Monday, January 16, 2017

What, how and when to use surface baits for pike

Mike Parenzan used Live Target Walking Frog in early spring

Scott Ballantyne used Rapala Skitter Pop in mid-summer
When the wind drops and the water turns to glass it is conventional wisdom that fish don't bite.
Well, I'm here to tell you that advice is just so much tripe. This is the ideal time for a thrilling, action-packed fishing adventure!
Grab some surface lures and take off for northern pike fishing. You better be ready for fish to come sailing right out of the deep, doing flips, swirls and other airborne antics. This is not going to be for anglers with faint hearts. You are going to laugh, scream and sometimes, when the action happens right next to the boat, move toward the center and instinctively keep your fingers away from the water.
Oh, and by the way, be ready to catch some of the largest northern pike you have ever seen. There is something about surface lures that triggers the strike-impulse in big, old, heavy pike.
Before we get started, let us define "surface lures." These are plugs, mostly, that stay on the surface when retrieved. They are not "floating lures" which dive under but if given enough time will eventually float back up.
Surface lures are going to leave a wake as they are retrieved. They are also going to make sounds like popping and splashing. They imitate something either swimming on the surface or in dire distress.
These things could be frogs or mice or wounded fish.
Lots of these lures are made for bass fishing. That's fine. Northern pike don't care what they were made for; they're going to hit them with the same ferocity as made-for-pike-and-musky baits.
But I've got to stop right here for a moment. I have already mentioned a four-letter word that itself triggers some kind of reflex in humans. That word is F-R-O-G. There, I've said it again. Are you visualizing a beautiful painted rubber frog being skipped across lily pads, its upturned hooks sliding right through the weeds without hooking a single one, its cleverly designed twin rubber skirts looking exactly like frog legs kicking behind? Or maybe it actually has plastic or rubber legs, just kicking perfectly as you pull it through the water? Is this what you're thinking about? Of course it is! That is the reflex I was talking about. Well snap out of it!
This is why you've never caught many pike with surface baits before -- because you always fished with rubber frogs. Of all the surface lures that you could use for northern pike, the worst, the least effective, the one that is least likely to catch a fish, is the rubber frog. Of course it has caught a few fish; even a clothespin with a hook attached will get an occasional pike; so the fact you once caught a pike on a rubber frog after a thousand attempts isn't any recommendation.
Open your tackle box right now and fish out your rubber frogs. Pull the hooks out of them and give them to the cat to play with or stick them in the mouths of the mounted fish on the wall. Just make sure you aren't going to be tempted next summer to try them, again, without success, again.
The rubber frog reflex actually has two parts. One is the cute, almost-perfectly imitated frog itself. (News flash! The fish don't see the part you are looking at, the top with the eyes and spots. They just see the plain-featured bottom.) The other problem with the frog is the rest of the mental picture you painted. Remember the lily pads?  
When you put the rubber frog on your line you immediately looked for the nearest group of lily pads or immense weedbed that is clogging up the end of some shallow bay. You are drawn to these spots almost hypnotically. Frogs -weeds. Frogs -weeds. Frogs ...
Pike like weeds, sure, but the weeds don't have to be so thick you could almost walk on them. In fact, as the summer progresses and the weeds grow the heaviest weedbeds in the shallow spots make the water oxygen-depleted. Tiny fish can live there but probably not the ones you are looking for.
The best pike spots anytime except for the first couple weeks of the season are going to be where underwater weeds grow. These can be anywhere there is some soil on the bottom. The deeper the weeds the better. In fact you might not even be able to tell they are there unless you hook them which isn't going to happen with surface lures. So the point is, use your surface lures everywhere, around rocks and reefs, around logs, along sections of shoreline with no visible weeds.
Use them in exactly the same places you would fish with any other lure! Just do it when the water is calm or nearly so, like mornings and evenings and days with little or no wind.
Now, for surface lures that actually work -- no RUBBER frogs!
There are a bunch of lures that go by the generic description of "jerk baits" that are excellent. These are generally torpedo-shaped plugs with no lips to impart wiggling or diving action. The most famous of these is the Zara Spook. It works wonderfully but so do some no-name imitations. However, you generally get what you pay for and the Spook, although a little pricey, is excellent.
My favourite jerk bait has a name that I hesitate to mention. It is the Live Target Walking -- and here I suggest you sit on your hands and turn your back away from the nearest patch of lily pads -- Frog.
I'll repeat it, the Live Target Walking Frog. Holy cow does this thing work!
It is not made of rubber. It doesn't have two upturned hooks and it isn't weedless (aka fishless).
It isn't even shaped much like a frog but rather like a banana. Admittedly it is painted like a frog.
With the Spook or Walking Frog, you cast it out and it floats on the surface. You reel your line up until there is just a little slack and give your rod tip a jerk (hence the jerk bait name). The lure zigs right. You reel up again and with just a little slack left, give the line another jerk. The lure zigs left. Experiment until you get the rhythm correct and the lure is zig-zagging all the way back to the boat. In the case of the Walking Frog, it zig-zags and hops on each jerk.
These lures not only leave a wake on the surface as they are retrieved, they also splash and that seems to be part of the attraction.
They do not need to be painted in frog patterns although those indeed do work. What if you were trying to imitate a dying fish? Silver (shiners, tulibee, whitefish, suckers)? Orange (perch)? Gold (walleye). Blue also works but I'm not sure what it might look like. Black works too and might be the best for silhouette when seen from below.
Another surface lure that works for pike is the popper. Long, skinny poppers might be better than short, fat ones. The Rapala Skitter Pop caught a bunch of pike for one group at camp last summer. They were absolutely sold on it.
With these you jerk your rod tip and it makes the lure "chug" along the surface.
Then there are the lures that make a commotion when retrieved steadily. Many of these have a propeller of some kind involved.  The buzz bait is one such lure. It doesn't float but moves to the surface as it is retrieved, then churns away making both a wake and a lot of sound.
The Jitter Bug is another example of a noisy floating lure. It has a lip that makes the lure thrash back and forth when retrieved.
The key to using surface lures, at least at first, is to pick calm water conditions to try them. Once you have caught some fish this way you will be "hooked." It is so much fun watching pike come flying out of the water that it is difficult to fish any other way.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Jim Paishk: pipe maker, master storyteller

Jim Paishk making soapstone pipes in the doorway of Old Cabin 10
Whenever Old Jim started a sentence with "Seebada" you knew a great story was soon to follow.
Jim Paishk was the most elderly Ojibwe or Anishinaabe man ever to work at Bow Narrows Camp. Jim was born on the north shore of Pipestone Bay but the exact date was uncertain. He appeared to be an elderly man when he started working at camp in the '60s and he worked with us off and on, I believe, until his death in the early '80s.
He was a favorite fishing guide, as much for his story telling as his ability to find fish, especially lake trout.
Although his exact age may not have been known, his life experiences told you he had been around a long time. For instance, Old Jim remembered seeing a white person for the first time. "All the kids ran and hid. We were scared," he once said.
He also remembers that his father's gun was a muzzle loader and that curious fact came up in one of his stories.
"Seebada, one time Big Albert was heading to his trapline in the fall. (Big Albert was Jim's brother.) He was just getting ready to carry his canoe over the long trail from Pipestone (Bay) when he sees a big bull moose right next to the trail. Big Albert wanted to shoot that moose because he needed meat for the winter but he couldn't because he had no shot for his gun (a muzzle loader). He had powder but no shot.
"Growing right beside the trail were pin cherry trees that had lots of cherries on them. So, Big Albert thinks maybe the cherry pits would act as shot and grabs handfuls of them and rams them down the barrel. He shoots and there is a big cloud of smoke." Here Jim would often start laughing so hard he had to wipe tears from his eyes with his handkerchief. Eventually he would regain his composure.
"When the air cleared the moose was gone. So Big Albert just carried his canoe over the trail and went to his trapline cabin.
"In the spring he comes back the same way and when he carries his canoe back down the trail to Pipestone he sees something moving. It is a tree! It is a pin cherry tree growing out of the side of a moose!"
Old Jim might tell you this and other "Big Albert" stories while he carved soapstone pipes. The soapstone came from the shore of Pipestone Bay. He was the only person I knew who made such pipes and from what I have found out since, he was the last person to do so on Red Lake. Pipestone Bay, just north of Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, got its name from this activity. Ojibwe people would traditionally come there to get the stone for pipes. Yet no one but Jim still had the skill to do it by the 1960s.
I don't know Old Jim's Anishinaabeg name and this is a pity because it is how Red Lake elders today would remember him. He did also have the name Peepsite. That had come from when he was either a boy or young man and shot at what he thought was a moose. It turned out to be his father's black hat but the bullet luckily passed above the old man's head. The incident scared Jim so much that he never shot a gun after that.
Old Jim was a kind, grandfatherly man who would always go out of his way to help and befriend children.
When I was a boy I would often ask the Ojibwe guides for the "Indian" names of things as we all sat at the table for supper. One time I asked a question which nobody seemed to be able to answer.
Finally someone said, "You should ask Jim, he speaks High Indian."
High Indian was apparently the old form of the Ojibwe language. Although some of the men at the table were in their 50s and maybe even as old as 60, none of them spoke it. But Old Jim did.
As I remember it, the question I asked was if any of the guides had ever seen a Sasquatch. They discussed this in Ojibwe among themselves and finally Old Jim said something. One of the younger guys turns to me and said, "Yes."
I was thrilled and was going to ask for more details when the man added, "It's an owl."
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

A neat and fast way to boil water with little fuel

I fire up the Kelly Kettle for some tea during my daily snowshoe with Cork

Flames shoot right out from the top just with a handful of bark and twigs

Nearly half a gallon of water boils in just five minutes
For years I have looked at Kelly Kettles in sporting goods stores and thought how clever they were. Now, thanks to a Christmas present, I'm getting to try the kettle out for myself.
The kettle is basically a double-walled chimney with a separate pan-like base. The chimney has a hole with a plug on the outside that allows you to pour in water. When you build a fire in the base pan the fire is sucked by convection up through the chimney and heats the water between the walls all around.
My kettle holds 1.6 liters of water (just about the same in U.S. quarts at 1.7) or nearly half a U.S. gallon.
Using a handful of birch bark and four sticks about the size of a pencil and as long as my forearm I can bring this water to a boil in five minutes.
You can also cook on top of the kettle but that requires accessories. I wonder how successful it would be to fry something on top of what basically is a blowtorch. You can also cook on the base pan, again with accessories. This is just tiny, however, and I would guess you would need to continuously lift your pan to add more sticks.
At any rate the ability to boil water in just a few minutes is really handy. If you were canoeing or hiking and had freeze-dried meals that just need to be combined with boiling water, this outfit could be just the ticket.
It burns any kind of small wood, like small branches and pine cones, even grass.  It not only works in the wind but works even faster. Just point the draft hole toward the wind and you have the equivalent of a bellows.
It would be a great way to purify water. You can boil up water in nothing flat, then pour this into a container to cool and use later.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

More big fish and a special tiny one from August

Jason Williams with 40.75-inch pike caught and released

Jason with 27-inch walleye

Jerime Williams with 38-inch northern pike

Jerime with the first stocked lake trout our anglers have caught

Jerime with a 14-inch stocked lake trout
Brothers Jason and Jerime Williams had a heck of a trip to camp last August. Not only did they boat their personal bests on northern pike and walleye, they also set a record for the camp on lake trout. They were the first Bow Narrows anglers to catch and release trout that had been stocked through the MNRF stocking program. The 23-inch trout and the 14-inch trout shown above are both missing a fin. The MNRF clips a different fin each year from the trout that have been raised in a hatchery from eggs harvested from Red Lake wild trout. It's a different fin that is clipped each year so the location of the missing fin plus the length of the fish identifies when it was planted.
The 23-inch fish was probably released as an 18-month-old fingerling in 2012 at the east end of Red Lake. The 14-incher would have been stocked in the Potato Island basin in the west end in 2014.
We are expecting an explosion in lake trout numbers in the next few years from all the stockings in the past decade plus natural regeneration that is now taking place. Fishing regulations require all lake trout in the Red Lake water system to be released while this species rebuilds.
Jerime's 38-inch northern pike provided a special thrill.
"The pike Jerime is holding was not caught on a lure. It attacked and would not let go of the small pike that was caught on his lure. It held on during the entire fight, and even pulled drag when it saw the boat the first time. The second time he got it to the boat the big pike let go, but I had already got the net under it. That is the second time I have seen pike attack and try to steal smaller fish that are hooked," writes Jason.
All of the fish above were released.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

This evening chore is mostly just a lot of fun

Me, outside worker Steve Merritt and Cork, the wonder dog. Lonnie Boyer photo
A "chore" that I always enjoy at camp is emptying the fish guts on a rocky island after supper each day. Steve Merritt, our outside worker last year and set to return in 2017, seemed to like it just as well and we often went together. Cork, of course, is in heaven during these trips. They've got just about everything a dog dreams about: a boat ride, smelly fish guts, squawking gulls and enormous eagles.
If you want to get some close-up photos of the birds, let us know and you can ride along. You can also follow with your own boat although the birds are more suspicious of this. As long as you don't get closer to the rock than we normally do, they will usually tolerate you.

The big guys are hungry!
First into the rock are the herring gulls
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Monday, January 9, 2017

'Last one in is a rotten egg!'

Nothing is as refreshing as a dip in the lake

Aidan Beyer with his great-grandfather Paul Brown at the West Red Lake mining museum
Now it is time to get some fish! Photos by David Brown
As we mentioned in the last blog, a great reason to come to Bow Narrows Camp in the middle of the summer is that you can go swimming. Here is the same group mentioned in the last posting taking a dip off the main dock.
We get lots of families with kids at camp and their trip gives the kids the opportunity to not only learn about fishing but to explore the outdoors.
Before Brenda and I came back to take over camp from my dad in 1992, we brought our two boys to camp for a week each summer. Our youngest son was just a couple of years old when we started. We brought toys in the boat for them to play with but then also stopped for an extended lunch each day at a beach. The kids played on the beach and in the lake and our dog at the time, Lady, a black Lab, couldn't have been happier retrieving sticks and rolling rocks into the water with her nose. Brenda usually would suntan and read and I would eventually anchor the boat offshore and cast for pike. We might spend three hours at the beach before we packed up, fished a few more hours and returned to camp for supper.
In the evenings we would fish for a couple of hours but were also looking for wildlife like moose and beavers. One time we paddled right up to a cow moose by freezing every time she lifted her head out of the water and then paddling when she stuck it underneath to get the weeds she was feeding upon.
Camp also provides a time away from today's electronic media to let family members get to know each other better, especially grandparents and grandkids.
In the above photo Paul Brown is actually the Beyer twins' great-grandfather. That is really special.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

What is the fishing like in July and August?

Cory Garbers

Shana Van De Stroet

Either Dawson or Aiden Beyer

The Beyer twins, Dawson and Aiden
Well, it's like these photos taken in mid-July, 2016, show. Walleyes and northern pike are biting great, the weather is wonderful and everyone is having a whale of a time.
A common concern we hear from anglers considering their first trip to Bow Narrows Camp is they are afraid the fish won't be biting if they come in the middle of the summer. That is a legitimate problem on lots of shallow lakes which simply get too warm by mid-summer. It is absolutely not the case on Red Lake.
Red Lake is a deep-water lake with some bays that are over 100 feet deep. These places never warm up and help cool the shallower bays where we do most of our fishing.
In fact, the fish get more and more active on Red Lake as the water warms. Some of the hottest action comes in the warmest months. But another thing to know is that Northwestern Ontario just never gets stifling hot weather. A hot day here is 80 F (26 C). I think most people would find that temperature to be about perfect.
If you come to camp from the first of July to about mid-August, you can comfortably go swimming off the dock and at the beaches around the lake. The rest of the time most of us find the water too chilly. Kids, on the other hand, will be in the lake from mid-June to nearly the end of August. It's as if they are having so much fun they don't even notice the water is cold.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We need some more fishing photos

Yowsers! What a beautiful big pike.
This beautiful northern pike was caught by Troy Dean in mid-August. Photo was taken by Leo Dean.

Taxidermists should study this shot and note the subtle pink and blue hues on the sides of this big fish.
I have just about exhausted the photos our anglers sent me this summer. If you are a Bow Narrows guest and have some shots from last year or even recent years, I would appreciate it if you e-mailed me some. Everyone likes to see great fishing shots. We're also looking for some new ones for the website. They don't all need to be of lunkers. Action photos are always great. We can always use scenery and boating shots too.
Make sure you identify the people in the photos.
The picture above was actually a print which I scanned. It turned out pretty darn good, didn't it? So if you have prints rather than electronic images, send those. Send to our winter address:
Bow Narrows Camp
RR 1 Old Mill Rd.
Nolalu, ON  P0T 2K0

Thanks for your help. Lots of people enjoy reading this blog and most of the credit for it belongs to our guests. They are the ones who supply the majority of images and also pass along tips and stories.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Things are hopping here in the North

I finally got some trail camera photos of snowshoe hares. In the past they have hopped right through my trail camera spots without setting off the cameras. This time I set the cameras just two feet off the ground and sure enough they clicked.
There are lots of "bunny" tracks this winter. That is usually all you see because it is very difficult to see a white bunny against the snow.
These "rabbits" are so confident in their camouflage that they will sit perfectly still sometimes even when you are close. I once saw two dogs run within a few feet of a sitting rabbit without it moving.  When it isn't trying to blend in, however, the bunnies hop all over the place and I think this too helps throw off some predators, like foxes. By hopping all around the rabbit spreads its scent everywhere. It can be impossible to pinpoint exactly where the rabbit currently is sitting.
Other than foxes, the major predators of bunnies are lynxes and owls. Both of these creatures hunt strictly by sight. If the bunny doesn't know they are around and moves, it's a goner.
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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Can you spot the difference over 7 years?

Kleve in 2009

Kleve in 2016
Kleve Granger has been coming to Bow Narrows Camp during our Family Week for many years.
The first photo is of him in 2009. The second was taken in 2016.
Question: What does Kleve now do differently to catch lunker northern pike like these?
Answer: Absolutely nothing. He casts lures like the 2/5-ounce Little Cleo spoon and the #4 Mepps and Blue Fox spinners. He does this a thousand times a day. And he catches a lot of northern pike, mostly smaller ones but every so often whoppers like these.
Is it fun? You bet your sweet casting rod it is!
Incidentally, Kleve releases all the big pike he catches. If we need some for supper he chooses one beneath the slot size (27.5-35.5 inches).  In fact, if  he could be choosy, he would pick a pike 22-24 inches for eating. This size feeds several people and its fillets are nice and thin so that they cook thoroughly in about 60 seconds.
When anglers release their big fish they are ensuring future generations will have the opportunity to experience great fishing too.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

'You otter see what we saw!'

Lonnie Boyer caught these playful otters on camera while fishing at camp last summer. There seem to be more otters than ever these days and quite a few of our fishermen see them. Getting close enough for photos like these, however, is a different matter.
These playful animals are also very curious and will often raise their bodies way out of the water to get a better look at you.
A group of otters in the water is called a raft. On land they are called a romp.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

No saying could be more true

Brenda and I got a big laugh from the saying on this tea towel, a Christmas present.
Personally, I rank shopping right in there with a root canal.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

It just didn't seem possible

Jimmy Duck with a hunter couple, about 1970
When I was 20 years old my dad sent me one late October day on what would become an almost unbelievable adventure.
Guide Stanley Paishk and his hunter had shot a moose back on Thief Lake, the first lake west of Trout Bay. We didn't call it Thief Lake back then; in fact, I don't know where that name eventually would come from. We called it Skinny Lake because the lake was unnamed on the map and we could call it anything we wanted. It was long and skinny so there you have it. The problem was it wasn't quite long enough. It was too short for a floatplane to take off, at least one loaded with a big bull moose. 
Although we had made a trail from Trout Bay to Skinny years earlier in order to access our sometimes-outpost camp on McIntosh Lake, that trail was more than two miles long, way too far to carry out a moose. However, it was only about two hundred yards from Skinny to McIntosh which was plenty big enough for a floatplane.
Stanley and his hunter had started out from camp that morning. They had taken their boat to the end of Trout Bay, walked over the trail, got into the canoe that was cached at Skinny and had just started to paddle when they encountered the big bull. The canoe flipped when the hunter pulled the trigger. When he and Stanley discovered they were only in about three feet of water the hunter just stood in the lake and emptied his gun at the moose which was quickly retreating back into the bush. They righted the canoe, pushed it to shore and went after the animal. As you can imagine the hunter by this point was pretty rattled. He took several wild shots at the disappearing moose and actually ran out of shells. Although the moose was still on its feet, it appeared finished. So Stanley and the hunter got back in the canoe and made the reverse trip all the way back to camp to get help -- and more shells. They reached the lodge about noon and told their exciting story.
My dad decided to send me and guide Jimmy Duck back with them. He also used our old walkie-talkie-type radio telephone to call Ontario Central Airlines in town and scheduled a Norseman to fly back to McIntosh and pick up the moose. We just had to find the moose, kill it if it wasn't already dead, lug it out to Skinny, take it by canoe to the portage between Skinny and McIntosh, carry it over the trail and meet the plane which was scheduled to land on McIntosh at 4 p.m. We had less than four hours to pull this off.
We reached Skinny about 1:30 p.m. and found the moose, dead, by 2. Jimmy was an expert when it came to butchering moose so we all just helped. He quickly had it gutted, quartered and ready to carry the 100 yards or so to Skinny. Stanley was young and skinny and couldn't carry much. His hunter was older and out of shape and couldn't carry much either. So Stanley and the hunter together carried one quarter between them.
I was willing to take a full quarter. I grabbed one of the big shoulders and asked Jimmy to help me get it on my back because I couldn't lift it off the ground by myself.
"Maybe I show you how to carry moose," he said with a laugh.
 Jimmy cut a two-inch strip of hide loose from the quarter, leaving it attached at both ends to the meat. The two of us got the quarter up on a windfall and I knelt underneath and took this tump line across my forehead. Jimmy had cut the strip so expertly that the center of mass was exactly over my shoulders.  To my amazement I could walk away with the leg that probably weighed 230 pounds, even though I myself only weighed about 180.
By the time I reached the canoe my thigh muscles were burning and near collapse. I flipped off the quarter only to find Jimmy right behind me. He had somehow gotten the other front quarter up by himself. We went back for the remaining hind quarter and Jimmy carried that. The hunter and Stanley took the giant head which still its massive antlers attached.
It was now 3 p.m.
The canoe was a 17-foot aluminum model, about 20 years old and a non-descript brand. It probably had come from Eaton's catalog. We put two of the giant quarters into the vessel. Stanley took the bow seat and Jimmy the stern. There were about five inches of freeboard on the sides of the canoe.
"You want to take those two over to the portage and come back for the rest?" I asked, looking at my watch. No way were we going to be on time for the plane, I realized. "The hunter and I can start walking along the shore."
"Yes," said Jimmy but then didn't move a muscle.
"Maybe, we put in another quarter," he said after a moment.
There were now four inches of freeboard.
I thought I knew what Jimmy was thinking.
"I get it. You'll take those three quarters and then come back alone for the last quarter plus me and the hunter. Right?"
"Yes," Jimmy said but then didn't move.
"Maybe we take another quarter," he chuckled. "And the head too."
We put it in the canoe which was now absolutely heaped with moose meat. The antlers stuck out more than a foot on either side. The gunwales of the canoe were three inches from the lake level. It was also now 3:15 p.m.
"Maybe we take the hunter too," said Jimmy. We all broke out laughing at the joke.
The canoe didn't move.
"You can sit on the moose behind Stanley," said Jimmy to the hunter.
"Really?" said the man.
He got in and there were less than two inches of freeboard.
"You sit on the moose in front of me," Jimmy said, looking at me.
"This just can't be possible," I said but did as I was told.
Both the hunter and I straddled big pieces of meat and held onto the canoe's gunwales which were now almost even with the lake.
Jimmy and Stanley started to paddle. The vessel was so overloaded and so tippy that they couldn't stretch out their arms to take a stroke. Instead they paddled just by moving their wrists.
If anyone had sneezed or even moved his head sideways we would have spilled. No one said a word. We just remained focused on the portage dead ahead.
We got there at about 3:45 and ever-so-carefully got out.
The canoe had just carried a very large bull moose and four adult men! The moose might have weighed 800 pounds. The men totaled about the same. Sixteen hundred pounds in a tiny canoe! By comparison today's modern fishing boats, like the Lunds we use at camp which are 16 feet long, five feet wide and with about two feet of freeboard amidships are rated to carry just 750 pounds. We had taken twice that weight in a craft perhaps one-quarter as big.
I ended up carrying two quarters over the last trail and Jimmy did the same. We were about 15 minutes late but then so was the plane. It took the meat and headed back to town.
Jimmy, Stanley, the hunter and I got back to camp at dark.
There is a postscript to this story.
About a week later Brenda and I were headed back to school for the winter semester. We were driving our Volkswagen Beetle to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls when I had several attacks of chest pain so severe I had to pull over to the side of the road. I made it to our apartment and saw the doctor immediately.
After several days of tests he asked, "Are you a weight lifter or something? You seem to have ripped the muscles in your diaphragm as if you had lifted something extremely heavy."
Everything eventually healed up on its own.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Shaggy Dog story this Christmas

This is the time of year where we tend to over-indulge in gifts, in drink, and most of all, in eating.
It wasn't always so. Our parents all went through the Great Depression and this story comes from that time. Many people could find no work of any kind back then and would roam from town to town looking for greener pastures. Fred was just such a young man.
He rode the rails from place to place, lived in hobo jungles beneath bridges and sometimes found hard, menial jobs that paid no more than $1 per day. Mostly he would just knock on doors and ask if he could split wood or weed the garden or do anything else in exchange for a meal. Sometimes the answer was yes but more often it was no. And lots of times he was escorted to the county line by the local law with a warning that if he came back he would be breaking rocks with a nine-pound sledge hammer for the next month.
Fred had hitchhiked part of the way toward the last small town. He had been walking and walking and sticking his thumb out for most of the day before a kindly farmer in an old Ford truck with a stake bed said he could jump in the back if he didn't mind the pigs. Fred didn't mind.
The farmer let him out at the crossroads before the town and Fred walked another dusty mile before he saw the town buildings on the horizon. Along the way first his left foot and then his right started burning. He sat down and found the problem -- there were holes through the soles in his shoes. He had massive blisters on both feet. He plugged the holes with tree leaves, put his shoes back on and resumed walking.
The sun was setting and Fred couldn't help but shiver. The wind was blowing right through the rips in the knees of his pants and the old suit coat he had gotten free from the Salvation Army was thin. It was nearly fall now and the nights were turning cold. It wouldn't be long before the first frost came. He turned his narrow collar up, clutched the coat together at the lapels and kept walking.
His last decent meal had been three days earlier. It had come from a widow woman with four small kids who told him she would give him a bowl of soup if he killed and plucked a half-dozen chickens which he did. The soup only had one small piece of chicken but it made up for the lack of meat with lots of potatoes, carrots and onions. And best of all, just as he was leaving the woman stopped him and said, "Here, you better take this for the road." She gave him a large biscuit.
He ate half the biscuit the next day and the other half a day later. And now he had probably walked 20 miles before he had gotten the ride and his stomach was hurting something fierce.
Fred came upon the first house at the town and knocked at the door. A big man opened it and told him to "get the hell off my land."
He got a similar reception at the next house and the next.
He was starving and freezing and dejected.
"This might be it," he thought. "This might be the end for me."
Fred walked the rest of the way into town and came upon a restaurant with a sandwich board sitting out front on the sidewalk. The sign read ALL THE CORN YOU CAN EAT -- FIVE CENTS.
Fred hadn't had a paying job in two weeks but he stuck his dirty, calloused hand deep into his pants pocket anyway. There was only one coin in there, a nickel.
"Well, I might as well have one last meal," Fred said out loud and opened the door.
He sat down at a small table and a beautiful young woman came over.
"I'll just have the all-you-can-eat corn," said Fred, embarrassed, to the girl whose name Betty Lou was embroidered on her waitress uniform.
"What would you like to drink?" she inquired.
"Does it cost extra?" asked Fred.
She nodded.
"Just the corn then, please," said Fred.
"I hate to ask," said Betty Lou, "but I'll need you to pay up front."
"Sure, sure," said Fred and forked over his nickel, his last nickel.
Betty Lou came back with six cobs of steaming corn on a plate and put a bowl of butter on the table.
It was the most delicious corn -- in fact, the most delicious meal -- Fred could imagine. He quickly devoured all six cobs and Betty Lou brought him another plate and then another.
Fred ate so many cobs his stomach ached. It swelled out so much he couldn't have buttoned his coat if he wanted to.
He was just eating the last kernel on his final cob when he noticed it moved a bit. He pried it open with a fork and a small green worm, a corn bore, came wriggling out.
"I can't believe it survived the boiling water," he thought.
"You know, we're a lot alike, me and you," whispered Fred to the worm. "You almost reached the end of the line too, but you didn't quit, did you?  You're quite the inspiration. Well, after seeing what you did I'm not going to give up either.  In fact, I'm going to call you Motor because you are driving me onward. I'm going to take care of you and maybe we will bring each other luck."
He took out a matchbox from his coat and put Motor into it and was just leaving the restaurant when Betty Lou stopped him.
"My dad is the owner of the restaurant and he wanted me to ask if you were interested in sweeping up after closing. If you do a good job and if you want more work, he says we need a dish washer starting tomorrow. The job just pays $1 a day but you also get to stay in the room at the back. It's pretty nice, has a good bed and a warm stove."
Of course Fred took the job and as soon as Betty Lou left he opened the matchbox. "This is all because of you, Motor, my new buddy. You are a bona fide good luck charm, that's what you are."
No one could have swept the floor better than Fred did that night. The next day Fred was a whirlwind with the dishes and the owner couldn't have been happier with his new employee. He gave Fred a permanent job on the spot.
Fred always kept Motor and his matchbox in his pocket and took him everywhere he went. "You deserve all the credit," he would say as he gave Motor a fresh kernel of corn. "You are one lucky corn bore."
Fred's fortunes just kept turning better and better. He and Betty Lou fell in love and within a couple of months they married and moved into a large apartment above a store across the street. Every day Fred would give Motor his kernel of corn. As long as he had Motor, Fred thought, the sky is the limit.
Betty Lou's dad even mentioned leaving the restaurant to his daughter and Fred when he died. The future was indeed bright and Fred and Betty Lou spent the next year in marital bliss.
But then disaster struck. Fred opened the matchbox one late-summer day and Motor was gone! He looked everywhere, turned his pockets inside out, even used a magnifying glass to examine the floor without success. Motor, his good luck charm, was nowhere to be found.
Immediately, things started going awry. The father-in-law said Fred didn't seem to be doing as good a job as in the past. In fact, he thundered, if Fred wasn't his son-in-law, he would fire him. Hardly another day passed before Betty Lou said she wanted a divorce. A month later they were no longer married, Fred was out of a job and back on the road, knocking on doors and getting the bum's rush.
One day, as he walked and walked he could feel the holes forming in the soles of his shoes. He was freezing and hadn't eaten in days. He came upon a small town and a restaurant with a sandwich board out front. The sign read: ALL THE CORN YOU CAN EAT -- FIVE CENTS.
Fred felt in his pocket and discovered he only had one coin -- a nickel.
"Well, I might as well spend it right here," he said to himself, "because I don't think I can take much more of this."
He entered the restaurant and plopped his nickel on the table.
He ate plate after plate of hot, yellow, cobs of corn.
As he went to bite the last kernel on his final cob, he noticed it moving.
And out bored Motor!

Merry Christmas!

(What is a Shaggy Dog Story?)
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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Would you kids get off my back for awhile?

Merganser hen and her brood

'Mom, we're tired. We want to be carried.'

'Oh for goodness sakes!" Photos by Lonnie Boyer
The most common duck seen while fishing is the Merganser. It would seem that the hen Mergansers can't keep track of how many ducklings they have. Two hens with six ducklings each can meet and one of them go away with 10 while the other takes only two.
They paddle along the shore, looking for minnows to eat. You sometimes see them swimming on the surface with just their heads underwater.
When they are tired they just climb out on a log, or a rock, or whatever is handy!
Lonnie Boyer took these photos at camp last summer, about the beginning of August.
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Thursday, December 15, 2016

New product makes getting bait easier

 Brenda saw this new product at the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit this November and thought it could be useful to Bow Narrows anglers.
It is called Bait2Go and is basically a plastic jar with screw-on lids on both ends. Inside is a moveable floor that can be raised and held in place with a rod. This lets you bring your bait, be it minnows, worms or leeches right to the top and out of the water so that you can grab them easily.
The bottom end can be filled with ice cubes, if desired, to keep the bait cool. To replenish the water without losing bait, you just unscrew the bottom and refill. The bait is all trapped on the other side of the moveable floor.
The canister can be attached to the rail of the boat with a hook, suction cups or Velcro. It can also be fitted on a belt.
Bait2Go was designed and developed in Sudbury, Ont., right where the Tourism Summit was being held.
You can see more at their website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Which was picked to be Canada's national bird?

Evening Grosbeak, a parrot-like finch

Hairy Woodpecker

Black-capped Chickadee

Common Loon (Photo by Bob Preuss)


Red-breasted Nuthatch

Grey Jay

Blue Jay

Pine Grosbeak

White-throated Sparrow
Canadian Geographic Magazine ran a year-long contest over which bird should be picked to represent Canada, Canada's national bird, in other words.
Readers could vote for their favorite feathered icon. The overwhelming response, and I might say, the obvious choice, was the Common Loon. It is already the iconic bird on our $1 coin -- the Loonie -- and its wonderful and eerie calls are a symbol of wilderness. If Canada is anything, it is the country that identifies the most with the wild. You know you are in Canada when you see or hear a loon. The bird decision seemed like a no-brainer.
Much to everybody's surprise, the magazine instead chose the Grey Jay, once called the Canada Jay, but known by everyone in the North as the Whisky Jack.
The magazine perhaps anticipated there might be a backlash to its choice so it gave an explanation. The Loon migrates south in the winter (the turncoat!) and it already is a provincial bird -- Ontario's.
So the magazine chose the Grey Jay which it points out is found throughout the Boreal Forest and stays year-around. It is extremely friendly and will eat right out of your hand. It also has a large brain for its body size and it caches its food.
The magazine didn't tell the complete story about the Whisky Jack, however. For instance, you may never see one in an entire summer since they are quite reclusive in the warm months. You will also absolutely never see one, even in the winter, in those parts of Canada that aren't in the Boreal Forest, like Southern Ontario where about 50 per cent of the population resides.
So basically we are picking as our national bird one that most people will never see in their lives.
Does this make any sense? Couldn't the national bird also be Ontario's provincial bird?
And should we think less of a bird because it goes south in the winter? You could hardly ask the loon to stay. It spends its entire life on the water and that gets mighty stiff each winter. So it heads to Florida where it lounges around in the Atlantic and the Gulf. In other words, it does the same thing as about one-third of human Canadians.
Don't get me wrong, I admire Whisky Jacks and their friendly ways. They are regular visitors to the suet at our bird feeder here in Nolalu. I'll add a superlative about this bird that the magazine forgot. It is the slowest flier of all Canadian birds. As it glides around the understory of the bush it can just about stop mid-air without moving its wings. It seems like it is defying gravity.
Chickadees are just as friendly or maybe just as fearless. They also are smart and if it matters, also cache food. So does the Blue Jay.
If we're going for smarts, then we absolutely should make the raven the national bird. I'm convinced that ravens are at least as smart as people and I think a whole lot wiser.
But if we really do end up with the Grey Jay, then let us go back to calling it the Canada Jay.
All the photos above, with the exception of the nesting Common Loon which was taken by Bow Narrows angler Bob Preuss, came from our bird feeder this early winter in Nolalu. It has been a spectacular year for attracting birds. The White-throated Sparrow photo was taken in late-November which is remarkable because this bird normally migrates south in August.
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Monday, December 12, 2016

Cork and I love our daily winter walks

One of the best things about winter, in my opinion, is that it is a great time to go for walks in the woods -- we call it the bush here. Cork and I do this every day, and if modern life's schedules prevent us from doing so we are out-of-sorts. We need our walk!
We are fortunate to have about a mile of trails on our property here in Nolalu. There is room to extend these another mile and I think that is just what I will do. I find a mile of walking, even in snowshoes, isn't much of a workout which is partly why we make these sojourns.
In the past I have also walked along our country road with the dog running free. Here I can easily cover five miles; however, there is the constant worry from vehicles. I call Cork back to me and hold onto his collar until each vehicle passes. We live in a sparsely populated area and so we don't encounter many cars but there are always a few.
There are other reasons I would rather walk on our own trails. I get to pick up the SD cards from my three trail cameras to see if any wildlife passed this way. I also get to watch for tracks of creatures even if they don't show up on the cameras. And of course, there is always the possibility of seeing the animals themselves but actually we see more game out on the road, just because we can see farther.
It is also warmer in the bush. Out on the road the wind cuts like a knife when the mercury has crawled into the bottom of the thermometer. I'm always surprised to come back into the house after a walk in the bush to find my beard and mustache have icicles hanging from them. It just never felt cold.
I think being outside every day also prevents or at least lessens the chance of suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder which a lot of people in the North get due to the lack of sunlight at this time of year. Here in Nolalu we are currently getting about eight hours of light each day. If you must work a 9-to-5 job indoors, you never see the sun. That gets really depressing.
There is yet another advantage to walking outside for an hour each day -- it seems to change your body's ability to produce heat. I first noticed this on my one-and-only winter camping trip with my brother-in-law, Ron Wink, about 30 years ago. We had snowshoed way back into the bush where we pitched a small tent, covered it with a tarp for extra insulation, and went ice fishing every day for a week. The only way we had to stay warm, other than standing next to the campfire, was with clothing. We didn't, for instance, have a heater in the tent.
Within a few days of living this way, we were astonished to find that we needed less clothing. When snowshoeing to new ice-fishing spots, for example, we just wore flannel shirts where a few days earlier we had worn our parkas. The tent actually got too warm at night, just from our body heat. We ended up unzipping our sleeping bags to stay comfortable.
This took place in early March when the days were growing quite long again. The daytime temperature would sometimes get to melting but mostly it stayed below freezing. At night it was probably -10 to -15 C.
This story reminds me of another time when I needed to cut a lot of firewood in early November for our outdoor wood furnace here at home. The weather was just perfect for the task. The thermometer on the tree outside our house registered -5 C. I would leave the house each day wearing my chainsaw pants and uninsulated boots and just a flannel shirt. I only needed lightweight leather gloves. The ground was frozen which allowed me to drive our truck right to the area where I was cutting. It was a wood cutter's dream.
After a week of reveling in such conditions I happened to talk on the phone with a neighbour. I mentioned to her how wonderful the temperature was for this time of year. "I don't follow you," Jane said. "Well, the temperature is just below freezing," I said. "Minus 5 Celsius is really balmy for this time of year." "That's funny," she said, "It's -20 at our house."
Since we only lived two miles apart, it occurred to me maybe something was wrong with our thermometer. I took it off the tree and discovered sap had glued the bimetallic spring on the back of the thermometer in place. I washed it off with some gasoline and instantly it became -20 C at our house too. I suddenly felt cold.
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