Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Angling in the Boundary Waters by Reid Carron


Fly anglers who are tired of fighting the crowds on the famous streams in the Rockies and on the coasts can find a respite from the competition by coming to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  More than a thousand Wilderness lakes (and others in the Superior National Forest outside the Boundary Waters) present great opportunities to catch smallmouth bass and northerns (and the occasional walleye) on flies from the fishing opener in May until late September.  On most lakes on most days, there won’t be another canoe in sight.  Trout anglers accustomed to wading or driftboat fishing will need to adjust their casting strokes a bit to compensate for fishing from a canoe seat, but as a fly fishing fanatic who is not a stellar caster I can attest that the transition is not difficult.  Casting poppers, streamers, and crayfish imitations for our big “warmwater” game fish is less technical than stream trout fishing but no less rewarding.

Take two rods to maximize the opportunities and the fun.  I prefer a five-weight rod for smallmouth (and sometimes largemouth) bass. With a weight-forward floating line and a tapered monofilament bass bug leader, it’s easy to cast poppers and small streamers accurately to the nooks and crannies where bass wait for prey.  An eight-weight with a streamer taper weight-forward line and a heavy monofilament leader with a wire tippet is the right rig for northerns. The only fly you need for northerns (and walleyes) is a 2/0 chartreuse or chartreuse and white Clouser.  A northern will come a long way for the Clouser. The tricky part is that northerns often can’t resist a bass bug or a smaller streamer, which I fish without a wire tippet on the five-weight rod because wire deadens the action of smaller flies.  The northerns fail to ask which rod you are using before they hit.  Be prepared to lose some bass flies. 

But you don’t need to be a fly angler to enjoy fishing in the Boundary Waters.  My good friend Steve Piragis prefers spincasting Rapalas or spoons--or sometimes fishing leeches for walleyes for the pan.  Steve is a wonderful stern-seat paddler, and he keeps me in position for fly casting while fishing very effectively himself.  It’s a great combination.  Come to Ely with your fly rod or whatever rod-and-reel combo you prefer.  You will have a fun fishing adventure in the world’s greatest canoe country.


Photo credits Ben Carron, Reid Carron, and Steve Piragis.

A Walk in the Woods

Fall Hike to the Falls

 Leave work and head out for hike on a Saturday afternoon?  Everyone should be so lucky as to live near a great wilderness like the Boundary Waters.  I couldn’t resist the temptation on a mid-October day with the temps stretching towards 65 and the last of the yellow and gold of fall still on the trees.

The short Kawishiwi Falls Trail is one I’ve hiked a dozen times.  Usually the destination is Fall Lake to see early migrating ducks in April or the falls during high water to gaze at the power of water roaring over the rocks.  This was more of stroll this past Saturday, a saunter really, with a camera, just the I phone camera.  I hope you like the photos but they can only show a moment in time in two dimensions when the experience is so much more.

Take the smells for one; fresh sawed logs from trees toppled over the trail in wind storms this summer, the moist pockets of balsamic air, the sweet smell of popple leaves rotting into humus and  the mist over the falls carrying a few molecules of the pungency of freshwater sponge.   Then there is the human dimension.

People on any trail change the moment to a human experience.  And, were there ever people out on Saturday in the late autumn sunshine.  I’m usually trying to find solitude in nature but it felt really good to see so many people out.  The trail is near town, there’s good parking (all full) and it’s an easy walk.  This trail is all about getting older people, people with kids and just saunterers like me out for a half hour or an hour into nearby nature.   I saw families with little kids, couples holding hands, 6 younger women (younger than me anyway) all carrying big coffee cups and the occasional older guy out by himself, all walking the trail.

Sounds too don’t show up on photos but if they did you’d hear leaves shaking in the breeze, kid’s excited chatter and the background always of the falls.  Noises, smells and the presence of people help to fill the senses on this hike on this day.

I was there in a different mood.   I was in the creative mood with the camera.  I got passed by all the other hikers as I sauntered from one tree to the next rock toward the destination; the falls.    Actually, I forgot about the falls until it hit me in the face with the view at the end of the trail.  I was focused on the yellow birch with their tinted bark and clinging yellow leaves.  It was really a walking meditation, keeping the senses all awake and aware to spot the light.  Light on leaves, light on ancient boulders and their communities of fern and moss, bright light of the sun setting slowly through tangles of brush and crooked limbs of the birch left standing after the storms of this tumultuous summer.

I took an hour to do a half hour hike.  I shot maybe 100 images.   I had no destination so the circular trail was perfect to get me back while never having to decide to turn around.  (great thing about circles)   It was fulfilling.  I hope you have a trail near you too.  Hike it slowly sometime and see the light.

-- Steve

Steve Piragis
Piragis Northwoods Company
105 N. Central Ave
Ely, Mn 55731

Friday, May 27, 2016

Foss Lake Fire Update: NO CLOSURES IN THE Boundary Waters. Fire 95 Percent Contained.

Foss Lake Fire Update
Friday, May 27, 2016, 9:00 a.m.
MNICS Team C, Brian Pisarek, Incident Commander
This will be the final update produced by MNICS Team C. 
For information about the fire situation, visit Inciweb ( or call/visit the US Forest Service Ely office, open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm every day (218-365-7600, 1393 Highway 169).

Phone: 218-365-2216 
Size: 936 acres
Containment: 95 percent 
Resources: 4 crews, 2 CCMI camp crews, 1 light helicopter, 
163 total personnel 
Fire Start Date: May 19, 2016
CURRENT SITUATION: The incident management team MNICS Team C, under the command of Brian Pisarek, would like to thank cooperators and community members for their support throughout the fire-suppression efforts. Today at 4:00 p.m. the team will transfer command of the Foss Lake Fire to a local Type 3 organization. 
Firefighters finished removing fire-suppression gear from the fireline yesterday with assistance from the Bell helicopter. Yesterday’s infrared flight mapped a few pockets of heat scattered around the fire. Heat detected by the thermal imaging device does not necessarily represent open flame or active burning. Hotshot crews, armed with GPS coordinates, went to all hot spots that were close enough to the perimeter to warrant investigation and extinguished them thoroughly. Heat detected well interior will be monitored but not put out. 
Today, the southern portion of the fire will not be staffed. This morning, two hotshot crews that have been camping in the wilderness will paddle out and return to the incident command post. The Logan Hotshots will be demobilized and the Wyoming Hotshots will remain assigned to the fire and work for the incoming Type 3 team. The fire will be patrolled by firefighters on the ground and by air.

WEATHER: Ely received 0.11 inches of rain overnight; however, the fire area received no precipitation. Temperatures today (mid-70 degrees) will again be moderated by clouds, and humidity today and through the weekend will remain above 40 percent due to a steady stream of atmospheric moisture from the south. The chance of rain is greatest overnight tonight.

FUTURE FIRE BEHAVIOR: Current weather conditions are conducive to minimal fire behavior. The fire is secure due to the 100-foot mopped-up buffer between the fire’s perimeter and interior. Without significant wetting rain over the fire area, pockets of existing heat could create small amounts of smoke that would be visible to people near the fire. The presence of smoke does not mean that the fire has escaped the containment line or that the fire is actively burning. The continued presence of firefighters does not indicate active fire behavior. They remain in the fire area for patrols, fire-line rehabilitation, and initial-attack response to new fire starts.

CLOSURES: There are no closures in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Crab Lake entry point #4 is open. BWCAW visitors travelling on the Crab-Clark portage should be attentive to fire-weakened trees. Do not be concerned if you see smoke. The fire is being patrolled and monitored.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Foss Lake Fire Update May 26, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 10:00 a.m.MNICS Team C, Brian Pisarek, Incident Commander

Web address:


Phone: 218-365-2216 
Location: US Forest Service, 1393 Hwy 169, Ely, Open 8 am–6 pm 
Size: 936 acres
Containment: 95 percent 
Resources: 6 crews, 2 CCMI camp crews, 1 light helicopter, 1 engine, 1 water tender, 212 total personnel
Fire Start Date: May 19, 2016 
Current Situation: Firefighters removed ten miles of hose off the fireline. Conservation Corps Minnesota Iowa (CCMI) crew members rolled and prepared it for transport to the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center fire cache in Grand Rapids where it will be washed, dried, and stored for the next time it’s needed. CCMI crew members also hauled 20 aluminum canoes across the over-mile-long portage from Crab to Burntside. 
The light helicopter assisted crews by transporting cargo such as pumps, hose, trash, gas cans off the fireline. As of Wednesday morning, the helicopters had transported nearly 20,000 pounds of cargo, dropped over 815,000 gallons of water and 62,500 gallons of retardant, and clocked 130 hours of flight time. 
Today firefighters will continue to extinguish isolated smoldering stumps and duff (referred to as mopping up) as they patrol the fire perimeter. They will use chainsaws to cut the occasional snag—a standing, damaged tree that is likely to fall along the fireline or portage, posing a safety hazard to firefighters and the public. More gear, equipment, and trash will be backhauled. 
Campsites and areas affected by fire-suppression activity will be rehabilitated (for example, repairing areas along a portage eroded from water drops or digging a new latrine, if needed, at campsites used by crews). Two crews (about 40 people) and many personnel are demobilizing today as the Type 2 MNICS Team C prepares to transfer command of the fire back to a local Type 3 organization on Friday afternoon. 
Weather: Temperatures will be in the mid-70s and clouds will keep the relative humidity above 40 percent. Southeast winds will be variable (5–8 mph), possibly switching to the west and gusting to 12 mph in the afternoon. The chance of receiving a wetting rain is low: 20 percent before noon. 
Future Fire Behavior: Current weather conditions are favorable to minimal fire behavior. The fire is secure due to the 100-foot mopped-up buffer between the fire’s perimeter and interior. During a flight on Tuesday, an infrared thermal imager detected three areas of heat in the fire’s interior. Another flight scheduled for this morning will reveal what heat remains within the perimeter. Depending on future weather, any small pocket of existing heat could create small amounts of smoke that would be visible to people near the fire. The presence of smoke does not mean that the fire has escaped the containment line or that the fire is actively burning. The continued presence of firefighters does not indicate active fire behavior. They remain in the fire area for patrols, fire-line rehabilitation, and initial-attack response to new fire starts. 
Closures: BWCAW entry point #4 (Crab Lake entry point) will reopen on Friday morning.The current closure order remains in effect until then.

A Boundary Waters Poem: Driftwood


Sometimes, through the mist,
I can see the lichen advancing.
Creeping across granite slabs
greening in the shadows,
transposing the hours and
years into

the changing
of the guard
where dawn leaves the
deepest, thickest darkness
behind and lifts the blanket
off the tree tops.

The lake waters
come for us
with slow unassuming
then in earnest.
Rising in gaseous form,
tendrils reaching into
camp like fingers
of the wilderness
itself, searching
for you and I.

We sit squinting at bobbers
blurred to nothingness,
far out on the edge
of the lily pads,
Our trepidatious touch
with the bottom
and yesterday balancing
on the edge
of what’s plausible
and lost sleep.

It’s too early for sunfish
but the big pike are sight
hunting through the
weeds that climb up
from the sandy bottom
in feathery forests.

Your bobber disappears
and I’m reminded
of what this place
will look like when the
sun burns off all
the mystery and
the two of us
are real

Behind me in the
forest, a twig snaps
and it occurs
to me
we may not
have much time left.

©Timothy James Stouffer 05262016
All Rights Reserved Ely, Minnesota