canoe

9-29…Wood Ducks

The canoe glided into the bog. Andrew and I threw a bag of decoys among the lily pads as the rest of the crew did the same around the corner. We pulled the canoe into the cattails and set up our blind. I could hear mallards quacking in the distance.

The duck blind is an awesome place to be at the crack of dawn on a cold fall morning. Today it was hot with bluebird skies, far from ideal duck hunting conditions, which made things tough. We had a few shots around sunrise, and I managed to connect on a beautiful drake wood duck, but that was it for the day, besides a few coots.

Wood ducks are just awesome, fully reflecting God’s glory. I’ve never shot a drake woody before, so I was pumped to get one. He had some beautiful lemon wood duck flank, and a bunch of great feathers that I’m very excited to use for flies.

A great drake

8-3…Bluegills

Looking upstream toward the dam

Each summer the lake at the cabin turns a nasty green due to algae blooms and looks more like pea soup than a lake. However, if you hunt a bit, you can find some clearer water. That’s exactly what Braden and I did on Friday afternoon. The lake empties through a small dam into a little creek. I’ve always wondered if it was possible to put the canoe in and paddle down it, so today we did. The paddle across the lake was a little rough because of twenty mph wind gusts, but still manageable.

 

The creek was a welcoming sight. It still ran pretty murky right at the outflow, but a short ways downstream the water was a lot clearer. There weren’t any boards regulating the water in the small dam, but the flow was still decent. The bluegills were thick back there. Braden and I indicator nymphed and caught a fish on almost every cast, not huge, but a good number of keeper sized gills mixed in. They fought well on a five weight in the current. We caught around forty each in a little over an hour.

I love exploring new waters. The sense of discovery and satisfaction that comes with finding a new honey hole, especially in hard to reach places is awesome. Once we got into the creek , you’d never know that you were minutes away from shorelines lined with cabins. Braden and I tried paddling farther downstream, but fallen trees made it tough in the short amount of time we had. The creek flows into a large chain of lakes that eventually empty into the Mississippi around 30 miles downstream. Catfish, which were stocked in the chain, managed to migrate upstream into the lake, so there must be some decent holding water. Next time we’ll do some more serious exploring, as you never know what’s around the next corner.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Spring Crappies

 Whitecaps crashed on the lake as we drove to the landing. Canoeing and fly casting in twenty mph wind. Call it crazy or stupid, its probably both. Fortunately, the landing on this small, weedy lake was situated in a small, mostly sheltered bay. Despite getting absolutely hammered both summer and winter due to its close proximity to the metro, this little lake continues to produce huge crappies and bluegills in good numbers. We have ice fished here in past years and caught lots of slab crappies, but this was the first time we fished in open water. The fishing was slow for the first hour. Braden caught one decent crappie on a flash bugger and I had a few bites on a popper, but that was it until the wind died down. I had some action on a popper and a small DNA Clouser. Finished with a fat bluegill and a good crappie along with some smaller fish. Didn’t catch the slabs I was hoping for, but it was still fun to get out. The wind limited us to the small bay, so we couldn’t get to some better spots. In the other canoe, Noah fished with his new Cabelas glass 4wt and caught a slab of a crappie among smaller ones(more on the glass in a later post). At the landing, I noticed the DNR’s invasive species sign for the first time. Eurasian water milfoil, an invasive weed that chokes out native plants, was found in the lake a few years ago. This is a huge bummer, but hopefully the fishing will remain good. Do your part to prevent invasive species! On a lighter note, we are going up to the cabin with Grandpa for the weekend. Bass, trout, panfish, and maybe some catfish.

Best flies and tactics: Small minnow patterns such as DNA Clousers and Noahs minnows. The crappies and bluegills are shallow, two to five feet along the weed lines.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

It Pays To Get Up Early

This weekend we trekked up to Ely, MN to get another canoe. If you are not familiar with the area, Ely sits on the border of the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, known for its pristine crystal clear lakes and amazing fishing (smallmouth bass, northern, lake trout, and the list goes on). It is a no motor zone with back country campsites and portages to endless lakes, most filled with fish, some reaching trophy sizes. Ely is a true canoeing and fishing town in the middle of the woods. We camped on a little brook trout lake on the edge of the BWCAW. While it wasn’t actually in the Boundary Waters, it still had a paddle in site and solitude, perfect for one night. It was walleye opener there, so we saw nobody on our little trout lake. Everybody fishes walleye up there and seems to mostly ignore the trout, at least when the walleye are biting.

Brats on the open fire. Hard to beat after a long day paddling

It was a small lake, only about six acres, fringed with cedars and birch. Big rock faces dropped sharply into the water, and a few deadfall-filled bays broke the contour. Camp went up pretty quickly, and after Andoullie bratwurst over the fire, I headed out in the canoe. The first spot I tried was a point with a steep dropoff right off our campsite. I dredged a Noah’s Minnow for a few minutes before deciding to explore a little. The lake was glass calm, and the trees reflected in the evening sun. I spotted a rise and threw my minnow in there. Second cast and bang, a good trout broke me off. Bad knot. Not a great way to start the evening, but it was a fish. A few smaller trout started “rising” (jumping out of the water) so I tied on a royal coachman. I got a small brookie to take the fly, but he jumped and my six weight was just too heavy to keep tension on the barbless hook.

The next morning found me on the water by 5. The paddle across the lake to a woody bay was easy in the calm breeze. Nothing seemed to be happening anywhere. I fished streamers for an hour without as much as a bump, and nothing was rising. Finally I spotted a rise on the far side of the lake, so I paddled over and anchored. A dozen casts later I got jolted. This was a heavy fish. He did some headshakes and dove for around three minutes, taking line multiple times before I brought him to the net. He ran about fourteen inches, and FAT from sitting on the bottom eating minnows and leaches. Silver-gray with flecks of yellow, blue, and red, with stunningly red fins and a nice dark head. It pays to get up early.

Closer look

This fish was about three years old. Not too many fish reach this size in these small northern lakes. A pair of loons and a single offspring will eat 1,500 trout in a single year, very close to the trout stocking number. Angler harvest and natural causes take more trout, but amazingly there are still quite a few bruisers measured in pounds, not inches. The rest of the morning passed uneventfully. One trout kept jumping on the far shore, but nothing else wanted to eat. All the activity ended by eight o’clock, and we were packed and out before lunch. We should be headed back later this summer for a longer trip deeper into the interior. Bass opener is in a couple weeks, and a trip to the Kinnicinic or warmwater fishing in Wisconsin is in short order, so things should stay lively around here.

Best flies and tactics: #12 olive Noah’s Minnow with some krystal flash, or other similar weighted minnow or leech patterns. I fished a floating line, but a sink tip or full sinking line would be a good choice here for fishing streamers deep. Cast to steep dropoffs near weeds, wood, and deeper water. A long, slow strip for leech patterns or short tugs for minnows works best. A small wulff or attractor pattern works well when fish are rising.

Area fly shops: The Great Lakes Fly Shop

Tight Lines,

Conner

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