Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Zen of Grouse Hunting

Ruffed Grouse at Bow Narrows, Red Lake
If there is a more soul-satisfying activity than hunting ruffed grouse in Northwestern Ontario in the fall, I haven't discovered it.
So far I have honored a commitment to myself and my Chocolate Lab, Sam, to get out grouse hunting every day.
After a fishing season where Brenda and I and our staff have worked 24/7 for months, the time I spend with Sam walking quietly over trails while crimson and yellow leaves are falling all around us is worth more than all the gold and diamonds in the world.
Yesterday we explored a new trail left by prospectors and were fascinated by all the tracks of moose and deer we found. So fascinated, in fact, that I was totally unprepared for the thunderous whirr of a grouse taking off right at my feet. By the time I remembered I was carrying a shotgun this grey-tail variety bird was gliding out of sight. We could have pursued him but decided to stick to the trail instead and see what lay ahead.
The autumn leaves are slow to change color this year. Despite what the expert say about frost having nothing to do with this annual event, anyone who lives in the bush knows that a frost will make the entire forest explode with brilliant golds and reds within a few days.
There have been many flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes passing overhead. They are going from their summer breeding grounds on Hudson Bay west to Manitoba where they will rest and feed before heading south for the winter.
They mostly don't land here at Red Lake unless they encounter bad weather or head winds.
We are approaching our last week of fishing for the season. The weather has been beautiful with highs in the 60s F (17 C) and quite dry.
The morning air smells of wood smoke as our guests build fires in the stoves in their cabins.
It's a fine way to end the season.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall bird migrations have begun

We've seen and heard the first flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes in the last couple of days.
It won't be long before the sky is filled with the Vs of these magnificent birds as they make their way from Hudson Bay to the southern U.S.
The weather is decidedly fall-like now with daytime highs in the 50s and 60s. We still have not had a frost.
A cold front that went through over the weekend slowed down the walleye bite but it should be back on by today. The trick for us is to get our fishermen -- almost everybody in camp this week is new -- to go back and fish the places we sent them earlier but which didn't produce anything due to the cold front's effects. The best fishermen have poor memories. They keep trying the tried-and-proven fishing spots until they connect with the fish.
Fish here move with the wind, move with the weather conditions and move with the season.
After 50 years of fishing this lake we have a pretty good idea where they are going to be and at what time although we also learn something new every day as well.
I would suggest walleye fishermen coming here the next few weeks buy some nightcrawlers at places like Fort Frances, Vermilion Bay and Ear Falls as they are becoming difficult to find at Red Lake bait dealers. You only need a piece of worm on a jig to catch a walleye and so can catch many fish on each whole worm. With minnows, you need one minnow per fish. Minnows also die far easier.
Live bait is now working considerably better than Gulp Alive but there seems to be no preference about the kind of live bait. Worms, leeches and minnows are all working.
Spinners are still the favorite of northern pike. Make sure you have #4 and #5 Mepps and Blue Fox models. Gold and orange are still good colors.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Fall weather may finally be coming

The unseasonally warm weather may be on the way out tonight.
It has been near 80 F (27C) here the last few days but there is a major cold front coming through tonight.
We love the heat -- there isn't that much of it up here -- but it will be nice to have some cool nights for sleeping again.
Meanwhile, the walleye extravanza continues. Everybody in camp is catching walleyes on whatever bait they fish with -- minnows, worms, leeches, Gulp Alive, chewing gum!
It would seem every walleye in the entire lake system is right near our camp. All you need to do is to get your jig or spinner and bait to the bottom in 20-30 feet of water.
The northern pike are back in a big way too. Lots of pike in the 30+inch range are being caught and the fish can be found right in the weeds again.
Virtually anything is working for pike but gold or yellow spinners like the Mepps #4 and #5 and Blue Fox #5 are still good.
The Acme Castmaster spoon in silver with chartreuse also did well last week. It also caught walleyes!
I was able to slip away from camp for a couple of hours last week and was lucky enough to land a 39-inch pike on a #4 Mepps. What made it all the more interesting was another fish of similar size was following the one I caught and released.

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