Jeffords Twosome 2005
Dad and I arrived after 4 hour drive in Ely at 4:30, picked up permit, canoe and room key to bunkhouse at Canoe Country Outfitters by 5:45. Dad was getting a headache as it started to drizzle. We had a beer at a bar then stopped for dinner at Sir G’s. Excited for tomorrow and tired from all the preparation, we were in bed in bunkhouse #2 by 8:30 pm. It’s been raining for 2 hours.
Up and showered, we had breakfast at a café at 6:20. On the road at 7, we twist and turn our way to entry point #16 through the gravel roads until 7:50. It’s still raining as we unload the truck and start for the portage. With plenty of eagerness we tackle the first portage of 160 rods to the Moose River. On the way back we see a huge boy scout troop headed the same way so we hurry. It took us 2 trips to haul all the gear, but we’re ¼ mile down the river and ahead of most everyone else by 9:15.
We systematically get through 20 and 25 rod portages interrupted by 3.2 miles of paddling to the Nina Moose Lake. With a north wind in our face and constant rain, we buckle down and get 2 miles across the lake. The water reminds us of our familiar Chippewa Flowage.
2 more portages of 75 and 96 rods get us to Lake Agnes. By now the constant rain and wind (which I thought would stop) has chilled me to the bone and we’re ready to find a campsite. The problem is that they’re all taken, so we press on through Boulder River and a rocky 85 rod portage after a short shoreline rest on the north side of the lake. We grin and bear 3 more miles of river with our fingers crossed that the next site will have a campsite open. All of Boulder River looks like prime smallmouth water.
Finally we stop at the first site in Lake La Croix, north of Tiger Bay. It stops raining long enough to pitch the tent and change out of my wet jeans. I eat a few snacks to tide me over and we go fishing for 3 hours. In bad conditions we still catch 3 smallies and 2 northerns. Dad loses his favorite popper to a walleye in the rain!!
I eat trail mix for supper, Dad’s too cold to do anything but pass out in his bag. We get up once to fix a leak in the tent with a tarp and then pass out. Most of our wet clothes are outside, but we sleep well. Dad 1, me 0 in the smallmouth contest.
Up at 6:10 everything is wet and calm but the rain has stopped. Not hungry for some reason, we fish awhile and catch 2 bass (8 & 14”) and 4 pike for lunch in the Boulder Bay area. It’s sunny by now and the wet clothes are set out to dry. I decide to cook a lot: bacon, oatmeal, coffee, and then the fish fry which tastes and prepares surprisingly well. We clean up the dishes and set up for the venison backstraps that we didn’t cook the night prior. I take a cold swim and can’t find my thermometer to know the temp. We decide that we’ll press out to Crooked Lake tomorrow as I put on sunscreen. It’s sunny and hot.
Evening fishing goes much better than before. We start to measure our catch by total inches in the competition. I lose day #2 by 3 friggin’ inches: 74.5-77.5”!! Dad 2- me 0. We cook our backstraps, alfredo pasta and green peppers then get to bed not long after dark but it’s already 11:30.
Up at 8 am we pack up and get a late-ish start to Crooked. Lots of water to cover. We paddle 3 miles to the infamous Bottle portage. A guided group is waiting for a ride and another shuttled group of 2 motors ahead of us to the spot. They’re going for 12 days and have tons of gear. We hear that the bass are hitting well in Crooked and hustle through a rough portage of 88 rods, all mud and rocks and hills. We count 5 canoes coming out and 2 coming in besides us and worry that there won’t be a campsite available. Sandflies are horrible on Iron and Bottle Lakes but we manage to get to Rebecca Falls portage by 1230. Unfortunately I’ve made a wrong turn and we’re in the wrong place. In addition, we have no Canadian permit. Dad takes it well as we backtrack and then paddle 2 more miles to the Curtain Falls portage.
It’s a bluebird day as we get to the 100+ rod portage, having to overpower the current to get to the landing. A 5 canoe group of boy scouts lollygagging along the trail slow us up and get us worried that we’ll never find a site. It’s loud as we get to the end of the trail and see a beautiful and powerful cascade of water. We get pics and a video of Curtain Falls and set out to Sunday Bay of Crooked Lake.
As our luck would have it, we do find one and only 15 minutes before another canoe stops by asking “You camping here tonight?” We laugh at our good timing and continue setting up the tent. We fix bagel sandwiches as a pesky squirrel steals the wrappers and won’t leave us alone. The campsite is great, but the fishermen before us were slobs. We gather wood and pack some snacks for evening fishing. I have my first “sit” on the throne back in the woods and didn’t get carried off by mosquitos.
The fishing has never been this good, and we’ve seen some good fishing before. 128” to 152.5” of bass that won’t stop hitting our lures. I have a follow by a huge pike that left a wake and Dad thought he saw a moose back on one quiet bay. We fish until 10:30 and are in bed by 11:15 after Dad spends awhile getting hooks out of his shirt. Loons are none too quiet on this lake at night.
Up at 7:15 for a hot breakfast and out to another part of Crooked. It’s foggy as we fish a spot that the bass aren’t spawning in yet. The water temp is too low and the gradient too steep, but the rocks will be perfect. In a day or 2…
We catch a few near camp and as I lip a feisty one I get hooked badly by a Rapala in the left thumb. It’s bleeding and very painful. We beach the canoe and Dad worries as I have to cut the hook and then force it through my thumb, no going back. Lots of fun, but I don’t recommend it.
Dad catches 2 big pike and I a few smallies then we break for lunch. I get back to find the squirrel eating a hole in my pack. We’re going to bring a slingshot next year. First we have a nap though. Dad catches a smallie spawning near our canoe that we’ve spotted several times because he’s got a jitterbug stuck in his gill. We named him “Inches” because he was good for 18” towards the contest. I batter the pike and some onions with mashed potatoes. We drink tons of lemonade in the hot sun, there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
Tonight we decide to fly rod for the bass. Before we find them, Dad loses 2 poppers to pike. I give the rod a try and catch 3 nice 18” bass and he gets some too. Good fishing, just not as awesome as yesterday. We fish until 10:45 and get directly to bed.
A travel day, we have 12 miles to go today in our plan. We get an early start, on the water by 7:30. We zoom through 2 portages (Curtain and Bottle) but have a hard time finding the third. The Boulder River to Agnes portage is a long one but a big shortcut. We hack through and bushwhack our way for 30 minutes before finding it. It’s a long one, but we’re almost done. We see moose tracks. On the southeast side of Agnes Dad is asleep on his stomach the minute his bag is unrolled. We nearly killed ourselves but made it a long way by 3:00 and nap until 5:45.
We eat the last of the eggs and trail mix, then go fishing. Water is pretty warm and the bass aren’t shallow so we hook a few pike and return to camp at about 10. I build a fire because the bugs are bad and we discuss the last day’s travel back to the car.
Up at 6:15 we get packed and on the water by 7:05. The weather just happens to be difficult, a southwest wind to complement our upstream route. It takes us 4 hours and 15 minutes to paddle (and quadruple portage) 8.5 miles to the car. We do get to see a moose sitting in the middle of the Moose River blocking our route. They are huge and funny to see. We skipped breakfast and are tired, hungry, and dirty. We get a 12:30 breakfast at Cranberry’s: 2 eggs, 2 sausage, 2 pancakes, toast and hashbrowns which I wash down with 2 COLD Leinenkugel’s Red Lagers. Life is good. The ability to sit on a padded chair, wash our hands in a sink and have A/C is really nice. It’s kind of sad how you end up missing the stuff that you set out to escape in the first place. But I guess that’s why we all take a vacation to go to the BWCA…
For our first trip we packed pretty darn well, but we’ll be bringing these items next time:
More rope (can’t have too much)
Large water bag (2 1-liter containers made it difficult to purify enough quickly)
Slingshot (to scare the squirrels better than a badly aimed rock)
Dry socks (gore-tex or the like, our feet were always wet)
Bungee cords (paddles/rods are a pain to carry, bundling them all would be nice)
Mashed potatoes are easier and cook better than noodles
Fingernail brush (hands get really dirty out there)
Tarps with grommets are good (we had some, those without are less useful)