Archive for June, 2008

BWCAW (Mis)adventures

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Here’s the link to my web album of the few pictures from our recent adventure to the BWCAW:

Photo Gallery

And here’s a excerpt of my first e-mail describing the trip to a friend:

“We fished the upper Temperance. The flows were terribly high. Felt like the Beaverhead River in June a couple of years ago. My nephew’s friend caught a 12” brookie on a jointed Rapala. I didn’t touch a fish.

The winds were very brisk on Brule Lake the next day and my young companions and I thought we could beat the wind. Nope. They swamped in the middle of the big lake in 3-4 foot swells. I was heading for shore to rest when it happened. It was a long paddle out to help them. Fortunately, there was a small, rocky island about 400 yards downwind of them. I was hoping to salvage some of the gear that was afloat and give them a rest as they treaded water. Unfortunately, in the heavy seas, my canoe finally swamped, too. Fortunately, I was only about 20 yards from the island when that happened.

My gear was afloat then. I went into survival mode and saved the pack with the tents and left the pack with my camera and lenses adrift. We were able to get the canoes up on the island and spent the next 5 or so hours on this 6′ x 40′ island trying to dry out and wait out the blow.

We definitely weren’t looking forward to spending the night on the rock with no place to pitch a tent or really even lay down.

Finally, we felt safe enough on the water to go look for my camera pack and a suitable campsite. Running downwind is probably even more scary than going upwind, but we were able to paddle down the 1 1/2 to 2 miles down the lake to the shore where we thought the pack might be. And, yes, there it was in between a few rocks being pummeled by the waves.

The outer pack was largely intact but had taken on water as there were several holes worn into the urethane coated shell and the reinforced bottom. All my clothes and even a Sea-line bag with books in it was soaked. The Pelican case looked intact, but I was too scared to look in it to check the state of the camera gear.

We set out to find a campsite as it was now past 7pm and probably pretty close to 8. Light was getting precious even at that high latitude. PJ’s good eyesight picked out a possible site after a failed attempt at a site that was marked on the map, but no where to be found.

After a long pull against the wind, we reached the site and, yes, it was a vacant site. We set up camp and heated up some chili and finally breathed a sigh of relief and thanks. And then I finally got up the courage to look in the Pelican case and everything was dry and functional!!!

The rest of the trip was spent on that campsite hoping the wind would die enough that we could travel to our intended destination. Wave upon wave of rain showers and thunderstorms came over the island for two days, forcing us to scurry for cover in our tents or under the makeshift tarp shelter I constructed. One evening it calmed enough at about 6pm that we went out a fished, but with no luck.

Our last full day broke with wind AGAIN, but not as gusty and more northerly in direction allowing us to paddle directly into the wind to the closest shoreline and then into a chain of small lakes. We were able to fish in safety from the wind and did well. The boys started first catching several large smallies on worms they had scrounged up on the island. The leeches they brought were “set free” when their canoe swamped the first day.

Once they ran out of worms, they switched to lures and only caught one more fish, but it was a good size. Meanwhile, I was struggling, trying everything in my flybox. There was no action on the surface and my streamers were not working. But then when Jef caught the fish on a artificial brown trout imitation, I tried a streamer that I think we used on the Big Hole last year.

It’s a copper braid body with a white weighted head and a grey rabbit fur body/tail. It was dynamite. First cast, a bump. Second cast a 2 pound smallie. All in all, over a two hour period, I landed three fish and three LDRs and a dozen strikes.

We had a fish feast that last night feeling like it was a successful trip, but not wanting to head home the next day.

Tuesday morning broke clear, finally, with a beautiful sunrise, but guess what? Wind. 10-20 mph from the NNW with gusts into the 30s, I’m sure. We were very reluctant to go back on the water again, especially after we saw a group of canoes struggling out in the lake a mile or so downwind towards our exit point which was about 2.5 miles away.

We struck our tents and started getting ready to depart after looking at the map and planning a very circuitous route back to the landing. First, we would head upwind away from the landing to the closest leeward shore. Then, we tried staying in the wind shadows, but several times had to cross some pretty scary waters, but fortunately short stretches.

We finally made it to the landing and kissed the ground in thanks. What an adventure, but, oh, how scary.”