Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

bushwacker practice
by hexnymph

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/03/2006
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This trip was about pushing our limits a little bit further than before. We arrived at Sawbill Lake on Friday July 2nd after a mostly uneventful drive. I had a slight delay in Tofte when my water pump went bad. Cooter's garage had no problem having it fixed (for an exorbitant amount) by the time I got back. The group this year consisted of, Chad (reelhappy), Greg (aka White guy, or pghportager) Mike(pennpaddler) the foodbag guy, me (hexnymph). We stopped at Sawbill Outfitters to pick up the rental boat and pay for a campsite for the night. Upon stepping out of the car, the blackflies were bad. Swarms of those buggers quickly surrounded us as we shuffled into the outfitters. At this point I decided my DEET supply was a little low so I picked up another bottle of the good stuff, greater than 95% DEET. After picking up the other canoe, setting up our campsite, and packing and repacking our gear we decided to do a little fishing on Sawbill Lake. We had steaks to eat for the night so we didnt keep any fish but the results were a mixed bag of a single walleye, some smallmouth, and some pike but nothing to brag about. The flies and skeeters continued to be annoying the rest of the night but it gave us a chance to get accustom. Fortunately the blackflies were not as bad after that first night
Day 1 of 8
Saturday, June 03, 2006

(Sawbill Lake, Alton Lake, Beth Lake, Grace Lake, Phoebe Lake, Knight Lake, Haze Lake, Phoebe River, Polly Lake)

On day one we packed up our camp and did a final re-packing of our gear before the start of our journey. In a common mistake, the foodbag guy went for his morning relief without locking the foodbag under lock and key. In the time it took him to get back we managed to debate what to add to his pack. We had a small watermelon that was intended to go into the pack but he had all ready seen it and would notice the obvious extra bulk. There was beer, so we slid 4 containers into his pack thinking he wouldn’t be so upset when he found them. As everybody was just starting to take the gear down to the boat launch the foodbag guy did discover the added weight when he was adding some more personal gear to his pack. With only him and I around, he agreed to be a sport and not let on that he had found it.

Thank goodness the blackflies had let up and the weather was calm and sunny for our start. Crossing Sawbill Lake, our first portage, and Alton Lake had been fairly uneventful. We were in a hurry to get to the more remote areas and away from the entry point and the crowds that we were encountering around it. One thing I did notice at this point and several times the rest of the trip were the goose migrations. It seems a bit late in the year for it, but we saw a few hundred geese continuing their migration north in “V” formation.

Once we reached Grace Lake, and were comfortable with the distance we had gone so far, the fishing started to get more serious. Grace and Phoebe Lake proved to be pretty good for the smallmouth. The fish were generally on the smaller side, but there were a quite a few of them. 

Once we reached Knight Lake we decided to push on till we reached Polly Lake where we would set up camp. We had high hopes of seeing moose along the narrows after Knight Lake and the Phoebe River. We paddled silently around the many twists and turns of the river but no moose were to be seen.

On Polly we headed to the north of the lake half heartedly fishing along the way. Once we reached the “main” part of the lake we found a point with a campsite and set up camp after we all agreed it was a suitable site. 

This first camp let us work the bugs out of our “chores”. For getting the bear-bag ropes over suspended branches we typically tie a stuff sack with a rock or rocks in it, to the end of a rope to make it easier to toss. The rock bag tends to be a little dangerous because usually it is a group effort to get the rope over the branch or branches. We need at least one person throwing the rock with the rope affixed to it and then several hecklers standing around to watch. It usually involves a couple close encounters with the rock as it falls back down. This time Mike brought a racket ball to replace the rocks. Unfortunately the racket ball didn’t cut it, even when we filled it with water to give it a little extra weight.

Fishing from camp that night was better for some than it was for others. We fished floating jigs tipped with leeches off the bottom right off shore in front of camp. While Mike and Greg caught walleye, Chad and I were skunked. We did manage to find a nice lure stealing ledge about 15 feet off shore that several, if not all of us, managed to snag.

The night was finished off with one beer each and a toast to our first day successfully completed.