BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 06 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
No disappointment on Disappointment over Memorial Day
May 21, 2008
Number of Days:
Angie and I had been nearly completely packed for days. The piles in the garage had finally taken shape into 3 Duluth packs. We left Wisconsin around 11am and drove to Ely. We were happy to find that the trip was only about 7 hours instead of 8 ½.
We checked in with Jordan’s Outfitters and then went to check out the big town of Ely. We stopped by Piragis Outfitters. It was quite a treat to see a BW specific outdoor store. Rather than wading through large camping sections and only finding a few BW items, the entire store was full of BW items.
We had dinner at the Ely Steak House. After reading so many reports about it, we felt that it was a required part of the trip.
We got back to Jordans around 8:30. We saw the video, reviewed the itinerary, tied a Souris River Quetico on our van and got the final details set.
We fell asleep quickly in spite of the fact that we felt like kids on Christmas Eve.
We had a nice breakfast at Jordans and hit the road. We arrived at the launch, loaded the canoe, and hit Snowbank. There was a decent chop on Snowbank and Angie and I had never really paddled together. We quickly got the rhythm and made good progress across Snowbank. I found it ironic that we were doing the most dangerous part of the trip when we were most green.
The portage from Snowbank to Disappointment was Angie's first portage ever. It was quite an introduction. The portage is long, rocky, and seems to be completely uphill. We were base camping on Disappointment and double portaging. The double was sort of nice so we could catch our breath and actually see the portage without looking through a 17 foot hat.
We were paddling Disappointment around 9:30 am on the Thursday before Memorial Day. We were surprised to pass 2 or 3 groups coming out of Disappointment. I thought that was strange day to leave the BW. But either way, Disappoint was nearly empty. We leisurely passed by many of the camp sites. The island site closest to the launch looked pretty nice but it was the first one we found and we decided to keep looking. We checked out a few more sites. I was disappointed to see so much damage to the other sites. There were many trees cut off at waist level and several trees chopped with axes at eye level.
Eventually, we went to the site on the southwest shore towards the middle of the lake. The site was perfect. It was off the beaten track and the site was pretty rustic. I think we were the first ones to use the site this season.
There was a large tree down in the middle of the best tent pad. We had to trim branches on the tree to make a path to the back half of the tent site. We found a flat spot and set up the tent.
I fished the afternoon and caught a few smallmouth. I got a 15” smallie on a Basstrix swimbait. It was my first real time fishing the swimbaits. I was pretty impressed. We ate the smallie with Cache Lake bread for dinner.
What a great morning. The weather was nice: clear, cool, sunny, and warming quickly. Breakfast was great. We had Jordan’s signature very thick sliced bacon and Cache Lake’s hash brown potatoes and bacon, egg scramble. Again we were impressed with Cache Lake’s foods.
We spent the day canoeing and fishing our section of Disappointment Lake. Angie enjoyed the day by fishing a bit, reading a bit, and taking pictures. She tried to get some loon shots but the loons never quite came close enough.
We trolled a bit, casted a bit and explored the lake. It was relaxing and pretty. The fishing was poor for most of the day.
I had recently read an article in the Wisconsin Outdoor Journal about post-spawn walleye. The article stated that walleye spawn on exposed flats with 1-2 feet of water. The wind provides the moving water needed by the walleye's eggs. Just north of our camp site, there was an exposed island that just broke the surface of the water. The article stated that the big walleye move onto the shallow wind-swept flats around dark.
Towards dusk, we trolled Rapala’s husky jerks around the island. We caught a nice 20” walleye right between the island and the camp site in about 8 feet of water. It was the first big walleye I’ve ever caught. I was surprised how sluggish the fish was. He was heavy but didn’t fight strong like a smallie or pike. The walleye was male that had not spawned yet. We ate the walleye for dinner…
We stayed on the island until it was nearly dark. We watched the sun set from the canoe. It wasn't an especially pretty sunset but the surroundings made up for it...
It was another gorgeous day. We had a quick breakfast and hit the water. It was our first day trip. We packed a bunch of supplies. We figured that we’d take enough emergency supplies that we could handle any change in weather and perhaps even spend the night if needed. Luckily, none of that gear was needed.
We paddled north on Disappointment. The wind was brisk but the waves were small. It was an easy paddle to the portage. The portage to Ahsub was uneventful.
Ahsub was very pretty. We were amazed how clear the water was. You could easily see the bottom in 10 to 15 feet of water. We quickly found the portage Jitterbug. The water was high enough that it was easy to reach the shore. Jitterbug was nice. It had an old pier for launching the canoe. That made it easy to launch the canoe. We worked our way around Jitterbug to the next portage. The portage wasn’t quite where my McKenzie map showed it. We kept following the shore until we found the portage to Adventure lake.
Adventure went quickly. We were getting itchy to see the falls and made quick work of Adventure. We found the little creek leading the Cattyman. We had to get out of the canoe but then it floated on it’s own to Cattyman.
Once on Cattyman, we could hear the falls. We parked the canoe at the portage to Gibson and grabbed our gear. We hiked past the falls and were quite impressed. We stopped and took a bunch of pictures. Then, we went to the mouth of the river. We had a picnic and fished a bit. I could not catch anything. But two loons were fishing the area below the falls. They were having good success and often came up with fish in their bills.
After a while, we worked our way back to the canoe and eventually back to our camp site on Disappointment. We ran into two groups on Disappointment asking about sites on Ahsub. It was 4:30 pm on the Saturday of Memorial day weekend. They seemed surprised that all the sites on Disappointment were taken.
We had dinner and decided to fish a bit. We walked the shore north of the camp site. We found a nice rock ledge that looked like a pier. We sat on the rock ledge and casted towards the submerged island mentioned earlier. I threw nearly every lure in my box and didn’t have a single bite.
We went back to camp and relaxed around the fire.
It was an especially gorgeous day. The day was warming quickly. There was a strong wind from the south. We had a nice breakfast of bacon and pancakes. We had thought about leaving today but the weather was too nice and we decided to stay until Monday morning. We knew that we would probably be taking down camp in the rain but it was worth it.
I fished hard today. We would paddle to a spot and anchor. I would fish and Angie would read. She was enjoying her book and I was enjoying the fishing.
I had my fish finder with me. It is a Lowrance X67 that I bought for ice fishing. It is portable and worked great in the canoe. The transducer shot right through the Kevlar and gave a great view of the bottom.
I caught a nice 18” walleye on submerged island. The island rose to about 5 foot deep and was surrounded by 20-30 feet of water. The walleye hit a minnow on a floating jig head behind a lindy sinker.
I caught a nice 28” northern in about 10 feet of water on a ledge between shore and 20 feet of water. The northern hit the same minnow jig used on the walleye.
Then, I found the motherlode. We stopped on the north shore to have a snack on a rock. After the snack, I decided to make a few casts. I caught about 6 smallmouht bass in about 12 casts. The bass were hitting a Firetiger Huskyjerk. The bass were near the north shore. There was a strong wind from the south that was pushing bait and warm water towards the shore and the bass were there waiting for them. I caught about 4 more bass as we explored more northern shores.
What a difference a day makes. It rained hard during the night. There was a strong north wind and the temperature was about 30 degrees cooler.
We packed, had a quick breakfast, and hit the water. The north wind was making pretty big waves on Disappointment. But the wind was nearly perfectly behind us. We made good time.
The portage from Disappointment to Snowbank was uneventful. We ran into a group that was doing trail maintenance. They seemed to have worked hard but had a good trip.
Snowbank was interesting. The wind from the north was kicking up whitecaps and pretty big waves. We tried to stay near shore and worked our way around the islands on the southern edge of Snowbank. We made it out and were happy to have had a Souris River canoe. We saw other folks with aluminum canoes. They seemed to only a few inches of free board on their canoes. I hope they made it out of Snowbank…
We loaded the van, had a shower at Jordan’s and hit the road.
One word of caution: make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave Ely. We drove the Highway 1 road to Duluth. We just about ran out of gas. I even needed to add about a quart of coleman fuel to the tank. We didn’t figure that we wouldn’t see a gas station for 60 miles...