Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold Water and Hot Fishing

If you have not heard yet, the ice is finally out on all the lakes near us, even big Sag to the north.  It was a little challenging for a while there to get back to the good lake trout lakes like Tuscarora and Gillis.  For eager lake trout fishers that were willing to sit on smaller lakes and wait for the ice to go out, the reward was some good fishing and a lot of adventure. 

Mike Vogt and his guys found out first hand what ice out trout fishing is like.  They found the "glacier" on the Missing Link portage (which is still there by the way, but receding)!  They spent a little time on Missing Link waiting for the ice to go out on Tuscarora.  Strong spring winds kept them close to shore for a while.    Eventually their patience was rewarded with some beautiful northerns and lakers, even enough to eat!

This is actually the first time I've ever seen Mike in a hat that is not a baseball cap.    Can you tell what a likeable guy he is?  I can hear him laughing right through that picture.   It is not a leave-no-trace kind of laugh, it is a leave-you-laughing kind of laugh.

Suddenly it is Memorial Day weekend .  The lakes are ice free, the temps are rising , the sun is out, and the fish are waiting!  Come on up and share your fishing pictures with us!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The trout are OUT

The best fishing for lake trout is ONE week after the ice goes out.  Ask anybody.  People catch them by accident in the shallows during that week---and the Tuscarora Lake die hards are usually chomping at the bit to get in there the minute fishing opens.  This year---the ice was a little late, so technically nobody has to miss that week.

Last year, one Saturday in June, my friend Monica and I headed out.  We wanted two things:  lake trout, and a work out.

So here’s the thing….we have a group of guys who go out every year in May---to one certain lake.  I cannot give away their private destination on the internet, but let’s just say that I hadn't fished it before, and they always always catch fish.  But mostly, they also catch fun, and they're usually laughing so hard when they are telling their stories that it made me want to visit THAT lake.    They call themselves  The THAT (name changed to protect their secret) lake boys.  

Monica and I headed out for THAT lake.   Let’s also just say that it is more than 7 portages in, so we also accomplished our workout--actually two work-outs, because it was also more than 7 portages out, with our lake trout.
Ever since I worked at Wilderness Canoe Base, and we hoisted the well cared for (heavy!) standard  Grumman canoes around, and it hurt  my shoulders from start to finish, I’ve craved portaging.  I cannot explain it.  I like the way it hurts.  I would think I would be a good runner as well, with that craving,  but I’m just not.  I run really really slow: I don’t happen to LIKE the way that running hurts.  But portaging,  the activity where nobody ever wins a medal,  I like to do until I’m shaky.   Go figure.  Away we went.

To paddle away on a busy Saturday was such an indulgence right there.   And to have an uninterrupted chat with my friend that I don’t get to see enough---second bonus.  But when we got to THAT lake, the wind was just right.  And I also knew the trick, ….paddle right down the middle, and let the wind drift us back toward the portage.  Easy as pie.  Only---it was such a warm year that I knew the fish were….40-60 feet down, so we were letting out a lot of line.   We had torpedo weights to pull down our Sutton spoons—tipped with minnows…we couldn’t fail, right?  Since we were seriously fishing, we thought we’d leave the dog at home, but she HEARD us talking, and it was like she was attached to my knee, and the minute I put the canoe to float she was patiently in it.  First one.  We had to take her.

So we paddled, we floated, and BAM, we both caught fish.   Same time, first pass.  They felt like snags, classic.  So we reeled and we reeled and we reeled and we reeled, and the wind picked up in the meantime and we started floating into the rocks with our beautiful Escape, so I had to stop reeling and put the rod between my knees,and start to paddle.  Monica kept reeling, and my rod started to bend until it was obvious that somehow our fish were wrapped around each other, or our lines, or….oh, the trickiness of it.    Denali was very politely trying to stay in the middle of the boat but she did have to supervise every move, so there was also THAT challenge to stay steady.

We were a little surprised after the fiasco of the landing to end up with one trout actually in our boat (her name was Edith)…….the other line broke….the wind picked up….we were tangled beyond belief, but we had Edith!   What a great day!  

Then we had to eat our lunches, and blow around, and re-tie our lines, and blow around and get tangled in the weeds and blow around…and….then, it really was time to take Edith and head back...we knew it would take us almost 3 we paddled and portaged….by the moose and her calf in the weeds, we couldn’t have been happier under the sun.   Once we pulled the stringer up, and …….no Edith……we had to paddle back and retrieve her from the mud at the last portage. 

Whoa, were we ever tired when we got back--- where  Caleb was waiting, to clean up little Edith, so Monica could take  home the filet. Work out, check, lake trout, check. 

Isn't it funny how a day in the woods can feed a person's soul in so many ways?  I was feeling just a little more commeradarie and gratefulness for the exhuberance of those THAT lake boys, for  passing on their expertise, for Edith, for our  tangled adventure.  I hope everybody gets a "day in the woods" this spring....and if you stop by the office, I can point you to the secret place where Edith's cousins are the shallows.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Round Lake Is Open!!!

Round Lake is officially open!!! This group just left our beach and paddled across to the Missing Link Lake portage. They are hoping to reach Tuscarora Lake. We are looking forward to hearing how they did! ~Rachel

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fishing Opener 2013

Fishing opener has come and gone with out the usual excitement.  We sent out one brave father and son team to try their luck on Ham Lake.  They didn't come back the same day so they must have made it to a campsite!  They were a pretty determined duo.  The day before they did some exploring up the Gunflint Trail, taking in a few hikes while waiting for the ice to break.  While exploring they heard some favorable reports about the ice on Larch Lake and Ham Lake so they gave it a try.

Today (Sunday) the wind has kicked up which is breaking up the ice on Round Lake.  The sheets are crashing into each other making a cool tinkling sound and fracturing the ice into impossibly sharp shards.  Andy watched one group paddle around the ice plates from public access all the way to the portage for Missing Link Lake.  They had to do a lot of zigging and zagging, but they got there.  Another group will be trying it tomorrow morning.  Not sure yet about how Tuscarora Lake looks, but that was their goal.

Ice shards on Round Lake
A little bit of open water!

Staff members have been busy raking, raking, raking!  All of the canoes are out and ready to go as soon as the ice clears.  We are slowly getting the water turned back on to the summer buildings.  Our dining hall is all set and ready for our first French toast breakfast.  The shower house is back in action too so we are ready for guests!  If the weather keeps getting nicer each day as forecasted, we should all be out paddling any day now!

Denali supervising the raking

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting Closer!

Round Lake from our beach this morning

To answer the question on everyone's mind, yes we still have ice on Round Lake.  However, spring is happening in fast forward all along the Gunflint so we are getting closer!  Last weekend was pretty chilly again.  Nights were below freezing and grey skies shed a wintery mix on us during the day.  It felt like we spring had stalled for a while there.

We opened our gates for the outfitting season on May 1st, technically speaking, even though it didn't feel like summer yet.  We have been juggling jobs based on what the weather is doing.  We are trying to get some raking in.  It is a little strange to be raking around the slow melting snow plow piles but at least we are outside.   We are doing some spring cleaning inside as well and getting the suburbans tuned up.  Summer staff is starting to arrive which gets everyone excited.  With more hands around, we started to pull out the Kevlar canoes from winter storage.  A sure sign of spring if ever there was one!

Taking the Kevlar canoes out of dining hall

Shuffling the canoes from the dining hall to the canoe yard

We drove up to the End of Trail campground to check things out on Sunday afternoon.  The creeks and ditches along the side of the road which were full and overflowing two weeks before have slowed down some to a more normal spring level.  The smaller beaver pond ice is starting to turn black and break up into chunks which is a good sign.  The rapids into Gull Lake were flowing fast and strong.  Seagull Lake and Saganaga Lake are still frozen but there are some good sized holes and fissures showing up.  It is definitely at the point where it is a little sketchy to be walking on it.

Gull Lake rapids

On Monday, the staff couldn't resist the urge to paddle on Cross River just down the drive way.  We put in along side the road right above the rapids and paddled towards the portage toward Ham Lake.  The portage was still covered in a layer of snow so we didn't get to far, but at least it was a paddle!  The Cross River dock is still surrounded by ice flows, but the waterfowl are enjoying the open parts.

Paddling on Cross River

Skirting the edges of the ice

Just making sure you can't paddle through the ice...

Cross River rapids by Round Lake Road

Yesterday we ran to Duluth to get some summer supplies.  All the small rivers were flowing fast and rock cuts along the road were covered in ephemeral water falls.  We couldn't resist a stop at Gooseberry State Park to take a look at the falls!  Along the way back we spotted 137 deer, 3 fox, 1 bobcat and a wolf all on the side of the road!  For those of you planning on traveling up Highway 61, please be careful!

Gooseberry State Park
This week has been warm, sunny and just beautiful!  We still can't tell you for certain when the ice will be out.  The larger lakes like Saganaga will take longer than Round Lake to clear.  We are still thinking we will have ice for fishing opener on May 11th.  The following week we have high hopes for however!  For those of you with early trips, keep checking in.  Don't worry, when the ice goes out, we will be posting on everything from the blog to Facebook.  We are just as impatient and excited as all of you!  Rachel

Round Lake this morning

Round Lake this morning