Fourteen Hours, Four Guys, Toyota Corrolla. and one wrecked Kevlar Canoe
Day One: In the water by 7:30 we entered Mudro in route for Friday Bay via Horse River, mostly expecting a lay over night somewhere just West of Table Rock. Indeed we settled into perhaps the worst camp sight I’ve ever stayed at, but it worked for a one-night stay. We could have made it all the way in one day but we just had to do some fishing after Lower Basswood falls. We made good time until we started fishing. I was very proud of our group for packing conservatively. After doing a little fishing I had a feeling that the fishing was going to be tough. Not to say we didn’t eat Walleye every night, they just were not jumping in the boat. And for small mouth they don’t like to eat when they are on their beds. And it did not take long to realize they were on their beds.
Day Two: We woke early and got a quick start. We listened to thunder in the distance as we paddled in calm water for a couple of hours. As we neared Friday Bay we had to pull off and wait out a severe thunderstorm and downpour. As we resumed our route we arrived at our desired campsite to find four tents there. I soon learned that the group was college age training to be scout guides out of Moose Lake and they were waiting out the rain and intending to shove off soon. They kindly invited us ashore to dump our stuff as to lay claim to the site when they moved out. All college age guys, you could see some of them were quite miserable due to the rain and bugs. There leader was well composed, mature, capable.
We wasted no time dumping our gear and getting on the water with our poles. A little rain never stops us from fishing. Turned into a beautiful and hot day. That evening we had fish for dinner. After dinner we decided not to go back out so we flipped our canoes over on the bank. A brief wind blew in and lifted one of our canoes ten feet into the air and twenty feet toward us and dropped it on a boulder, snapping both of my fishing poles. Yes the canoe was damaged badly but not leaking. I would not expect our outfitter to be able to rent it out again. I felt sick and responsible for the whole thing. As I figured it I would either be new owner a BRAND NEW Kevlar canoe in need of repair or paying an insurance deductible. The men with me were great about it and assured me that they would have my back and help me out with whatever happened. They rigged up a couple of extra poles so I could at least fish the rest of the week, but I did not feel like it at the moment.
Day Three: The weather cooled a bit but still great for MN this time of year. We fished quite a bit on day three and kept only enough to eat as is our practice. I was pleased to have caught few really nice walleye, the biggest of which would have weighed in at 5-6 pounds. The fishing really was tough for us, so I never tired of catching Northern. We did not eat any after day two. We kept smaller small mouth and eater size walleye and had our fill. Interestingly enough we stopped at a rock island about a ½ acre in size with a few trees to fish and have lunch and were nearly attacked by seagulls. Had some good laughs and without really looking discovered several nests with eggs. We returned to camp for a mid afternoon fish fry. I went to my tent for a late “nap.” And didn’t wake until morning. The guys tell me the lake had a good chop that night that never settled down.
Day Four: Today we discovered a hump, or submerged flat in the middle of the bay. We had a good time there catching a number of good-sized Northerns and eater sized walleye. We marked it and drifted it several times. Quarter oz. Spinner Jig with a gulp 3” minnow. We did not want to bring live bait.
Day Five: Rise and Shine…up and out early headed to Fourtown Lake via Moosecamp River. The Wagosh portage 328 rod was long but fairly flat. It was nearly killing the groups headed North though. There were bags, paddles, poles, packs dropped all over the trail, scouts nearly in tears, wondering when it would end. Personally I would have taken a break too if bugs were not in the equation. We made good time to Fourtown Lake despite the tremendous work of the Beaver all throughout the never ending Moosecamp River. I cannot imagine the river being lower than it was for us, I cannot see how it would be even remotely passable in July our August. We paddled with a welcome tail wind down to the campsite on the point just before the last three sites before portaging into Horse Lake. The site has a poor landing and small un-level tent pads but everything else about it was spectacular. Behind the sight the trail led up the rock bluff for a great view of much of Fourtown Lake. The tent pads were not much of an issue seeing as to how we were waiting for a night to hammock camp. The water seemed unseasonably warm to me, which made me think about a nice little jump and swim the next day. We heard loons and wolves howling that evening from our hammocks. Side Note-I knew Horse and Fourtown were busier lakes than Crooked, but I had no idea you could not find a bay w/o two or three other canoes fishing in it at any given time. I had to force myself to be somewhat social. Something I don’t generally have to do when in the BWCA.
Day Six: Two of the four in our party packed up and headed to South Fourtown for a last morning of fishing, while myself and another decided to take it easy and meet them at the portage at noon. After eating a large breakfast, oatmeal, potato pearls, bacon crumbles, and any other food we had that we did not want to pack out we were ready for a mid-morning hammock nap before packing and paddling with a tail wind to the south portage out of Fourtown. One portage was particularly tough, rocky and up down, but we made what we consider good time and were at the care by 3PM. Wow, portage traffic was crazy busy, every one of them. Of course we needed to do the right thing and settle up with our outfitter on our way out of town. He had seen only a few similar incidents in the past twenty years. From a professional business stand point we wrecked his canoe and needed to make things right. So we worked it all out with no hard feelings. On our way home we stopped at the Sawmill in Virginia for a decent meal and some snack food at the adjacent Walgreens.
Overall: I have plans to return to Horse/ Fourtown area with Dad in September but will likely revert to my Ultralight Alumacraft when the time comes. My first experience with Kevlar was not great. I will continue to use Kevlar rentals on portage intensive trips but plan on hauling my own Alumacraft in September. The trip involves only a few portages. I will plan on eating at Britton’s again w/o coffee. The Saw Mill in Virginia was a good exit meal, but there is another place there by the name of Adventures I may give a try. Oh yes, and in September I will plan on leeches, possibly some Large Minnows too, for dad’s “trophy sized pike.” One last thing I will try not to forget…a pen for journalling. This trip report is purely by memory, so I’m sure I missed a few things.