Thursday, December 29, 2016

Can you spot the difference over 7 years?

Kleve in 2009

Kleve in 2016
Kleve Granger has been coming to Bow Narrows Camp during our Family Week for many years.
The first photo is of him in 2009. The second was taken in 2016.
Question: What does Kleve now do differently to catch lunker northern pike like these?
Answer: Absolutely nothing. He casts lures like the 2/5-ounce Little Cleo spoon and the #4 Mepps and Blue Fox spinners. He does this a thousand times a day. And he catches a lot of northern pike, mostly smaller ones but every so often whoppers like these.
Is it fun? You bet your sweet casting rod it is!
Incidentally, Kleve releases all the big pike he catches. If we need some for supper he chooses one beneath the slot size (27.5-35.5 inches).  In fact, if  he could be choosy, he would pick a pike 22-24 inches for eating. This size feeds several people and its fillets are nice and thin so that they cook thoroughly in about 60 seconds.
When anglers release their big fish they are ensuring future generations will have the opportunity to experience great fishing too.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

'You otter see what we saw!'

Lonnie Boyer caught these playful otters on camera while fishing at camp last summer. There seem to be more otters than ever these days and quite a few of our fishermen see them. Getting close enough for photos like these, however, is a different matter.
These playful animals are also very curious and will often raise their bodies way out of the water to get a better look at you.
A group of otters in the water is called a raft. On land they are called a romp.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

No saying could be more true

Brenda and I got a big laugh from the saying on this tea towel, a Christmas present.
Personally, I rank shopping right in there with a root canal.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

It just didn't seem possible

Jimmy Duck with a hunter couple, about 1970
When I was 20 years old my dad sent me one late October day on what would become an almost unbelievable adventure.
Guide Stanley Paishk and his hunter had shot a moose back on Thief Lake, the first lake west of Trout Bay. We didn't call it Thief Lake back then; in fact, I don't know where that name eventually would come from. We called it Skinny Lake because the lake was unnamed on the map and we could call it anything we wanted. It was long and skinny so there you have it. The problem was it wasn't quite long enough. It was too short for a floatplane to take off, at least one loaded with a big bull moose. 
Although we had made a trail from Trout Bay to Skinny years earlier in order to access our sometimes-outpost camp on McIntosh Lake, that trail was more than two miles long, way too far to carry out a moose. However, it was only about two hundred yards from Skinny to McIntosh which was plenty big enough for a floatplane.
Stanley and his hunter had started out from camp that morning. They had taken their boat to the end of Trout Bay, walked over the trail, got into the canoe that was cached at Skinny and had just started to paddle when they encountered the big bull. The canoe flipped when the hunter pulled the trigger. When he and Stanley discovered they were only in about three feet of water the hunter just stood in the lake and emptied his gun at the moose which was quickly retreating back into the bush. They righted the canoe, pushed it to shore and went after the animal. As you can imagine the hunter by this point was pretty rattled. He took several wild shots at the disappearing moose and actually ran out of shells. Although the moose was still on its feet, it appeared finished. So Stanley and the hunter got back in the canoe and made the reverse trip all the way back to camp to get help -- and more shells. They reached the lodge about noon and told their exciting story.
My dad decided to send me and guide Jimmy Duck back with them. He also used our old walkie-talkie-type radio telephone to call Ontario Central Airlines in town and scheduled a Norseman to fly back to McIntosh and pick up the moose. We just had to find the moose, kill it if it wasn't already dead, lug it out to Skinny, take it by canoe to the portage between Skinny and McIntosh, carry it over the trail and meet the plane which was scheduled to land on McIntosh at 4 p.m. We had less than four hours to pull this off.
We reached Skinny about 1:30 p.m. and found the moose, dead, by 2. Jimmy was an expert when it came to butchering moose so we all just helped. He quickly had it gutted, quartered and ready to carry the 100 yards or so to Skinny. Stanley was young and skinny and couldn't carry much. His hunter was older and out of shape and couldn't carry much either. So Stanley and the hunter together carried one quarter between them.
I was willing to take a full quarter. I grabbed one of the big shoulders and asked Jimmy to help me get it on my back because I couldn't lift it off the ground by myself.
"Maybe I show you how to carry moose," he said with a laugh.
 Jimmy cut a two-inch strip of hide loose from the quarter, leaving it attached at both ends to the meat. The two of us got the quarter up on a windfall and I knelt underneath and took this tump line across my forehead. Jimmy had cut the strip so expertly that the center of mass was exactly over my shoulders.  To my amazement I could walk away with the leg that probably weighed 230 pounds, even though I myself only weighed about 180.
By the time I reached the canoe my thigh muscles were burning and near collapse. I flipped off the quarter only to find Jimmy right behind me. He had somehow gotten the other front quarter up by himself. We went back for the remaining hind quarter and Jimmy carried that. The hunter and Stanley took the giant head which still its massive antlers attached.
It was now 3 p.m.
The canoe was a 17-foot aluminum model, about 20 years old and a non-descript brand. It probably had come from Eaton's catalog. We put two of the giant quarters into the vessel. Stanley took the bow seat and Jimmy the stern. There were about five inches of freeboard on the sides of the canoe.
"You want to take those two over to the portage and come back for the rest?" I asked, looking at my watch. No way were we going to be on time for the plane, I realized. "The hunter and I can start walking along the shore."
"Yes," said Jimmy but then didn't move a muscle.
"Maybe, we put in another quarter," he said after a moment.
There were now four inches of freeboard.
I thought I knew what Jimmy was thinking.
"I get it. You'll take those three quarters and then come back alone for the last quarter plus me and the hunter. Right?"
"Yes," Jimmy said but then didn't move.
"Maybe we take another quarter," he chuckled. "And the head too."
We put it in the canoe which was now absolutely heaped with moose meat. The antlers stuck out more than a foot on either side. The gunwales of the canoe were three inches from the lake level. It was also now 3:15 p.m.
"Maybe we take the hunter too," said Jimmy. We all broke out laughing at the joke.
The canoe didn't move.
"You can sit on the moose behind Stanley," said Jimmy to the hunter.
"Really?" said the man.
He got in and there were less than two inches of freeboard.
"You sit on the moose in front of me," Jimmy said, looking at me.
"This just can't be possible," I said but did as I was told.
Both the hunter and I straddled big pieces of meat and held onto the canoe's gunwales which were now almost even with the lake.
Jimmy and Stanley started to paddle. The vessel was so overloaded and so tippy that they couldn't stretch out their arms to take a stroke. Instead they paddled just by moving their wrists.
If anyone had sneezed or even moved his head sideways we would have spilled. No one said a word. We just remained focused on the portage dead ahead.
We got there at about 3:45 and ever-so-carefully got out.
The canoe had just carried a very large bull moose and four adult men! The moose might have weighed 800 pounds. The men totaled about the same. Sixteen hundred pounds in a tiny canoe! By comparison today's modern fishing boats, like the Lunds we use at camp which are 16 feet long, five feet wide and with about two feet of freeboard amidships are rated to carry just 750 pounds. We had taken twice that weight in a craft perhaps one-quarter as big.
I ended up carrying two quarters over the last trail and Jimmy did the same. We were about 15 minutes late but then so was the plane. It took the meat and headed back to town.
Jimmy, Stanley, the hunter and I got back to camp at dark.
There is a postscript to this story.
About a week later Brenda and I were driving back to school for the winter semester when I had several attacks of chest pain so severe I had to pull over to the side of the road. I made it to our apartment and saw the doctor immediately.
After several days of tests he asked, "Are you a weight lifter or something? You seem to have ripped the muscles in your diaphragm as if you had lifted something extremely heavy."
Everything eventually healed up on its own.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Shaggy Dog story this Christmas

This is the time of year where we tend to over-indulge in gifts, in drink, and most of all, in eating.
It wasn't always so. Our parents all went through the Great Depression and this story comes from that time. Many people could find no work of any kind back then and would roam from town to town looking for greener pastures. Fred was just such a young man.
He rode the rails from place to place, lived in hobo jungles beneath bridges and sometimes found hard, menial jobs that paid no more than $1 per day. Mostly he would just knock on doors and ask if he could split wood or weed the garden or do anything else in exchange for a meal. Sometimes the answer was yes but more often it was no. And lots of times he was escorted to the county line by the local law with a warning that if he came back he would be breaking rocks with a nine-pound sledge hammer for the next month.
Fred had hitchhiked part of the way toward the last small town. He had been walking and walking and sticking his thumb out for most of the day before a kindly farmer in an old Ford truck with a stake bed said he could jump in the back if he didn't mind the pigs. Fred didn't mind.
The farmer let him out at the crossroads before the town and Fred walked another dusty mile before he saw the town buildings on the horizon. Along the way first his left foot and then his right started burning. He sat down and found the problem -- there were holes through the soles in his shoes. He had massive blisters on both feet. He plugged the holes with tree leaves, put his shoes back on and resumed walking.
The sun was setting and Fred couldn't help but shiver. The wind was blowing right through the rips in the knees of his pants and the old suit coat he had gotten free from the Salvation Army was thin. It was nearly fall now and the nights were turning cold. It wouldn't be long before the first frost came. He turned his narrow collar up, clutched the coat together at the lapels and kept walking.
His last decent meal had been three days earlier. It had come from a widow woman with four small kids who told him she would give him a bowl of soup if he killed and plucked a half-dozen chickens which he did. The soup only had one small piece of chicken but it made up for the lack of meat with lots of potatoes, carrots and onions. And best of all, just as he was leaving the woman stopped him and said, "Here, you better take this for the road." She gave him a large biscuit.
He ate half the biscuit the next day and the other half a day later. And now he had probably walked 20 miles before he had gotten the ride and his stomach was hurting something fierce.
Fred came upon the first house at the town and knocked at the door. A big man opened it and told him to "get the hell off my land."
He got a similar reception at the next house and the next.
He was starving and freezing and dejected.
"This might be it," he thought. "This might be the end for me."
Fred walked the rest of the way into town and came upon a restaurant with a sandwich board sitting out front on the sidewalk. The sign read ALL THE CORN YOU CAN EAT -- FIVE CENTS.
Fred hadn't had a paying job in two weeks but he stuck his dirty, calloused hand deep into his pants pocket anyway. There was only one coin in there, a nickel.
"Well, I might as well have one last meal," Fred said out loud and opened the door.
He sat down at a small table and a beautiful young woman came over.
"I'll just have the all-you-can-eat corn," said Fred, embarrassed, to the girl whose name Betty Lou was embroidered on her waitress uniform.
"What would you like to drink?" she inquired.
"Does it cost extra?" asked Fred.
She nodded.
"Just the corn then, please," said Fred.
"I hate to ask," said Betty Lou, "but I'll need you to pay up front."
"Sure, sure," said Fred and forked over his nickel, his last nickel.
Betty Lou came back with six cobs of steaming corn on a plate and put a bowl of butter on the table.
It was the most delicious corn -- in fact, the most delicious meal -- Fred could imagine. He quickly devoured all six cobs and Betty Lou brought him another plate and then another.
Fred ate so many cobs his stomach ached. It swelled out so much he couldn't have buttoned his coat if he wanted to.
He was just eating the last kernel on his final cob when he noticed it moved a bit. He pried it open with a fork and a small green worm, a corn bore, came wriggling out.
"I can't believe it survived the boiling water," he thought.
"You know, we're a lot alike, me and you," whispered Fred to the worm. "You almost reached the end of the line too, but you didn't quit, did you?  You're quite the inspiration. Well, after seeing what you did I'm not going to give up either.  In fact, I'm going to call you Motor because you are driving me onward. I'm going to take care of you and maybe we will bring each other luck."
He took out a matchbox from his coat and put Motor into it and was just leaving the restaurant when Betty Lou stopped him.
"My dad is the owner of the restaurant and he wanted me to ask if you were interested in sweeping up after closing. If you do a good job and if you want more work, he says we need a dish washer starting tomorrow. The job just pays $1 a day but you also get to stay in the room at the back. It's pretty nice, has a good bed and a warm stove."
Of course Fred took the job and as soon as Betty Lou left he opened the matchbox. "This is all because of you, Motor, my new buddy. You are a bona fide good luck charm, that's what you are."
No one could have swept the floor better than Fred did that night. The next day Fred was a whirlwind with the dishes and the owner couldn't have been happier with his new employee. He gave Fred a permanent job on the spot.
Fred always kept Motor and his matchbox in his pocket and took him everywhere he went. "You deserve all the credit," he would say as he gave Motor a fresh kernel of corn. "You are one lucky corn bore."
Fred's fortunes just kept turning better and better. He and Betty Lou fell in love and within a couple of months they married and moved into a large apartment above a store across the street. Every day Fred would give Motor his kernel of corn. As long as he had Motor, Fred thought, the sky is the limit.
Betty Lou's dad even mentioned leaving the restaurant to his daughter and Fred when he died. The future was indeed bright and Fred and Betty Lou spent the next year in marital bliss.
But then disaster struck. Fred opened the matchbox one late-summer day and Motor was gone! He looked everywhere, turned his pockets inside out, even used a magnifying glass to examine the floor without success. Motor, his good luck charm, was nowhere to be found.
Immediately, things started going awry. The father-in-law said Fred didn't seem to be doing as good a job as in the past. In fact, he thundered, if Fred wasn't his son-in-law, he would fire him. Hardly another day passed before Betty Lou said she wanted a divorce. A month later they were no longer married, Fred was out of a job and back on the road, knocking on doors and getting the bum's rush.
One day, as he walked and walked he could feel the holes forming in the soles of his shoes. He was freezing and hadn't eaten in days. He came upon a small town and a restaurant with a sandwich board out front. The sign read: ALL THE CORN YOU CAN EAT -- FIVE CENTS.
Fred felt in his pocket and discovered he only had one coin -- a nickel.
"Well, I might as well spend it right here," he said to himself, "because I don't think I can take much more of this."
He entered the restaurant and plopped his nickel on the table.
He ate plate after plate of hot, yellow, cobs of corn.
As he went to bite the last kernel on his final cob, he noticed it moving.
And out bored Motor!

Merry Christmas!

(What is a Shaggy Dog Story?)
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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Would you kids get off my back for awhile?

Merganser hen and her brood

'Mom, we're tired. We want to be carried.'

'Oh for goodness sakes!" Photos by Lonnie Boyer
The most common duck seen while fishing is the Merganser. It would seem that the hen Mergansers can't keep track of how many ducklings they have. Two hens with six ducklings each can meet and one of them go away with 10 while the other takes only two.
They paddle along the shore, looking for minnows to eat. You sometimes see them swimming on the surface with just their heads underwater.
When they are tired they just climb out on a log, or a rock, or whatever is handy!
Lonnie Boyer took these photos at camp last summer, about the beginning of August.
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Thursday, December 15, 2016

New product makes getting bait easier

 Brenda saw this new product at the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit this November and thought it could be useful to Bow Narrows anglers.
It is called Bait2Go and is basically a plastic jar with screw-on lids on both ends. Inside is a moveable floor that can be raised and held in place with a rod. This lets you bring your bait, be it minnows, worms or leeches right to the top and out of the water so that you can grab them easily.
The bottom end can be filled with ice cubes, if desired, to keep the bait cool. To replenish the water without losing bait, you just unscrew the bottom and refill. The bait is all trapped on the other side of the moveable floor.
The canister can be attached to the rail of the boat with a hook, suction cups or Velcro. It can also be fitted on a belt.
Bait2Go was designed and developed in Sudbury, Ont., right where the Tourism Summit was being held.
You can see more at their website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Which was picked to be Canada's national bird?

Evening Grosbeak, a parrot-like finch

Hairy Woodpecker

Black-capped Chickadee

Common Loon (Photo by Bob Preuss)


Red-breasted Nuthatch

Grey Jay

Blue Jay

Pine Grosbeak

White-throated Sparrow
Canadian Geographic Magazine ran a year-long contest over which bird should be picked to represent Canada, Canada's national bird, in other words.
Readers could vote for their favorite feathered icon. The overwhelming response, and I might say, the obvious choice, was the Common Loon. It is already the iconic bird on our $1 coin -- the Loonie -- and its wonderful and eerie calls are a symbol of wilderness. If Canada is anything, it is the country that identifies the most with the wild. You know you are in Canada when you see or hear a loon. The bird decision seemed like a no-brainer.
Much to everybody's surprise, the magazine instead chose the Grey Jay, once called the Canada Jay, but known by everyone in the North as the Whisky Jack.
The magazine perhaps anticipated there might be a backlash to its choice so it gave an explanation. The Loon migrates south in the winter (the turncoat!) and it already is a provincial bird -- Ontario's.
So the magazine chose the Grey Jay which it points out is found throughout the Boreal Forest and stays year-around. It is extremely friendly and will eat right out of your hand. It also has a large brain for its body size and it caches its food.
The magazine didn't tell the complete story about the Whisky Jack, however. For instance, you may never see one in an entire summer since they are quite reclusive in the warm months. You will also absolutely never see one, even in the winter, in those parts of Canada that aren't in the Boreal Forest, like Southern Ontario where about 50 per cent of the population resides.
So basically we are picking as our national bird one that most people will never see in their lives.
Does this make any sense? Couldn't the national bird also be Ontario's provincial bird?
And should we think less of a bird because it goes south in the winter? You could hardly ask the loon to stay. It spends its entire life on the water and that gets mighty stiff each winter. So it heads to Florida where it lounges around in the Atlantic and the Gulf. In other words, it does the same thing as about one-third of human Canadians.
Don't get me wrong, I admire Whisky Jacks and their friendly ways. They are regular visitors to the suet at our bird feeder here in Nolalu. I'll add a superlative about this bird that the magazine forgot. It is the slowest flier of all Canadian birds. As it glides around the understory of the bush it can just about stop mid-air without moving its wings. It seems like it is defying gravity.
Chickadees are just as friendly or maybe just as fearless. They also are smart and if it matters, also cache food. So does the Blue Jay.
If we're going for smarts, then we absolutely should make the raven the national bird. I'm convinced that ravens are at least as smart as people and I think a whole lot wiser.
But if we really do end up with the Grey Jay, then let us go back to calling it the Canada Jay.
All the photos above, with the exception of the nesting Common Loon which was taken by Bow Narrows angler Bob Preuss, came from our bird feeder this early winter in Nolalu. It has been a spectacular year for attracting birds. The White-throated Sparrow photo was taken in late-November which is remarkable because this bird normally migrates south in August.
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Monday, December 12, 2016

Cork and I love our daily winter walks

One of the best things about winter, in my opinion, is that it is a great time to go for walks in the woods -- we call it the bush here. Cork and I do this every day, and if modern life's schedules prevent us from doing so we are out-of-sorts. We need our walk!
We are fortunate to have about a mile of trails on our property here in Nolalu. There is room to extend these another mile and I think that is just what I will do. I find a mile of walking, even in snowshoes, isn't much of a workout which is partly why we make these sojourns.
In the past I have also walked along our country road with the dog running free. Here I can easily cover five miles; however, there is the constant worry from vehicles. I call Cork back to me and hold onto his collar until each vehicle passes. We live in a sparsely populated area and so we don't encounter many cars but there are always a few.
There are other reasons I would rather walk on our own trails. I get to pick up the SD cards from my three trail cameras to see if any wildlife passed this way. I also get to watch for tracks of creatures even if they don't show up on the cameras. And of course, there is always the possibility of seeing the animals themselves but actually we see more game out on the road, just because we can see farther.
It is also warmer in the bush. Out on the road the wind cuts like a knife when the mercury has crawled into the bottom of the thermometer. I'm always surprised to come back into the house after a walk in the bush to find my beard and mustache have icicles hanging from them. It just never felt cold.
I think being outside every day also prevents or at least lessens the chance of suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder which a lot of people in the North get due to the lack of sunlight at this time of year. Here in Nolalu we are currently getting about eight hours of light each day. If you must work a 9-to-5 job indoors, you never see the sun. That gets really depressing.
There is yet another advantage to walking outside for an hour each day -- it seems to change your body's ability to produce heat. I first noticed this on my one-and-only winter camping trip with my brother-in-law, Ron Wink, about 30 years ago. We had snowshoed way back into the bush where we pitched a small tent, covered it with a tarp for extra insulation, and went ice fishing every day for a week. The only way we had to stay warm, other than standing next to the campfire, was with clothing. We didn't, for instance, have a heater in the tent.
Within a few days of living this way, we were astonished to find that we needed less clothing. When snowshoeing to new ice-fishing spots, for example, we just wore flannel shirts where a few days earlier we had worn our parkas. The tent actually got too warm at night, just from our body heat. We ended up unzipping our sleeping bags to stay comfortable.
This took place in early March when the days were growing quite long again. The daytime temperature would sometimes get to melting but mostly it stayed below freezing. At night it was probably -10 to -15 C.
This story reminds me of another time when I needed to cut a lot of firewood in early November for our outdoor wood furnace here at home. The weather was just perfect for the task. The thermometer on the tree outside our house registered -5 C. I would leave the house each day wearing my chainsaw pants and uninsulated boots and just a flannel shirt. I only needed lightweight leather gloves. The ground was frozen which allowed me to drive our truck right to the area where I was cutting. It was a wood cutter's dream.
After a week of reveling in such conditions I happened to talk on the phone with a neighbour. I mentioned to her how wonderful the temperature was for this time of year. "I don't follow you," Jane said. "Well, the temperature is just below freezing," I said. "Minus 5 Celsius is really balmy for this time of year." "That's funny," she said, "It's -20 at our house."
Since we only lived two miles apart, it occurred to me maybe something was wrong with our thermometer. I took it off the tree and discovered sap had glued the bimetallic spring on the back of the thermometer in place. I washed it off with some gasoline and instantly it became -20 C at our house too. I suddenly felt cold.
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Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's time to send in deposits, rebate checks

It is that time of year where we begin contacting people with reservations and ask them to confirm these with $100 per person deposits. If you haven't already left a deposit with us, please do so as soon as possible.
You can use a credit card by phoning us at our winter number: 807-475-7246.
You can also send us a personal check. Make it out to Bow Narrows Camp and mail it to our winter address:
Bow Narrows Camp
RR1 Old Mill Rd.
Nolalu, ON  P0T 2K0
A reminder for U.S. guests: it takes extra postage when sending a letter to Canada.
You can use your HST rebate check from last year or any previous years as part of your deposit. Just make sure you sign the back, then mail it to our winter address.
As an incentive to get your deposits into us right away, we once again will make reservations for pickup and departure times via the Lickety Split boat at the time the deposits are made. In other words, when you make your deposit you get to pick the time you meet the boat in Red Lake and when you leave camp at the end of your week. The Lickety Split carries 9-10 passengers and their gear at a time.
Credit card charges are made in Canadian funds. American guests will find the actual cost on their credit card statements is substantially less due to the favourable exchange rate between American and Canadian currencies. When people send us personal checks we keep track of the exchange when we deposit the check in the bank. So, a $100 U.S. check may become a $130 deposit in Canadian funds if the exchange rate happened to be 30 per cent. The rate fluctuates daily but has been in the range of 25-30 per cent for a long time now.
Our fishing package rates are in Canadian funds, so again, U.S. customers will realize substantial savings when making their final payments at camp.
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

What would you like to see on the blog?

I'm coming up on 1,000 postings to this blog since it was started 10 years ago. Here's a question for you: what would you like to see more of on the blog?
Here's some of the topics of past postings: fishing techniques, fishing products, short stories, wildlife features, history, photo essays, news. Feel free to add your own.
Please leave you comments by clicking on the comments button at the end of this posting and not by e-mailing me.  The reason for this is that when other people can see your comment, it may remind them of something which they can then request.
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Friday, December 9, 2016

The sun sets on another great fishing day

Trout Bay at sunset. Photo by Lonnie Boyer
A couple of postings ago Ray commented on the great sunsets that can be seen on Pipestone Bay. He wasn't kidding about that and many of the sunset photos on this blog are from Pipestone. This one, however, I believe is from Trout Bay. Lonnie Boyer took this and graciously sent it along. If I'm wrong, Lonnie, please let me know and we will correct this.
We will be showing more of her photos in upcoming blogs. She has a knack for getting wildlife shots, in particular. Here's one from the past. See Greased Lightning.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Lindy rig: when less gets more

Paul Styve with big walleye. All these big fish were released.

Brett Styve takes hook from another larger fish

Big pike go for Lindy rigs too
There was something different about the water in Red Lake last summer. It was clearer than normal.
Red Lake has a clay bottom and in all such lakes suspended clay particles obscure the water's clarity a bit. Microorganisms, like algae, which get nutrients from the clay, add to the murkiness.
Normally if you look down into the water from above you can see about six feet down. But last year you could see farther, perhaps seven or eight feet.
I believe the change was due to slightly cooler temperatures. Although it was by most accounts a nice, warm summer, we had almost no hot days and the nights were cool the entire season. So the lake ended up a little cooler, maybe just by a couple of degrees, but I think it was enough that some of the algae didn't grow. Consequently, the lake was clearer. This affected how anglers fished for walleye.
A few blog postings ago I wrote about the swarms of smaller walleye everybody caught the first couple of days of their trip but then found bigger fish. Although they invariably said they did nothing different to get the bigger ones, there was, in some cases, a pattern to what they had done-- they used less tackle, fished slower and maybe a foot or so deeper.
There were also some people who immediately hit the bigger fish. Paul and Brett Styve, shown in the photos, were two such anglers. So what did they do?
Well, for one thing, they fished with Lindy rigs, not spinners. What is a Lindy rig? In its simplest form it is a hook, split shot or small swivel, and a slip sinker. The only thing different between it and just a hook and sinker is that the weight is a slip sinker, not a rubber core or clinch type. The Styves, I believe, like using worms for bait. Usually the worm is attached just once, right through the tip of the hose with the rest of the worm wriggling free. The angler leaves the bail on his spinning rod open and just holds the line in the crook of his finger. When a fish bites the fisherman lets go of the line and it feeds right through the sinker. In this way the fish cannot feel the weight of the sinker. The fish runs off with the worm a few feet, stops and inhales it. The angler, watching his line on the surface, can tell the fish has stopped running and sets the hook. That is the simplest form of the Lindy rig -- just a small hook, a tiny split shot (or swivel) and a slip sinker.
The next form is to either put a slip float between the hook and the split shot so the bait is raised off the bottom, or just use a floating jighead. Finally, there are specially shaped floats that act as lips that vibrate the bait, just like a crank bait. There are also brightly coloured slip weights instead of the basic plain lead walking sinker.
The point to why a Lindy rig, especially the simplest form of it, might have worked better than conventional spinners is that it uses less hardware. In clear water conditions, this can make a difference.
Something similar happened when jig fishing. Here's an example: I watched dock-fishing extraordinaires Mike Gage and Jason Pons the first morning of their trip last summer. These guys get up with the sun and often catch as many walleye off the dock by breakfast as many people get all day out in the boat. They always use a jig and a bit of worm. But this morning they were catching nothing. After awhile I saw them making some changes to their tackle. They then brought in fish after fish, either getting one on every cast or missing the hookset and cranking the jig back in to re-bait. I asked them at breakfast in the lodge what had happened.
Since it was quite windy, they had started out using 1/4-ounce jigs, but there were no takers so they switched to 1/8-ounce. It made all the difference in the world. Again, less hardware.
I always figure those mirror eyes of walleye are magnifying glasses. In clear or calm conditions, they won't fall for normal tackle. You need to go smaller, be more subtle and also fish slower. You might need to just drift instead of backtrolling. 
But what about all those smaller fish that people caught by the dozens? Smaller fish are just not as smart as older ones and are also more aggressive. They need to grow up, fast, if they are going to survive so they pretty much binge-eat all the time. Bigger fish are more selective and seem to do a "cost-benefit" analysis to eating -- how many calories are going to be expended compared to the number gained.
Brett shows off a beautiful redhorse sucker he caught while walleye fishing
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Fish fillets as art

The perfect pike
When you have cleaned thousands upon thousands of fish as I have, you get kind of finicky about the end product. I'm always striving for the perfect fillet whether it be northern pike or walleye.
Northern pike, in particular, offer the most challenge. There are those infamous Y bones to remove and another small set which I call the Z bones. I always try to do this process with as little meat wastage as possible while still producing a single, boneless fillet.
I also look for perfection when skinning. If the fillet is removed close enough to the actual skin, a beautiful red pattern is visible on the skin side of the fillet. In fact, if this colour isn't on the finished product it means meat has been wasted; it was still attached to the skin and went into the scrap bucket.
It struck me last fall that this pair of pike fillets was absolutely perfect. So, I ran into the lodge and got my camera. Maybe it just seems that way to someone who has cleaned thousands upon thousands of fish!
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

The dramatic sky of Pipestone Bay

The lake is like glass in this photo by Brenda Cieplik

Hunter Baughman saw this storm approaching
One of the neatest things about fishing in Pipestone Bay is that you get such great views of the sky. There can be beautiful clouds that reflect into the water, or there can be threatening storms on the horizon. This bay has some stretches that measure 4-5 miles in width.
Most of us love fishing and boating in Pipestone with its great views and numerous beaches. I always figure that when you go to Pipestone you should always take a bag or shore lunch. That's not a camp rule, just my own personal preference. I just don't want to miss a moment of the day traveling back to camp to eat.
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Homemade lures reveal ideals of maker

Lots of people dabble at making their own fishing lures. For most, adding a red feather to a treble hook or a dab of orange on a crank bait is as far as it goes. It's an experiment.
Others seriously try to invent their own baits by carving new designs out of wood, gluing on metal or plastic lips and then giving the new creations a perfect paint job.
It's just fun and it would be a bonus if the new inventions actually worked better than store-bought models. Usually they don't, but no matter, the experiment is still useful because it gives the inventors new ideas. How many times did Edison try to invent the lightbulb?
For most of these lure makers, the intention is to come up with a model that is at least as good as something already on the market. If it isn't, they quickly put away the prototype and go back to their old stock lures.
We have one guest, however, who only fishes with his own homemade lures and furthermore, he makes it a point of pride to make them from materials that he finds, not buys -- with one exception --  he uses hooks from the tackle shop.
Richard makes his lures from such things as paper clips, tin cans, pieces of scrap wire, beads and lead sinkers. Two of his spinners are shown above. He also makes spoons and jigs. The paint that he applies is usually leftover house paint.
The metal for the spoons and spinners comes from cans or other scrap that he cuts with snips, files and pounds into shape. He is an expert at putting just the right twists in wire.
Richard is the kind of guy who tries as much as possible to live his life simply and sustainably, producing little or no waste. It's no accident that his lures are made from recycled products. And the satisfaction he gets from catching fish on his own creations is something that most of us will never experience.
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