Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Send in deposits; boat news; new rates

Click on this panorama photo of camp to enlarge it
I'm in the process of sending letters to everyone, checking with them on their existing reservations and if they haven't already sent it, asking for deposits to continue holding these reservations. About half of the letters have now been sent and the rest will be on the way in the next few days.
Once again we will be booking arrival and departure times for the Lickety Split, the boat that takes you between town and camp, when you make your deposit. Whoever makes their deposit first gets the first choice. The boat picks up guests in town on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. It departs camp on Friday and Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.
We require a $100 per person deposit to continue holding reservations.
You can make your deposit by calling us with a credit card at our winter number: 807-475-7246 or by mailing a personal check.. Make the check out to Bow Narrows Camp and send it to our winter address:
Bow Narrows Camp
RR1 Old Mill Rd.
Nolalu, ON  P0T 2K0
Deposits are fully refundable upon 60 days notice of cancellation.
You don't need to wait until you get the letter to make a deposit. Just call us at the above phone number.
You can also reach us by e-mail: fish@bownarrows.com
If you still have your HST rebate from last year's trip, you can use that as part of  your deposit. Just sign the back and send it to us with a check for the remainder of your deposit. You can get half of your HST tax back through a mail-in rebate once you return home.

In some camp news, we will be getting a few more of the Lund SSV 16-foot boats this summer. We've had just one of these new 16s and one 18-footer for a few years now. These boats get rave reviews from everybody mostly because of their double split seat arrangement that gives the boats more room to move about.. Both the back seat and the next row forward have a walk-through split seat. They also have removable floors throughout which is necessary because the boat hull has a distinct V-shape that would make it difficult to stand in without the floor. All of our other Lund boats have floors in the V-shaped bow sections. The sections further astern have flat hulls and therefore don't require removable floors. The plan is to convert the entire fleet to the SSVs by 2016.

After crunching the numbers from last year it became evident that we needed to raise our rates a bit. Our last rate increase was three years ago. See our Rates Page on the website for 2014 rates.
Food, fuel and equipment are all much higher now, food especially. At one point last summer we were paying $1 per pound for potatoes from the Red Lake supermarket, just as an example. We are scouting alternate sources of supply for this summer but the choices aren't too many.
We also face ever-more-expensive regulations from the provincial and federal governments.
Our goal is always to provide the highest-quality vacation for an affordable price. A survey of remote (off-the-road) fishing lodges and camps shows we are achieving that.

We will be making a slight alteration to our meal schedule for American Plan guests in 2014. Breakfasts and suppers are unchanged from previous years. Lunches will now consists of two planned indoor shore lunches in the lodge where you provide your own fish and we cook them and serve them to you along with side dishes. Those will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays. The other days a bag lunch will be provided made to your order or you can take a shore lunch box and cook fish out on the shoreline or on a propane cooker outside your cabin, if you like. Most people have us expertly clean their fish for this. We are discontinuing the fourth option of an entree served each day in the lodge unless the weather turns exceptionally cold.

We did a lot of construction work at camp last year including new roofing, rebuilding crib docks, remodeling, painting and shutters. The panorama photo above shows some of this. You will need to click on the photo to enlarge it. It shows almost half of camp in the one shot. Cabin 9 is the two-story building on the left, then comes Cabin 8, Cabin 7 with its new large screened porch and the lodge on the far right.
It's awesome.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The last looks at camp in October

Gord Cooper, Brenda's brother, goes for a ride as I pull the main dock

Frosty morning shows winter isn't far away

One last look at camp as we pulled out Oct. 26
My brother-in-law, Ron Wink, sent me these pics of camp as we closed up last fall.
Ron and Lynda (Brenda's sister) helped us put the camp to bed for the winter. Others who help us each autumn are Brenda's brother, Gord Cooper and his wife Carol, my niece Andrea Wink and her fiance Andrew Benzel and his son, Austin..
A lot of people ask us what do we do with the docks in the winter. The top photo shows us pulling the main dock that is anchored all summer in front of the lodge. We move it and all the floating docks on the western side of camp to the boathouse-Cabin 3 area. Our 53 years of experience have taught us there is a lot of ice movement on the western side but at the boathouse there is virtually none.
The frosty roofs on the lodge and Cabin 5 shows you the temperature was below freezing. Although we didn't experience it this year, it isn't unusual for us to have snow on the ground as we are packing up. This photo also shows what looks like a pile of brush near the back door of the lodge. Each year we cut balsam limbs and arrange them neatly in a pile over top of a couple of our septic lift tanks which have exposed tops. Then we spread a tarp over the pile and anchor the edges with logs. This provides great insulation that keeps the tanks warm in the winter and ensures there is no ice there when we come back in the spring.
You can also see many of the camp fishing boats stacked on shore, ready for next spring.
The third photo is the last view we had of camp. As you can see the main dock is tied across the ends of the crib docks at the boathouse. This keeps the big floating dock out in fairly deep water so that when the melt happens around the shore in the spring, the dock won't be partially in shallow water and partially in deep. That could lead to the dock being broken in two if the ice was heaved at the shore (because it freezes all the way to the bottom there.)
Typically the ice just melts in place in the boathouse vicinity and all the docks there are fine. Two years ago, however, there was a freakish warm spell in March that sent lots of runoff into the lake. This raised its level and pulled the crib docks off their cribs. When the water and ice (there was probably three feet of ice still) came down in the spring the docks had shifted off their cribs. We ended up having to rebuild just about all of them.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Speaking of the unending Boreal Forest...

Dark-coloured spruce and jackpine and golden aspen and birches stretch to the horizon

Sadler and Pipestone Bays are two of the places our anglers like to fish
I just checked out some photos sent to me and found these aerial views of the Boreal Forest taken this October between the town of Red Lake and camp. My sister-in-law, Carol Cooper, snapped these out the window of Chimo Airway's Otter on her way into camp.
The top photo gives you some idea of the density of trees, broken only by lakes and in the center, an old beaver pond.
The bottom photo shows the forest around Sadler Bay, in the foreground, with Pipestone Bay in the background. This is a great shot not only for the beauty of the Boreal in the fall but it also shows the sheltered waters where our anglers fish. This spot is only about a five-minute boat ride from camp.
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

A merry and peaceful Christmas to everyone

A yuletide visitor heads toward our home in Nolalu.
Brenda and I hope everyone is able to enjoy this wonderful time of year with family and friends.
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Friday, December 20, 2013

If you can only bring one lure, make it this one

Simple, simple, simple but EFFECTIVE!
The truth is, fishing, like life, is only as complicated as you make it.
Your tackle box (or boxes) can be stuffed with lures for every occasion. You can have suspending stick baits, shallow running plugs, mid-depth runners and deep runners. You can have spoons of infinite colours with diagonal stripes, straight stripes, spots or diamonds. You can have spinners with a half dozen shaped blades, with weighted bodies or with coloured beads. You can have poppers and jerk baits and frogs and mice for surface lures.
Or you can just have a jig and twister tail.
This last lure is the one that will catch virtually every fish in North America including, in Red Lake: perch, rock bass, walleye, northern pike, lake trout, whitefish, ling and musky.
Not only is it possible to catch them on a jig and a twister tail, it may be the very best lure for the job!
And it is also the cheapest, costing just cents.
There is nothing simpler than a jig and twister tail but that doesn't stop lure manufacturers from trying to entice you into different models. The heads come in a myriad of shapes and weights. The plastic twister tails come in infinite colours and lengths. Some even have little legs sticking out the side. You can still spend a lot of money on jig paraphernalia.
Or you can just fish with the 1/4-ounce, round-head jig with a three-inch white single tail because that will catch just about everything probably 90 per cent of the time. If you are a real jig expert, then you probably will use the 1/8-ounce head with a 2 1/2-inch tail. This is a little harder to cast and must be fished a bit slower to keep it near the bottom. And even though the white twister works just about all the time, you'll probably want to bring other colours too because twisters are just so cheap you can afford to have lots. Favourite colours for walleye are: white, black, orange, yellow, chartreuse, red-and-white, brown-and-orange. Pike like: white, pink, orange, red-and-white and chartreuse.
The head colour doesn't seem to make much difference. Nor does it need to have an eye like the model above.
For walleye, cast this out and let it sink to the bottom. Then reel up your slack and SLOWLY move your rod tip away from the jig. You want to feel for the resistance of a fish holding the jig, then set the hook. Keep doing this until the jig is back to the boat. 
For northern pike, cast it right where you would cast any pike lure -- near the shoreline, logs, rocks, weeds, etc. and reel it straight back to the boat without doing the rod tip sweep. You can reel quickly when the jig is in shallow water because it sinks real fast. Then slow down your retrieve and let it plummet when it comes to deeper water.
It's the same technique for lake trout and whitefish except you are fishing in deep water all the time. Cast it out and let it sink to the bottom, then slowly reel it back in.
I got to go fishing twice last summer with my son, Josh. On the first occasion he caught and released a 44-inch northern pike on a jig and twister. On the second occasion, months later, he caught about 30 walleye in an hour on the exact same rig.
It takes a bit of experience to master the technique but once you get it, you're hooked for life.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I guess I'll always be a Boreal Forest dweller

The Boreal Forest seems to go on forever, broken only by lakes and rivers. Doug Billings took this photo of the forest on the shores of Red Lake, near Bow Narrows Camp
Our cross-continent journey made me appreciate our absolutely awesome Boreal Forest.
Upon leaving the West Coast, we had left the Pacific Rain Forest behind in a matter of hours. Basically it is confined to the western side of the Rockies. The next FOUR DAYS of traveling east was done in the arid Plains where trees only grew along river courses or on certain sides of mountains and even then only sparsely.
The first trees of any significance started to appear in central Minnesota. For the first time it seemed  that these trees, oaks probably, would have made up significant stands were it not for the fields created by man. Still, you wouldn't call this a forest. "Woods" would have been a more appropriate term. They were stands of trees, not too tall or thick or wide enough to be called a forest.
An honest-to-god forest began right around Duluth and continued along the Minnesota North Shore all the way to the Canadian border. I believe this is part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest which is also found in northern Wisconsin, Michigan and Eastern Ontario, as well as along the southern fringe of Northwestern Ontario, including Nolalu.
Here there were lots of conifers such as pine as well as red maple, birch and aspen.
From Nolalu northward, however, is the world's largest forest, the Boreal. Red Lake is enveloped by it. This immense ecosystem encircles the globe. It is the lungs of the world, breathing in and storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide and breathing out pure oxygen for the benefit of all animal life.There are few species of trees here: black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, jackpine, white birch, quaking aspen and balsam poplar make up just about all of it.
The difference between a woods and a forest is this: you can go for a walk in the woods and, even without a compass, walk out again. Maybe you won't come out where you intended, perhaps on a different road or trail, but before too long you will see someone to ask directions and you are soon on your way home. In the Boreal Forest you can walk for hundreds, even thousands, of miles and never come across anything but Boreal Forest. It is like the ocean, going on forever and ever.
I never realized how much I loved it until this trip.
Just as a sailor doesn't feel at home without the swells under his boat and his eyes on the horizon, I am just at ease in the dense "bush" where sometimes even light cannot penetrate. It wasn't always thus. I got lost guiding for moose hunting one time and didn't think I would ever see my loved ones again. As often happens with people who despair in the bush, I panicked, and took off running in pursuit of a landmark that would tell me all was right in the world again.
Fortunately I was young at the time, 18 or 19, and my body and heart stood the test of hurtling windfalls and rocks at breakneck speeds for a couple of hours. Eventually though, even my young body was exhausted. I stood panting, my clothes wringing wet with sweat. I was in the darkest black spruce swamp imaginable. Although it was a clear day and only about three in the afternoon, I couldn't even see the sun through the dense tops of the 60-foot-tall, 200-year-old spruce trees that spread in every direction. Moss-covered hummocks and rotten stumps and little pools of water were all that existed beneath this black canopy.

Reason eventually came back to my feverish mind. There was an almost imperceptible little creek that lead from one tiny pool to the other. It suddenly occurred to me that this creek had to flow SOMEWHERE. It wouldn't go around and around in circles as I had been doing for hours. But which way to follow?
I picked up a dry leaf and gently placed it on the surface of the tiny rivulet. There wasn't a breath of wind in this place. If the leaf moved at all, it would be because there was a current carrying it downstream. It took several seconds but the leaf definitely moved in one direction. Like a shot I went running right down the creek, splashing noisily like a charging bull moose. Within minutes I could see light ahead. I came out at the back of a bay on the lake. Here the creek turned to floating muskeg which I had to skirt to avoid plunging through. As I approached the shoreline of the lake I could hear an outboard motor. I raced toward the sound and reached the lake only to see the boat and its lone driver had already gone past. The driver would be looking ahead and wouldn't see me. I took off my red shirt anyway and gave it a wave over my head.
As if in answer to my prayers, the boat instantly turned toward me. As it drew close I could see it was from camp and the driver was my friend, one of our Ojibwa guides, Jimmy Duck, who was only a few years older than myself.
"What's the matter, you lost?" laughed Jimmy.
"Well, yeah," I replied.
He proceeded to take me back to where I had left my boat tied to the shoreline, about four miles away. On the way he gave me a can of Coke he had taken with him for a snack. It was the best Coke I've ever had in my life.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grand Marais, MN, what a neat place

Great food awaits you at the Blue Water Cafe

Hard-to-find outdoor clothing, like wool shirts, is this store's specialty
In yesterday's posting about our long winter road trip I included a photo from Grand Marais, Minnesota of Sven and Ole's Pizza shop. This place is a one-of-kind restaurant that is legendary in the northwoods. I don't believe there is a more popular bumper sticker in Minnesota or Northwestern Ontario than Sven and Ole's Pizza.
Grand Marais is a small town on Highway 61 about a two hours' drive north of Duluth. This highway parallels Lake Superior all the way to the Canadian border crossing at Pigeon River.
It is one of the most beautiful drives in the world and Grand Marais is one of neatest places to visit. It seems to be a haven for artists of all forms and their arts and crafts are offered for sale at lots of shops and galleries at quite reasonable prices.
The little town is also full of unique stores and restaurants. Besides Sven and Ole's, one of our favourite restaurants is the Blue Water Cafe. We have always had great meals there.
Right across the street is the Ben Franklin department store. This place is stuffed with great outdoors clothing, in particular, and it has tall sizes, something I appreciate.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Where we've been for the past 17 days


British Columbia

High tea, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.

Mt. Baker, Washington

Columbia River, Oregon



Grand Marais, Minnesota
The milestone of our 40th wedding anniversary and the passing of Sam, our beloved dog, made Brenda and I realize that life is such an impermanent thing. Since we work at camp all spring, summer and fall, we had never taken a road trip, never seen North America, never done any of the things that most people do. The problem, of course, is that in order to do or see these things, we would need to do them in the winter months. It just never seemed

Cathedral Grove, B.C.
like a good idea.
This November we decided to heck with it! Come what may, we were going to see some of the rest of Canada and the United States! We loaded up our minivan with winter survival gear and took off.
It took us four days to reach British Columbia, first crossing the Canadian Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Except for running Sam to the Veterinary College in Saskatoon, Sask., in October, I had never been west of Winnipeg, Man. It was Brenda's first time as well. The Prairies were mostly flat, as I expected, although there were several regions of interesting rolling country too.
British Columbia held the biggest surprise. We passed into the province through the famous Kicking Horse Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. Holy mackerel what a breath-taking, winding, steep road. We would go down steep inclines in low gear for 30 minutes! The fact that the road was snow-packed, two lanes and we were traveling in the dark added quite a bit to the excitement. Although the eastern end of this mountainous route is the steepest, I was stunned when we had 12 hours of mountain driving before we reached Vancouver.
We crossed by ferry to Vancouver Island and spent several days there, visiting family and enjoying fall-like temperatures although it fell below freezing and even snowed by the time we left.
Brenda and I got to tour the Butchart Gardens in Victoria and also took "High Tea" there.
We crossed by ferry again to Washington State and made our way to Portland, Ore. We then followed the mighty Columbia River (which we also had crossed as a creek high in the mountains of British Columbia) and made our way to Idaho where we visited family again.
Finally, we drove to Montana where we encountered our first really bad winter road conditions. We got stuck in a whiteout in a mountain pass between Bozeman and Billings and spent about two hours creeping behind a transport truck that was frequently visible from no farther than five feet. Eventually we got out of this high wind area and just had snow-packed and icy roads for about two hundred miles. Then we were in North Dakota and finally Minnesota and back to Northwestern Ontario.
Besides incredible scenery, we got to see a coyote, whitetail deer, mule deer, blacktail deer, trumpeter swans, about a million Canada geese, ducks, lots of bald eagles, a few golden eagles, one wolf, a herd of pronghorn antelope and a herd of elk.
The most common creature we saw everywhere we went was the raven, followed by magpies.
In total we traveled 8,700 kilometres or 5,400 miles.
Incredibly, we only used one jug of windshield wash for the entire journey and except for the one day in Montana, never encountered hazardous winter driving.
Now we're home for the winter.
I apologize for the lack of blogs in recent months and promise to get back in the swing of things again.
I'm afraid Sam's death had a profound effect upon me. I want to thank everyone for their comments on the blog, their e-mails, letters and cards. These things were a big help for Brenda and me. We're moving on again now.
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