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