Day 1 of 5
Friday, August 12, 2016 Peter got to Ely early and tested some solo canoe’s, then found a campsite for the night. I met him at the Snowbank entry point and we camped for the night.
Day 2 of 5
Saturday, August 13, 2016 Fortunately, before entry into the BWCA, we realized we didn’t have a lighter, and I had picked two up, but left them in the car. After a quick trip to the access, we were on a calm Snowbank lake and heading to the portage into Boot Lake shortly after sunrise. These were two relatively flat and easy carries of 50 & 30 rods.
This was the only overcast day we would have, and with calm winds and cool temps for August, it was the perfect travel day. Peter threw a crankbait in on Boot as we paddled the shore and caught a smallmouth, but with hours of travel left, he got put back in the water, the fish – not Peter! The portage to Haven Lake was the easiest of the trip at 5 rods, with pasture perfect grass over the rise.
After a short paddle, we encountered the second worst portage I have encountered, Haven to Abinodji. It was only listed as 80 rods, but it was one hundred feet up and 50 feet down. On the way up I saw a mountain goat with its front legs wrapped around a tree and shaking. (I didn’t know the BWCA was mountain goat habitat). That double portage knocked me out, but we kept going. There appeared to be a nice campsite on Abinodji, high open spot with views of the whole lake, but we didn’t stop to check it out. A fifty rod portage into Swing lake was my first experience with deep mud on the Swing side. We wouldn’t have made it without the cut boards leading to deep water.
The other side of Swing was nice gravel at the portage to Gibson, listed at 35 rods. After paddling to the other side of Gibson, there was a 25 rod portage with a hidden waterfall off to the side.
(unknown boy scout troop at the falls) After a short trip to the falls, we continued across Cattyman lake for a 55 rod portage into Jordan.
At the portage, we met a group that said they just left the campsite on Jordan, and it had a beautiful beach and nice views of the lake. We hurried across the portage and found the site still open. We had found home for our trip, only setting up camp one time over three nights. After taking a short break, we hit the water for some Walleyes. The Eyes were not cooperating. Dinner consisted of Bagels and Mountain House Spaghetti. Quick meal, quick fire, and off to bed.
Day 3 of 5
Sunday, August 14, 2016 Peter was up early to fish, they were still uncooperative. Then we had pancakes and discussed our options. Since the campsite was so nice, we decided to daytrip. Heading east through Ima and giving Alworth a shot at Walleyes.
The 18 rod portage from Ima to Alworth had a nice campsite off to the side, but many trees were leaning from the Winds that came through in June.
We encountered the worst blow down area’s at the end going from Parent to Snowbank on our trip out. We fished Alworth hard all afternoon and had lunch/late snack on the island, which had a fire grate, but is not listed on all the maps. My Fisher map shows it and it would be a nice site to camp on, if we had caught anything larger than 3” Perch, one each. Doesn’t show on the BWCA.com website as a site though. After getting back on Jordan, I thought our luck was changing, as I hooked a good eater northern, but Peter wanted a quick meal and was relieved when it shook my hook before I could land it. He promised we’d catch walleyes on Monday and have a fish fry. Paddling across the lake, I missed a strike (probably another northern) and we made it all day without a keeper. Dinner was more dried food rehydrated. We had some instant potatoes and I forget the main course. After a quick fire and stargazing, off to bed again.
Day 4 of 5
Monday, August 15, 2016 Peter fished early morning again while I slept in.
We then had another pancake breakfast overlooking Jordan lake while deciding what to do for the day. We decided on day trip to Ashigan for smallies. Backtracking through Cattyman and Gibson, we found the portage to Ashigan to be fairly flat, but long at 105 rods. We started working the shoreline east of the portage and started catching smallies right away. These fish fought much harder than the three inch perch we hauled in the day before. As we moved along the east side I finally caught a keeper – fish fry was on! Unfortunately, as I was trying to put the Smallie on the stringer, my line was in the water and a smaller fish grabbed the twister tail and hook. As my rod started for the water, I lost my keeper and ended up trading a keeper for a throwback. We wouldn’t be eating fish today. We eventually worked our way to the small island and stopped for lunch.
It appears there used to be a campsite here, but the firegrate was removed. It did appear that this site was still getting some day use. After eating our apples and some trail mix we headed to the west end of the lake chasing bigger Smallies. We caught a few as we worked back to the portage, but nothing big enough to eat. We decided to head back to Jordan and give the eyes another opportunity that evening. On the way back to Cattyman, we again stopped at the waterfall, and this time Peter waded in for a picture. This is a really nice place to take a break.
Eventually we got back to Jordan in time for the evening fish try. We started in the narrows on the west end of the lake and worked along the shoreline. About a half hour before sunset, Peter finally got some action, telling me he had good news and bad news. He had a fish on, but it was too big to eat. He eventually got the Northern Pike to the boat, estimating it to be about twenty pounds and really thick backed. It broke off his lure and got away, but he was right, that was too big to eat. I didn’t get my camera out, so no evidence on this one. As we kept working the shoreline, we began to see fish eating at the surface, but they were not interested in joining us for dinner, so we kept working along the shore in twenty foot water. About thirty minutes after the first fish, Peter said, “you’ll never believe this, but I got another that’s too big to eat.
This time I got the camera out in time to take several pictures of the Monster pike. However, the story does not end there! After I took the last picture of Peter holding the big fish, I hear a commotion. As I was sitting in the front of the canoe, the picture had been taken over my shoulder without seeing what was going on. Apparently the fish got free and I had no place to hide. Peter still doesn’t talk about what happened, but we managed to keep the boat upright, the fish got released, and Peter still has all his fingers. At this point, we headed back to camp and turned in for the night, after a quick mountain house meal, fire, and some stargazing. It sure is beautiful in the BWCA on a clear night.
Day 5 of 5
Tuesday, August 16, 2016 Peter again tried for Walleyes while I slept in, but after seeing the size of the Northerns in the lake, we’re guessing the Eye’s may have found new homes, where the predators were not so big! While eating our pancakes and last eggs, we decided we had three wonderful days up here and it was time to head home. After getting everything packed up, we hit the water heading for Cattyman. As we got to the portage, a couple from Nashville, TN was just getting to Jordan. We asked where they were headed and they said “Disappointment lake for the night and then they were going out the next day”. As we had the same destination in mind, but were going the other direction, it was obvious that one of our groups was going the wrong way. They were grateful that we got them going in the right direction, and we played leap frog, eventually finding they had found an open campsite on the island just outside the portage on Disappointment Lake. The first portage was from Cattyman to Adventure, a short and easy trip of 10 rods. Next we walked into Jitterbug (40 rods) which was a really boggy lake with lots of lilly pads and other weeds.
After going by the portage to Ahsub (15 rods), we backtracked too far, and then came back again and eventually found the water path to the portage. Ahsub lake had a couple areas to put in, we went across the creek and further down before loading up. As we got started, there were still lots of big rocks in the water. About 50 yards down the stream, we got into deep water and worked our way across the lake to the next portage into Disappointment. At that portage we met two ladies that swam from their campsite on Disappointment to the portage (25 rods) and were looking for the Snowbank trail to walk. After a quick search they realized the June storm had made the trail impassable, so they decided to just swim around Ahsub for a while before heading back to their camp on Disappointment. This was only my third trip to the BWCA, and I had met many other canoeists on portages, but this was the first time I came across swimmers this deep in the BWCA. After a long paddle across Disappointment, we had to decide if we would take the portage straight to Snowbank (140 rods) or go through Parent(85 rods) to Snowbank(80 rods). I wanted to just do the long portage and be done with them, but Peter wanted to see how much damage there was from the June storms. So off to Parent we went. The campsites were empty and looked OK, but after we got to the Portage to Snowbank, we saw the firsthand devastation of the wind, as trees were twisted and snapped all the way to Snowbank.
I think the last leg of our journey was about six hours from Jordan to Entry point 27, but without the hundred foot climb (I wonder if the mountain goat is OK?) I felt like I could have gone much further. We got everything loaded up and started for home. It was a great trip but still a long ride home.
The next weekend I took my wife fishing, and she was able to boat a northern that was not too big to eat and I finally got my fish fry! So with three trips in my back pocket, I am planning a May solo from Snowbank through Ensign to Knife (Isle of Pines), down to Kekekabic for a couple days, and then back through Fraser, Thomas, Ima, and Jordan before repeating the path out from this trip. Maybe I’ll toss a surface lure on Jitterbug!