Isabella River - June 2005
by gshaw

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/09/2005
Entry Point: Little Isabella River (EP 75)
Exit Point: Little Gabbro Lake (EP 33)  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
The intent of this trip was to land some great fishing. We've been relatively skunked in the past couple years, and this year we were heading out a couple weeks later than usual. The plan was to enter through Little Isabella River, catch some scenery, shoot some rapids, and bust our nuggets over portages connecting the lakes of Bald Eagle, Turtle, Gabbro and Little Gabbro. We base-camped on Turtle in hopes for some lunker northern action, then exited via Little Gabbro entry point #33. Pics may be viewed in the profile for gshaw or at
Day 1 of 4
Friday, June 10, 2005

Into the woods we a go. Me, Ryan, my dad (Dave), and Scott set out around 7:30am for the Little Isabella entry point. The drive was uneventful until a momma and baby moose presented themselves along Tomahawk Road. Once we unloaded the jury-rigged mini-van, the first canoe touched water and the rain started. Not blinding, but enough to warrant the rain gear. It rained most of the day which posed a bad omen for the fishing ahead.

The Little Isabella River, as in previous years, proved uneventful. A moderate paddle and a westward direction then put us on the Isabella River and business started to pick up. We witnessed another set of mother and baby moose, a bull moose casually dining, and two whitetail does – doing whatever deer do. The portages were hell. Most along the Isabella River were around 40 or 50 rods, according to the map, but in actuality were worse than expected. This was due to the fact they were soggy and longer than charted. A couple times Ryan and I were duped into “up-and-overing” the canoe instead of packing up to portage, only to be fooled by the map regarding the distances and passable terrain. On top of everything, the mosquitoes were the worst I’ve ever experienced in the BWCA. I don’t know if previous soggy weather, or the current rain stirring them up, or any other factor was to blame, but it was so bad you couldn’t stop during a portage or they’d catch up with you. At times, when the portaging was tough, heavy breathing meant you were only getting about 80% breathable air and 20% mosquitoes (by volume). We managed, though. We came across a set of rapids, which looked 10 fold worse than they actually were and a short time later we were on Bald Eagle Lake.

As the rain blindingly fell, now, we were forced onto the East shore around 1pm to bail canoes and properly adjust all rain gear. Ryan and I were prepared and weren’t actually discouraged by the rain. My dad and Scott, however, I felt bad for because they were soaked through and cold to boot. As we ate a quick lunch, plotted our course, and unpacked the “warm clothes”, the rain stopped and we continued on our way. Dumb luck boated two small northerns and a smallie on a deep-red/orange deep-running crank along the East shore around 3pm. It looked like a good sign, as weather has killed many fishing opportunities in the past. Fishing was the least of our worries, though.

The portage from Bald Eagle Lake to Turtle Lake was easily the worst I’ve ever experienced. Needless to say it seemed longer than the map suggested (185 rods I believe). On top of that, the elevation changes were grueling and the terrain varied from large rocks to bog to section with flowing water through them. Although Ryan and I were expertly equipped and packed, we had to stop a couple times to rest. Once completed, we then doubled back to help Dave and Scott with their plastic, non-yolk having canoe. Each portage the whole weekend included doubling back by Dave and Scott as a result of the canoe they brought in. Even the terminal landing was horrible. There was no good place to put in and getting wet was inevitable.

After we set out, a quick scope of the campsites on Turtle Lake revealed the island site was by far the best. Great boat landing, elevated for a slight mosquito-negating wind, well shaded – it nearly had it all. Including fishing. It was positioned so it created a channel between the mainland and our campsite at the deepest point in the lake (10-15 feet). Although the lake contained solely northerns, they were the biggest I’ve ever encountered. The island did lack an ample supply of firewood, party because of the rain, but mostly due to rot of all downed trees. We often had to search other islands for useful wood. Once we initially landed, the gloom forced us to set up camp first thing, and we were out onto the lake by 5pm. By then the fishing had dried up with a couple lunkers splashing off shore throughout the evening taunting us. We cooked up a quick dinner and cashed in early due to the ass whupping we experience throughout the day.

Things I Learned:
·Rain has ears. It knows when to start and it knows when to stop just to piss you off.
·Don’t paddle with your head down, no matter how tired you are. Nature is everywhere.
·My dad’s not invincible anymore.
·I love my girlfriend and missed her more than I thought I would.

Distance In: 11.3mi (18.2km)