Thursday, November 20, 2008

When you're in the Fishing Zone

Dan Baughman fishing
There's nothing like it.
When you cast your lure up beside that log along the shoreline, or drop your jig overboard feeling for the bottom, you leave the world of fluctuating stock markets and sub-prime mortgage fiascos and enter a different dimension. You could call it the Fishing Zone.
And when you're in the zone your head is so far from Wall Street that you lose track of time and space.
In the Far East they would call it meditation.
In the North we call it fishing.
The principles are the same. Concentrate to the point of exclusion of other stimuli. It takes years of training to meditate well but it comes quickly when you start fishing.
Some of it comes from necessity. If you aren't giving your cast your full attention your lure ends up in the trees. If you drag your lure across the bottom you get snagged.
Before long your mind is visualizing underwater structures that you are getting your lure next to without entangling your hooks into them.
After a bit you can also imagine the fish: they're lying at the base of a mound of underwater boulders or cruising a steep drop off in search of prey or lying in shadows watching for bait to come swimming out of a patch of weeds.
Soon you become aware of other little things: the way the waves are ever-so-slightly disturbed by a hidden reef, a couple of minnows jumping, a little line of mud in the water -- all things that could lead to fish.
Eventually your sense of touch becomes heightened. Your fishing rod becomes an extension of your hand and its line connects you to the unseen world below the surface. You become adept at differentiating between the slow grip of weeds and the more sudden bite of a fish, the bumping of the bottom and the rat-a-tat-tat of a perch.
The wind that at first caused you so much consternation as it blew you every way but the one you wanted to go now becomes an ally. You let it move you silently along and adapt your fishing presentation to meet its speed and direction.
You hear the calls of terns as they plunge into the lake catching minnows and you know that there are fish catching minnows in that place too.
You smell the rain coming long before clouds can be seen.
And then your buddy says, "You want to head in for supper?" and you realize that in what seemed like only a moment, the entire afternoon has passed.
And you smile and reply, "Yeah, I'm hungry as a bear!"

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to see and photograph moose

Bull moose on Red Lake, Ontario
Moose, the largest members of the deer family, are abundant around Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, Ontario. and seeing them is always a thrill.

Here's the best way to see and photograph these magnificent creatures.

Get up early! I know you didn't want to hear this but it's the truth. Probably 90 per cent of your chance to see these animals will occur in the first hour or two of daylight.

Moose are most often seen as they swim from one island to another or when they wade out into shallow weedy areas to feed on aquatic plants.

These plants are higher in sodium than are land plants. After a winter of doing nothing but browsing on woody stems --the tips of hardwood trees-- moose crave the sodium-rich aquatic plants. The amount of sodium in this vegetation is only a few parts per million, but to the moose it's a big difference.

They also need the sodium to bring into balance the potassium and sodium in their bodies. Winter twigs are high in potassium; water plants are high in sodium.

Moose also wade out into the lake to get away from bugs such as deer and horse flies and, in the spring, black flies.

They'll also come to the water to escape the heat. We've seen moose that will lie in the water on beaches, the same as people do. This can occur any time during the day.

In the spring and early summer, getting away from camp at daybreak is harder than it sounds.

It gets light about 4 a.m. and doesn't get dark until 11 p.m. But by mid-July to the end of August, the sun comes up closer to 6 a.m. You can always see very well one-half hour before sunrise, so that's when you want to leave camp.

Head to a grassy bay or where a creek comes into the lake. Turn off your outboard motor and be quiet. Sounds carry great distances over the water. Voices, in particular, can be heard clearly a half-mile away. If you must talk, whisper.

There's no reason you can't fish at the same time. In many cases the motor, at idle speed such as when trolling, doesn't spook the animals either.

Watch for wakes in the water that could be caused by an animal swimming or for black spots along the shoreline or on land.

Obviously a good pair of binoculars will be an asset.

Listen for splashing in the water or sticks breaking up on land.

Moose will usually wade out until only their heads are above water and then periodically submerge. Although they are normally standing on the bottom, I've also seen them swim and dive to get weeds that were out of their reach.

When the moose puts its head underwater, you can paddle towards it, then freeze when it lifts its head again.

Although you can get incredibly close using this technique, we ask that you keep a respectful distance. Mostly it's just to keep from scaring them to death when they finally realize you are there but there's also some danger from getting too close.

It is rare for fishermen to ever hear moose vocalize. However, if you are quiet and close to them you might detect a very, very quiet "URH". They do make louder calls to attract mates but that doesn't occur until late September and early October.

Finally, if you're like most people on vacation, you aren't an early riser. No worries! We also see moose right in the middle of the day, usually as they swim from one spot to another.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How to fly to Red Lake, Ontario in 2011

Bow Narrows Camp guests who are coming from great distances will be interested to know they can fly to Red Lake, Ontario. (Note this blog entry was updated in December, 2010)

There are several ways to do this. The best is to fly any of several major carriers to Winnipeg, Manitoba which is a few hundred miles to the southwest of Red Lake.

Winnipeg is a major city of nearly three-quarters of a million population and has a large international airport.

Some of the carriers that I know of who fly into Winnipeg are Air Canada, Delta, United and Westjet but there may be others as well.

From Winnipeg the connecting flight right into Red Lake is via Bearskin Airlines. Bearskin flies what most people would know as commuter aircraft. They are small, very fast, turboprop planes that can fly in just about any weather. This non-stop flight from Winnipeg to Red Lake is just 45 minutes and there are several flights a day most days in the summer.

Another way to reach Red Lake by air is to fly to Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the top of Lake Superior via either Air Canada or Westjet and then take Bearskin from there to Red Lake. This flight usually makes at least one stop and takes considerably longer than the one from Winnipeg.

There is also a third option taken by quite a few of our guests. That is to fly with the major carriers to either Winnipeg or International Falls, Minnesota, and then rent a car and drive to Red Lake. From either airport the drive takes six hours and probably means you will need to spend the night either in Red Lake or along the way and catch the camp boat in Red Lake the next morning. It still means you only spend one day travelling up here.
There could be significant savings in flying to International Falls and driving from there. A price check in November, 2010, showed this route to be about $200 less expensive than the Winnipeg route.

You should check with the airlines that you will use to see how many pieces of luggage and their weight that you are allowed to bring without paying extra. You should also find out if there are going to be extra costs for bringing a fishing rod case.

Long rod cases are certainly going to be labelled as oversized and you may have to pay a fee for that.

To transport your rods you just need a conventional plastic rod tube, the kind that are sold in any sporting goods store. If it doesn't already have it, put some foam in the ends to protect your rod tips. I would suggest you not make a tube out of PVC sewer pipe because this is heavy and you might get dinged for the extra weight.

From the experience of one of our guests last summer I can absolutely tell you NOT to ship your rods via a courier. Not only will you have to pay for the shipment, you also will get a bill for duty and taxes. This doesn't happen when you bring your rod case with you.

The airlines may not charge you anything if your rod case isn't too long. One of the trade-offs you might need to make in exchange for getting to Red Lake in one day is that you will need to bring shorter rods. A two-piece 61/2-foot rod breaks down into a tube that is less than four-feet long. Frankly, these are the size rods that most of our fishermen use anyway, including those who drive up here. You might be able to get 6 rods in a 3-inch-diameter rod case if you alternate the tips and butts. A rod case that is three feet long and three or four inches in diameter may not even be classified as oversized.

However, your rod case is absolutely going to be classed as oversized if it is 7 feet long.

We recommend that anyone flying to Red Lake at least get a price quote from Red Lake Travel. These people are experts at getting people into Red Lake whereas travel agents from outside the area and outside the country can't even find Red Lake on the map. They are in no way connected to our company. We recommend them just because of the great service they have provided our customers over the years. Many times they are aware of seat sales that you just cannot find on your own. Tell them you want to go to Bow Narrows Camp. They'll do all the rest.

If you can, give them a choice of taking either of our packages: arrive Saturday, leave Friday or arrive Sunday, leave Saturday. This gives them some alternatives so they can select the quickest way of getting you here.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weird and Wacky Walleye Fishing

fishing spot Red Lake, Ontario
I've already written about the tremendous walleye fishing we had on Red Lake, Ontario, last season but there is still a lot to mention including some of the strangest walleye phenomena I have ever seen.

Like the father and son who had picked up what looked like rubber snakes at a fishing show near home the previous winter and thought they might catch a big northern pike at Bow Narrows Camp.

These things were big, maybe 14 inches long, and floated. They had a realistic swimming motion when retrieved.

I've never seen a pike eat a snake but I'm sure they would. They will eat just about anything that moves. In cleaning thousands of pike over the years we have found ducks, warblers, mice, muskrats and even a mink in their stomachs.

So I felt they stood a good chance at picking up some pike on the rubber snakes. They actually weren't called snakes. Maybe they were eels; anyway, they looked like snakes.

When I saw the pair of anglers later in the day and asked how they did, they had caught a 26-inch walleye on these contraptions! Incredible!

A couple of other fishermen were fishing below the rapids shown in the photo above. Due to all the rain early last summer our lake was much higher than in this photo and the creek had tons of water rushing down it.

It looked possible that a fish could actually swim from the lake right up into the creek and these fishermen hypothesized that northern pike might be up there.

So they put on 4-inch red-and-white dardevles (actually northern pike here prefer smaller ones, see Lighten Up) and anchoring their boat right below the rapids, cast as far up the creek as they could, right in between the trees seen in this photo.

And they caught walleyes!

The same feat was repeated a month later by a couple of other anglers.

The walleye bite was so tremendous most of last summer that you could easily have caught all the walleyes you wanted right off the dock. Often times it wasn't even necessary to use bait.

We had one group who would bring their rods to the lodge before breakfast each day and catch and release a dozen or so walleyes before it was time to eat.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fishing Packages Cost Less in U.S. $

Bow Narrows fishing cabin
Our American guests are welcome to pay for their fishing packages with U.S. funds and if they do so, the package price could be substantially less, depending on the exchange rate at the time.
The U.S. dollar is currently worth quite a bit more than the Canadian. The exchange rate floats around but for quite awhile now the greenback has been bringing 15-20% more than the loonie. That means BIG savings for U.S. fishermen.
Using an exchange rate of 15% as an example, our American Plan package of $860 CDN would be just $747 US.
By the same token the Housekeeping Plan Package of $650 CDN would be $565 US.
We will pay the bank rate of exchange rate on the day you make your final payment.
You can make your final payment right now if you want and realize great savings. If you want to know what the exchange rate is and can't find it on your own, just give us a call at 807-475-7246 which is our winter phone number. Or send us an e-mail:
and ask, "What would be my package cost if I paid today?"
We'll do the math and tell you. If you like the savings the exchange rate gives you, you can give us a credit card number and your trip is paid for. In this instance it will be the exchange rate that the credit card company is giving which is usually about three per cent from what the bank will give.
Or, of course, you can just wait to make your final payment while at camp and get the exchange rate on that day.
What happens if you need to cancel your reservations later on?
If you cancel more than 60 days from the date of arrival, we will refund 100 per cent of your payment.
If you cancel less than 60 days from your date of arrival, we will refund all but $100. This is exactly the same for people who send us deposits to hold their reservations. We require $100 per person as a deposit and it is completely refundable upon 60 days notice.
Last summer American and Canadian currencies were virtually the same but most experts are predicting the U.S. dollar to be worth more for quite some time.
Our fishing packages have always been very affordable, especially when you consider Bow Narrows Camp is as remote as many fly-in camps. Our ability to make the 20-mile trip with our big, fast cabin cruiser boat instead of an expensive floatplane allows us to keep our prices low.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

2009 Reservation Availability Up and Running

Lickety Split
If you click on the 2009 Reservation Availability in the Favorite Blog Entries at upper right, you'll see we've got all the available weeks listed for next season.
This will change daily as people with current reservations alter their plans and as other people book-in. If you are especially interested in a week that is currently booked, just e-mail us and let us know. We will then inform you if a spot comes open that week.
This year we are offering only 6-day trips instead of both 6-day and 7-day trips. (In the case of long-time 7-day guests we will still provide 7-day packages.)
We are also going to schedule groups so that about half the camp arrives Saturday and departs Friday and the other half arrives Sunday and departs Saturday.
About two-thirds of our guests already come for 6 days but sometimes they all come for the same 6 days and this creates problems getting people into and out of camp in a timely fashion.
Our boat, the Lickety Split, can carry up to 9 passengers and their gear at one time, depending on the size of the passengers and how much gear they bring.
Our new schedule means there will usually be two trips for people arriving at camp on Saturday and two on Sunday and the same for trips going to town on departure days.
In most instances, the boat will depart from camp to town at 6:15 a.m. and 8 a.m.
It takes only 35 minutes to make the 20-mile trip to town in the Lickety Split, weather permitting. So everyone can get on the road nice and early.
On Saturday the first boat from town will leave for camp at 10:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. as in the past. This will allow everybody to get to the beer and liquor stores that open at 10 a.m. It also will work well for people who like to spend the previous night in Dryden. Dryden has a great many nice motels. It's a 2.5-hour drive from there to Red Lake so you can easily make the drive up, even do some shopping, and catch the 10:30 a.m. boat.
The second boat will leave at 2 p.m. This will allow all those who like to spend the night at International Falls/Fort Frances to make the connection. It takes about 6 hours to drive to Red Lake from those border communities. Many folks like to cross the border in the evening because there is so little traffic at that time. They spend the night in Fort Frances and drive up to Red Lake the next day.
On Sundays our boat will leave at either 9 a.m. or 10:30 a.m., depending on demand. Since the beer and liquor stores are not open on Sunday there is no need to wait for them to open on this day and quite a few of our guests who arrive on Sunday spend the previous night in Red Lake and so are ready to go at 9 a.m.
However, if there is a large group of people who like to spend the previous night in Dryden and thus are better able to meet the 10:30 a.m. boat, then we'll schedule the pick-up for 10:30. If by chance we had lots of people who wanted to come Sunday morning, we'll make a trip at both times.
A 10:30 a.m. pickup would be better for people coming on the Housekeeping Plan if they need to buy groceries because the grocery store doesn't open until 10 a.m. that day.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Your Most Important Fishing Gear

Life vest worn by northern pike fisherman
What's the most-important piece of fishing gear to any angler?

It's not his fishing rod or reel or fish finder but his life vest.

Here are some interesting facts: most boaters who drown are excellent swimmers.

Most drown within six feet (that's not a misprint, six feet!) of their boat or shoreline.

Hypothermia seldom has anything to do with their drowning even when the water temperature is near freezing.

Most drown within seconds of falling overboard or slipping into the water.

These facts were brought to light by the Canadian Safe Boating Council at the recent annual convention of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) held in late October in Dryden.

These folks not only had the statistics from all the drowning victims in Canada but also video of cold water immersion studies.

I wish all our guests who come to our camp and don't wear their life vests could have seen the videos because they were eye-openers.

How, you might ask, can excellent swimmers drown within six feet of their boats or the shore or dock? The answer comes from what happens when someone unexpectedly is thrown into the water, and incidentally, that's how drowning victims end up in the lake -- their boats don't develop a slow leak and gradually sink, in fact, today's boats are engineered never to sink. No, they are driving full speed down the lake and hit an unseen obstruction that flips them out of the boat, or they lose their balance and fall backwards over the side. In less than a second they are upside down in the water.

It's a shock, and their first reaction from the rush of adrenaline created by any shock is to gasp.

In that one gasp they can inhale one liter (or quart) of water!

If they aren't wearing a life vest, it's all over right there. But if they are wearing a life jacket they immediately pop to the surface where they can cough out the water in their lungs.

Being a good swimmer has nothing to do with surviving a boating accident.

The videos of the cold water immersion studies also will surprise many people.

How long would you think someone could be in near-freezing water before hypothermia sets in?

Most people would guess it would take just a few minutes. But the studies show that actually just about anybody can survive 30 minutes to an hour or even two hours.

The men and women who volunteered for the cold water immersion research were not just anybodys. They were firefighters, Coast Guard service people, triathletes and military personnel. They probably spend two hours a day in the gym or the pool or the track and were in the peak of physical fitness. Most of us couldn't do as well as they did in the cold water trials.

One by one they were filmed jumping off a boat into the Arctic waters (divers in dry suits were right beside them for safety's sake. The water was just a degree or two above freezing.

In every instance, their first reaction was to gasp, then to hyperventilate. They panted for several minutes. They were, in fact, in grave danger of passing out from hyperventilation. The gasping and rapid breathing are all effects of shock, the medical condition which we all learned in first aid can kill anyone.

The volunteers were wearing life vests when they went overboard. After a couple of minutes, their breathing returned to normal and it wasn't until that point that they could have tried to get back out of the water. The CSBC researchers said it's important to just concentrate on getting control of your breathing before doing anything else.

The volunteers continued to stay in the water to experience the effects of cold water immersion.

None of them suffered hypothermia as defined by a dictionary where the core body temperature fell. But despite that they lost mobility in their arms and legs. After 25 minutes in the water they couldn't even get out on a beach. Their legs simply refused to move.

Imagine trying to put on a life vest under these conditions. It's a trick to put on a life vest in a heated pool wearing nothing other than your swimsuit, let alone wearing all your clothes in the middle of a lake with numb arms.

The point of this article is to convince you to wear your life vest. We supply them with our boats and these are the comfortable boating vest types. But they are so important why wouldn't you bring your own? Go to the sporting goods store and try on many types until you find one that fits your build. Make sure it is expandable enough to fit over your heaviest clothes but which can be cinched in for warmer weather. Besides the traditional boating or fishing types there are canoeing and kayaking models that leave lots of room in the armholes. There are even CO2 operated ones that self inflate when you hit the water. They come in all colors, including camoflage.

Everyone in my family wears them; all of our staff wears them. All Ministry of Natural Resources personnel wear them (or floater jackets).

Why isn't it the law? (You are only required to have them in the boat, not to wear them).

The main reasons people don't wear them are 1 . ignorance (they don't understand how quickly people drown) 2. machismo (they don't need no stinking life jacket!) or 3. comfort (they are under the mistaken belief that life vests are uncomfortable, probably because they've never tried anything other than the orange neck-collar types.)

I liked the reply of long-time outdoorsman Bernie Motl at camp last summer when I mentioned how some people think the vests are uncomfortable.
"Bull___!" he said, simply.

Well said.

See also this about life vests

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