Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Knife Solo
by gopher2307

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/10/2015
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Found a break in workload for a few days. Always wanted to try a solo BW trip, planned this one in about a week, picked up the last remaining Moose Lake EP permit, and headed out at the end of the week. Thanks for reading.
Left the Minneapolis area on afternoon of Thursday, July 9 and was in Ely by about 6. Picked up some leeches, took the dog for a walk around Ely, picked up a sausage pizza at Sir Gs, and headed to the Moose Lake EP. As a side note, the pizza was pretty good. Better than a chain, not the greatest ever, though I'm admittedly an pizza snob. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for metorpolitan area standards but 5 out of 5 for small town only pizza place in town standards. Ended up sleeping the night at the public access in the back of the Explorer. Mosquitos were humming in swarms loud enough I could hear them through the car doors. Amazing.

I had planned and executed the whole trip within about a 10 day window. Needless to say, I wasn't nearly as prepped as usual. Woke up the next morning at 5 to do some last minute organizing/packing of gear I had just thrown in the car in preparation for a scheduled 7 am tow with LaTourells. Recently bought a new Wenonah Prism Kevlar UL, a seatback for the bucket seat, and removable portage yoke before the trip. In addition to last minute packing, spent a half hour playing out the gear configurations I'd played out in my minds eye as to how I was going to pack and portage the canoe and how my dog would fit into the equation. Was able to figure this out, and get to LaTourells on time.

Tow with LaTourells went great. Top notch and trustworthy organization. Will get a two through them every time I'm in Moose. Made it to Indian Portage at Birch Lake by 7:30 and off I went. After double portaging the way in, I made it to camp around 11:30 or so. Never saw anyone coming out, was passed by a very efficent forest service crew on the way in. Had my pick of sites on the southwest side of the lake as a reward for leaving early. I'm a base camper so reaching home base is always a good feeling. Paddling/portaging feels like the heavy lifting that leads to casual enjoyment of the surroundings at base camp, but I digress. Picked the site near Dorothy's island. Always prefer island sites due to paranoia of nighttime wildlife which has worked for me thus far. Given the history of bears around Knife I read about, an island site was even more important to me on this solo.

Friday afternoon I fished around the southerly/westerly most bay of Knife and around the Isle of Pines. Threw spoons, shallow diving rapalas, and mepps primarily with bright chartruese color. Had a smallie hit a chartruese rapala on the first cast which I assumed to be a good sign. Not so much. Caught a handful of less than 1 lb smallmouth, nothing worth keeping/eating that afternoon and evening. Was hoping for pike. Didn't see one until the trip out (pssst...he's foreshadowing). Fished that night until sundown, had a hard time doding rocks on the way back into camp. Tried deepwater rapalas and Gulp Alive in 50' of water in hopes of trout/pike. Never caught a lake trout and this trip would be no different. Used to shallower lakes, so Knife was somewhat of a challenge to learn how to operate.

Saturday morning took it a bit slow getting going. Out of bed about 7:30, made some coffee and oatmeal, then casted off shore for a bit. The water on Knife is as clear as any lake I've seen in the BWCA. This makes it absolutely beautiful but I also think it makes my favorite style of shallow water fishing quite challenging. While fishing off shore, I am able to see some smallmouth here and there and watch their behavior as they review my lure/casting. End up losing intersted after limited success and am back on the water by 9:30 or so. Paddled up to south arm, casting and jigging along the way. Nothing. Need to learn how to catch lakers. Need to find pike and bigger smallmouth. Got into the south arm about a mile or so. Wind is almost non-existent and the flies are eating up my dog, me a bit too. We stop and swim a bit, but fishing is a bit slow. Caught a few more 1 lb or smaller size smallmouth, having tried all of my usually-BWCA-sure chartruese lures. No luck, so head back to camp to work on dinner and get ready for the ride out tomorrow. Made an early dinner around 5, started reorganizing camp thereafter to enable an early exit tomorrow. Have dinner eaten and gear looking good by about 7:30/8 and figure I'll give fishing one last try.

Decided to stay close to 'home' this late evening and fish along the north side of Robbins Island near the intl border. Switched to a natural/perch colored shallow rapala and target downed trees near shorelines, covering as much ground as I can in the 2 hours of daylight remaining. Hit a fat 18" smallmouth on the 3rd cast and the thing ripped out drag like a 40" pike, fun fight. Caught/released him and a 16" smallie a few minutes later. Looking for tree stumps on land, staying a good distance away and casting in, and natural colored lures on this very clear lake seems to be the trick.

Final morning I woke up around 4:30 and was packed in the canoe and rolling by around 6:30 or so. Fished periodically on the way out. While still on Knife with my same perch colored rapala, I hit a 2 lb smallie and was able to see my 1 pike on the trip. A 40" pike took a shot at my smallmoth about 10' from the boat and missed. Quickly dumped the smallmouth and threw a cast back in the direction the pike swam off but no luck. Still fun to see this interaction. All in all, the last evening and this event really made my trip feel rewarding. Would have felt pretty sour had I been skunked on decent fish and stories.

As a wrap up, Knife Lake is the prettiest BW location I've seen. Forests look healthy, water is exceptionally clear, and the number of islands are neat. The map doesn't do the islands justice. Some peninsulas on the map are actually islands connected by shallow water. The deep lake is also somewhat compelling yet challenging. What depth do I find the big guys when it is 80 degrees out? I know deep but how deeep? This lake has much diversity that probably takes some time to figure out on a given trip. Didn't have that time on this one unfortunately.

Food notes: Tried Progresso bag of southwestern chili. Not bad, not good, definitely not worth it's weight. Starbucks microground coffee packets and single serving coffee creamers from gas station..."Victory!" Bear Creek Mac n cheese, pretty good. Plus, I'm a big eater and gave a run at finishing the bag myself. Couldn't do it or really come that close. Took a while to cook it, but worth it. Will bring again.

Gear notes: Tried single portaging at first, but it wasn't really worth the effort to me. Depsite a concious effort to minimize the amount of gear, I had brought too many clothes, too much food, and heavy A hiking boots. In the dog days of July, Keens will suffice for about everything and long sleeve shirts are barely a necessity. Had a couple of good gear tips I learned on this site in the 10 days of prep and implemented. Laying down a yoga mat for the dog in the canoe was the best. Also was able to wedge the mat under the foot bar of my new Prism to portage it wih minimal packing time or added effort. My dog has not been a very good canoe dog in trips past, getting anxious as she was uncomfortable. Yoga mat seemed to help significantly and she slept on it in the tent. Secondly, I implemented a nalgene with two caps for a leech container. One cap solid the other with holes drilled for in boat usage. New prism canoe was a hit. Has a pedestal seat that my seat rest doesn't work well for though. Would love a tip on how others have made Wenonah bucket seat back rest work for one of these. The velcro straps on the bottom seemed worthless in tenioning the side straps which are intended to produce back support. Wenonah portage yoke for the pedestal seat was spendy, but worked well is very light.

Thanks for reading. i will be back to Knife next year if I can make it work.