BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1825 feet
Homer Lake - 40
Brule Lake - September 2016
September 02, 2016
Number of Days:
My trip partner, Jarod, and I got a nice early start to Grand Marais for some breakfast. Jarod and I have paddled together on and off for 20 years. We hadn't been into the Boundary Waters together for the last year and a half, so we were excited to get back out there, exploring somewhere neither of us had ever been. Our first stop of the day was at South of the Border Cafe for a good and hearty breakfast. Then we headed West on our 45 minute drive to the lake. We were excited to have the canoe loaded in the water right around 7:00am. I am a big fan of these early start days, because it truly is like getting an extra day on the water. We had planned on staying some where near Cone Bay, to accommodate our plans for day tripping. We had also been watching the weather and knew we were in for a fair bit of wind out of the south most of the time. As we made our way through the maze of islands towards Cone Bay, we thought we would check out campsite #954 on the big island, just south of Cone Bay. We passed a few canoes heading out nice and early this morning and had thought that one of the groups had just left the island. We pulled up on the island and immediately knew this was going to be our home. Beautiful, open and spacious site that faced the north and would keep us out of all those southern winds. We set up the tent, hung the food pack, and set the rest of camp. Before we knew it, we were working on putting our rods and reels together. We headed out to start exploring this vast lake. The wind was increasing already, so we decided to head into Cone Bay, to find a little shelter. It took a little while, but soon I got jolted on a white spinnerbait and landed the first fish of the trip, a nice little smallmouth. As we headed down the north shore of Cone Bay, I looked up and saw a black bear right on the shoreline! I excitedly yelled the location to Jarod, and of course it disappeared into the brush before he could see it. We lingered for a while, hoping to catch another glimpse, but it didn't happen. We had a light lunch, so our bellies started getting hungry for dinner. We made our way back to camp into a stiff south wind. There wasn't a lot of wind, but it made the paddle a little tough. We got back to camp and started preparing dinner. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Our tradition, like many others, is to bring in steaks for the first night. This helps us not get too sick of fish, and is always a treat after a first day filled with paddling, portaging, and setting camp. The steaks and instant mashed potatoes were divine![paragraph break] [paragraph break] After dinner and cleanup, we broke out the poles to do some slip bobber fishing from shore. We wrangled up a little bit of live bait on our way north. Our plan was to just save the bait for our time around camp, which ended up working just fine. Jarod was fishless for the day yet, but that changed pretty quick. He caught a little smallmouth before dark, which was exciting, knowing that we would be able to catch some fish from our camp site.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We fished for a while longer, all the while, enjoying the beautiful sunset. We had quite the nice sitting area next to the water for our evening. We would use this area every night while either fishing or just watching the sunsets.[paragraph break]
Saturday morning started with a hearty breakfast. I like to try a couple of new things every year, and this year one of the things I wanted to try was biscuits and gravy. I found some packages of just add water biscuits and sausage gravy mix at Menards, that we were going to pair with some Johnsonville pre-cooked breakfast sausages. Jarod tackled the biscuits, which needed to be oven cooked according to the directions. Jarod used two pans and plenty of butter to make some drop biscuits. As he worked on those, I browned up the sausages and then as the biscuits were close to done, I made the gravy. This ended up being the best breakfast I had ever had Up North! It was the perfect serving amount for 2 of us and I believe it cost me under $5.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] Our game plan for the day was going to be to head up the Cone Lakes and get out of the wind. We made our way up the quaint little portages all the way to North Cone. We started fishing on the Western side of the lake, letting the wind push us down the lake. I was jigging on the drop off when I got my first strike! I was using my ultralight with 2 pound test line, and knew I was in for a battle! The fish stayed deep and was heavy. I was hoping for a big old walleye, but suddenly a large northern came to the surface. After a few good runs, Jarod wrangled it in his little net, which was quite the entertaining chain of events.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We never got a true measurement on the fish, but we estimated it at 30 inches. It was a gorgeous, thick and healthy fish. After a few photos we let it go and kept on fishing. We worked the point on the eastern shoreline, but even on this small lake the wind was becoming an issue. We pushed down the finger of the lake on the eastern side and I started catching smallmouth bass with some regularity. In fact, I had landed 5 fish in a very short amount of time.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We paddled back to make another pass in an area that was full of fish. On the second pass, Jarod finally struck his first fish of the day![paragraph break] [paragraph break] After catching a few more, we headed for Middle Cone Lake. We had a nice chat with a family that was just coming into the lake as we were leaving. We had told them we had some luck fishing and pointed them to the "hot spot". The little bit of water moving out of this lake was pretty cool, so we stopped for a couple photos.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We were getting a little hungry, so before fishing we thought we would stop for lunch on Middle Cone. We had passed the campsite on the western shore on our way through earlier. The site was still open, so we pulled ashore. The site isn't much to write home about. We ate our summer sausage and crackers, while the wind whipped pretty good on this little lake. The site was almost completely on a side hill, so it didn't see too desirable as an actual spot to camp.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] The bite on Middle Cone was fairly slow. We got a bass right after starting to fish, then went all the way down the lake on the southern shore, and only caught one more little smallmouth. We were ready to get back to camp now, so we started making our way back. When we hit Brule, we knew we were in for a workout! We had paddled in to a pretty good breeze yesterday, but the wind was roaring now. We systematically made our way back to the campsite, hiding behind every point or island we could on the way. Finally it was time to cross the last chunk of big water. We slowly made our way through the three foot rollers. I was so glad to have a trustworthy paddle partner in front of me this trip! It was a little nerve-wracking, but I never felt out of control. We landed at camp, and almost immediately started work on dinner. We cleaned fish and made the now famous fish tacos. We chunked up the fish and breaded it with a combination of Cajun Shorelunch and Penzy's Taco Seasoning. We fried up the fish nice and crispy, even a little charred. Then we threw them in a tortilla along with shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix), lime juice, and Chipotle Mayo. Everyone loves taco night![paragraph break] [paragraph break] After dinner we once again bobber fished and watched the sunset. It had been a great day. We made plans for the next day and watched the sunset until we were drowsy.[paragraph break]
At this point of the trip, we just anticipated some major wind for the day. This lake was living up to it's reputation. Given that fact, we got up early and ate a quick breakfast. Our plans for the day were to head west and chase the elusive brook trout found in Wench Lake. Jarod has been with me on all my trout adventures over the years, and after hearing about the steep portage we knew we had to go see if it rivaled the portages to Vale and Gadwall, that we had fished a few years earlier. We made our way across a fairly calm Brule Lake, quickly passing Fishbox Island.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we approached the western side of the lake, we realized our directional bearings were off a little. We had veered further south and saw the portage to South Temperance Lake. We quickly headed north and soon there was no doubt where Wench Lake was located. I have seen so many cool photos of the shoreline where the Wench Lake portage is located. It truly is one of the coolest sights I have ever seen in the BWCA.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We pulled up on the shore, only to see that the portage looks like it is very seldom-used. The path was easy to follow, but there were trees down the entire way up to the lake. We slowly made our way up the trail, occasionally having to tag team the canoe to get it over or under fallen trees. What a gorgeous little lake! We were excited to see if we could lure any brook trout out of the depths. We figured we would have a nice quiet day, with the lake to ourselves. As we finished our first drift down the lake, we heard voices. Here came three canoes filled with seven people. I couldn't believe it. The lake is small, but the other party did a great job of giving us our space. We fished very exploratory on the first pass, working small baits at different depths to see if we could locate any trout. I missed a quick strike near shore, so on our pass back toward the portage, we decided to work the shoreline, casting small spoons and spinners. A short way back down the lake I hooked up and landed our first trout![paragraph break] [paragraph break] It wasn't a huge fish, but there is something awful special about catching these trout out of Boundary Waters lakes. The other group out fishing pulled up on the western shoreline and climbed up to have some lunch. We took the opportunity to work back down the northern edge of the lake, again working the shoreline. Soon, I caught trout #2. They weren't coming fast and furious, but it was fun to catch a few. The other group wrapped up their meal and paddled down the lake. They headed back down the portage and we were once again alone on the lake. We decided to break for lunch on the southern shore. Jarod had missed a fish that followed his lure up to the canoe multiple times. We decided after lunch, we would see if we could coax it into a better strike. It was nice to get out of the canoe and stretch on the rocky shoreline.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] After lunch we tried in vain to get Jarod a trout. No luck on this day. We were glad we made the journey to this beautiful little lake. We headed toward the portage and I snapped a photo of our two little trout. They weren't very big, but they would be delicious![paragraph break] [paragraph break] The wind had picked up greatly during the day, but it was hard to judge how hard it was actually blowing on this little lake. Before we headed down the portage, I snapped a photo of this amazing lake. Even if you don't trout fish, this lake is worth a visit. Just a little gem off the beaten path.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we got back on to Brule, it was very apparent that again, the wind had increased to gale force while we had been enjoying our time on a small lake. Today we had about a two mile run, straight east to our campsite. The waves were again, out of the south, and were crashing hard into the side of the canoe. We stayed off the big lake for a little while, fishing some bays on the way. We soon ran out of cover and faced the big lake. Today's waves were in the 3-4 foot category. We saw Fishbox Island off in the distance and it was our first goal. We slowly made our way, with me barking out when I was going to turn us, so we would quarter the really big waves. Other than that, all focus and concentration was just watching the waves, and anticipating the really big ones. We got to Fishbox Island with very little water in the canoe. We took a few minutes to rest and get crazy enough to go back out in this. We could see our island and it wasn't too far. We pushed on and made it to camp without incident. We got out of the canoe and both of us knew we had just done a really, really stupid thing, crossing the lake in those waves. Fortunately we were dry and safe! We had dinner and did a little fishing. As the sun set, we could see what was coming. It looked like it would be a wet night.[paragraph break]
After just getting hammered with a rain storm over night, we decided we would be sticking pretty close to camp today. We lingered in the tent a long time that morning, as we had received a substantial amount of rain over night. When we finally got up, all of the little paths and trails around camp were full of water. Some of them were nearly two inches deep. We had a little breakfast and then decided to just take the canoe out and work the waters around the island. After a couple hours of no fish, we went to shore to have some lunch. Another new item on the menu this trip was some foil pack chicken. We made up some butter noodles and I sauteed the chicken with some seasoning in the fry pan. Then we mixed it all up and made some good northwoods hotdish.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] This combination of chicken and noodles was delicious. It was also a welcome meal, since we had no fish hanging on the stringer. After lunch we trekked around the island. The wind was blowing pretty good and it was still misting from time-to-time. I am glad we had been so adventurous the previous days, as being far from camp would not have been fun today. We rigged up our slip bobbers and used up the last of our nightcrawlers and leeches. We scratched up just enough fish for dinner, with a few small smallmouth bass.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] After dinner we started packing up camp. We knew we wanted to hit the water early the next morning to avoid that southern wind. We ended up having plenty of time after packing to enjoy the sunset and some hot chocolate.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] As the sun set, we noticed a lot of lightning on the horizon. It appeared we were in for another batch of rain over night. The rain was very minimal, but the lightning and thunder was some of the most intense I have ever experienced in the BWCA. There were times where the thunder was so loud and strong it shook the ground we were sleeping on! At least it didn't rain very much during the night.
We rose from the tent at sunrise and got to work. Jarod packed up the tent as I started moving the rest of our gear to the canoe. There was no wind yet, but we knew how quickly that could change. We were soon in the canoe, paddling south towards the entry point. It is funny that even though we stayed up in the north central part of the lake, we were easily able to keep our bearings on the way back to the entry point. It had been such a struggle on the way out, but we soon landed the canoe on the shoreline of the entry point. We packed up the car grabbed a final batch of photos and headed back to Grand Marais.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We had quite a day yet in front of us. From here we were grabbing some breakfast and heading to Ely. We were going back in the BWCA the next day, with two others, which I will soon complete a trip report on. This trip was fun and filled with adventure. We visited many cool little lakes, while enduring the wind on big Brule Lake. I keep telling myself I am going to stop planning trips on big water, but I am glad I came here and saw some of the great sights that Brule had to offer. Thanks for reading!