Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quetico, Day 2

Sunrise north of Rebecca Falls

I have nearly 25 handwritten pages in my journal and over 400 photos (a lot are due to bracketing shots that I really wanted) from the Quetico trip. I’ll try to ration them out and maybe write about something else in between entries. Today’s entry is on our second day in the Quetico. Next, I’ll look at our third day as we move from Rebecca Falls to Darky Lake, a long day of paddling and portaging in the rain. Then I’ll do a post on our three nights at Darky Lake, which included side trips into other lakes. Then I’ll do a final post on our trip out on the Darky River and our last night on Minn Lake before being picked up by the outfitter at Black Robe Portage. Enjoy.
Cautiously, I step out onto a rock and cast sidearm, dropping the jig just behind a car-sized boulder in the middle of the current. I give it a few seconds to sink, and then flick my wrist to draw the jig up into the waters of the eddy. A strike. I yank the rod to set the hook and the chase is on. The fish jumps and then dives, pulling line off the reel as he runs. I keep the line taut and whenever the fish tires, I reel the line back in, only to have him run with it again, at times pulling so hard that my rod is bent into an inverted “U.” After a few minutes, my fish is tired enough that I began to make progress on getting him to the shore. But then, when he’s less than ten feet away, he must see me because he jumps again. It appears he comes out of the water three feet, with his body shaking the line. “I lost him,” I think to myself as I see the yellow grub that was attached to the jig fly up over my head. But he’s still on the line and he runs again, but this time not so far and soon I’m able to bring him ashore. He’s a nice smallmouth, a good 18 or 19 inches in length. In a shallow pool, I release the hook and let him go. He wastes no time darting off into the deep waters.

TM fishing below the falls at daybreak.

It’s late morning of our first full day of fishing and I’ve already caught a dozen or so fish. All but one has been smallmouth bass, the exception being a walleye. We’re fishing in the shoals below Curtain Falls, on the north or the Canadian side. Just across the water is Minnesota, but our fishing licenses won’t let us go there.

I’d gotten up early this morning, well before sunrise. No one else appeared to be up, so I grab a rod, my gear and my camera and headed down to the lower part of Rebecca Falls. I needed to redeem myself after being shunked the evening before. I cast a jig into the fast water, I’d let it sink and the retrieve it slowly, yanking it up from the bottom and allowing it to sink again. On my second cast, a fish bites. He jumps, dancing in air, but when I get him up to shore, he shakes off the hook. Regulation requires that we crimp our barbs in the Quetico and without the barb, if the line goes a bit slack, the fish can easily throw the hook. A few minutes later, another fish takes my line and runs into the faster water. I keep the line taut and slowly bring him on shore. He’s small, maybe 12 inches in length. I let him go and continue to fish. There’s not really a sunrise, the sky is mostly gray, but the clouds take on a golden color as a veiled sun rises. As the sky becomes lighter, I work my way further down the island and am surprised to see JB already fishing. It turns out I wasn’t the first up. Soon, I’m joined by TM and the three of us fish together for a few minutes.

I don’t catch anymore, so I go back to the top of the falls and fish the rocks there. I catch two more smallmouths, both about 12 inches long. Here, along the banks, I find some blueberries and I pick a few for my morning pancakes. There’s not many, but I get a dozen or so. We’re having pancakes this morning. Doc loves pancakes and insisted we have them at least two mornings. When I get back into camp, he’s already at the stove, cooking up a couple cakes. When it’s time for mine to go onto the frying pan, I add my berries.

Four of the group exploring the bank below Curtain Falls

We’re going to camp at Rebecca Falls for two nights. After everything is cleaned up from breakfast, we get into canoes and paddle a few miles to the west, heading for Curtain Falls. Along the way, the rain begins and for most of the morning and early afternoon, we’re in a drizzle. We head up to the falls and find the eddy on the northside, just below the falls, turns out to be the best hole and I pull out eight smallmouths and a walleye from it. Downstream, other smaller eddies are also productive and good for a couple of fish. In one eddy, I tie into a northern pike, bringing him within three of me when he turns and runs. Without a wire leader, he easily breaks my line.
HM with a small northern pike, below the falls.

Curtain falls

As TM and I wait in the rain for the other canoes to catch up, I put on a v-shaped spinner and begin to fish along the banks of an island, catching yet another nice sized smallmouth. After they catch up, we paddle on to the camp, arriving safely and in time to get under the shelter of a tarp about the time the rain stops. TM breaks out his stash of cognac and all of us, except Doc, enjoy a drink. Later in the afternoon, JB and TM portage a canoe down below the falls. Using a makeshift anchor, they jig off the bottom of the fast headwaters of the lake below, dropping a ¼ ounce jighead, with a grub on it, to the bottom and occasionally raising the jig about a foot and letting it fall again to the bottom. A little bit later, I portage another canoe down and join them. They’ve gotten 2 walleyes. At first, I enjoy playing in the water, allowing the canoe to ride up into the falls in an eddy and then swinging it around in the fast water and enjoying the waves as I ride out into the lake. Then I try my hand at jigging. Instead of anchoring, I allow the boat to drift in the fast water, jigging the bottom as I’m drawn out into the lake. I find that as I get to the end of the turbulence, I’m most likely to have a hit. I quickly pick up two walleye and a smallmouth. Later, BV joins me and within an hour, we’ve picked up another five or six walleyes. With more than enough for dinner, we begin to release them. Later in the evening, we eat our fill of fried walleye, rice, and banana pudding (the instant variety).
The sky is still gray and there isn’t much of a sunset, just a slow draining of light. A breeze comes up, keeping the mosquitoes at bay. Shortly after dark, having cleaned up from dinner and will full stomachs, we turn in early. The outfitter had warned us about this campsite, saying many people have complained about the sound of the rapids, but to me they’re soothing and I’m quickly asleep.


  1. I will have to let my grandson read this. Your adventures are the stuff of which his dreams are made!

  2. Any secret recipes you used for cooking up all this good fish?

  3. What a motley looking crue. I've never fished so I have to ask...when you return the fish after being caught, they aren't injured too badly from having whatever implement you used to catch them in them?

  4. Kenju, encourage him to seek after such adventures.

    Diane, the other guys did the fried fish. They had some fish meal and rolled the fillets in the meal and fried them in olive oil. The fish I cooked, I roasted over coals or baked it, putting the fillets on foil, sprinking "Dash" on the fish and topping them with thin slices of lemons (I had 3 lemons in my food pouch). I placed the foil package in my roaster and laid it over coals for 10 minutes or so... That was the best fish we had!

    Murf, what did you expect, models from an LL Bean catolog? Most of the time the fish were okay, we used hooks that the barbs had been crimped.

  5. You guys look like you're having too much fun in too pretty a part of the world. And like you, that steady rapid sound would've been comforting not annoying.

    I like the no-barbs. That way I think the fish aren't being hurt so much.

  6. Looks like those falls would've been fun had you towed a whitewater boat and helmet in.

    BTW, show all the photos you want. Don't worry about how jealous I get.



  7. I always crimp my barbs whether it is required or not. I like the challenge of giving the fish a chance and I've always caught more than I could eat. It certainly makes releasing them easier, especially cold water trout which really exhaust themselves fighting. Sometimes I have to hold them upright in the icy water for several minutes before they recover and swim off.

  8. For some reason, I expect to see a moose in the 3rd picture :) Not sure why, other than it reminds me a lot of Horseshoe Lake in Denali, and I've seen moose there a time or two.

    Beautiful shots and memories.

  9. Nice shots and good story. Look forward to read more.

    What was the elevation where you were at?

  10. Deana, I should have recorded the sound and used it to sleep... like you can get wave sounds to play while you sleep

    Sherman, they would have been a challenge, you'd better be skilled and also paddling a closed boat, like a kayak with spray skirt. It's been so long since I rolled a kayak, I'm not sure I'd be up for it

    Ed, I really liked the crimping and think I'll start doing that more often--I only had one fish that I planned to release that didn't swim away

    tc, I like your new profile pic! We didn't see any moose in the Quetico--I was disappointed, I've seen them in N. Ontario as well as in Maine

    Mother Hen, I think it was about 1200 feet

  11. Sage - you have a bottle with built-in filtration? How do you find it? All these years I don't trust the tiny filtration system, but now I've come to realize that I'm just being silly.

    Hhmmm... 1200 ft - I asked, because the natural contrast is quite sharp in a few of your pictures, given it was a gray day. So I figured out you must have above 1,000 ft and most cameras just don't like the contrast in high elevation.

  12. Only you can make fishing sound like the best time in the world. These pics are a beautiful addition to your story, especially that third shot. Wow! I like how you picked blueberries for your morning pancakes. :)

  13. Sage, I'll have to get back to read this post later, but have you seen the movie "Black Robe"? One of my favorite movies, and not a bad book.

  14. Here in Georgia the only barbs that are crimped--and those only slightly--are the ones off our tongues. I'm reading this backwards. but, it's the way I do most things. Good to read about your adventures again.

  15. Mother Hen, yes, it's a new bottle that I got from Campmor too. It's about $25, but you can fill it up from the lake and squeeze the water throught he filteration. I also don't mind using tablets and do that when I need more water.

    Scarlet, the real "pancake" story is to come and that one had a couple of cups of blueberries in the mix

    App, is that the movie about the French Jesuit priests? I've seen it, but it's been years.

    Pat, it's great to have you back here (you did wash your hands, didn't you?)

  16. What beautiful pictures. Nice job on the fishing bounty. Its great that the rapids lulled you to sleep. I'm afraid I'd be one of those they kept awake. ...but I'd still like the sound of them all the same.