Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Send in deposits; boat news; new rates

Click on this panorama photo of camp to enlarge it
I'm in the process of sending letters to everyone, checking with them on their existing reservations and if they haven't already sent it, asking for deposits to continue holding these reservations. About half of the letters have now been sent and the rest will be on the way in the next few days.
Once again we will be booking arrival and departure times for the Lickety Split, the boat that takes you between town and camp, when you make your deposit. Whoever makes their deposit first gets the first choice. The boat picks up guests in town on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. It departs camp on Friday and Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.
We require a $100 per person deposit to continue holding reservations.
You can make your deposit by calling us with a credit card at our winter number: 807-475-7246 or by mailing a personal check.. Make the check out to Bow Narrows Camp and send it to our winter address:
Bow Narrows Camp
RR1 Old Mill Rd.
Nolalu, ON  P0T 2K0
Deposits are fully refundable upon 60 days notice of cancellation.
You don't need to wait until you get the letter to make a deposit. Just call us at the above phone number.
You can also reach us by e-mail: fish@bownarrows.com
If you still have your HST rebate from last year's trip, you can use that as part of  your deposit. Just sign the back and send it to us with a check for the remainder of your deposit. You can get half of your HST tax back through a mail-in rebate once you return home.

In some camp news, we will be getting a few more of the Lund SSV 16-foot boats this summer. We've had just one of these new 16s and one 18-footer for a few years now. These boats get rave reviews from everybody mostly because of their double split seat arrangement that gives the boats more room to move about.. Both the back seat and the next row forward have a walk-through split seat. They also have removable floors throughout which is necessary because the boat hull has a distinct V-shape that would make it difficult to stand in without the floor. All of our other Lund boats have floors in the V-shaped bow sections. The sections further astern have flat hulls and therefore don't require removable floors. The plan is to convert the entire fleet to the SSVs by 2016.

After crunching the numbers from last year it became evident that we needed to raise our rates a bit. Our last rate increase was three years ago. See our Rates Page on the website for 2014 rates.
Food, fuel and equipment are all much higher now, food especially. At one point last summer we were paying $1 per pound for potatoes from the Red Lake supermarket, just as an example. We are scouting alternate sources of supply for this summer but the choices aren't too many.
We also face ever-more-expensive regulations from the provincial and federal governments.
Our goal is always to provide the highest-quality vacation for an affordable price. A survey of remote (off-the-road) fishing lodges and camps shows we are achieving that.

We will be making a slight alteration to our meal schedule for American Plan guests in 2014. Breakfasts and suppers are unchanged from previous years. Lunches will now consists of two planned indoor shore lunches in the lodge where you provide your own fish and we cook them and serve them to you along with side dishes. Those will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays. The other days a bag lunch will be provided made to your order or you can take a shore lunch box and cook fish out on the shoreline or on a propane cooker outside your cabin, if you like. Most people have us expertly clean their fish for this. We are discontinuing the fourth option of an entree served each day in the lodge unless the weather turns exceptionally cold.

We did a lot of construction work at camp last year including new roofing, rebuilding crib docks, remodeling, painting and shutters. The panorama photo above shows some of this. You will need to click on the photo to enlarge it. It shows almost half of camp in the one shot. Cabin 9 is the two-story building on the left, then comes Cabin 8, Cabin 7 with its new large screened porch and the lodge on the far right.
It's awesome.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The last looks at camp in October

Gord Cooper, Brenda's brother, goes for a ride as I pull the main dock

Frosty morning shows winter isn't far away

One last look at camp as we pulled out Oct. 26
My brother-in-law, Ron Wink, sent me these pics of camp as we closed up last fall.
Ron and Lynda (Brenda's sister) helped us put the camp to bed for the winter. Others who help us each autumn are Brenda's brother, Gord Cooper and his wife Carol, my niece Andrea Wink and her fiance Andrew Benzel and his son, Austin..
A lot of people ask us what do we do with the docks in the winter. The top photo shows us pulling the main dock that is anchored all summer in front of the lodge. We move it and all the floating docks on the western side of camp to the boathouse-Cabin 3 area. Our 53 years of experience have taught us there is a lot of ice movement on the western side but at the boathouse there is virtually none.
The frosty roofs on the lodge and Cabin 5 shows you the temperature was below freezing. Although we didn't experience it this year, it isn't unusual for us to have snow on the ground as we are packing up. This photo also shows what looks like a pile of brush near the back door of the lodge. Each year we cut balsam limbs and arrange them neatly in a pile over top of a couple of our septic lift tanks which have exposed tops. Then we spread a tarp over the pile and anchor the edges with logs. This provides great insulation that keeps the tanks warm in the winter and ensures there is no ice there when we come back in the spring.
You can also see many of the camp fishing boats stacked on shore, ready for next spring.
The third photo is the last view we had of camp. As you can see the main dock is tied across the ends of the crib docks at the boathouse. This keeps the big floating dock out in fairly deep water so that when the melt happens around the shore in the spring, the dock won't be partially in shallow water and partially in deep. That could lead to the dock being broken in two if the ice was heaved at the shore (because it freezes all the way to the bottom there.)
Typically the ice just melts in place in the boathouse vicinity and all the docks there are fine. Two years ago, however, there was a freakish warm spell in March that sent lots of runoff into the lake. This raised its level and pulled the crib docks off their cribs. When the water and ice (there was probably three feet of ice still) came down in the spring the docks had shifted off their cribs. We ended up having to rebuild just about all of them.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Speaking of the unending Boreal Forest...

Dark-coloured spruce and jackpine and golden aspen and birches stretch to the horizon

Sadler and Pipestone Bays are two of the places our anglers like to fish
I just checked out some photos sent to me and found these aerial views of the Boreal Forest taken this October between the town of Red Lake and camp. My sister-in-law, Carol Cooper, snapped these out the window of Chimo Airway's Otter on her way into camp.
The top photo gives you some idea of the density of trees, broken only by lakes and in the center, an old beaver pond.
The bottom photo shows the forest around Sadler Bay, in the foreground, with Pipestone Bay in the background. This is a great shot not only for the beauty of the Boreal in the fall but it also shows the sheltered waters where our anglers fish. This spot is only about a five-minute boat ride from camp.
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

A merry and peaceful Christmas to everyone

A yuletide visitor heads toward our home in Nolalu.
Brenda and I hope everyone is able to enjoy this wonderful time of year with family and friends.
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Friday, December 20, 2013

If you can only bring one lure, make it this one

Simple, simple, simple but EFFECTIVE!
The truth is, fishing, like life, is only as complicated as you make it.
Your tackle box (or boxes) can be stuffed with lures for every occasion. You can have suspending stick baits, shallow running plugs, mid-depth runners and deep runners. You can have spoons of infinite colours with diagonal stripes, straight stripes, spots or diamonds. You can have spinners with a half dozen shaped blades, with weighted bodies or with coloured beads. You can have poppers and jerk baits and frogs and mice for surface lures.
Or you can just have a jig and twister tail.
This last lure is the one that will catch virtually every fish in North America including, in Red Lake: perch, rock bass, walleye, northern pike, lake trout, whitefish, ling and musky.
Not only is it possible to catch them on a jig and a twister tail, it may be the very best lure for the job!
And it is also the cheapest, costing just cents.
There is nothing simpler than a jig and twister tail but that doesn't stop lure manufacturers from trying to entice you into different models. The heads come in a myriad of shapes and weights. The plastic twister tails come in infinite colours and lengths. Some even have little legs sticking out the side. You can still spend a lot of money on jig paraphernalia.
Or you can just fish with the 1/4-ounce, round-head jig with a three-inch white single tail because that will catch just about everything probably 90 per cent of the time. If you are a real jig expert, then you probably will use the 1/8-ounce head with a 2 1/2-inch tail. This is a little harder to cast and must be fished a bit slower to keep it near the bottom. And even though the white twister works just about all the time, you'll probably want to bring other colours too because twisters are just so cheap you can afford to have lots. Favourite colours for walleye are: white, black, orange, yellow, chartreuse, red-and-white, brown-and-orange. Pike like: white, pink, orange, red-and-white and chartreuse.
The head colour doesn't seem to make much difference. Nor does it need to have an eye like the model above.
For walleye, cast this out and let it sink to the bottom. Then reel up your slack and SLOWLY move your rod tip away from the jig. You want to feel for the resistance of a fish holding the jig, then set the hook. Keep doing this until the jig is back to the boat. 
For northern pike, cast it right where you would cast any pike lure -- near the shoreline, logs, rocks, weeds, etc. and reel it straight back to the boat without doing the rod tip sweep. You can reel quickly when the jig is in shallow water because it sinks real fast. Then slow down your retrieve and let it plummet when it comes to deeper water.
It's the same technique for lake trout and whitefish except you are fishing in deep water all the time. Cast it out and let it sink to the bottom, then slowly reel it back in.
I got to go fishing twice last summer with my son, Josh. On the first occasion he caught and released a 44-inch northern pike on a jig and twister. On the second occasion, months later, he caught about 30 walleye in an hour on the exact same rig.
It takes a bit of experience to master the technique but once you get it, you're hooked for life.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I guess I'll always be a Boreal Forest dweller

The Boreal Forest seems to go on forever, broken only by lakes and rivers. Doug Billings took this photo of the forest on the shores of Red Lake, near Bow Narrows Camp
Our cross-continent journey made me appreciate our absolutely awesome Boreal Forest.
Upon leaving the West Coast, we had left the Pacific Rain Forest behind in a matter of hours. Basically it is confined to the western side of the Rockies. The next FOUR DAYS of traveling east was done in the arid Plains where trees only grew along river courses or on certain sides of mountains and even then only sparsely.
The first trees of any significance started to appear in central Minnesota. For the first time it seemed  that these trees, oaks probably, would have made up significant stands were it not for the fields created by man. Still, you wouldn't call this a forest. "Woods" would have been a more appropriate term. They were stands of trees, not too tall or thick or wide enough to be called a forest.
An honest-to-god forest began right around Duluth and continued along the Minnesota North Shore all the way to the Canadian border. I believe this is part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest which is also found in northern Wisconsin, Michigan and Eastern Ontario, as well as along the southern fringe of Northwestern Ontario, including Nolalu.
Here there were lots of conifers such as pine as well as red maple, birch and aspen.
From Nolalu northward, however, is the world's largest forest, the Boreal. Red Lake is enveloped by it. This immense ecosystem encircles the globe. It is the lungs of the world, breathing in and storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide and breathing out pure oxygen for the benefit of all animal life.There are few species of trees here: black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, jackpine, white birch, quaking aspen and balsam poplar make up just about all of it.
The difference between a woods and a forest is this: you can go for a walk in the woods and, even without a compass, walk out again. Maybe you won't come out where you intended, perhaps on a different road or trail, but before too long you will see someone to ask directions and you are soon on your way home. In the Boreal Forest you can walk for hundreds, even thousands, of miles and never come across anything but Boreal Forest. It is like the ocean, going on forever and ever.
I never realized how much I loved it until this trip.
Just as a sailor doesn't feel at home without the swells under his boat and his eyes on the horizon, I am just at ease in the dense "bush" where sometimes even light cannot penetrate. It wasn't always thus. I got lost guiding for moose hunting one time and didn't think I would ever see my loved ones again. As often happens with people who despair in the bush, I panicked, and took off running in pursuit of a landmark that would tell me all was right in the world again.
Fortunately I was young at the time, 18 or 19, and my body and heart stood the test of hurtling windfalls and rocks at breakneck speeds for a couple of hours. Eventually though, even my young body was exhausted. I stood panting, my clothes wringing wet with sweat. I was in the darkest black spruce swamp imaginable. Although it was a clear day and only about three in the afternoon, I couldn't even see the sun through the dense tops of the 60-foot-tall, 200-year-old spruce trees that spread in every direction. Moss-covered hummocks and rotten stumps and little pools of water were all that existed beneath this black canopy.

Reason eventually came back to my feverish mind. There was an almost imperceptible little creek that lead from one tiny pool to the other. It suddenly occurred to me that this creek had to flow SOMEWHERE. It wouldn't go around and around in circles as I had been doing for hours. But which way to follow?
I picked up a dry leaf and gently placed it on the surface of the tiny rivulet. There wasn't a breath of wind in this place. If the leaf moved at all, it would be because there was a current carrying it downstream. It took several seconds but the leaf definitely moved in one direction. Like a shot I went running right down the creek, splashing noisily like a charging bull moose. Within minutes I could see light ahead. I came out at the back of a bay on the lake. Here the creek turned to floating muskeg which I had to skirt to avoid plunging through. As I approached the shoreline of the lake I could hear an outboard motor. I raced toward the sound and reached the lake only to see the boat and its lone driver had already gone past. The driver would be looking ahead and wouldn't see me. I took off my red shirt anyway and gave it a wave over my head.
As if in answer to my prayers, the boat instantly turned toward me. As it drew close I could see it was from camp and the driver was my friend, one of our Ojibwa guides, Jimmy Duck, who was only a few years older than myself.
"What's the matter, you lost?" laughed Jimmy.
"Well, yeah," I replied.
He proceeded to take me back to where I had left my boat tied to the shoreline, about four miles away. On the way he gave me a can of Coke he had taken with him for a snack. It was the best Coke I've ever had in my life.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grand Marais, MN, what a neat place

Great food awaits you at the Blue Water Cafe

Hard-to-find outdoor clothing, like wool shirts, is this store's specialty
In yesterday's posting about our long winter road trip I included a photo from Grand Marais, Minnesota of Sven and Ole's Pizza shop. This place is a one-of-kind restaurant that is legendary in the northwoods. I don't believe there is a more popular bumper sticker in Minnesota or Northwestern Ontario than Sven and Ole's Pizza.
Grand Marais is a small town on Highway 61 about a two hours' drive north of Duluth. This highway parallels Lake Superior all the way to the Canadian border crossing at Pigeon River.
It is one of the most beautiful drives in the world and Grand Marais is one of neatest places to visit. It seems to be a haven for artists of all forms and their arts and crafts are offered for sale at lots of shops and galleries at quite reasonable prices.
The little town is also full of unique stores and restaurants. Besides Sven and Ole's, one of our favourite restaurants is the Blue Water Cafe. We have always had great meals there.
Right across the street is the Ben Franklin department store. This place is stuffed with great outdoors clothing, in particular, and it has tall sizes, something I appreciate.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Where we've been for the past 17 days


British Columbia

High tea, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.

Mt. Baker, Washington

Columbia River, Oregon



Grand Marais, Minnesota
The milestone of our 40th wedding anniversary and the passing of Sam, our beloved dog, made Brenda and I realize that life is such an impermanent thing. Since we work at camp all spring, summer and fall, we had never taken a road trip, never seen North America, never done any of the things that most people do. The problem, of course, is that in order to do or see these things, we would need to do them in the winter months. It just never seemed

Cathedral Grove, B.C.
like a good idea.
This November we decided to heck with it! Come what may, we were going to see some of the rest of Canada and the United States! We loaded up our minivan with winter survival gear and took off.
It took us four days to reach British Columbia, first crossing the Canadian Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Except for running Sam to the Veterinary College in Saskatoon, Sask., in October, I had never been west of Winnipeg, Man. It was Brenda's first time as well. The Prairies were mostly flat, as I expected, although there were several regions of interesting rolling country too.
British Columbia held the biggest surprise. We passed into the province through the famous Kicking Horse Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. Holy mackerel what a breath-taking, winding, steep road. We would go down steep inclines in low gear for 30 minutes! The fact that the road was snow-packed, two lanes and we were traveling in the dark added quite a bit to the excitement. Although the eastern end of this mountainous route is the steepest, I was stunned when we had 12 hours of mountain driving before we reached Vancouver.
We crossed by ferry to Vancouver Island and spent several days there, visiting family and enjoying fall-like temperatures although it fell below freezing and even snowed by the time we left.
Brenda and I got to tour the Butchart Gardens in Victoria and also took "High Tea" there.
We crossed by ferry again to Washington State and made our way to Portland, Ore. We then followed the mighty Columbia River (which we also had crossed as a creek high in the mountains of British Columbia) and made our way to Idaho where we visited family again.
Finally, we drove to Montana where we encountered our first really bad winter road conditions. We got stuck in a whiteout in a mountain pass between Bozeman and Billings and spent about two hours creeping behind a transport truck that was frequently visible from no farther than five feet. Eventually we got out of this high wind area and just had snow-packed and icy roads for about two hundred miles. Then we were in North Dakota and finally Minnesota and back to Northwestern Ontario.
Besides incredible scenery, we got to see a coyote, whitetail deer, mule deer, blacktail deer, trumpeter swans, about a million Canada geese, ducks, lots of bald eagles, a few golden eagles, one wolf, a herd of pronghorn antelope and a herd of elk.
The most common creature we saw everywhere we went was the raven, followed by magpies.
In total we traveled 8,700 kilometres or 5,400 miles.
Incredibly, we only used one jug of windshield wash for the entire journey and except for the one day in Montana, never encountered hazardous winter driving.
Now we're home for the winter.
I apologize for the lack of blogs in recent months and promise to get back in the swing of things again.
I'm afraid Sam's death had a profound effect upon me. I want to thank everyone for their comments on the blog, their e-mails, letters and cards. These things were a big help for Brenda and me. We're moving on again now.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Forty years and still counting

Forty years ago this month Brenda and I were married. As you can see from the above photo, taken shortly after the wedding, we haven't changed a bit!
Those were our "hippie" days. The book we are reading was about our Volkswagen Beetle.
I'll always remember making the decision to ask Brenda to marry me. I was guiding for moose hunting at the time and had worked my way through the bush to Foley Lake, south of Trout Bay. Sitting on a rock along the shoreline and contemplating the beauty and solitude of the Boreal Forest my thinking became as clear as the lake water. Although I hadn't been expecting the girl of a lifetime to come waltzing into my life, there she was, right in camp. And she was getting ready to head back to university. So I asked her if she would marry me and as luck would have it, she said yes.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Selecting the perfect size walleye to eat

Jason Pons holds just about the perfect eating walleye
There are so many walleye of all sizes in Red Lake now that we can be quite spoiled about those we choose to keep for eating. Last summer our walleye anglers were routinely boating 100 walleye or more in a single day. With that many fish to choose from, what's the best size to keep for the table?
For starters, let's examine all the factors that go into a great meal.
How thick is the fillet?
The best cooking results come when no part of the fillet is too thick. That way all parts of the fillet will cook similarly instead of thin areas being overcooked and thick areas being undercooked.
How quick does it cook?
A thinner fillet will cook in just a minute which means it absorbs less cooking oil. Thick fillets must "boil away" in the oil longer and gather an oily flavour.
How large is it?
Unfortunately, this is where so many people go wrong. They instinctively feel that a large piece of meat indicates they were successful anglers. It's the old, "bringing home the bacon" attitude. The truth is the best-eating, best-cooking, best-flavoured fish are the smaller ones. Certainly there is a limit to how small -- there needs to be some flesh to consume afterall.
In my opinion, the absolutely best-size walleye for eating is 15-16 inches. One such fish is usually plenty to feed a single person but if you are a really big eater, keep two of this size. All parts of the fillet will cook thoroughly and quickly and taste fantastic.
If you can't find fish of this size when you are looking for lunch, choose smaller ones, not bigger. Even a 13-inch walleye provides quite a bit of food. You never want to keep a walleye over 18 inches even though the law permits you one. These fish are too big for eating and are the important spawners.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

An unforgettable moment

I just needed to get away. A major problem for me at camp is that I am "on the job" 24 hours a day. If I'm physically on the premises, day or night, then I'm fixing things or solving problems, answering questions or planning schedules, etc. I just needed a break.
So, right after supper one evening I grabbed Sam and headed to a far-off bay where I suspected we would be alone. We were.
I went right up to the mouth of a marshy creek and cut the motor. There wasn't a breath of wind and the evening sun was just high enough to shine over the trees into this secluded spot.
I was far inside the weedline. I had driven slowly right through an expanse of aquatic vegetation to get to a "hole" in the weeds at the mouth of the creek. There was a slight current from the little creek and this had kept the spot free from weeds.
I sat there for a few minutes just soaking up the beauty of the scene. All around us were high hills of jackpine and spruce. I scanned the marsh and shoreline for a moose. Surely at least one was watching us. But if it was, it was well-hidden.
Sam had already picked up the motion of a beaver swimming to check us out. A loon was diving on the outside of the main weedbed, which is where a serious fisherman should also be fishing.
Except for a "bowl" at the mouth of the creek, the whole area looked really shallow. I opened up my tacklebox and selected one of my smallest Mepps spinners, a little #3. It was small enough that I guessed it would readily catch perch which is what I expected were pretty abundant in this spot, that and probably tiny pike.
I flicked it into the "hole" and slowly brought the little spinner back to the boat. As I watched it come in I noticed for the first time that the sunlight was exactly at the right angle to penetrate completely to the bottom. The water was so crystal clear and the light so perfect that it seemed there was no boundary between air and lake. Each aquatic plant reached upwards like a tree. It was like I was hovering above a cathedral forest.
The spinner which I had let run near the forest floor was starting its ascent to the boat. Its golden blade was buzzing along; its little bucktail hook rotating.
It was then I saw the pike. It came from left to right, silently sliding through the forest and heading right toward the spinner. It wasn't the fish I was expecting, not a brightly coloured perch or a slender little pike. It was as big as a log. I estimate it was 46 inches in length and would have weighed 22-26 pounds.
In the polarized light I could see each of its spots, its nostrils, its red-tinted fins.
The pike didn't come zipping to the spinner like it really wanted it. Rather it glided nearer out of curiosity. I instinctively jerked the lure out of the water.
"I don't want you, buddy," I said out loud. "You are WAY too big."
I meant it too. There is no way I could have boated this magnificent fish on the light tackle I was using while surrounded by weeds in all directions. It would certainly have broken my line and swam away with my spinner in its mouth, or worse, in its gills. I would never keep a fish this large anyway. Better not to risk injuring it.
The pike lay suspended for a moment at the spot where the spinner had been, then with a wave of its massive tail carried through to the weed forest on the other side of the hole. The scene, however, of the beautiful creature, the polarized light penetrating the weeds  and my little spinner shall forever stay with me.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The mind of the fisherman

Do you believe fish bite in the rain? Lonnie Boyer photo (I think)
I've been thinking a lot about the knowledge and experience I have gained over the 53 years that my family has operated Bow Narrows Camp. There are insights into fishing and fishermen that can only be realized by people in our profession. I thought I'd ruminate on a couple of these in the next few blogs.
I am sometimes asked what special talents a fishing/hunting camp operator needs. This is usually followed by, "I guess you need to be a jack-of-all-trades."
That is true but if you could train for this business, I would suggest that the first thing you do is get a PhD in psychology. It might help you deal with the frustration and bewilderment you are going to encounter.
A question I am asked on virtually every boat trip from the dock out to camp is: "So, where are they catching fish?"  My answer is usually specific and thorough. It might go like this:
"We're going to drive right past the very best spot and I'll tell you when we get there." When we do, "See that fallen tree in the water? Troll from there up to that point in 12 feet of water with spinners and worms. The colours working the best are orange in the morning and blue in the afternoon. The walleyes have been stacked in there for days now. The guys who left camp this morning told me you cannot get your spinner to the bottom in this spot without hooking a walleye. They are averaging 22-26 inches in length. The fish are going to be there until the wind changes so go there as soon as you get your license at camp."
If you think the angler will then go fish in this spot then you have never been a fishing camp operator.
There is no doubt where this fishermen is going to head as soon as he gets his boat -- the last place he caught fish when he was at camp, even if he hasn't been here in 20 years. He is going to work that place over thoroughly, even though the wind or other conditions might be wrong. In fact, he might spend several days there before coming to me mid-week and asking, "Where was that place you told us about on the boat ride into camp?"
Another question: "What are the fish biting on?"
Here's a clip-and-save bit of information: the fish always bite on the same thing! In May, June, July and August the walleyes bite on worms and leeches. In September, they bite on minnows. It never changes but it also doesn't make any difference. After I explain the above-mentioned preferences, the angler frequently adds anyway, "You know, I always fish with minnows!" So he could have stated from the outset, "I don't care what the fish are biting on, I'm going to fish with minnows."
The same thing goes with lures. Anglers have their pet lures and they are going to stick with these come hell or high water. But that doesn't stop them from asking me what I consider the best lures are for each species. Fifteen minutes into my explanation they finally 'fess up. "I find I always do best by trolling big Rapalas."
There are red flags buried in anglers' questions. For instance, "Have you ever used the walleye gullet for bait?" This means this person is only going to use walleye gullets (a v-shaped strip of flesh between the jawbone and the throat.) Do they work? EVERYTHING works, at least a bit. They don't work as well as worms or leeches but if that is the only way you fish, you know what? That is how you are going to catch every fish, thereby cementing your belief that walleye gullets are the secret lure.
Nowhere in life is it more evident that "As you believe, so shall you see," as in the sport of fishing.
This tendency is absolutely blinding.
Here is just one example: "As the water warms up, pike and walleye move to deep water." This is utter nonsense. On Red Lake, as the water warms up, the fish are more and more active. The minnows are in the shallows; so, that's where the fish are as well. They move to deeper water only when it cools off and the minnows move deeper, hunting warmer water. Most people just won't accept this explanation.
"When is the best time of day to catch walleye?" I should answer this with, "When do YOU think is the best time?" Because nothing I say is going to change this questioner's already-cemented belief. Somewhere, sometime, the human race was taught that walleye only bite in the morning and the evening. There is no point now in me telling them that probably the best time of day to catch them is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. If I do they just look at each other with "Boy, is this guy full of it" expressions.
Then there's the big-lure, big-fish myth. This is the granddaddy of entrenched beliefs. This blog and all of our promotional literature encourages anglers to use small-to-medium sized lures for northern pike. Why? Because that is what works best. If you are now thinking, "Yeah, but I want to catch really big fish" then your blindspot is showing. I haven't spent all this time promoting smaller lures just to help you catch little fish.
Oh well, I remind myself several times a summer, I don't care how many fish you catch, only that you are having a good time. It's the experience that is important, not numbers. That's a fact. Take myself: I always prefer fishing without bait, even if it means catching fewer fish. I just love the simplicity. I find bait-fishing to be stressful.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A step up for our fishermen

New in 2013 were our dock assists which look something like swim ladders.
We built these to help our guests who have knee or other problems that make it difficult for them to get in and out of the boat.
The dock assists are positioned so that a person has something upright to hold onto for support while stepping onto the boat's bench seat and then out to the dock. Everyone said they worked great. Another innovation were handrails (not shown in this photo) that lead down to the dock ramps.
We built dock assists for all the floating docks in camp in 2013 and will work at getting them on the crib docks as well in 2014.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The 2013 fishing season in review

Enormous cold front was like nothing we had seen before
Guess what state Lonnie, Mike, Mark and Debbie Boyer are from?
The 2013 fishing season at Bow Narrows Camp was one of the best in our 53-year history, at least for walleye and northern pike.
The season started with a near-record-late ice-out, May 19, if I remember correctly. From then until mid-July, fishing was absolutely fabulous. It was common for our anglers to catch and release 100 walleye or more a day per boat. There were lots and lots of big northern pike caught and released. Our catch-and-release photo board in the lodge is plugged with shots of enormous pike.
Then, the third week of July, a freak weather event occurred. Lonnie Boyer captured it in the photos above. A cold front right out of a Hollywood movie struck. The temperature fell to near freezing and barely warmed up for a week. It was, in fact, the coldest week of the season right up to the end of October.
Walleyes that were in 6-12 feet of water hurried down to their fall and winter depths of 35-45 feet. Lake trout left their summer haunts of 65 feet and came right to the surface. The lake had turned over, something that normally happens in late-September. It was simply incredible.
This should have totally ruined fishing but it is a testimonial to the skill of our anglers and just the abundance of fish in the lake that we still did quite well.
By the first of August the weather and the water had begun to warm up again and the fish mostly returned to their usual depths. We had a warm September which kept many of the walleye right in the shallows, something that some of our fall-time anglers had difficulty adjusting to.
The Ministry of Natural Resources lake trout project struggled to find spawning lake trout in late-September, early-October. The water was just too warm to trigger the usual spawning run by the trout. The researchers did, however, eventually get near their target of eggs to raise in the hatchery.
We had one 50-inch northern pike caught and released last summer. That will have been one of the largest pike taken in all of Ontario. We caught a great many in the 40-inch range.
The last people to fish from our camp were Brenda's sister, Lynda, and her husband, Ron Wink. They came to camp to help Brenda and I close up, do some fishing and take part in our annual family moose hunt.
Ron has a video of Lynda battling an enormous pike. It took 15 minutes before they even got the first look at the fish which ended up not only breaking Lynda's line but her rod in half as well.
As the fish swam away from the boat with three feet of rod it was possible to estimate its length. My guess is that it was probably 50 inches as well.
It was fitting way to end the fishing season for us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A herculean task completed in 2013

A major accomplishment at camp in 2013 was the replacement of the lodge's rolled roofing with shingles. This was done during the first two weeks of September.
There were 50 years of successive layers of roofing to remove. I estimate the weight of the old rolled roofing to have been at least 25,000 pounds.
We have been replacing all of the roofing on the buildings in camp for the past three years. There are only two cabins still to be done and they will be completed in 2014.
Our son, Josh, came to camp twice last summer and fall to help with construction projects. That's him on the roof of the lodge after the old roofing had been peeled. He is also shown operating our shingle bundle lifter. This is something we invented two years ago to lift bundles of shingles up to the roof. It uses a 12-volt winch and pulley hooked between two 2x6 rails and pulls up a plywood sled that is guided between the rails. It easily lifts two bundles of shingles and can be positioned so that you don't need to bend over on the roof to pick up the shingles.
Also in 2013 we replaced the roofing on Cabin 5, straightened and strengthened its roof, added an awning roof to the rear, and insulated the cabin's ceiling. There were other renovations done to the interior as well.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How did Wheat Belly diet work out?

I thought I would let you know about my experience with the Wheat Belly diet. I wrote last winter that I had stopped in November eating wheat to see if I could finally lose some pounds. It has now been nearly a year.
I weighed 213 pounds when I began to follow the advice of Dr. William Davis and his book Wheat Belly. My goal was to break the 200-pound barrier, something I had not been able to do no matter how much I exercised, limited food portions, ate "healthy whole grains," restricted my fat intake, etc.
I recognized that basically I had been getting a pound heavier every year of my life and I wanted to take back control of my body. I was developing a pot belly and that had to go. By the way, I am six feet, three inches tall.
About the same time, two people close to me, in separate cases, had been told by their doctors that they needed to lose 40 pounds. They both made the same comment, "If I lost 40 pounds, I would weigh the same as I did in high school!" What a ridiculous notion when you're 60! Ten pounds, maybe, but 40 pounds? Get real.
The doctors' advice: cut down on food portions, eat less fat and exercise more. In other words, do exactly what I had been trying myself for years. It didn't work, at least not for me, so I was ripe to try the Wheat Belly advice.
One thing about me, when I make up my mind to do something, I carry it through, come hell or high water. For instance, two years ago I decided to stop drinking alcohol, just in solidarity with people I know who were suffering from alcoholism. I have not touched a drop since and, you know what? I don't miss it one little bit. I'm not kidding.
Beer, of course, is made from wheat or barley so it makes sense not to consume it if you are avoiding wheat. But all alcohol is also basically a sugar and along with wheat I had added sugar, even natural sugars such as those in fruit, to the list of foods I would not eat.
So what do I eat? Meat, eggs, every vegetable there is, including potatoes, rice, cheese, coffee, tea, Diet Coke, milk, popcorn. I ate all I wanted, often having seconds, especially on potatoes.
I lost about a pound a week. By mid-summer I had added four new holes to my belt and my size 38 jeans were bunched around me like a blanket. I ordered 36-inch jeans from Cabelas. By the time they arrived they too were extra big and I had to shrink them in the dryer to wear them.
By this time I was starting to make trips to the vet in Dryden where there is a clothing store. I found 35-inch jeans fit the best. A month later they too were large. I was a 34-inch waist.
It was mid-October and I weighed 177 pounds. That's what I weighed in high school. I had lost 36 pounds!
I went farther than I had hoped. I don't think I had any body fat at all. So now I have put back on a few pounds and weigh 180. I would like to settle at 185 which is my ideal BMI (body mass index).
So, it worked. I lost that weight without ever once going hungry, without any extra exercise at all.
Sure, my life at camp and here at home is pretty active, but remember, I was leading that life when I was heavier too.
How do I feel? Almost like I did in high school. Aches and pains are gone. I have oodles of energy.
It makes me think that we don't get older, we get fatter. Fat is what makes us old.
Do I miss wheat or sugar? Honestly, I do not! I don't even think about those things any more. It's like they don't exist for me.
I know there are some of you out there in the same boat I was in last year. I hope my story will help.

Thank you, everyone

Brenda and I are so touched by the outpouring of sympathy we have received on Sam's passing.
Thank you all for your comments and e-mails and, for many of you, sharing that you too have gone through this experience.
As my brother, Bill, pointed out, in many ways we can become closer to our dogs than to most people. I was like that with Sam. We shared a lot of life. As a tiny example, I calculate that we walked over 3,000 miles together just on our dirt road here in Nolalu during our daily two-mile walks in the winter months. 
There is nothing to do now but move on and so I shall give it a go. I haven't felt much like writing anything on the blog for a long time but I'm going to do some blogs, starting today, to see if it can get my mind off my troubles.
Again, thank you all so much.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Very sad news

It is with profound sorrow that I must pass on the news that our dog, Sam, has died.
It became evident this fall that something was wrong with his hind quarters but the exact cause could not be determined by the vets. The only way to see for sure was for him to have an MRI and the closest place in Canada to have that done was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 14 hours away.
I drove there with Sam right from the vet's office and after two days of tests it was determined that he had cancer. We came back to camp and hurriedly closed for the season, arriving home this past Sunday. He died on Tuesday.
I know Sam will be missed by everyone at camp but no one more than myself. Sam was my near-constant companion and was the joy of my life. I am having difficulty going on without him.
He would have been 10 in January.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Morning atmospheric glory

Potato Island is small island on the left
Wilma Nibbelink of Iowa City took this awesome photo of the west side of Wolf Narrows one morning this fall. A cloud of fog drapes right down to the water on the north channel of the narrows.
Our neighbour, Bob Moninger, sent us this shot and noted that the fog cloud only hung over the water on the north channel. The south channel around Wolf Island was clear.
Great photographic opportunities always exist in the mornings and evenings on Red Lake.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Check out this 2013 video of camp

The Cieplik family, who was featured in the awesome video of fishing at camp last year, have a new flick on YouTube. This is a shorter, 10-minute video, shot with the GoPro camera.
Here's the link: