Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fishing Heaven

My first Lac Seul Walleye
The long anticipated trip to Lac Seul is now history and it exceeded my expectations.  Both of my friends Paul Wenaas and Ryan Sterle have been on me for years to fish Lac Seul however it's never been very convenient for me.  I now see why they have been so insistent!  Everything was planned perfectly, I would pick up my neighbor Pete at 5:00 Wednesday Morning, load what little he had, drive to Osseo, MN and pick up Dan and his gear then head north.  After stopping at Lundeens for a coffee refill the next stop was Round Lake, just north of Mille Lacs to pick up Bruce's boat and his neighbor Wayne.  Once hitched it was off to International Falls, crossing the border and eventually ending up in Sioux Lookout, Ontario and the Deception Bay boat landing.  Our destination was Lac Seul Outpost where Bruce reserved what is known as the VIP cabin.  After launching the boat, Dan, Wayne, Pete and I loaded it up and began the one hour water ride to the Chamberlain Narrows, our final destination.  Bruce and Lyle, the other third of our group had intended on flying up on Bruce's Cessna 172 with floats and have the cocktails ready by the time we got there.  Unfortunately the cloud ceilings prevented them from taking off and they were now 6 hours behind with the intent on simply driving up, staying in Sioux Lookout, and having the resort taxi pick them up in the morning.  Of course, it didn't stop us from having our "congradulitory, we finally made it" cocktail, got the cabin ready to go and took a little boat ride to the nearest point, where I got my first Lac Seul walleye with hopes for plenty more!

Eye's bigger than their stomachs!
Thursday was beautiful however the forecast for Friday was cold and rainy with Saturday just plain cold.  Lac Seul is a very large reseviour, spread out over 160 miles, full of bays, channels, islands and walleyes.  After Bruce and Lyle arrived we switched to a resort rental boat, 20 foot Lund Alaskan with a 115 Optimax, plenty of room for Pete, Dan, and myself.  Like most large lakes, there are names for specific areas where we fish and Lac Seul was no exception.  Pecker Point, The Church, The Goal Post, Birch Narrows, Three Sisters, meant a special location to meet, fish, and compare notes.  Some of these were close to the cabin and others were 20 minutes away.  We always caught walleyes no matter where we went, from 6 inches to 26, there was always a willing fish to hit our offerings.  While Pete and Dan stuck with minnows, I experimented with Gulp and Crawlers, a combination I did well with while fishing in Canada this June with my brother Steve.  It was fairly successful and given a situation where one would have exhausted his supply of live bait, it was a great option.  Actually on Friday I did very well with this combo, outfishing live minnows by around 10%.  Still the minnows were the go to bait yet I do like experimenting and when the fish were aggressive, the Gulp worked well with even the little ones getting into the action.  What was surprising was the fact that we caught walleyes everywhere we went.  Primarily fishing in 16 - 22 feet of water, someone would always catch something.  With that large expanse of water, there has to be a significant population of fish, and they all seems fat and sassy, a very healthy lake to say the least.  It's certainly a lot different than my home water's of Mille Lacs but that's for a different day.

The perfect moment
Friday and Saturday found the wind howling out of the North and temperatures in the high 40's.  Admittedly it's been a while since I have had to layer up in my lined pants, rain suit, and gloves but we managed to head out in 34 degree temperatures and decided to fish closer to the cabin while still catching fish.  After getting used to the first cold weather of the year, by noon we were back in the swing of things and continued to assure we would have fresh walleye for the evening meal.  One of the more interesting thing that would happen each day was the congregation of Bald Eagles watching over our every move.  Apparently they are acclimated to either mortally wounded fish floating to the surface from a deeply hooked lure or the fisherman simply feeding them (which is illegal, by the way).  One of our smaller walleyes swam away but surfaced minutes later presenting an easy meal.  Focusing on the fish, I snapped this picture at the perfect moment as the eagle had it's talons extended, ready to grab the fish.  It was awesome. Sunday morning came way to fast as we had to head back to Deception Landing to go home.  Because Ken, owner of the outpost had to go back and pick up a new guest, 4 of us boarded the shuttle boat while Bruce and Pete followed behind.  An hour later we docked at the landing where the truck was coated with a thick frost.  As Bruce decided to pull his boat home and letting Pete and Dan continue in my care as we headed home.  Driving south of Dryden, Ontario we saw 2 different black bears along the road as we listened to the Packer game on the XM radio, unfortunately it wasn't very good.  Home by 7:00, I finished skinning our walleye fillets and vacuum packed them.  As stated, the time went too fast as it always does, yet there is little one can do about that other than enjoy every moment you can.  The trip to Lac Seul with Bruce, Pete, Dan, Wayne, and Lyle was simply that, enjoyed every moment.  With Crown Royal as the preferred beverage, I even learned how to enjoy and make their favorite cocktail, pour to the first set of stars on the "official cocktail glass" in the cabin cupboard. Thanks guys!

Saturday is Tim's annual pig roast come rain or shine and the weather is looking more like rain.  With water temps still pretty high at Mille Lacs, it might not be until next week before I try to renew the fall trolling strategy.  Apples are starting to ripen as I have picked my Honeycrisp's already with more needed harvesting this weekend.  I thinks it's shaping up to be a busy 4 weeks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Heading North

The South Platte River at the level of Hwy 85
Time flies when you're busy.  Thursday and Friday was spent in the north metro area of Denver, Colorado and all I can say is wow!  It's been reported that the rain and accompanying floods were 1000 year events and it was obvious.  Thursday was filled with meetings just outside Boulder and the company I was at was showing signs of rising water.  We left at 4:00 that afternoon, scheduled to come back the following morning.  Staying north of Loveland, CO we woke up to the reality that I25 was closed from the Wyoming border to Longmont CO.  Our meetings were back at the same location as Thursday and had been moved to 10:00.   Not being able to drive our usual route on I 25, we headed east to the next major bridge crossing the Big Thompson River to then head back west.  We were turned away.  Plan C, head to Greeley, CO and cross at Hwy 85.  The floods feed into the South Platte River and it was on a terror.  Successfully crossing the floods at Greeley you can see that the water is right at the road level and rising.  Meetings canceled, we contemplated going back to Loveland then decided to stay safely on the south side of the flood.  It was a good thing as 1 hour later they closed the bridge at Hwy 85.  Basically we outran the wall of water heading east.  Although our meetings were canceled, I was with our Production Manager Rich and we got to spend some quality time together discussing strategies at the Islamorada Restaurant at the Denver Bass Pro Shop.  Of course we had to do a little shopping for my trip as well.  Heading back to the airport we came across a railroad track with 2 Union Pacific locomotives connected on the track.  Under one of the locomotives was a washout large enough to walk under.  The rails were suspended, held together by the ties.  2 heavy duty cranes were hoisting the one to take the weight off and it was obvious that they need to correct the situation fast.  It would have been a great picture but with traffic, we had little time.

Super sized pears
It's pear harvesting season again and to say it's a bumper crop would be an understatement.  While I was at my class reunion on Saturday my neighbor Lory picked the Patton pears that were ready to be harvested.  I guess he picked at 8 five gallon pails full which was on top of the 3 I had picked on Saturday morning.  The pears are huge this year as you can see how they compare to a 16 ounce red solo cup.  Sweet as can be they are delicious fresh although somewhat hard, like a bosc pear, they will ripen more and become softer.  I never have the patience for that.  Lory and his wife make good use out of the pears and may juice some, dry a few, make wine, they are too good to go to waste.  My apple crop is about 1 - 2 weeks behind schedule, which is good.  I have been losing quite a few of my Honeycrisp Apples yet they are small and my thinning process did not work so well on those.  By the time I get back on Sunday, the apples harvest will begin and last through the 3rd week in October when the Haralson and Fireside become the last to ripen up.  It will be a good chance to try out the new cider press.

This post is somewhat early as I head north to Lac Seul tomorrow morning.  I have been getting all sorts of tips and am pretty anxious as I really haven't been fishing seriously for over a month.  With 3 days in what has been described as Walleye Heaven, I hope to have a full and successful report next week, wish me luck. I am sure Pete is about done with my questions, I'm not sure how he will put up with me for 9 hours in the car!  Saturday was my 40th class reunion and it was great to see all of friends from high school.  My part was to give away some prizes and run the Karaoke entertainment.  It was interesting to hear the side comments about us 58 year old's singing......not me...sound dumb....yeah, right.  I am afraid most found it to be quite a bit different than their perception!  We sang all the oldies till 2:00 in the morning with many people apologizing for their preconceptions, finished the 1/2 barrel of beer, and renewed friendships that seem to be too far apart in time.  To all my friends Jeff, Roger, Rick, Chuck, Scott, Wayne, Lynn, Mike's, Joanne, Marilyn, Kathy, Larry, Sue's, Tim, Tom, Kris, Carol, Janell, Diana, Pat, and their guest as well as those who have passed before us, it was good to celebrate the Class of 1973, Eleva-Strum Central High School.  Someday I will have to elaborate more like the time our class decided the Junior Prom was not our style and instead used our budget to hire a big rock band.........quite interesting but that was us! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Drought Continues

Rainbow Trout Sculpture
August and now the first part of September finds both myself and the weather in drought conditions.  For the weather, it has stopped raining over 6 weeks ago and everything is getting burnt to a crisp.  One travels 60 miles north of here and it's a completely different story.  It seems like the moisture Gods have chosen Minnesota Highway 23 as their punishment line for all of us in the Minneapolis Metropolitan Area.  Even the trees have begun to shed their leaves in an attempt to conserve what little moisture there is.  With the latest heat wave pushing the air conditioner to it's limit added to the constant watering around the house, it seems like I am single handedly supporting Excel Energy's executive salaries each month.  The hot and dry weather did little to spoil our 24th annual Kramer Open Sporting Clays shoot at Wild Marsh Gun Club.  Dave Kramer hosts this event as a fund raiser for the family of a good friend that passed away as many years ago.  My friend Tom Emmons had gotten me involved as it was something we enjoyed together every year.  It was the Kramer Open that forced me to buy a nice Browning Citori over/under, a terrible thing to spend money on, as I really needed to compete with my friend Tom, who was a very good shot.  Although Tom isn't with us these days, I have made a lot of friends at the Kramer and it was great to see them all again.  After hitting 83 out of 100 birds the program included heading back to Dave's house for a meal, beer, and the infamous "Crap Auction".  I scored big!  Between the auction and drawings I ended up with a Kurakyn Grand Tour bag, worth about $200, for $50.  Second item was a Ducks Unlimited Rainbow Trout Sculpture, a great addition to my office, a very nice piece.  A nice pocket knife rounded out my total take, some very nice items and the money went to a great cause.

Lac Seul, Ontario
With my upcoming trip to Lac Seul with Pete Next Wednesday I have been busy getting ready for the next adventure.  Sunday I met Paul Wenaas at the Rogers MN Cabela's for some marked up maps of the area we are fishing.  It was good to see him as we don't get together as much as we should.  Not that I don't trust Pete on the great spots to fish but doing a little research never hurts.  His best advice was to use gold colored jig heads and mono line is much easier to break the line when the jig gets snagged, both confirmed by Pete later in the week.  His best this spring broke the 30 inch mark and I got the location! The lake is over 150 miles long, is a reservoir with  the water flowing to the west, I guess we fish in this current where the walleyes stack up.  The refreshment of choice is Crown Royal, I got to practice a little bit with my friend Rick Shermer, as stated it never hurts to be prepared.  We leave at 5:00 on Wednesday morning and been told that the resort has internet, maybe I can post from there. 

My fishing drought continues as I really haven't been that successful in the last 5 weeks.  Writing this in Denver, they are at the other extreme, 6 - 10 inches of rain that has already fallen in the foothills of Boulder and the surrounding area.  There are flash flood warnings running across the television screen, the cell phone keeps going off with public service announcements, and the customer I was calling on closed early as the water was rushing through their parking lot like a river.  Calling it a 100 year flood, it's pretty much a mess anywhere you go that has a river running out of the front range to the east.  Whereas rain in Dayton would be absorbed very quickly, here in Colorado the soil is mostly clay and the water simply just runs off.  Here's hoping I can get home tomorrow.  With my class reunion on Saturday, fishing will just have to wait till Thursday.  Here's hoping all those stories are true.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Labor Day Ride

View of the Mississippi River from Apple Blossum Drive
For the last 2 years I have taken advantage of meeting my brother Steve in Alma, Wisconsin what has turned out to be an annual motorcycle ride through the bluff country.  Just south of Eleva, my home town is the area called the Driftless Area, where the glaciers stopped their advances.  Full of hills and valleys called coulees, the area boast some beautiful curved roads as they move up and down the valleys, connecting farms to the main roads leading to town.  Starting in Alma we headed back up river to Nelson then headed east taking the back roads to Gilmanton Wisconsin.  I had never been on County Road KK and it did not disappoint.  It's amazing what we have right in our back yard.  My sister Beth and her husband Jerry asked if they could join us so meeting in Eleva we headed south to Independence, Whitehall, Blair, Melrose, Mindoro, stopping for a break in La Crosse.  Brother Steve really knows the back roads from Blair down as we cranked about 132 miles on our first leg.  Filling up with gas our next stop was La Crescent, Minnesota as we went up Apple Blossom Drive.  A ridge nestled between the Root River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley the scenery was spectacular.  Over to Rushford then back to Winona, we ended our trip together at Fountain City where we parted company.  A total of 226 miles I could never get tired of this area.  Hopefully we can do this again before the snow flies.
Trolling up river, a beautiful day
Sunday proved to be a day to get caught up around the house.  The lawn needed mowing and instead of weeding the garden, it's just easier to take my gas weed trimmer as I have never seen so many weeds.  I guess the wet June is playing itself out.  We haven't had rain in over a month now so the moles have decided my yard is the perfect hunting grounds....and they are not that easy to catch!  Sunday's plan was to get a few things done then head to Mille Lacs for an afternoon of deep water trolling then hit the reefs for some sundown shallow water scouting.  Unfortunately the plans fell through and not wanting to drive up myself decided to hit the river behind the house.  I knew the river was low but was surprise by how low, probably another 2 feet less than the last time I was on the river.  Launching the boat was interesting and once in the water my 15 hp outboard can be alittle stubborn.  Getting it started I headed up river and successfully avoided hitting the bottom with the motor as one gets good at reading the river this time of year.  My friend Pete fishes smallies with live bait, something I didn't have but probably should've picked up.  There are some classic areas that are just perfect for fishing his methods.  I tried trolling but really didn't produce anything.  Fishing along the shorelines was interesting as the low water revels everything.  There are rapids were there were none before, drop offs, eddy's, and boulders galore.  I really need to get to know the river better as the fishing is probably pretty good but I need some better success.  When it's high water, the fish are tight to the shorelines and it's fairly easy to find both numbers and larger fish.  The low water has them scattered an I think requires a little more experimentation and thinking outside the box.  For sure there are not many people fishing the river and unlocking it's secrets is now a goal of mine.  I did get 3 smallies but honestly, they were nothing to write home about yet is at least something to write in my blog!

Small but better than nothing!
Saturday is the Annual Kramer Open, a sporting clays tournament held by a friend of mine, Dave Kramer.  Each year he hosts this event to raise money for his charity.  My dear departed friend Tom Emmons was a regular and I have been a member of his team for many years.  It is difficult to think that Tom isn't with us but I still go as my memory of our good times together.  We shoot 100 clay pigeons in 2 50 bird courses and Tom was really good.  One year I was 1 bird ahead of him, all the way through the last station, we had 6 shots to go.  I went first and shot missed 2 of the 6 putting me 1 behind, the first time I had been back all day.   Tom nailed all 6 to win by 1 shot.  He accused me of purposely losing and I guess if he went to his grave thinking that, it makes me smile!  My September is filling up fast as the next weekend is my 40th Class Reunion.  Uffda.  It will be good to see those who dare to show up and those who don't.  I am in charge of the entertainment and have a few ideas for my classmates.  We were a rebel class and although the school proclaimed they'd never forget us, eventually we all go away.  I have confirmed my trip to Lac Seul with my neighbor Pete and admittedly it's pretty exciting.  My friend Paul Wenaas fishes that area and has promised some "secret locations" to nail the walleyes.  With my schedule this will be the highlight of the next 4 weeks.  I'd say that I can't wait but time flies too fast the way it is, I can wait.