Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Trillium gets the nod for Ontario's flower

Nodding trillium, Red Lake, ON
After living at Bow Narrows Camp for 51 years, we finally discovered trilliums growing right in the yard!

It's like the story of the man who sold his farm to become a diamond prospector. The new owner then notices the rocks in the farmer's fields are actually diamonds.

That's the way I felt when I saw my first trillium by one of the cabins. What else have I been missing all these years?

These are Nodding Trilliums, also called Nodding Wakerobin and Whip-poor-will flower.

Incidentally, never pick a trillium flower as it can kill the plant.

The White Trillium is Ontario's provincial flower. It is proudly displayed on everything from licence plates to driver's licences.

All trilliums are rare.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Northern pike come in various colorations, patterns

northern pike coloration
This small northern pike has a beautiful camouflage pattern on its back. How would you like to be a prey fish and try to spot this fellow lying amid the weeds with the waves above dancing the sunlight over it?

Northern pike in Red Lake, Ontario, come in several colors and skin patterns.

1. Large spots -- Their skin is covered with large spots or rings, almost in a chain pattern.

2. Small spots -- It's the same pattern as above but the rings are much smaller.

3. Silver with no spots -- Some people think these are silver muskies but they really northern pike with no spots at all.

4. Beet-red fins

5. Green mottled fins

Also, the flesh of the pike has several distinct colors: white, yellowish-orange, pale green.

Although you might suspect the flesh of the fish could be influenced by what they had been eating, it is perplexing that you can get fish of all colors from exactly the same location.

Incidentally, they all taste the same -- delicious!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

An artifact from before the throwaway society

returnable potato chip can
This steel can is used for kindling in one of our cabins.

Who can still remember when steel cans were used to hold potato chips?

Take notice to the lower left side of the can. It could be returned for a 50-cent deposit!

Just imagine how much less waste we would have created if all food had come in returnable vessels.

Instead, our society opted to do everything the easy way and just threw the containers away when we were through with the product.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What made these tiny holes in an alder tree?

sapsucker holes in alder
The correct answer is the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

This small woodpecker is migratory in Northwestern Ontario but leaves its mark on many trees. In fact, the bird will keep adding to the rows of holes it drills year after year.

It makes the holes to drink the sap under the tree bark. It's favorite trees are the ones with the sweetest sap. In the Boreal Forest, that primarily means white or paper birch trees. Although they have far less sugar than do sugar maples of the forests in warmer climes, there is enough for humans to make syrup -- birch syrup. It tastes very similar to maple syrup.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds take advantage of the sapsucker's wood drilling habit by also drinking the tree sap in the spring, before there are flowers in bloom.

I have even seen sapsucker holes in the bark of jackpine trees.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to use this blog to find more information

Would you like to see more information than is in this current list of blog entries?
Here's how to get it.
1. At the bottom right at the very end of this group of 20 blog entries is a little button that says Older Posts. Click on it and you get the previous 20 entries. At the bottom of that list is yet another button that says Older Posts, etc, etc.
That's one way to see the more than 300 articles written about fishing and outdoor life at Bow Narrows Camp and Northern Ontario that are contained in this blog over the past five years.
2. Another way is to enter topics in the little search window at the top of the blog header and click the little magnifying glass. It then brings up the latest 20 entries that have that term in them. At the bottom of the list you can hit Older Posts and it brings up the next most recent 20 entries with that term, etc. etc.
3. This next method is the slowest system. At the right is a list of all the years that the blog has appeared. You can click on the year; it will then display the months for that year. You can then click on the month. This seems to take forever to open these files, at least on my computer. So I recommend you use 1 or 2, above.
There are blog entries on just about everything you can imagine to do with fishing at Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, Ontario. They tell you the best techniques, lures to use, times of day to fish, how to net fish, take out the hooks, what to bring and a lot more.
There are hundreds of photos of big fish, awesome scenery and wildlife, all taken by Bow Narrows Camp anglers. There are also stories on things to do besides fishing, what's cooking in the lodge, latest info on fishing regulations and so on.
What if you would like to comment about something you have read?
Hit the comment button at the bottom of that blog entry, leave your comment in the window, follow the instructions and send it off, no matter when that entry was first published. Your comment should appear below the blog entry in a couple of days.
Finally, if after reading something you have questions that you would like answered, send me an e-mail. I would be happy to answer them, if I can.
My e-mail address is:
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Friday, March 18, 2011

World's smallest fish caught on #5 Mepps?

I don't believe it is possible to catch a fish any smaller than this on a #5 Mepps.

This tiny perch isn't more than one inch long.

It obviously wasn't trying to eat the Mepps. Maybe it saw the spinner as a school of perch and just wanted to be one of the gang.

The photo is also a testimonial to how sharp Mepps hooks are.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Witch's brooms found not just on Halloween

witch's broom in balsam fir

Dense masses of weird branches sometimes grow in balsam fir trees behind our home in Nolalu and anywhere in the Boreal Forest. These are witch's brooms.

Before anyone gets a stake and fire ready, let me quickly say they have nothing to do with witchcraft. Rather they are places where a disease has afflicted the tree, causing it to grow spindly branches in all directions.

This cell-altering disease could have been caused by fungi, insects, viruses or even by accident such as when a falling tree bashes into another, leaving a wound where the disease can enter.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

If a shadow falls in the forest and no one is there

footprint casts shadow
Sam's tracks two days apart

Before considering the question I'm about to ask, first go have a beer or a sip or two of good bourbon. At the very least, clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts, sit cross-legged and stare blankly at the sky for a few minutes.

Are you ready?

OK then.

Is a shadow SOMETHING or is it just the LACK OF SUNLIGHT?

I ponder this question just about every year at this time.

"Well, that's understandable," you are probably saying. "After a long Canadian winter you are probably getting a bit daft!"

That is always a possibility, I suppose.

The question at first seems as simple as it gets. A shadow is just where the light is blocked. It is where there is a LACK OF SUNLIGHT. It isn't something in itself.

I could easily believe that premise any time of year except now. You see the daylight is quite long now, almost 12 hours, in fact. And there is a lot of warmth in it too.

Something funny happens to footprints made in the snow right about now. They grow!

For a fact, a footprint made today will be quite a bit larger tomorrow and will be even larger the next and this will continue until the snow is either gone or there is a new snowfall that fills the footprint in again. That's what happened to our dog Sam's tracks in the second photo. The tracks on the left were made today. The much larger one was made by him two days ago.

What could cause this?

Well, the shadow caused by the depth of the footprint is darker than the rest of the snow and this darkness absorbs more sunlight -- and therefore heat -- than its surroundings and the footprint melts faster.

If you think the footprint might melt faster because the snow is compressed you would be dead wrong. Compressed snow is more dense and is considerably slower to melt. In fact, the footprints made in the snow last winter, then filled in by subsequent snowfalls, stand like little stalagmites in the spring. They don't melt as easily as does the rest of the snow.

No, it is the SHADOW of the recent footprint that accelerates the melting of the snow. How can the LACK OF SUNLIGHT create a reaction from the sunlight? I don't think it can.

Therefore, a shadow is SOMETHING.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Fishing strategies for northern pike on Red Lake, Ont.

Good northern pike day
The places and techniques to fish for northern pike on Red Lake, Ontario or any Northern Ontario lake for that matter, vary with the weather conditions each day.

The photo above shows a perfect day for casting artificials along the shoreline and weedbeds. There is a slight chop to the waves that means the sunlight below the surface will be broken up and continuously changing. The light will "dance around" giving the fish a glimpse of their prey, then vanishing, then reappearing.

Northern pike hunt virtually entirely by sight, not with their lateral line sense as do walleye and lake trout. So they are "looking" for something to eat.

Choppy water also creates a situation where there is more for the pike to find. Plankton and other tiny organisms are moved to the windward shore by the waves or are washed away from the bottom out into the open. Minnows swarm in on this bonanza and that is what attracts the larger predators like northern pike. Also, the minnows aren't able to see the pike coming because of the changing light conditions.

So when the water is a bit chaotic from the waves, the best way to attract a strike from a pike is to have a very visible lure, something bright and flashy. Now is not the time for a subtle presentation -- it won't even be found.

There is no particular lure that is better than others in this instance other than it is unnecessary that the lure be identical to a natural prey fish. It just needs to flash and be noticed. I would use a spoon or a spinner here. They are easier to fish with than stick baits like Rapalas because they catch fewer weeds and also have fewer hooks to remove from the mouths of the fish you do catch.

Now lets take the opposite condition; water that is dead calm and the sun is beaming overhead.

In this circumstance the fish have a perfect view of your lure. I always imagine they can read the writing on it: "D-A-R-D-E-V-L-E. What were we taught in fishing school about Dardevles? Never bite one!"

These are the toughest of fishing conditions, not just because it is hard to fool the fish, but also because all the natural prey are hiding as well. So the predators aren't even looking for a meal.

However, they can be tricked with subtle, slow presentations such as a stick bait that pauses and twitches -- a wounded minnow! Or a surface plug that does the same thing -- a popper that looks just like a frog to a fish 10 feet below. The key is to be slow.

Another trick for calm conditions is to use tiny lures, especially spoons and spinners, that are just 1.5-2 inches long. Frankly I'm not sure why this works but maybe it's just that the lure is so small the fish can't distinguish that it is an artificial. You might even need an ultralight rod to pitch these little jobs that probably weight 1/4 oz or less.

A good rule of thumb is to use small and subtle-colored lures in calm conditions, larger and brighter lures in wavy conditions.

A good thing about fishing in calm conditions is that you can see the weeds so clearly and therefore can work your lure deeper without snagging one.

What about rainy days? Fish them pretty much like you would the windy ones.

The pike can't see very well with cloudy skies and even less if there are raindrops on the surface.

I would use bright flashy lures, like an orange or chartreuse spinner or spoon. Silver or white is also good. Gold, on the other hand, is better for sunny days.

Since pike must see their prey, they usually can't be caught well in water that is muddied badly by the wind either. So you don't want to fish shorelines that are being beaten to death by the waves. That's good because it's too hard to fish there anyway.

On extremely windy days you can catch pike just about everywhere; so, concentrate on areas that are protected from the wind and are easier to control your boat.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Here's where to meet the Lickety Split in Red Lake

We meet our guests in the town of Red Lake at Red Lake Marine which is located on Hwy. 105 at the bottom of the hill as you come into town as shown in the top photo. Our dock is located between Chimo Airways, whose dock is seen in the background, and Red Lake Marine.

The bottom photo shows our long dock and the Lickety Split tied up on the lefthand side. Note the baggage cart at the end of the dock. Use this cart to transport your luggage and other belongings to the end of the dock. Take everything off the cart and pile it on the righthand side of the dock, leaving the left side clear for the cart to take baggage from guests coming from camp to shore.

Dan will show you where to park your vehicle at the dock. However, you can save time by leaving a spare set of car keys in advance at the front desk at Red Lake Marine. Just say you are going to Bow Narrows Camp and want to leave your keys. They have a box just for this purpose. You need to leave the keys just in case there is an emergency and the cars need to be moved.

Red Lake is a very picturesque little town and with some of the busiest floatplane traffic anywhere as these photos attest.

On Saturdays the Lickety Split makes a round-trip to camp and back to the dock approximately every 90 minutes. We schedule the passage for each group in advance.

If you have some time to kill, you might want to wander into Red Lake Marine and pick up a free coffee. They have a lot of fishing gear inside and they're also a Source (Radio Shack).

Right across from our dock is a Subway restaurant. The drive opposite our dock ends at the Beer Store! At the top of the hill behind the dock is Sobeys Supermarket which shares a parking lot with the Liquor Store.

If you drive past the dock you come to the end of Hwy. 105 at a traffic light. Turn left and go about a block and you come to Northern Sporting Supplies on the right. Turn right and you go down the main street in town. Some places to check out are: the Lakeview Cafe (great breakfast and lunch spot), the Rexall Pharmacy, the Treasure House (great place for genuine moosehide slippers, moccasins and gloves). There is a turnaround at the end of the row of businesses where you can turn and come back toward the light again.

There are several businesses between our dock and Chimo Airways. They include McTaggart's Store (mens and womens clothing), Home Hardware and the Water Buffalo (coffee shop).

One thing you will notice as you visit any of these stores is how friendly everyone here is. Red Lake is a very beautiful and friendly town.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tips on how to cross the border into Canada

Here are some tips on how to make crossing the border into Canada as quick as possible.

First of all, remember that everyone these days needs a valid up-to-date passport. In addition, children who don't have both biological parents traveling with them should have a letter from the other parent giving his or her permission for the trip.

The driver of the vehicle should hand the passports of everyone in the vehicle to the border officer when he pulls alongside the booth window.

I'm not going to tell you what you are allowed and not allowed to bring into Canada. You can see this for yourself at these websites:

However, I am going to pass on some practical advice on what to do at the border.

For starters, know that the person you are talking to has absolute authority over your admittance. So with that in mind, answer his or her questions politely, concisely and honestly.
Don't tell jokes, make wisecracks or pass the time of day.

Everyone in the car should remain silent unless asked a question by the border guard. The guard will usually ask the driver questions such as how long the group will be in the country, what is the purpose of their visit, where they will be going, etc.

You will always be asked if you have any alcohol and tobacco aboard and exactly how much of each so have that information written down ahead of time. (See the websites above for allowable amounts.) If you have more than the allowable limit you will be asked to come inside the building and pay duty and taxes.

You will also be asked if you have any weapons on board. It is illegal to bring any type of firearm into Canada (hunters must register their guns through a website in advance and have the paperwork ready when they come to the border). It is also illegal to have any other offensive weapon such as Tasers, mace, bear spray, throwing stars, switchblades, etc.

At the officer's discretion you might be asked to pull over and your vehicle and belongings searched. You should only have in the car the belongings of people in that vehicle.

Such searches are infrequent but can be prompted by things like background checks on the vehicle occupant's passports, answers to the questions the guard asked, or just at random. In other words, yours was the 47th car since the last vehicle was searched.

Never argue or complain. The officers realize they are inconveniencing you. Just do as they say and the process will go faster.

It will help if your belongings are organized rather than scattered all over the place.

Don't bring things in the boxes they were purchased in. For instance, if you stopped at Cabelas on the way up and bought a new fishfinder, take it out of the box before getting to the border. Why? Bringing items in their unopened packages makes it look like you might be intending to re-sell those items in Canada rather than bringing them for your own use.

Don't bring anything with you that isn't needed for the trip. For instance, don't bring lots of tools other than those needed in case of an emergency. It makes it look like you are intending to work in Canada.

Don't take photographs of the border crossing or the officers. In fact, don't take photos at the crossing, period.

Be patient. Treat the officer with respect. He or she has a serious job to do. Don't question their motivations. For example, don't ask why they seem to be singling you out. (Perhaps you may resemble someone they've been advised to look out for.)

Some of the officers are men; some are women; some have been doing their job for a long time; some are summer students hired as extra staff for peak time periods. Treat them all courteously and respectfully.

But what if they are rude and disrespectful to you? Although this is rare, it does happen.

You must still be polite and courteous. Remember, this one person has the power to deny you entering the country.

However, although you can do nothing about the incident at the moment, you CAN and SHOULD register a formal complaint later by doing the following.

All officers have large identity badge numbers. Memorize that number and write it down as soon as you are through the crossing.

Also write down the physical description of the officer, the exact time you crossed the border, the date, and every detail of your complaint including anything the officer said or did that offended you.

Don't wait until you get to camp to do this. Do it immediately while the details are fresh in your mind.

When you return home send your complaint in writing to this e-mail address:


It will be read and the incident investigated by a high-ranking officer at Canada Border Services Agency regional headquarters, not the border crossing.

It is possible that the border guard who offended you or treated you unfairly is a "bad apple" and your complaint plus those of other people against this individual can be used for disciplinary action or even dismissal. However, this person must be clearly identified. That is why you need to specify the hour, the date, and any other facts. The best, of course, is the officer's identification number.

Only you can launch this complaint. We cannot file the complaint for you nor can you file a complaint for someone else.

Just about all of the officers and border guards are excellent professionals. I'm sure they would also like to get rid of any fellow officers who bring contempt to their ranks.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Evening at Bow Narrows always a magical time

"Did you see that thunderhead over Pipestone Bay? It was like a mushroom cloud!"

"What about that sunset! Wasn't it spectacular!"

That could be the conversation any night at camp. If it isn't the sky that is awe-inspiring, it's the fish that was caught and released or the moose that came so close to the boat or all of the above.

People gather in the yard or in the lodge or the fish house and the stories just fly. Evenings are really special here.

Everyone tells about the day's events and the wonders that they saw. It's so serene, so beautiful. Then somebody cracks a joke and the whole place erupts in laughter.

As everyone retires to their cabins, maybe just to their screened porches where they put their feet up and listen to the symphony of loons calling back and forth , the stresses of everyday life are a million miles away.

"Hey, are those northern lights? calls someone from the inky blackness of the yard.

Everyone bails out of the cabin to find the caller is right. Hanging overhead like a shimmering neon curtain is Nature's own light show.

Eventually, of course, you realize that you must go to bed or you'll never be ready for tomorrow. You drift off with the sounds of loons yodeling, toads trilling and Joe snoring in the next room.

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