay, I see the campsite on the eastern side of the bay. And it's open!! The wind is freshening enough that I can't safely land my canoe in front of the campsite, so I paddle south and land on a nice flat piece of ledgerock that is protected from the NW breeze. It's about a 30 yard walk up to the campsite which is fairly open, with a couple of level areas for tents and enough trees for hanging a tarp if needed. The views to the north and east are great. I lay my gear on some flat granite slabs, and ease my butt into my aluminum director's chair. I love this chair because it sits higher than most Helinox-type camp chairs so it's easier on my knees. To portage it, I simply slide it under the front thwart and jam it tight under the gunwales. I light a cigar and relax in the shade gazing north into the expanse of LLC.
And then I look over at my pack on the granite and see a red squirrel trying to chew into the pack. HEY!! GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE YOU LITTLE TURD!! He scampers away, but 10 minutes later he's back trying to chew into my other pack. OK. That's it!! I declare war on the stinking little varmint!!
With the little varmint scared into the woods, I declare victory and decide to get in the canoe and procure some more water. I try to drink 4-5 liters per day on solo trips so getting water is a daily activity. My water system uses a couple of 1-gal vinegar jugs, one marked Clean and other Dirty, and a Platypus gravity system that uses a Sawyer Mini as the filter. On travel days, the lightweight jugs are lashed to the front and rear thwarts with a small Gear Tie. I started this method many years ago when I read a post about it from Intrepid Camper. I first used plastic milk jugs, but found they tended to leak after one or two trips whereas the thicker vinegar jugs can last 10 trips or more. I hop into the canoe with the dirty jug, turn on my depth finder, and paddle northward into a freshening NW breeze. I try to collect water that is at least 40 feet deep which helps to keep my filter from clogging. Tiger Bay itself is fairly shallow, less than 15 feet, and so I exit the bay and soon enter water that is over 40 feet deep. The jug makes it much easier to collect water from the canoe than using a collapsible bag. I return to camp and pour the water into the dirty bag and run the hose into my half full clean jug--a clean gallon of water in less than 5 minutes and still 2 liters in the gravity's dirty bag for tomorrow. Next up is the tent. On the upper level is a large level area that could hold several tents, more than enough room for my 2-man MSR Elixer. The weather report is not calling for any rain for a couple days so I don't need to hang my tarp. And since I'm not being bombarded by any deerfiles or skeeters, I don't need to hand my bugnet either, which brings a smile to my face. I putz around and explore the shoreline and the trails leading from the back of this large open site. There's at least 100 yards of walkable shoreline that looks very fishy--might have to make some casts before dark. It's early afternoon and the NW wind is now 5-10 with gusts around 15 mph. Waves are piling into Tiger Bay and are starting to crash into the front of this north facing campsite. The wind is just strong enough that I can't relax and enjoy sitting on the shoreline to admire the views of Tiger Bay and LLC. Luckily, one side of my upper-level tent pad is bracketed by enough young trees to block most of the wind and still have views to the water. Taller red pine provide ample shade--can't beat that!
As it nears 4:00 pm I've counted 28 paddlers and 14 canoes that have come across the mouth of Tiger Bay looking for a site, half going west and half going east. The only site that might still be open is the 3-star with a really crappy landing on the far west side of Tiger in a small shallow bay. The last group I see is 3 canoes with 7 people. They paddle past my camp and continue south, not realizing it's a deadend. Twenty minutes later they're back in front of my site and spend another 10 minutes trying to get their bearings. Then one of the canoes heads over to check out the 3-star site and then the other two canoes follow. I don't see them come back out so I guess that's where they ended up for the night. A tight squeeze for a group of seven. My stomach growls. It's time for dinner but I don't feel like cooking anything, so its another PBJ for dinner, some gorp, and iced oatmeal cookies for desert. In case you're wondering, I bring a loaf of whole wheat bread in a plastic watertight bread box. I can usually get four or five triple-decker PBJ and also a few fried fish sandwiches on my solo trips. After dinner, I try my luck with a few casts from shore and after a couple I hook into a 24-inch pike, then a couple of smallies running 14 and 15 inches and then another 22 inch pike. Not bad for 30 minutes, but the gusty wind is a pain on my eyes so its back to camp and into the tent after covering my packs with a ground tarp to keep the varmint from getting any ideas.
I'm up as the sky begins to lighten before sunrise. It's a calm Saturday morning but supposed to become windy in the afternoon like yesterday--but what a great morning!! I make some coffee and take a few pictures of this site and its views.
I start purifying the remaining 2 liters of water into my clean jug, placing the green cap on the ground next to the jug. I return to my chair and cook up a breakfast of bacon and eggs and press another mug of coffee. The calm and quietness of this morning is what all of us paddlers live for in canoe country. It is absolutely mesmerizing in its beauty!! This is the kind of morning all paddlers live for in canoe country and what keeps us coming back year after year.
I listen to the morning weather report on my weather radio and its calling for today to be a repeat of yesterday with stronger winds in the afternoon, light winds and partly sunny skies for Sunday and Monday, and massive storms hitting Monday evening into Tuesday--chance of rain--100 percent! I pull out my maps and have to decide if I stay here through Tuesday (5 nights total) or make my way north to Takucmich Lake or 41st Island of LLC by Monday afternoon.
It's a decision made when the damn red squirrel comes out of nowhere with a brutal attack. I look to my left where I had placed my garbage ziplock under a heavy rock adjacent to the firepit. What I see instead is a chewed up ziplock and its contents strewn all over the place--that little bastard!! Then I hear something to my right and look over to see the squirrel chewing into my fish pack again. HEY!! I heave a couple of small rocks and he dodges them without a problem and darts off into the woods.
Without much time before he returns, I clean up my breakfast dishes, take down the tent, repack my gear and move everything down to the canoe. I rig up my trolling rod with a TD-9 flicker minnow and before pushing off I realize I forgot my gravity filter and clean water. When I get there, the green cap that was next to my clean jug is missing. Where's the green cap? I turn around and the damn red squirrel is sitting there 20 feet away and laughing. He took my cap!! I spend 15 minutes trying to find the thing without success. So I tear off a piece of foil to use as a cap for the remainder of this trip. The squirrel is still sitting there so I grab a few small rocks. He dodges my weak throws easily. And he laughs his little ass off. I wave a white flag in surrender and leave the campsite. The second time in 2 years I've lost battles to these persistent little rodents.
Well, at least the fishing is good. I exit Tiger Bay and head west around the big island and troll up its western shoreline. Bang. A nice 16 inch smallie. A few paddles later and I land a 19 inch walleye, perfect eater that goes on my stringer. I spend the next 30 minutes with the ShadZ and land a few more smallies, the largest hitting 17 inches. I continue paddling northward toward Never Fail Bay and catch several more eater walleyes and a couple smallies. I keep two eater walleyes for dinner. I decide to head north and see if the nice 5-star site near the pictos is open. As I near the site, it's open!! So I paddle onto the sand beach landing on the north side.
I've never stayed here and it's a really really nice site. A gravel beach landing on the southern side, nice firepit, large flat kitchen area with a unique rock picnic table, and lots of large red and white pine making for easy tarp options. Out front is a large expanse of flat granite providing great views to the north, east and south of big LLC. And no deerflies!!
I spend the remaining part of the afternoon setting up the tent, tarp and bugnet, relaxing in the shade canopy of the pines. The wind continues to gain strength out of the north and by late afternoon is gusting over 10 mph straight down the channel from the pictographs. Dinner is nice walleye fish fry with pasta in a butter and herb sauce. After dinner its a nice cigar and vodka with berry propel. This site is well protected from winds from any direction. I relax and daydream about catching trophy lakers, smallies, walleye and pike over the next week. Several canoeing parties pass through the channel. Two canoes spend time fishing the Canadian shoreline from north to south and I really wish that could be me. Big sigh. Before I know it, it's time for bed.
It's another glorious calm morning, light but overcast. Weird weather report calling for scattered sprinkles--huh, never heard that term before--scattered sprinkles. After a cup of coffee and cereal, I take the camp down, press another mug of coffee and load up the canoe. With fresh coffee at my feet, I push off to the north, take a quick photo of my 1-night campsite, and head for the great LLC pictographs.
Last time I gazed upon these pictos was 2008, but they still seem new to me 12 years later. I continue north and then veer to the west and point the canoe at Fish Stake Narrows. I look to my right and I see a campsite unoccupied so I paddle over to check it out for a future trip. It's not bad, about 3 stars overall with a landing on the south side that I used but a better landing on the north side of the campsite. I pass through the Narrows and continue my paddle to the top of Lady Boot Bay and the nice campsite at the top of the boot. I stayed here with my boys back in 2008 and it hasn't really changed much, except the fire pit has been built up and someone built a nice wooden bench similar to those I see in front yards or gardens back home. There is a nice flat tent area with soft pads that could easily hold 2 or 3 tents.
This campsite is well protected from winds and has beach landings on the north and south side of the campsite. In 2008 I caught my personal best smallie (21.5 inch) from shore on the southern beach. I plan to stay here on my next solo trip in September--hope its open.
As I continue north from Lady Boot Bay, the wind completely dies away and I'm paddling through glass. It just doesn't get any better than this!! I get a really cool photo with clouds and my flicker minnow reflecting off the water. What a great day to be traveling and it hasn't sprinkled on me at all!
As I make my turn to the west and towards Twentyseven Island, the wind picks up a bit from the northwest, but its light and no whitecaps. I pass the big island and take a quick photo of this interesting rock outcrop.
I turn south into the bay leading to the Takucmich portage. I'm hoping the campsite is nice so I can stay here 3 nights and fish for the lakers known to inhabit this deep clear lake. After making quick work of this short easy portage, I paddle about a hundred yards around to the small site on my right hoping its open--and it is!! The firepit is near the canoe landing, and there's a couple tiers that include a really nice tent or tarp area on the upper tier and on the second tier a slightly inclined smaller tent pad. While on the uppermost tier, I'm attacked by a large squad of mosquitos, which is really strange with it being sunny now and 2:00 pm. So I decide to put my tent on the middle tier--it fits, but barely and I have to put the stake for one of my vestibules at the base of what looks like an alder bush. After inflating my sleeping pad, I put it and the rest of my clothes and tent gear inside the tent. Then I hop in the canoe to get water. As I'm filling up the jugs with the crystal clear water, I decide take the 15-minute paddle to the island campsite on the far eastern side of Tak. As I near the island, I note the expanse of big red pine on the island and wonder if I should have stayed here instead.
After parking the canoe, I make my way up and over the knob to firepit on the SE side of the island and am bombarded by, yup, you guessed it, DEERFLIES!! They bang off my hat and sunglasses as I examine the campsite and walk back to my canoe. I'll take my smaller campsite, even with the mosquitos.
Back at camp, I erect my bugnet without the tarp in case the mosquitos come out in droves this evening or in the morning. Dinner is another PBJ because I'm too damn lazy to even boil water for a freeze-dried Chicken and Dumplings. I really love my PBJ. Very few mosquitos down here by the canoe landing, which is weird since they're all over on the upper tier. Really weird. I take a few minutes to snap a few photos of this nice campsite.
When I pass the tent, I notice a dozen hornets on my rainfly and flying around it. What?? Sure enough, I discover a hornet nest at the base of the alder bush and I'm pretty sure they are pissed off at my tent.
Back under my bugnet, the wind dies down and I watch baitfish break the glass surface and every now and then either a bass or lake trout chases after them. I'm guessing lakers since the surface action is over 100 feet of water. Before heading to the tent, I click on the weather radio for the latest report. It's now calling for rain rolling in tomorrow afternoon and potentially severe storms with large hail and gusts up to 70 mph after midnight. In the afternoon, winds are supposed to gust over 20 mph from the south. Not good. My site faces south. The last thing I want is a repeat of Stuart Lake. So, since the campsite I have in mind on 41st Island is better protected from a southerly wind, and less than 2 hours away, I decide to leave Camp Hornet in the morning. If I can get up early enough, I'll have a couple hours to troll for lakers and maybe have a laker dinner before the rain hits. At least, that's the plan. I carefully enter the tent and read for a bit. I hear the constant buzzing of the hornets and can see their shadows on the rainfly--creepy. Next thing I don't know is I'm fast asleep in spite of the buzzing. Somehow I sleep like a baby.
I'm up early and carefully and slowly take down my tent as several hornets buzz around near their nest, and then quickly drag my tent away from the tent pad. Success!! But I admit to having the willies for a bit. I press a cup of coffee and down a couple granola bars as I pack up my remaining gear and load the canoe. The last thing I do is press one more cup of coffee as I paddle eastward under mostly sunny skies and ready my trolling rod for some lake trout action. At 30 ft, I cast out my blue alewife flicker minnow and let out enough line to get it to its max trolling depth of 23 ft. My canoe glides on the almost glass surface as my depth finder reads the depth--40ft, 50ft, 60ft, 70ft, 80ft, 90ft--and BAM!! My rod bends over and the drag starts to sing. I grab the rod out of my holder and tighten the drag on my Shimano Stradic reel a couple of clicks. After several minutes, I'm able to finally gain some line on the trout. Then I can feel him shaking and spinning as bubbles hit the surface and then I see him. A beautiful medium sized laker. I land him in the net and with the trout and net in the water, I quickly paddle to the shoreline for a quick photo. A nice 21-in trout!! Gonna have a nice dinner of fried laker sandwich tonight!!
I fillet the trout, push off the ledgerock and troll around this area of the bay. About every 15 minutes I get a hit, land 2 more lakers of similar size (20 and 24 inch) and lose another just before trying to net him. Unfortunately, I have to leave Takucmich and head to 41st Island so I can set up camp before the rains predicted for later this afternoon and evening begin.
I make it through the short downhill portage back to LLC at 8:30 and head west. There's only 2 campsites in this area that I know of, and as I pass the eastern side of 41st I see a tent on the 3-star site. Uh oh. If the site on the NW side of 41st is occupied, I'll be forced back to 27 Island to the east, or continue west toward Snow Bay. At 9:30 I paddle through the island studded western bay of 41st Island and see a grove of young and medium-aged red pine rising 20 feet or so above the shoreline. Then I see the firepit and the site is....OPEN!!
I'm in heaven and so relieved because I've been wanting to stay at this site for about 20 years!! I park the canoe on the rocky shoreline which affords a dryfoot landing. I climb up the hill and this site is absolutely fantastic!! My buddies know of my affinity for red pine and this one has hundreds of them. Large flat rocks have been carried up from the shoreline and ring the firepit (and two additional illegal firepits that folks have used to grill fish over a bed of coals). There's even a flat cleaning table about waist high made of more flat rocks. Next to the firepit I find two cleaning boards and a wooden yardstick--these will be put to good use over the next few days. The pines provide multiple tarp locations as well as flat test pads and would be a hanger's paradise. I pick a tarp spot about 20 yards up the slope from the firepit where the pine grove flattens out. It's perfect for my CCS tarp in that I can direct the upcoming rainwater to either side and have it flow away from my ground cloth and gear. Did I say this site was fantastic?
By noon I've got everything set up in camp. The wind is starting to blow out of the south as expected gusting around 20 mph. It's supposed to increase a bit during the evening and then switch to the SW tomorrow with similar windy conditions. The good news is this bay is not that big and so even with this gusty wind there are no whitecaps. So let's go fishing. I paddle from my peninsula campsite and head into the wind trolling in the 20-30 foot water. There's several small islands and outcrops in the bay that I navigate around while fighting the wind--tiring to say the least. I get no hits and then arrive at the relative calm of the southern shoreline. There's a nice reef here so I try some casts with the ShadZ without success. I paddle west and can't find the 2-star campsite in the SW corner of the bay and guess nature has taken it back. Two hours later I'm back at camp and only have 2 smallies to brag about, both on a Whopper Plopper. One was only about twice as big as the Plopper--"How the heck you gonna swallow that bait ya dummy!!"
Back at camp I lower the tarp on the southern side. The wind is strong and steady now and I see banks of dark clouds on the horizon to the south and southwest. I move the canoe up and put it next to the tarp on the south side to act as a wind break. At 5:00 I fry up the lake trout and splurge with two large buttered whole wheat fish sandwiches and a drink!! This is soooo goooood!! I can barely eat it all, but somehow I force myself. Afterwards I think this must be how grizzlies feel in their stupor state after eating too many salmon skins. After a bit I clean the skillet and plate and ready camp for the incoming blitzkrieg of rain. I hear thunder just before 8:00 so I finish up another chapter and hit the tent.
I slept pretty good last night, waking a couple times with rain dancing on my tent fly. I crawl out of the tent at 7:30 looking around my camp and realizing it rained a bunch. There's small piles of duff all around--remnants of the rivers of rainwater that flowed during the night. But everything under my tarp is dry as a bone. There's threatening dark clouds to the NW as I eat breakfast and drink my coffee. The dark clouds move quickly west to east and pass just to the north. The horizon to the west appears mostly sunny--lets catch some fish!! I jump in the canoe and decide to head west into LLC proper figuring that the southern shoreline on LLC should be relatively safe even in a gusty SW wind. I also want to check out the "guide portage" leading into the eastern shore of Snow Bay. It would make it much easier to get into Snow Bay should I face a strong westerly blow when I depart 41st Island. On the way there, I troll my TD-11 flicker minnow and as I come around a point, about half way to the guide portage, I hook into a nice pike. And then another. And then two smallies and two nice fat walleye as I troll back and forth around this point in about 20 feet of water. The wind is just enough from the SW that the waves are not too bothersome near this point, but I need to get over to that guide portage so I reel up and head west into the shallow bay. I find the portage and its not bad, maybe 200 yards, flat, although the landing on the Snow Bay side is rocky and could be a dicey put-in with a strong west wind. I exit the shallow bay and head north and west to check out the two 3-star campsites marked on my maps but only find one of them. I head back to camp catching a couple more walleyes and have a dinner of Camp Chow Turkey with Rice and Cranberry, and it's just great--and this from a guy not normally a fan of rice dishes. After dinner, I decide to do some laundry and take a bath in the lake. While in my birthday suit drying off I hear voices and the clunk of a paddle on a canoe. Last thing anyone needs to see is my white butt, so I quickly don my pants as a tandem rounds the point and sees me--that was close!! We exchange pleasantries and they continue west to find a campsite. I hang my laundry and relax in my chair under the tarp, mostly out of the wind. I finish my first book with a great little cigar and vodka and then exchange a couple inReach texts with my wife. I also send a text to Wade at Piragis and ask if the fire ban has been lifted with all the rain. It's supposed to really blow hard up to 25 mph W/SW tomorrow so fishing the walleye point might not happen--big frown. But, who knows? I hit the tent at 9:00 pm and sleep really hard despite the wind. Next thing I know it's almost 9:00 am--the latest I've slept in maybe 10 years.
Breakfast is coffee, spam/eggs and panbread with a cinnamon/sugar/butter topping. As I'm eating, I get the latest weather report--potentially heavy rain tonight, winds gusting W/SW up to 25 mph by late afternoon for the next two days (that sucks I say to myself), winds finally subsiding by Friday morning (July 17), then a monster storm predicted for Friday night with winds that may be up to 70mph. That could be really ugly!!
By late-morning, the wind is already blowing 10-15 mph from the west/southwest. Some blue sky, but large cumulus clouds trying to come together--I can almost smell the rain forming. I grab my canoe and head into the wind to the NW corner of this bay to see if there's any hungry smallies or walleyes. While in this small shallow bay, I discover a little sandy beach and find a 100 yd trail that leads into LLC just south of my walleye point. As I gaze over to the point, I notice the waves are not bad as long as I don't get too far away from the point where the W/SW wind is pushing 1-2 ft rollers into Canada. What the heck, I carry my Rapidfire and fishing gear across the trail, put on my lifevest, and start the hunt for a walleye dinner. Trolling in 18ft of water, I quickly land a nice 22 inch walleye, and then a real fat 24 incher. I beach the canoe and take a quick photo before releasing these nice fish.
As I resume trolling, I get a huge strike in 20 ft. My drag sings as I grab my rod and tighten it. This is a big fish and I'm thinking big pike. I can't reel in any line for a couple minutes and I'm nearing the point and the sharp shoreline rocks. Shit!! I'm forced to put the rod back in the holder and paddle my way backwards and away from the point hoping I don't lose this big fish. I grab the rod again and as I pass the point I can feel the brute tiring. I really just want to get a look at this fish but as I get him close enough he takes line again and dives back down. Another minute and I get him back near the surface and I see him--OMG!! Not a pike, but a HUGE walleye!! I'm now in the rollers and probably across the border as I net this big guy. I quickly get the lure out of his big mouth, grab the yardstick and measure him--28 inches--a trophy!! I realize how stupid I am being in this rough water in a solo canoe, but hey, it's a trophy walleye. I release him and away he goes. I slowly make my way back to the point and realize dark clouds are coming my way. Then it starts to sprinkle and I hear the crack of thunder. Oops! I turn east of the point and ease my canoe into a small cove out of the wind. I'm able to get out of the canoe with dry feet as the rain comes down in sheets. I stumble across the slippery rocks and up a slope 15 yards from shore, hunkering under a large busted-up cedar. The rain subsides 20 minutes later so I head back to the walleye point and catch and release three more walleye, a nice one at 26 inches, along with a couple smallies and a decent pike. I finally land a chunky 20-in walleye that I keep--perfect size for my dinner--and fillet in the calm narrows before entering my campsite bay. What a great day for catching fish despite the wind!
Thursday morning, I'm up at 6:30. The wind is down a bit from yesterday and more out of the SW but it's supposed to rain hard this afternoon. So after breakfast I head back to my walleye point. About a hundred yards from the point, I find an underwater hump that rises to a depth of 12-feet, surrounded on three sides with 21 ft depth and on one side a dropoff into 90 ft of water. This creates a saddle between this hump and my walleye point and I realize fish are stacked in this saddle where I was fishing yesterday. Not only do I continue to catch nice walleye, but I find big smallies lurking around the hump--I land several in the 17-19 inch range. I was hoping for a trophy pike, but don't succeed. I see rain coming my way, so I race back to camp. At 1:00, its starts to rain and then it becomes a deluge for the next 20 minutes--rivers of rain all around the camp. The deluge becomes a steady rain for another hour or so and the temp has dropped into the 60s. With the wind and rain, its almost cold. But the sky is starting to clear to the west--about time! After dinner of Chicken and Dumplings, I send an inReach message to my wife and I notice a text from Wade--THE FIREBAN HAS BEEN LIFTED!! I quickly split some of the red pine logs I've collected and have a very nice 90-minute fire tonight as the skies begin to clear.
I'm really lazy come Friday morning. Hard to believe, but I'm almost fished out. But the wind is down, so after breakfast I head east and troll around Dome Island and other islands around it. Not much action, so I return to camp with some more red pine logs. I decide to depart tomorrow morning and hopefully snag the nice island site in Snow Bay. If not, I'll head down to Sandbar Island where I've never camped before. I spend the evening farting around taking photos of this great campsite. In preparation for the huge storm predicted to roll in after midnight, I take down the tarp and secure my packs and canoe. After a fantastic 90-minute fire of split red pine I hit the tent and sleep great again. The storm with 70 mph winds never happens!!
It wasn't until I returned home that I found out my camera had stopped working the last several days of my trip--my photos all came out blurry. I'm hoping Panasonic will treat me well since I purchased my little point and shoot camera just last summer.
I'm on the water at 7:30 and make my way into Snow Bay. Well crap! The island site is taken, as are all the other nice campsites including the 5-star on the SW point that I've never been able to check out cause it's always occupied. So I paddle down to Sandbar Island and find a decent site. After camp is set up, I fish for a couple of hours around Sandbar Island only catching a few smallies and a couple of small pike. Back at camp I split some firewood but realize I won't be using it as large banks of dark clouds form all around. It's starts to sprinkle about 7:00 pm and then rains quite hard for a while. When it finally stops, I head in for the night.
Tomorrow dawns and the wind is already howling out the west. By mid-morning it's steady around 20 mph and gains strength throughout the day, probably gusting near 40 mph at times. Being windbound on an island sucks. There's not much to do besides read and take a long rare nap. The wind makes it hard to even enjoy a cigar. After having a dinner of Chicken and Dumplings, and tired of the wind, I head into the tent with a drink and iced oatmeal cookies. Finally, sleep comes.
I don't sleep that well due to taking a nap, so I'm up early. I plan to make it into Loon Lake today and since it's only a couple hours to reach Loon, I can putter around this morning. I have a leisurely breakfast of cereal, Nido and blueberries and decide to have three cups of coffee instead of my usual two. I finally pack up and paddle straight south to Loon with a light north wind easing me along. I say goodbye to big LLC as I make it over the Beatty Portage. I find a nice elevated site and have time to fish for a while, catching a couple of really nice walleyes near the mouth of the Little Indian Sioux as it enters to main basin of Loon Lake. There's a couple of motor boats fishing on the west side of the basin, but I don't really notice them at all. I fillet one of the walleye for my last fish fry of the trip. An easy day to say the least.
I wake up and begin my journey to the tough 1/2 mile Devil's Cascade portage with plans to camp on Upper Pauness. Unfortunately, I'm gonna get wet today as rain is in the forecast. There's a large beaver dam that I have to push over about 10 minutes from Devil's Cascade that I don't recall being there back in 2008. Beavers can be a pain sometimes. I reach Upper Pauness and am forced to stay on a pit of a campsite--not the way I wanted to end my trip. But I make the best of it, have a nice quiet dinner with my last drink of vodka and final cigar. As I get ready to hit the tent early, I make a final toast to the canoe gods for a memorable solo. And smile knowing I only have a couple hours to get to my car and only two relatively easy slightly uphill portages.
I spend a night in Duluth and a night in Madison arriving home safely on July 24. This solo tested me quite a bit, from a most difficult first day on the Stuart River, a couple of massive thunderstorms and rain, and too many days wrestling with gusty winds. I meant what I said at the end of Part 1. The Stuart River EP is one I have no desire to tackle a second time. I will always recall the epic struggle against insects: Deerflies, Ticks, and then Hornets. And my losing battle against one of the most vicious red squirrels I've ever encountered. On the plus side, this is easily my most successful fishing trip for walleye. I normally fish for trophy smallmouth, lake trout, and pike, and catch walleye by accident. But with the gusty winds during most of the trip, I was forced to troll most of the trip, and caught numerous nice-sized walleye, including one 28-inch trophy. Another positive was I arrived home safely, lost 10 pounds, and no injuries, as long as I don't count a few slight puncture wounds in my fingers from treble hooks. Ya know, it doesn't get much better than that!!