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Quetico 2019 Part II

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Day 7

A slight chill in the morning kept the bugs away. Made yeast bread and eggs florentine w/mushrooms and swiss for breakfast. The dried spinach worked great in the eggs. We alao pre-cooked the onions and fish for lunch.Of course this process took extra time not just because it was two meals, but all 4 parts needed the skillet. We would save time at lunch though. After breaking camp we fished the drop-off between our island and the next. Soon we were catching good sized walleye. We had our daily limit quite soon so most were released. With quite a few miles to do now that our route had changed we set out. With lunch pre-cooked we could spend time fishing when a spot looked good. We ate our lunch in a shady spot atop a small rocky island covered with blueberries. We had berries as an appetizer and again as dessert.

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Not long after lunch we fished a spot where the Cache River entered the lake. Dan got a hit on his first cast. It took me a few extra but soon we were both landing smaller walleye. The catch and release was ongoing. What occurred next happened so quickly I will intersperse my thoughts with the events as they occurred... At one point I was in the process of landing one and began to comment I could see another fish below it. As I was commenting, my thoughts were this profile was a large pike swimming below and it reminded me of an aquarium view. I did not even finish my sentence when the pike surged at the fish I had on. He grabbed and turned. My reel was screaming out line. I now had two fish on. The pike grabbed my fish and we both watched ot happen a few inches below the surface. This pike was big. Dan estimated it at 15 pounds. The pike was trying to swallow the walleye, and I was trying to land them both. At one point the pike moved his grip and it looked like I might have hooked him too. As the line got shorter and the fish neared the boat, a giant whip of the tail sent a huge splash of water over me as the pike let go of his grip on the walleye. I could see the gash on the walleye's head and wasn't sure if it was even still alive... the he pulled a bit. I finished landing him to release the hook and the fish. What an extraordinary experience. I said to Dan, "no one will believe what just happened." Coming down from the adrenaline rush, we fished a little more before heading towards camp a few miles away.

We paddled through a very pretty channel connecting the farthest bay with Kawnipi proper. Located a beaver lodge for firewood. As we neared our desired camping area we saw it was occupied. This meant we would take the portage to Montgomery Lake. The carry was only 380meters. It took almost as long getting the packs situated and finding a goid stick to carry the fish than it did to walk the trail. Montgomery is quite picturesque. We found a nice spot atop an island with a great view. The tent/hammock locations were not great, but with our eyes closed it would not matter. Camp setup, a swim, dinner, and in bed before the skeeter fest.

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Day 8

The bugs were out in full force around 10 pm, just like clockwork. Was glad to have made it in before. Slept well. I restarted the fire. Usually we would have decided on our breakfast plan the night before, but in our haste to beat the swarm we forgot. We had keftovers from dinner still, and two more walleye to be cooked. We chose a quicker breakfast and saved the leftovers for lunch. It was the right choice as the skeeters came back in full. This time we did not hesistate to deploy the chemical warfare. The fog lifted as we finished our breakfast and broke camp.

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Montgomery is a "T" shaped lake with some neat geology. We fished the arm on which our campsite was located and had a great time catching and releasing walleye and bass. As we paddled around the lake was like glass.

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We left for the other arm of the lake. As we came through the channel we heard splashing. At the far end we saw a moose, and then a secind one. We paddled slowly and quietly in that direction. I had readied my camera if we were to get close enough. As we neared the moose began to swim to a different weedy section and I began taking pictures knowing I was likely still to far away. The moose exited the lake at the next marshy area, the view was mostly obscured by a few trees, but we could see the calf "shake off the water". We hoped some of the photos might come out, but we were not expecting it. This artifact from our campsite will have to suffice.

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Our shore lunch was made a short ways from the portage. A nice sunny rock. In retrospect, we should have found some shade. We fished a bit more and then made the 280m carry to Shelly Lake. It is amazing how easy these portages are after the earlier 3+km portages. At the narrows of Shelly we saw a large bass "get air" as it leaped from the water right near a small rapids. We paddled slowly to the right side, passed through the current into an eddy to start fishing. The rapids were a shallow drop off ledge into a deep pool. The bass were plentiful right after the drop. I then hooked a big pike, it took some time to tire him out to land. Just above the ledge was another deep pool preceded by another ledge. From it Dan pulled a small walleye. We both fished that upper and lower pool catching more bass and walleye. A canoe approached from "downstream". It was two park rangers. They asked how everything was going and checked our permits. We chatted a bit. They said no one goes to the lakes we did the first few days because of the portages. Those that do are trying to "complete the map".

They continued on and we fished some more. After a short time, the distant sound of a buzzing chainsaw could be heard as the rangers cleared some blowdown on the portage. The last few days we had been joking about "camp tipi flower" after passing 2 summer camp groups of three canoes each and the popular campsites having an area where the TP blooms.

From Shelly to Keats Lake (the poet lakes section which we visited 3 years ago) was a short portage ending at a significant waterfall. Paddling out one could see it was 3 distinct waterfalls spread out, A group of boys were swimming at the nearest falls. Another group was camped on the island with a view of the falls. At the narrows was another campsite which we claimed even though it was early b/c this area gets much more traffic. With camp made early, Dan went to fish the narrows.

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Day 9

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Nice starting the day catching fish. After breaking camp we fished the narrows and caught more walleye. It was bright and sunny. Looked to be a hot day. As we headed up the lake the sky turned. Then a light rain, some wind and thunder in the distance. Dan said we have done dumber things than hunkering down. So we made our way to shore and pitched the tarp to wait it out. When it seemed to clear, we set out again. Then it started to rain more than it did when we were under the tarp. At least Dan got in a little nap. The sky cleared and out came the sun. We visited Chatterton Falls and had it to ourselves. We walked to the top of the series of cascades to where it exited Chatterton Lake and flowed to Russell Lake. Back at the base of the falls, we swam and had a snack.

On our way to Sturgeon Lake we grabbed some wood from the local lodge, and ran the swift water between Russell and Sturgeon. While looming for camp, we could see another rain storm approaching. The weather could not decide whether to be sunny or rainy today. The rain began before we found camp. I set up a tarp on the island for a base. We sat there for a bit until the sky cleared. Dan went to get water and fish while I readied camp. He called to me as he had a huge pike on the line. He paddled towards camp and landed the monster from shore. Had dinner and as has been the routine, the bugs came out.

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Day 10

Got up late (for us) at 7:30. The air was still damp. Got fire for coffee going. Pre-cooked lunch and had granola for breakfast. Opted to take the longer route to Sturgeon North by way of Antoine and Ram Lakes. The 1 km portage to Antoine started in deep muck, gradually going uphill. A lot of blowdown and side bushes. This carry had not been cleared in a while. The end was a nice sandy shore with bass minnows swimming about. Looks promising. We were drenched and looked for a spot to swim. A nice rocky island was found to be perfect. We explored the lake and caught a few bass. As we paddled away from a grassy bay, Dan's trolling line went screaming. Something hit and took off. Our immediate reaction was, "has to be a pike". Whatever it was was heavy. It took a while but Dan finally hauled in the first lake trout of the trip. She would be dinner and breakfast. We were looking for a place to have lunch when another fish hit the trolling line. It was another laker. Eventually we made it to a lunch spot on a rocky outcrop in the shade.

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Another late lunch, then two short portages and we were back on Sturgeon Lake. A campsite was chosen, a swim, set up camp,ate dinner, cleaned up, had another swim and into the hammock with minutes to spare before the bugs arrived.

Day 11

Was up early at the break of dawn. Appeared it was to be a hot sunny day. Readied the fire for coffee and the rest of the lake trout. We used the tortillas from another meal to make trout tacos (I mean wraps, apparently the term taco makes Dan think we are using crunchy corn tortillas). Today we would have our last two portages, a 750m, and a 520m. Due to all the late lunches and leftovers, we had extra food. Which meant we had options instead of whatever is left. We fished a bit in the twin lakes with no luck and headed to Dore Lake. This 750m portage is one of ge few with a name, portage des mortes. It was an easy carry and busy. There were two groups at each end by the time we finished. At Dore, we fished there a bit, but I was tired. There were some big winds last night that woke me up a few times. Found a nice campsite to take a swim and have lunch. Just as we got out of the water a family (of 3) paddled by. They asked if we were camping there. We said, just lunch and also gave them some info about the other sites we had seen. As we ate our lunch (late of course) we noticed the family was circling about. Dan motioned for them to come in. We said it was fine if they set up camp while we ate. Their little girl had been trying to fish and had made a mess of her line. Dan helped her out and even taught her the palomar knot. She was a quick study. The family was in the middle of an 8-week vacation touring all around the country. Just a few days before, they were in the rockies.

On the way to our final portage Dan hooked another laker 200m before the portage. It threw the hook just as he was netting it, and it got away. He was really bummed out. The portage to Pickerel Lake was gorgeous, like a manicured path in the park with beach at both ends. Quite a contrast to the carries which started the trip. It was later in the day and it appeared we had this bay to ourselves. We chose a decent site. Dan hung the bear bag and I started the fire as was our routine. Since we had time, Dan did some more fishing while I prepared dinner. With food in the pot, I took a swim as did Dan when he returned. Again we had leftovers so we hung it with the rest of the food and went to bed. Tomorrow would be our last full day in the Quetico.

Day 12

Slept great. Up at 7am. Slighlty cool in the morning, not enough to need a layer but enough to keep the bugs away. A quick an easy breakfast, camp broken and we set out trying to make up for the missed laker. We have a long paddle east to our eventual take out. With the winds behind us the miles came easy. We fished as we made our way down Pickerel Lake. Dan caught a walleye (first of three). We stopped at a rock island for a snack. As we approached a bald eagle took off from a nearby tree. After snack time Dan got the 2nd walleye right near the island. We continued down the lake stopping to eat our leftover stroganoff for lunch. Though we paddled, it was the wind and waves which did the heavy lifting. We fished the shoreline as we were pushed along it. We passed by the campsite we used 3 years ago. As we neared the "busier" section of the lake, many of the sites were occupied. The waves were really beginning to roll now too. We crossed to the N. side of the lake where our map showed a series of 4 sites in close proximity. At one, the group there told us the site just west of them with our own private beach area. With the waves pummeling the shore, I had to jump out of canoe as we neared our beach landing with a pfd onto which I would pull the canoe. Camp set up and dinner prepared a storm was brewing. We could see the distant rain and hear the thunder. As we ate I could see the sky was clearer to our direct west. I hesistated to say this aloud. A few raindrops and followed by a cool lightning show to our west and south. The storm was powerful. Fortunately for us it did pass to our south not before I was able to steal a shot of a lightning bolt. Due to the approaching storm, we had everything done early. So 9pm I was in bed. This was by far our earliest bedtime.

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Day 13

Last day on the water. Coffee and granola. At one of the easternmost bays we had a nice time fishing. Caught some good sized walleye to end the trip. We would buy ice and take them home with us. The trip ended with a lazy paddle up the river to the campground from which we started. Glad we made the decision to modify the route. We talked about a trip going directly to Kawnipi Lake and spending a few days just on that large body of water. I am under no delusions that I will have a pike grab a walleye on my line again. The entire trip was an experience, even the parts which were terrible as they happened are now good memories.

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