Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sawbill and Beyond:BWCA 2008

We went in on Sawbill Lake Saturday morning for an extreme canoing and backpacking adventure. I was adequately warned that the portage(s) were difficult... Oh my.

Day one we choose not to try to make it all in one shot. This turned out to be a very wise choice. We got the intermediate camp set up and were able to throw a line into the water a few times. The little lake served up only a few small northern pike and one very nice smallmouth bass. It began raining by late afternoon, lightly at first, but it became a steady and relentless as the night progressed. By the time we turned in we were cold, wet and worried. It can rain for days on end in the great north. Once you get wet you are never truly warm again.

By morning the sun was shining and it looked like a good day to travel. We packed up camp wet in hopes that we would get enough dry weather to air things out. We made it up the Kelso River with little difficulty. The river eventually becomes narrow and navigating a 17' canoe through the twist and turns is a bit of a challenge.

We made it to the mother of all portages were the fun began in earnest. Carrying a 40 - 50 lb pack over extremely rugged terrain that changed in elevation some 200 ft several times is exceeded in difficultly only by carrying a 60 - 70 lb canoe over the same ground. The one and a half mile portage took many hours to complete for six men, six packs and 3 canoes. We then paddled the length of a small lake that emptied into another twisting river. On this river two beaver dams had to be crossed. One we could muscle our way over but the other had to be portaged around. Finally our destination was near... Only a 90 rod portage stood between us and the lake. By this time we were tired and sore - 90 rods didn't sound so bad after the 400 plus we had just conquered. Yet the first 45 rods rose from the the lake shore to the peak some 300 feet in elevation over a hard scrabble rocky, muddy and densely forested trail and the second 45 rods fell 300 ft to the lake below. To say it was grueling doesn't adequately tell the story.

From that point on the weather was perfect and we began the quest for our quarry - the awesomely powerful lake trout. We were not disappointed. Within minutes of lobbing the first cast into the deep, clear water we heard the cry of "fish on!" from across the lake. Over three days we pulled 30 beautiful lake trout into the boats. Many more became what we liked to call 'early release' candidates. Lake trout are easily the most powerful fish I have ever had on the other end of my line. The fight is tremendous - often taking up to 5 minutes to land them and resulting in being dragged around the water for a while as you let the fish run when it wants to.

All but 4 of the trout were catch and release. The four that became dinner were the finest fish I have ever tasted. Two 6 - 9 lb trout were more than enough to feed six men. The reddish fillets are thick, firm and delicious.

Cooked with a little Shorelander fish batter with a hint of lemon-pepper seasoning the trout was better than any restaurant offering I have ever had.

Our time was dedicated to fishing on this trip but we always enjoy the wildlife that this area has in abundance... We saw bald eagles, turkey vultures, fox squirrels, garter snakes, common loons, beavers, mergansers, an osprey, an otter, a fisher, bull frogs and painted turtles. We heard a moose in the woods and the call of the timber wolf at night. And then there were the mosquitoes, lovely mosquitoes...



Moze-ass said...

See how honest your brothers are! The trip was everything you were told to expect, and maybe a little more...

al fin said...

Sounds great. Nice that the north wilderness is being preserved so well, and so far south!

Did you see any nesting loons?

Mosquitoes are just part of the package. They have to drink a lot of blood to make the most of a short lifespan!

white and bulbous said...

I have a free week in August.....Maybe the ticks will be gone.....