At the end of May, 2012, David Weingold and I made our 7th fishing trip to the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA). If you have never been to the BWCA, you should really plan a trip there. The scenery is beautiful and the fish are cooperative and big. If you are not comfortable in planning your own trip, there are a number of outfitters that are willing to help. They can even provide a guide if you desire. We have always used Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, Minnesota and I can highly recommend them.
Our trip started Sunday at Lake One entry point. We were going to camp and fish on the North Kawishiwi river. In May, 2010 we had fished there and caught a lot of bass and pike. When we got to the entry point, there were no other canoes except one which was exiting the park. We took this as a good sign. In 2011 there was a large forest fire that burned over 1,000,000 acres of wilderness area (about 1/3 of the BWCA). Lake One was the entry point that led to the burned area. Our destination was not in the burned area. We thought that a lack of other canoes would mean that there were plenty of camp sites along the Kawishiwi river. We were wrong. We paddled to the camp site we had used two years ago and found them all full. We finally paddled back to the portage and found the last available campsite. As we were sitting up camp several groups passed us. They were going to have a long paddle to get to an open campsite.
While doing all this paddling, it was raining. In fact, it rained everyday we were there except Monday. You can always count on rain some of the time. But, this was the longest period of rain we have ever experienced in seven trips. Good rain gear is essential for fishing in the rain. I had a new pair of Frog Toggs. They not only did not keep me dry, but all the seams came undone. At least I had some duct tape for temporary repairs.
At times, there was lightening and thunder. At these times, we stayed in camp and in the tent. We got to take a lot of naps. However, if it was just raining we fished. Fishing was good but not as good as two years ago. The fish we caught were big though. In 2010, we lost a lot of poppers to the pike. We tried steel leaders, which kept us from losing flies, but we didn’t catch as many bass using the steel leaders. Since we wanted to catch the bass we just used regular leader and as a result, I lost ever fly I took. This year we used a plastic coated 2# test leader called Tyger Wire. This worked great.
We had tied up a lot of foam poppers and deer hair poppers. I didn’t mind losing the foam poppers but the deer hair poppers took too much time to tie to lose after just one fish. I developed a fly I call the Wobble Bugger. It is an unweighted wooly bugger with a foam back. It dives to about 4 inches below the surface and wobbles back and forth as it is stripped using a 6 inch strip. It think the bass or pike take it for a wounded minnow. It worked great and is much easier to tie than deer hair poppers. (I’ll add tying instructions soon)
On Tuesday we had been fishing for about 2 hours. I was sitting in the front of the canoe. I can’t sit in the front of the canoe very long without my legs getting stiff. Then they don’t want to work. (Age has a lot to do with it also) As I got out of the boat I tripped over a rock and fell landing on my left side. Fortunately, I still had my life vest on. However, I broke two ribs. Since my right side was unaffected, I was still able to cast. But, I couldn’t sleep on that side for six weeks.
The remainder of the trip was pretty much uneventful. By Friday morning when we were leaving, everything was wet, except for the sleeping bags. We arrived in Ely about 8:00 in the morning and started our trip home to Arkansas.
Fishing the BWCA is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. You will be rewarded with breathtaking sunsets and a strike on every cast. But the alternative scenairo is also possible, hordes of mosquitos, high winds and driving rain. You must be your own guide, cook and doctor. Expect the best but prepare for the worse. Once you go you will defiantly want to go back. Maybe we will see you there next year. >>ML