Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Two for one on Rapalas

Photos by Matt Andrews

Angler John Andrews had a surprise waiting for him when he reeled in this 37-inch pike a day or so ago. It was caught on the front treble of his blue-and-white Rapala and on the rear treble was a small walleye!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The beat of a different drummer

Dave Myers photo
Bow Narrows angler Dave Myers got this great photo of a ruffed grouse drumming behind one of the cabins last week.
The walleyes are beginning to turn on as the water rapidly warms with the 26 C days (80 F) we've had this week. They would bite better if there was also some cloud or wind. Lots of big pike being caught and released. It seems the lakers have moved to deeper water now.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Season begins with gorgeous weather

Our first official week started yesterday with summer like temps and sunny skies. It is expected to stay that way for the next week.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fish are biting again

Our group of anglers got some nice pike yesterday. The weather looks great from here on. It has been frosty at night but the days are sunny and warm with light northerly winds. Next week, our official opener, should be perfect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It was like a winter hurricane

Sunday and Monday were the two coldest days I can remember at camp.
It wasn't just the below-freezing temps but the wind that made it feel far colder. I heard that we had gusts of up to 90 km-h and sustained winds of about 50 km-h. It felt like the windows would break at any moment.
Water lines froze and quite a few trees came down. We had minor damage to one dock. Our protected location saved us. Others around the lake weren't as lucky. We know of boats that were sunk at the dock and docks that were badly damaged.
It rained buckets on Sunday turning to freezing rain as the day went on. On Monday we got a bit of snow, just missing the area that got nearly a foot, 100 kms to the north.
Our two cabins of guests never even came outside until Tuesday when it turned back to calm and sunny. When they went fishing they discovered the lake was as muddy as the Mississippi and the fish not biting. The forecast for the remainder of the week is for continued calm weather and sunny skies. By our official opener on Saturday it is expected to be about 20 C.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thank goodness you're not here

After two consecutive years when the ice was not off the lake before we started our fishing season, we decided this year to open one week later. So next Saturday will be the start of our first full week of operation. What a smart idea that has proven to be, even though ice-out actually happened May 6.
Although yesterday was beautiful with highs near 20 C, the temperature has fallen dramatically all day today, Sunday, and at noon stood at 0.7 C or just a hair above freezing. It also has been raining buckets and there is a 30-50 km-h (18-30 mph) east wind. And that's the good news. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow up to 10 centimeters (four inches).
As it turned out we actually do have two cabins filled with guests. They were people scheduled next week and who, at the last minute, needed to move to another week. Since the ice was off, we took them a week early. They got out fishing yesterday but not today and won't likely get out tomorrow either.
Everybody, including ourselves, are currently hunkered down around the wood stove while the waves are making whitecaps even in our protected narrows and the rain is coming down in sheets sideways.
The weather is expected to smarten-up on Tuesday and the temperature should climb continuously throughout the week until it is back to normal by next Saturday, our actual opening day.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

We are in camp and very busy

We came into camp by boat last Saturday with the staff.
We had a couple of warm afternoons since then but it has been below freezing many nights. Today was cold and wet.
We got the water plant operating on Wednesday. It is such a high-tech facility that it needs to be started by an expert from Kenora.
The lake level is low for this time of year. It is more like the level late in the summer. The trees are beginning to leaf-out -- a result of the warm weather that occurred before we arrived. There were some black flies on the warm afternoons, otherwise it has been too cold for bugs.
We spent one day cutting firewood and another bringing out new boats and motors from town.
So far I've only succeeded in getting the water running into the lodge and one cabin. Lots to do and not enough time to do it -- typical for this time of year.
All three of our staff are new this year and are quickly learning the ropes. They are all from Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.  They are hard workers and hoping to pay for their college year with their earnings and tips from camp.  Brenda and I visited their school last winter and tried to impress on the students there that outdoor tourism is one way to make a good living in the bush. Today was a good example of their work ethic; it was only a few degrees above freezing and rained the entire day. No matter, they just put on their rain gear and carried on, cleaning cabins and getting boats ready for the guests.
We have not operated the generator much for lack of fuel. I got a boat-load of it yesterday and we should have the power on 24 hours a day from this point forward. When the generator was off our telephone didn't work, of course. I mention this in case you called and wondered why you couldn't get through. There is a message service, however. The phone should work from now on.
Our only phone number now: 807-727-0439. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It is dry; take care with ashes, cigarettes

Barbecue and wood stove ashes go here
A common question in the summer is where should a person dump the ashes from their barbecues?
We have a couple of galvanized garbage cans tied to trees at each end of camp just for this purpose.
This is a safe way to dispose of what could be a source of ignition for a forest fire.
Another source of ashes are the wood-burning stoves in all the cabins. It is best if you ask a staff member to remove these as it takes a metal pail and shovel to accomplish the task. We will put them in the same ash disposal garbage cans.
Incidentally, it is not necessary to remove the ashes from the wood burning stoves daily. Once a week will do it when the stove is being used continuously.
It has been a gloriously warm, dry spring so far and therefore the forest fire danger is quite high.
Smokers are going to need to take extra care with their cigarette butts. Proper protocol in the Boreal Forest is to always sit down on mineralized soil, like clay or sand or rock when having a smoke outdoors. Butts should be placed in a metal container, like a can. It's also smart to pull the butt apart.
Think of it as smoking in a vast sea of fuel. You need to be very careful.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Summer-time creatures are on the move

Mating ball of red-sided garter snakes
The warmer-than-normal temperatures at this time of year have meant we are seeing lots of summer birds already and other creatures that usually take awhile to show up.
I recently spotted this mating ball of red-sided garter snakes, basically Northwestern Ontario's only snake species. Only the border area between Minnesota and Ontario has another species -- the red-bellied snake, an equally harmless reptile.
Northwestern Ontario marks the eastern boundary of the red-sided garter. It exists from there all the way west to British Columbia.
A common size is about two feet but they can get as long as three feet. I repeat that they are harmless, non-poisonous snakes. They primarily eat frogs and toads but also catch mice, including the bane of every cottager and camper -- the whitefooted deer mouse.
We see them from time to time around the edge of the yard at camp. They are good swimmers and you sometimes also catch them crossing a small bay or narrows. They are poor climbers.
People seem to have an instinctive fear of all snakes but there is absolutely no reason to be afraid of garter snakes. The irrational fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia. I would bet that more people are afflicted from this condition than any other phobia. In some cases people need to seek counseling to help them deal with this fear. But for most, they just go through life saying, "I just hate snakes. I don't know why!"
I would like to suggest an alternative. We only actually fear one thing  -- the unknown. If you want to conquer your fears and I think everyone does want that, then you need to learn all about the object of  your fear. In this case, look up garter snakes in a book or on-line. They are a pretty neat animal. For instance, can you believe they travel up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) from their denning sites to their summer range and then do the same thing in reverse in the fall?
How do they find their way? How do they survive the winter? How long do they live? Since they aren't poisonous, how do they defend themselves? What are their predators? How do they give birth?
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Today, May 4, 2015, is official ice-out

Floatplanes are taking off from Howey Bay today because the ICE IS GONE!
There still are a few pans floating about but aquatic navigation can resume again for another season.
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Breaking up not so hard to do this year

Potato Island basin with West Narrows at top

Middle Narrows with Marten Bay at top right

The Stretch off Forestry Point, still mostly ice

Howey Bay with ice road melted through, open along shore
Enid Carlson forwarded these aerial photos showing the ice breaking up in Red Lake on Saturday. Thank you, Enid and pilot husband Hugh!
Summer-like temperatures and a pretty decent wind are quickly destroying the remaining ice in the lake. As reported by pilot Dave McCleod earlier, the west end of Red Lake is open all around Bow Narrows Camp.
The biggest bays, like the Stretch off Forestry Point as well as Howey Bay, will probably take a few more days to clear. If so, that would make official ice-out about May 6.
Speaking of Enid and Hugh, last fall they sold Viking Island Lodge on Douglas Lake to Vito Tarantino of Red Lake. Hugh will continue as chief pilot for Viking Island and Viking Outposts and Enid plans to be in camp a couple of days each week this summer.
We welcome Vito and his manager, Mel, to the fishing and hunting business and wish them the best of luck in this, their first year. Vito has a well-known welding and fabricating business in Red Lake and in fact is the person who made us a trailer for our former 30-foot inboard ChrisCraft, the Raven Quill.
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ground zero in just a couple of weeks

The fish cleaning shack is like "the office" at work. It's where everybody checks in at least daily. It's where you can learn all the fishing news, see what other anglers are catching and share tips and techniques.
We clean everybody's fish for them as part of our fishing packages. The sign beside the door lets you know what to do with your fish and what you want us to do with them. If they are to eat in your cabin or in the lodge, leave them in the burlap bag when you put them in the blue tub. If they are to take home, put them in the tub without the bag. You can do some of each if you want. Cabin numbers are hanging inside the shack.
That is all you need to do. We will take care of everything else.
If you leave them at night, we will make sure they are covered with a wet burlap bag and ice is put on them. We guarantee they will be exactly identical in condition when we clean them in the morning. How do we know this? Because we have done it hundreds of thousands of times for more than half a century.
We give everybody a burlap bag to keep their fish in while fishing. Just dip this bag in the lake, put your fish inside and lay the bag on the bottom of the boat. As it evaporates it cools the fish inside, just like we do when we sweat. It works beautifully, far better than a stringer, far better even than a livewell. The last two techniques make the fish become excessively slimy. Not with the bag. The fish die in the bag but it is like they were on ice but without becoming slimy the way they do if you really put them on ice.
More bags are hanging on the side of the shack. Every time you bring fish into the hut, grab one of these to take back to your boat.
Starting late last summer we placed a new sign inside the shack. It states that we need to inspect the condition of your boat by 9 p.m. the night before you depart camp at the end of the week. That means you will need to be back in camp by that time. The operator of the boat is responsible for any damage done to it. That statement is on your weekly boat operator's licence that you must fill out before going fishing for the first time. Nine o'clock is also the latest you can bring fish in to be cleaned the night before you leave. We all need to be done with boat inspections and fish cleaning and get to bed by 10 p.m. because the next day sees us getting up very early in order to get the first departure boat out of camp by 6:30 a.m.
Most people do no damage at all to the motors. The most common thing that happens is that a prop needs replaced. If you strike anything, you will probably need to buy a new prop. They cost $100 last season. If you had your motor locked down (the outside worker will show you how to make sure your motor will always tip up if you strike anything), you might break a skeg (the very lower end of the leg) - again often about $100 to fix. But if you were traveling fast and had the motor locked down when you struck something, you could be facing the worst repair which is a broken oil pan on four-stroke outboards such as our Honda 20s. That cost $950 last year!
We only had two of these expensive repairs last summer and both occurred on boats that the operators kept out until after dark on the night before their departure -- as if they were trying to hide the damage until they were gone the next day.
That is not going to happen this season. All the boats need to be inspected by 9 p.m.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Pilot reports our end of Red Lake is ice-free

Dave McCleod, who with his wife, Marg, owns and operates Howey Bay Resort in Red Lake, took a look by floatplane at our place today and found everything around the camp was free of ice!
Only the big bodies of water between West Narrows and Red Lake were still frozen over.
Thank you, Dave!
Dave also reported that all of Howey Bay's outpost lakes were open as well.
And the best news of all: all the docks -- his and ours -- looked in great shape. Apparently, said Dave, the ice just melted in place rather than shifting as it sometimes does and knocking dock cribs over.
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