Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New website is on-line. Check it out!

The Pons group dock fishing off Cabin 8. Photo by Jane Bechtel
We've been working on a new website with our web page designer and host TJ Quesnel of DueNorth Marketing for a couple of months and it all went live a few minutes ago.
Check it all out.
Thanks to all of you who sent photos. Many of them are on the new site and the ones that aren't will probably be used right here on the blog.
It had been awhile since the website had an overhaul and was badly needed. In particular, the old site didn't display well on smart phones. The new one is supposed to be designed to be seen on a computer or a smart phone. We don't have smart phones ourselves so if you do I would appreciate hearing from you.
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Master lure maker has some new creations

Have you ever seen anything like this? The Weasel

Squirrel-hair whiskers, wooden fur

Our lure-making neighbour, Dwayne Kotala, just showed me his latest batch of hand-made wooden lures. I can see a 20-pound pike attached to just about all of them this summer!
We had contacted Dwayne about this time last spring to see if he could paint lures to look like baitfish in our lake. These were plastic lure bodies that he painted to look like emerald shiners, red-bellied daces, chubs, smelt, perch and other forage fish. Now he is making only hand-carved wooden lures. All the hardware is made of stainless so that the lures can also be used on saltwater.
I have the honour of getting the very first of what is probably the most unique surface bait I will ever use. It is called the Weasel and looks like a six-inch long brown weasel (or mouse). It has a baffle-lip that will make the floating lure jitter across the surface. It also has a genuine squirrel tail and squirrel tail whiskers!
The surface of the lure looks as though it is made of fur but is actually hard wood. I can't wait to try this on Red Lake's monster northern pike.
Six-inch perch and walleye sink a foot a second until retrieved

Primo floating lures for musky and big pike
Dwayne also has a six-inch double-jointed sinking lure in perch and walleye patterns that I predict will be gobbled up by trophy pike and walleye. These lures are weighted so that they sink one foot per second until retrieved and then wobble in a double-jointed fashion that looks incredibly like a swimming fish.
Another innovation this spring is a double-jointed version of the floating six-inch lure I caught a big pike on last fall. See Original Art Pieces and also Artist's Lures.
If you are interested in any of his lures, contact him directly at
He also has a blog.
All of his lures are custom-made. You can pick the style you want and then ask that it be painted in a pattern that is best for your lake. Great patterns for Red Lake include: perch, emerald shiner, red-bellied dace, smelt.
Just to make sure you understand the difference between Dwayne's lures and what you buy in Wal-Mart, each of Dwayne's lures are carved by himself, tested in a tank with weights added internally, fitted with top-of-the-line hardware like stainless lips and swivels, and given six coats of air-brushed paint or more. These things are so beautiful you feel like framing them rather than taking them fishing. There is nothing like them, literally.
Medium diver Emerald Shiner has shiny, not mirrored, sides

Paint job is fantastically detailed
If you are a serious big pike or musky angler, in particular, or if you want to give someone an outstanding gift, this is for you.
Other blogs about Dwayne's lures were Customized Lures and Oh Man!
He is only making wooden lures now and only by order. There will be quite a few of his plastic lures from last year for sale at camp this summer but none of his new wooden ones.
Assorted lures, all handmade from wood

Pumpkinseed or sunfish
Surface thrasher

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

This couple always finds the big fish

Troy Bechtel with pike and walleye (below) caught mid-July

Jane Bechtel with another great pike and walleye (below)

Bow Narrows Camp gets 400-450 guests over its normal 22-week season and with about 85 per cent of those returning year after year it is probably little surprise that a lot of these people become experts at fishing Red Lake.
The couple shown above are such anglers. Troy and Jane Bechtel seem adept at finding the fish no matter what the current weather condition happens to be. Notice, for instance, how calm the water seems to be in the first three photos. Flatwater and bright conditions are usually not the best for fishing yet here they are hoisting big pike and walleye for the camera before releasing them back to the lake.
Our camp is in many ways like a big family. When guests come the same week year after year they connect with others in camp who are doing the same thing. They share their experiences and help each other out when someone has a problem. When there is a new group in camp everyone goes out of their way to make sure they are having a good time. No matter how experienced and skilled you may be, when you come to a new lake there are techniques and tactics specific to this lake that you must learn. A few tips from someone who has fished here before quickly point you in the right direction.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

No sugar coating for this book

I have mentioned a few health-related books here in the past so I thought I would share this one with you all too.
Author Gary Taubes, in The Case Against Sugar, shows you why government diet advisors who have preached calories in -- calories-out as their mantra for half a century are missing the point. Taubes' verdict is that sugar is a drug and the entire world is addicted to it. Telling the public to use sugar in moderation is like telling them to smoke cigarettes in moderation. He traces medical research and reports that have found sugar as the common denominator in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer and even Alzheimers disease. All of the above are symptoms of the same epidemic and it is confounding why sugar isn't singled out as the culprit.
It is a convincing read. If you are concerned about any of the above or just want to understand why you can't lose weight, pick up this book. Stay healthy. You can't go fishing or enjoy the outdoors if you are not.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stage is set for a very early 2017 ice-out

If it was any other year I would consider it foolhardy to be speculating in mid-February about when spring ice-out was going to occur. February is usually the coldest month and greatly adds to the thickness of lake ice. But the month is half-gone now and we mostly have had very warm temperatures, much like the early part of the winter. Now the forecast for next week is for above-freezing. There is also a foot or more of snow on the lakes and that will protect it from freezing any further.
So what does this mean for 2017 ice-out?
I predict it is going to be early, possibly even set a record. The current record for Red Lake is April 20, last set in 2010. The average is May 8.
There is only 18-inches of ice or so on most lakes. That is about half the usual thickness at this time of year. With the snow already on the lakes and more snow undoubtedly to come in March, it is very unlikely the ice will get any thicker.
The unknown variable is really what late-March and April will be like. If those periods are mostly overcast and cool, than it will slow down the melt.
Right now I would guess ice-out will occur between April 20 and May 1. It could happen far earlier but I doubt if it will be any later.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More women anglers with big fish

Barb Stevens
Here are a couple of our female anglers who landed some big fish at camp.
At top is Barb Stevens with a very impressive northern pike. The next photo is Sue Ratliff with another dandy.
Thanks to our anglers' catch-and-release ethic as well as provincial slot size regulations, big pike are more abundant than ever.
I notice that even the walleye anglers are sending us photos of giant northerns they caught by accident.
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Sue Ratliff

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What is a Poohbah of 'Pout?

A. A taciturn leader of an exalted office
B. A small yellow bear of children's book fame pronounced with a Southern accent
C. Head of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo Lodge No 26
D. An expert at catching cod

The answer, of course is the last one, D.
What cod are we talking about? Lota lota. It is the only freshwater member of the cod family and goes by dozens of names, one of which is 'Pout, short for Eelpout. They are found in deep lakes all over North America, including Red Lake.
Here we call them Ling. They are almost dead ringers for another fish, the saltwater Ling Cod.
In Manitoba they are called Mariah. In the Great Lakes they are called Lawyers (I would like to hear the story behind that), in Minnesota, Eelpout.
We have a mounted Ling in the lodge at camp and also display the painting, shown below, which  lists just some of this mysterious fish's monikers.
They are found on the bottom, usually just below the thermocline, in some of the deepest bays.
They have been known to incite terror among unsuspecting anglers. Their eel-like body might be partly to blame but I think the main reason is they have the habit of wrapping around your arm when you try to unhook them.That plus the fact they are so slimy you can barely get a grip. Finally, their swim bladders usually come popping out of their mouths due to the pressure difference between where they were and the surface.
Anglers, usually on the hunt for lake trout, have been known to take out a knife and cut their lines rather than deal with the vile-looking Ling. And that's a pity because they are absolutely harmless. They don't even have teeth.
They are also delicious to eat. In fact, I would rate them as one of the North's best-eating deep water fish, beating out lake trout and whitefish by a mile.
Their flesh is quite different from other fish. First of all they don't have much of it. There are two "tubes" of meat on either side of the backbone. These are totally boneless and are firmer in texture than other fish.
A great way to prepare them is to cut the tube into chunks, about an inch thick. These should be sauteed in butter, perhaps with garlic, onions and red peppers, if you have them handy, for a few minutes. They taste very, very similar to scallops.
Another technique is to place the tubes whole in boiling water for a minute or two and then eat them with melted butter or seafood sauce. This is where they have earned the name Poor Man's Lobster.
Whatever you do, never deep fry them in oil like you would other fish fillets. The oil in the Ling's flesh, very likely high in omega 3s, will burn and give this fish a bad taste.
A final word about the misunderstood Ling is that they don't freeze well. Don't get me wrong, they freeze solid, but in so doing it alters the taste. Fresh ling have no fishy taste whatsoever but not so ling that have been frozen.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

What made these mysterious holes in clay bank?

Something has enlarged some of what appear to be kingfisher nesting holes
I checked out these holes in a clay bank on an island in front of Golden Arm last summer after several of our anglers reported seeing them.
I can explain the smaller holes. Kingfishers nest in clay banks and make holes just like these. So do bank swallows but they are rarer in these parts than are kingfishers.
But what about the larger ones?
My guess is that creatures have enlarged a couple of the kingfisher holes to make their own dens or nests but I'm at a loss for what those creatures were.
There are no trails from the holes down to the water so it would seem the creature and its young didn't travel that way. Neither are there trails going upwards. This would seem to rule out animals like otters, muskrats, etc.
The size of the hole is probably a clue. The holes are big enough for a woodchuck, also known as a groundhog, but it would be silly for such an animal to make a hole entrance on a vertical bank face, 15 feet above the lake. Also this island was too small to provide enough food for a woodchuck.
My best guess is that the holes might be nesting sites for merganser ducks. They are cavity nesters and mostly nest in pileated woodpecker holes in large trees; however, I have also seen them use abandoned woodchuck holes in the ground. Since these holes couldn't have been made by a woodchuck I'm surmising that maybe the ducks enlarged the kingfisher holes. I've never heard of such a thing though.
Does anybody know what actually went on here? Any ideas?
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Friday, February 3, 2017

The very best way to eat fish is at shore lunch

Matt Andrews puts a couple of fillets in the frying pan

It just takes a little grease. The fish are cooked in minutes. John Andrews photos
If it isn't already part of your tradition when you come to Bow Narrows Camp, you should think about adding a shore lunch to your trip.
Fish never taste as good cooked any place other than outside on the shoreline.
If you are on the American Plan we provide you a shorelunch box with everything needed for the fish fry: potatoes, onions, beans, coffee and tea, cookies for dessert, along with all the pans and grill. If on the Housekeeping Plan we provide the same outfit but without the food. Just about everybody also takes their fish with them too. This will be fish they brought in the previous night and had us clean for them. So all they need to do when they get to shore is gather wood for a fire, put the grease into the pan, shake the fish up in the breading we provide and use a long fork to drop the fillets in the grease when it is hot enough. Be careful on that last exercise. You don't want to burn yourself.
When you are finished, use the tea pail to ferry lots of water from the lake to drown out the campfire. Stir the coals with a stick until there no longer is any steam. You want it to be absolutely dead.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

More August-caught walleyes from last year

Brothers Chris and Mike Hellem caught some nice walleye during the first week of August last season. Chris sent along these shots of two 26-inch fish they caught and released.
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Saturday, January 28, 2017

The curious case of the blond bear

This very light-coloured bear has been seen several times

Normal black bear. Both photos taken last year by Tom Tauscher
For several years now our guests have spotted a very blond bear near camp. I'm not going to identify the location but all of the sightings have come from the same place.
The photo at top is the best so far. Tom Tauscher took this shot last year and also saw another bear in a far different location.
The first couple of anglers that saw the blond bear a few years ago thought it was a golden retriever swimming; that's how light-coloured it is. It wasn't until the animal got out of the water they realized it was actually a small bear.
The most common colour variation of the black bear is brown, also called cinnamon. This would be an extremely light cinnamon.
Tom was struck by how buoyant the blond bear was. Compare how much of its body is sticking out of the water compared to the black bear he also photographed.
My nephew, Mac, and his wife, Susan, were fishing last summer when they could hear a snorting sound coming from the shoreline. Realizing it was coming from an animal they moved closer with the boat and finally spotted the little blond bear up in the top of a very large tree. The snorting sounds were coming from the ground at the base of the tree and although they never got a clear look they guessed that there was another bear on the ground. It would seem it had treed the smaller bear.
Bears are very territorial and will run off or even kill other bears that invade their area.
I once saw this very thing happen. I was fishing when a small bear came tearing down the shoreline. About the time he went out of sight another, larger, bear came galloping along, right on the other bear's trail.
Tom also forwarded along the great photo of fellow angler Joe Peterson with a 38.5-inch pike he caught and released. It was just one of many big fish the group caught last summer.

Joe Peterson with beefy 38.5-inch northern pike caught and released
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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Inspirations for photography and art everywhere

I photographed the Common Loon and chick, above, and the Great Blue Heron, below, on either sides of the boat one day while fishing in Hall Bay last July

Blue Flag or wild irises can be seen on floating bogs and marshes mid-summer

Pink Ladyslipper or Moccasin Flower is an orchid found mostly in June on mossy shores

Charles Howard captured this misty scene in Pipestone Bay in September

Black Spruce grow out of the moss in this photo by Lonnie Boyer in August

While most people who come to Bow Narrows Camp do so for the fishing, a bunch also have their eyes open for photographic opportunities. Subjects are everywhere: trees growing out of the thick spaghnum moss that covers the glaciated rocks, birds swimming on the pristine lake or wading around the ends of weedy bays, cotton-ball clouds floating on bluer-than-blue skies, hot-pink sunsets, gorgeous wildflowers.
The blog is full of incredible shots by people who dropped their fishing rods and grabbed their cameras. I'm amazed that we don't get more folks who come just for the photography or for the chance to put up an easel on a rocky island and capture the scene in watercolours. Is there an artist in your family?
They might also like to get off by themselves in our sea kayaks or canoes. Teenagers, in particular, seem to like taking adventures of this sort.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oh man! When fish totally inhale a lure

Lure with two sets of trebles looped around fish's gills
We all like to catch fish but we never want to see a fish hooked like this -- the entire lure with two sets of treble hooks inside a fish's mouth.
I was the unlucky guy who caught the pike in the photo above. The lure is one of Dwayne Kotala's handmade wooden lures, in this case a wooden Red Belly Dace in a shallow diver model.
This is where a lot of people would get out the jaw spreaders before trying to extract the hooks from the fish's gills. I didn't have jaw spreaders in this instance and might not have used them even if I did because the fish was quite small. Instead I turned the fish over on its back and flared out its gill covers. The lure was plainly visible from that angle. I pulled it gently backwards out through the gills until not only the lure but the entire leader had cleared the fish, then I cut the line.
This is often a better technique when dealing with two sets of treble hooks rather than going down from the top of the mouth. No sooner do you get one treble set unhooked and begin working on the second than the first has hooked into something again.
This fish was released unharmed.
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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sometimes the best walleye tactic is to do nothing

Check out this chunky walleye Larry Pons caught on a perfectly calm day
Two posts ago we talked about a technique to catch northern pike when the lake is like a mirror. But what about fishing for walleye? Windless days and flat water are considered death for walleye angling too.
I remember asking one fisherman what he had seen on his fishfinder on a calm, sunny day in a spot where the previous breezy day he had caught dozens and dozens of walleye.
"Nothing but tumbleweeds," he replied.
The natural tendency for anglers when things aren't going well is to get even-more aggressive in their search. The usual thing is go deeper and deeper with the idea that sunlight won't be as bright way down there. That does in fact work but it is difficult to fish so far down, and also bringing up a fish from deeper than 30 feet stands the chance of killing it, just from the change in atmospheric pressure.
Some successful flatwater anglers, however, do just the opposite. They get less and less aggressive until finally they come to a standstill. They stop trolling entirely and switch their usual trolling gear for a splitshot and a floating jighead. They pitch this out, let it sink to the bottom, pull out a little more slack line so that it lays on the surface and they wait.
It is a bad idea to lay down your rod against the side of the boat while you are waiting. The reason is movements in the boat can cause the floating jighead and its wriggling worm or leech or minnow to suddenly lurch upwards. You want the whole thing to stay as motionless as possible except for the bait making its distress movements. After awhile, the slack line begins to move and you know you have a fish at the other end and can set the hook.
What are you seeing on the fishfinder while this is going on? Usually nothing at all unless it is tumbleweeds! There can be a couple of reasons for this. One is that the fish are absolutely plastered to the bottom and the graph simply sees them as bottom. But the other thing that can be happening is in silent, flatwater conditions the fish are spooked by your boat. It can be the sight of it but certainly any movements or sounds alert the fish to your presence.
Why are fish so reluctant to bite on a still, sunny day anyway? I have a theory about this.
I think what is going on here is the exact opposite of why fish are especially aggressive and active on cloudy, windy days. Let's look at the second scenario first.
When it is windy the waves send the light beneath dancing in all directions. There also might be dirt stirred up by the waves and when you put it all together, visibility is very much reduced.
Then there is the sound and just all the movement of the waves. It is chaotic.
It is probably impossible for minnows to calculate where a predator might be. They can't see it; they can't feel it coming and they can't hear it. In other words, this is a hunter's dream. And so the predatory fish -- the hunters -- seize the moment and attack.
Now what about the opposite condition. In calm, clear water conditions the baitfish know exactly where the predators are and act accordingly. It is just about impossible for the hunters to get anything, so they don't even try. Why waste your energy?
Now back to the splitshot and floating jighead with a wriggling worm on it. If this outfit is jerking all around as if it was being jigged, it could seem likely to a fish that there is little chance of approaching it before it takes off. If it just continues to sit there as the fish moseys closer, the bait eventually is eaten.
That's my theory.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

A 'whale' caught on a thread and a prayer

John Overbeeke with enormous pike caught and released

Here is the photo of the monster pike caught on a 3/8 jig tipped with a minnow. We were fishing for walleyes at one of our favorite spots we call the "beaver house." I had an ultralight pole with a monofilament leader when this fish hit! I certainly should not have landed it with the light tackle I was using.  Rob Kinzenbaw was able to net the fish in one swoop after he emerged from under the boat. Notice that we were still using the older style landing nets. The rest is history and memories of a great catch!  We took photos and returned this great fish for future anglers to enjoy. Probably one of the most colorful and vibrant pike I have ever caught, obviously very healthy.
John Overbeeke

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today's blog posting is a milestone

Today's posting is Number 1,000 since the blog was started back in 2007.
That makes, on average, about 10 postings a month or one every three days over 10 years.
There are dozens of postings on just about every topic. Just plug in a search term in the little window at the top and see how many items come up. Remember to hit Older Posts at the bottom of each screen.
In the decade of both the blog and our website there have been over a million page visits.
The blog is actually a collaboration between me and our guests and anglers. They provide almost all the fishing photos, for instance, and pass along tips on hot lures and techniques. They are also the people behind the cameras that capture the great wildlife photos out on the lake.
Everybody give yourself a pat on the back! Job well done!
Some of the postings from years ago are still getting comments. Check out Detty's Fish Gripper and its extensive comments.
There are also some postings that have permanent links on other websites. Wood-burning stove companies, for example, are linking to Top-down Method of Lighting a Fire. And some nature websites are linking to Dock or Fishing Spiders are Nothing to Fear.
A museum in Saskatchewan once asked if it could reproduce one of the blog's photographs. See Moose-hide Moccasins Best for Snowshoeing.
Mostly the blog is read by anglers from Canada and the U.S.
Thanks to everyone who gave me encouragement to keep it going over the years and whose comments help get everyone involved.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

What, how and when to use surface baits for pike

Mike Parenzan used Live Target Walking Frog in early spring

Scott Ballantyne used Rapala Skitter Pop in mid-summer
When the wind drops and the water turns to glass it is conventional wisdom that fish don't bite.
Well, I'm here to tell you that advice is just so much tripe. This is the ideal time for a thrilling, action-packed fishing adventure!
Grab some surface lures and take off for northern pike fishing. You better be ready for fish to come sailing right out of the deep, doing flips, swirls and other airborne antics. This is not going to be for anglers with faint hearts. You are going to laugh, scream and sometimes, when the action happens right next to the boat, move toward the center and instinctively keep your fingers away from the water.
Oh, and by the way, be ready to catch some of the largest northern pike you have ever seen. There is something about surface lures that triggers the strike-impulse in big, old, heavy pike.
Before we get started, let us define "surface lures." These are plugs, mostly, that stay on the surface when retrieved. They are not "floating lures" which dive under but if given enough time will eventually float back up.
Surface lures are going to leave a wake as they are retrieved. They are also going to make sounds like popping and splashing. They imitate something either swimming on the surface or in dire distress.
These things could be frogs or mice or wounded fish.
Lots of these lures are made for bass fishing. That's fine. Northern pike don't care what they were made for; they're going to hit them with the same ferocity as made-for-pike-and-musky baits.
But I've got to stop right here for a moment. I have already mentioned a four-letter word that itself triggers some kind of reflex in humans. That word is F-R-O-G. There, I've said it again. Are you visualizing a beautiful painted rubber frog being skipped across lily pads, its upturned hooks sliding right through the weeds without hooking a single one, its cleverly designed twin rubber skirts looking exactly like frog legs kicking behind? Or maybe it actually has plastic or rubber legs, just kicking perfectly as you pull it through the water? Is this what you're thinking about? Of course it is! That is the reflex I was talking about. Well snap out of it!
This is why you've never caught many pike with surface baits before -- because you always fished with rubber frogs. Of all the surface lures that you could use for northern pike, the worst, the least effective, the one that is least likely to catch a fish, is the rubber frog. Of course it has caught a few fish; even a clothespin with a hook attached will get an occasional pike; so the fact you once caught a pike on a rubber frog after a thousand attempts isn't any recommendation.
Open your tackle box right now and fish out your rubber frogs. Pull the hooks out of them and give them to the cat to play with or stick them in the mouths of the mounted fish on the wall. Just make sure you aren't going to be tempted next summer to try them, again, without success, again.
The rubber frog reflex actually has two parts. One is the cute, almost-perfectly imitated frog itself. (News flash! The fish don't see the part you are looking at, the top with the eyes and spots. They just see the plain-featured bottom.) The other problem with the frog is the rest of the mental picture you painted. Remember the lily pads?  
When you put the rubber frog on your line you immediately looked for the nearest group of lily pads or immense weedbed that is clogging up the end of some shallow bay. You are drawn to these spots almost hypnotically. Frogs -weeds. Frogs -weeds. Frogs ...
Pike like weeds, sure, but the weeds don't have to be so thick you could almost walk on them. In fact, as the summer progresses and the weeds grow the heaviest weedbeds in the shallow spots make the water oxygen-depleted. Tiny fish can live there but probably not the ones you are looking for.
The best pike spots anytime except for the first couple weeks of the season are going to be where underwater weeds grow. These can be anywhere there is some soil on the bottom. The deeper the weeds the better. In fact you might not even be able to tell they are there unless you hook them which isn't going to happen with surface lures. So the point is, use your surface lures everywhere, around rocks and reefs, around logs, along sections of shoreline with no visible weeds.
Use them in exactly the same places you would fish with any other lure! Just do it when the water is calm or nearly so, like mornings and evenings and days with little or no wind.
Now, for surface lures that actually work -- no RUBBER frogs!
There are a bunch of lures that go by the generic description of "jerk baits" that are excellent. These are generally torpedo-shaped plugs with no lips to impart wiggling or diving action. The most famous of these is the Zara Spook. It works wonderfully but so do some no-name imitations. However, you generally get what you pay for and the Spook, although a little pricey, is excellent.
My favourite jerk bait has a name that I hesitate to mention. It is the Live Target Walking -- and here I suggest you sit on your hands and turn your back away from the nearest patch of lily pads -- Frog.
I'll repeat it, the Live Target Walking Frog. Holy cow does this thing work!
It is not made of rubber. It doesn't have two upturned hooks and it isn't weedless (aka fishless).
It isn't even shaped much like a frog but rather like a banana. Admittedly it is painted like a frog.
With the Spook or Walking Frog, you cast it out and it floats on the surface. You reel your line up until there is just a little slack and give your rod tip a jerk (hence the jerk bait name). The lure zigs right. You reel up again and with just a little slack left, give the line another jerk. The lure zigs left. Experiment until you get the rhythm correct and the lure is zig-zagging all the way back to the boat. In the case of the Walking Frog, it zig-zags and hops on each jerk.
These lures not only leave a wake on the surface as they are retrieved, they also splash and that seems to be part of the attraction.
They do not need to be painted in frog patterns although those indeed do work. What if you were trying to imitate a dying fish? Silver (shiners, tulibee, whitefish, suckers)? Orange (perch)? Gold (walleye). Blue also works but I'm not sure what it might look like. Black works too and might be the best for silhouette when seen from below.
Another surface lure that works for pike is the popper. Long, skinny poppers might be better than short, fat ones. The Rapala Skitter Pop caught a bunch of pike for one group at camp last summer. They were absolutely sold on it.
With these you jerk your rod tip and it makes the lure "chug" along the surface.
Then there are the lures that make a commotion when retrieved steadily. Many of these have a propeller of some kind involved.  The buzz bait is one such lure. It doesn't float but moves to the surface as it is retrieved, then churns away making both a wake and a lot of sound.
The Jitter Bug is another example of a noisy floating lure. It has a lip that makes the lure thrash back and forth when retrieved.
The key to using surface lures, at least at first, is to pick calm water conditions to try them. Once you have caught some fish this way you will be "hooked." It is so much fun watching pike come flying out of the water that it is difficult to fish any other way.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Jim Paishk: pipe maker, master storyteller

Jim Paishk making soapstone pipes in the doorway of Old Cabin 10
Whenever Old Jim started a sentence with "Seebada" you knew a great story was soon to follow.
Jim Paishk was the most elderly Ojibwe or Anishinaabe man ever to work at Bow Narrows Camp. Jim was born on the north shore of Pipestone Bay but the exact date was uncertain. He appeared to be an elderly man when he started working at camp in the '60s and he worked with us off and on, I believe, until his death in the early '80s.
He was a favorite fishing guide, as much for his story telling as his ability to find fish, especially lake trout.
Although his exact age may not have been known, his life experiences told you he had been around a long time. For instance, Old Jim remembered seeing a white person for the first time. "All the kids ran and hid. We were scared," he once said.
He also remembers that his father's gun was a muzzle loader and that curious fact came up in one of his stories.
"Seebada, one time Big Albert was heading to his trapline in the fall. (Big Albert was Jim's brother.) He was just getting ready to carry his canoe over the long trail from Pipestone (Bay) when he sees a big bull moose right next to the trail. Big Albert wanted to shoot that moose because he needed meat for the winter but he couldn't because he had no shot for his gun (a muzzle loader). He had powder but no shot.
"Growing right beside the trail were pin cherry trees that had lots of cherries on them. So, Big Albert thinks maybe the cherry pits would act as shot and grabs handfuls of them and rams them down the barrel. He shoots and there is a big cloud of smoke." Here Jim would often start laughing so hard he had to wipe tears from his eyes with his handkerchief. Eventually he would regain his composure.
"When the air cleared the moose was gone. So Big Albert just carried his canoe over the trail and went to his trapline cabin.
"In the spring he comes back the same way and when he carries his canoe back down the trail to Pipestone he sees something moving. It is a tree! It is a pin cherry tree growing out of the side of a moose!"
Old Jim might tell you this and other "Big Albert" stories while he carved soapstone pipes. The soapstone came from the shore of Pipestone Bay. He was the only person I knew who made such pipes and from what I have found out since, he was the last person to do so on Red Lake. Pipestone Bay, just north of Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, got its name from this activity. Ojibwe people would traditionally come there to get the stone for pipes. Yet no one but Jim still had the skill to do it by the 1960s.
I don't know Old Jim's Anishinaabeg name and this is a pity because it is how Red Lake elders today would remember him. He did also have the name Peepsite. That had come from when he was either a boy or young man and shot at what he thought was a moose. It turned out to be his father's black hat but the bullet luckily passed above the old man's head. The incident scared Jim so much that he never shot a gun after that.
Old Jim was a kind, grandfatherly man who would always go out of his way to help and befriend children.
When I was a boy I would often ask the Ojibwe guides for the "Indian" names of things as we all sat at the table for supper. One time I asked a question which nobody seemed to be able to answer.
Finally someone said, "You should ask Jim, he speaks High Indian."
High Indian was apparently the old form of the Ojibwe language. Although some of the men at the table were in their 50s and maybe even as old as 60, none of them spoke it. But Old Jim did.
As I remember it, the question I asked was if any of the guides had ever seen a Sasquatch. They discussed this in Ojibwe among themselves and finally Old Jim said something. One of the younger guys turns to me and said, "Yes."
I was thrilled and was going to ask for more details when the man added, "It's an owl."
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

A neat and fast way to boil water with little fuel

I fire up the Kelly Kettle for some tea during my daily snowshoe with Cork

Flames shoot right out from the top just with a handful of bark and twigs

Nearly half a gallon of water boils in just five minutes
For years I have looked at Kelly Kettles in sporting goods stores and thought how clever they were. Now, thanks to a Christmas present, I'm getting to try the kettle out for myself.
The kettle is basically a double-walled chimney with a separate pan-like base. The chimney has a hole with a plug on the outside that allows you to pour in water. When you build a fire in the base pan the fire is sucked by convection up through the chimney and heats the water between the walls all around.
My kettle holds 1.6 liters of water (just about the same in U.S. quarts at 1.7) or nearly half a U.S. gallon.
Using a handful of birch bark and four sticks about the size of a pencil and as long as my forearm I can bring this water to a boil in five minutes.
You can also cook on top of the kettle but that requires accessories. I wonder how successful it would be to fry something on top of what basically is a blowtorch. You can also cook on the base pan, again with accessories. This is just tiny, however, and I would guess you would need to continuously lift your pan to add more sticks.
At any rate the ability to boil water in just a few minutes is really handy. If you were canoeing or hiking and had freeze-dried meals that just need to be combined with boiling water, this outfit could be just the ticket.
It burns any kind of small wood, like small branches and pine cones, even grass.  It not only works in the wind but works even faster. Just point the draft hole toward the wind and you have the equivalent of a bellows.
It would be a great way to purify water. You can boil up water in nothing flat, then pour this into a container to cool and use later.
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