Monday, May 30, 2005

Northern Quebec Summary


Altogether, it was a pretty good trip. I can’t say it was great. We have had much better fishing in the past, catching more and bigger pike and many more walleye. Their spawning may have distracted the walleye. The pike...?

This was the earliest we have ever gone. Both Joe and I wanted to see what it was like soon after ice out and before the insect populations made things unbearable. Previous trips had to wait until school ended as either the kids or I had to finish classes.

Joe and John have already planned a 4-5 day trip for next year to start around July 1st. Joe and I have talked about a trip for 2007. There are still several of Caesar’s lakes we haven’t been to and a few we wouldn’t mind going back to.

Northern Quebec Day 08

Day Eight: Sunday May 29th

We woke up this morning to fog. This could get interesting. We have to assume we will be picked up today and have to be ready for whenever they manage to get here, so after breakfast (and a pot of coffee) we pack up our stuff and move it to the porch. Then we sweep and mop the floor and have another pot of coffee. We still can’t see the other side of the lake about 300 yards away. We won’t be flying anywhere until this soup lifts. Time for another pot of coffee.

Foggy Morning Delays Flight
Foggy Morning

9:30 AM The fog has lifted but it is now drizzling. Perhaps the fog hasn’t lifted back at the main lodge some 100 miles to the southwest. We will have to wait and see.
The black flies have taken refuge under the porch. The other guys are inside the cabin. If this is any indication, this trip was well-timed vis-à-vis the insect population. They are just now starting to get annoying.

10:15 AM Still raining and we’re still waiting for our ride.

10:45 AM The plane and pilot, John again, have shown up. He inspects the grounds and we get a passing grade. We get packed and off to Coursol Base.

The sky is still threatening and once we are on the dirt road the sky opens up. This makes the drive even more interesting. You would think a sand road would soak up the rain, but this road seems to get slick and greasy. The rear end is slewing around a little on some of the curves. Joe hits a couple of ruts and rocks a little hard. We are half way down the road and the rain has stopped briefly, which is good because we have a flat. The left rear tire has bounced on a rock or log and the rim is bent enough for the tire to have gone flat. We change it in about 15 minutes with everybody lending a hand. Then we are on the road again. It takes us a little over 3 and a half hours to cover the 104 miles of Clova Road and get back to Chy-117. We stop at the first gas station to refuel and check the air pressure in the spare. Now we just have to get through Ottawa again and back across the border.

Ottawa proves to be no problem with the new directions. Nor did we have any problems getting to the border at Thousand Islands’ Bridge. A stop at the Duty Free to recoup some of the Canadian taxes and pick up some beer and liquor and we head back into New York.

We miss our exit at Watertown. We were looking for a sign for Route 12 but there wasn’t any. We end up about 40 miles further south stopping for coffee, donut and directions at a booth manned by the local fire department for the holiday weekend. We turned around and went north to exit 42 to get on 177 east heading to Lowville and Route 12. We have lost about 45 minutes. We reach Lowville around 10 PM and stop at McDonalds for dinner. An hour and a half later and we are back at the Bolt Hole.

Joe, David and John stop to take a nap and then head home to NJ after breakfast, Memorial Day. I have to cut the grass and will head back Tuesday.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 07

Day Seven: Saturday May 28th

It remained overcast all night, which is probably why this is the warmest morning we have had—approximately 50 degrees at breakfast time.

Everyone was a little reluctant to go out this morning. “Cumulative fatigue” has set in. It was well after 8 AM before we were all on the water again. Joe and David headed north while John and I went back to the river.

We went slowly down to the rocks and then even more slowly past them to the trailhead. We picked up five pike in all, including a 25-inch fish and a 27-inch fish, both caught right where Joe and David had cut tree branches for firewood the day before. Two other pike were really, really small—only around 9 inches and 12 inches. John also caught one of the “other” fish, a river chub about 6 inches long.

Rich with one of the "Located" pike.
Rich with a 27 inch pike.

We felt pretty good until we got back to the cabin for lunch and learned that Joe and David had caught 5 pike, including a couple 28-30 inches long and had had one that stripped line and towed the boat for a short period before shaking the hook. They had been fishing the shallows to the west of the islands and were on their way back for more.

John and I went across the lake to try the west shore from the round knob to the south end. John lost a lure and a small pike when the line parted, whether from the fish’s teeth or a fatigued knot…. I caught one 20-inch pike near the rocks at the southernmost tip of the lake.

Joe and David caught five more pike with two or three in the 28-30 inch range in the afternoon.

We pulled the boats out of the water when we got back to the dock and removed the gas tanks and motors.

Total fish for the day: 16 pike, 1 “other”

Dinner tonight was grilled hamburger.

We sit on the porch and watch about 10 tree swallows whirl and dive in front of the cabin snapping up mosquitoes (almost as large as the swallows) and the increasing number of black flies (almost as darting as the swallows). The black flies have definitely increased in number and keep us going into the cabin fro some relief

Active Swallow Rests on the Fish Cleaning Station
The Fish Cleaning Station
(Notice the trees across the lake. We couldn't see them on Sunday morning.)

All that remains now is to clean-up, pack-up and head home.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 06

Day Six: Friday May 27th

We woke up this morning to an overcast sky and by the time we had had our breakfast, there was a light drizzle falling but that ended shortly after we hit the water.

Joe and David went to fish the south end of Lac Larouche while John and I went into the river. I had the helm going down to the waterfall/trailhead and was trolling while John cast to the shore. We picked up two pike in the 22-24 inch range before we switched positions and headed back up river.

Just as it leaves Lac Larouche, the river widens so it looks like two large round beads on a string. Where these two beads meet, there is a constriction as the channel narrows to about 15 yards. John said he thought “the fish might be stacked up” in this constriction and suggested we make a few slow passes and cast in the area. As soon as we approached a small fish jumped right next to the boat and I flipped my spinner in the same area, hooking a small 18-inch pike that may have been chasing that fish. We circled around and approached the area again. I cast and hooked a second pike that was just a little larger, maybe 20 inches long.

We returned to the cabin for lunch and learned Joe and David had been skunked in the south end.

By 11:30 AM the sun had broken through but the wind hadn’t kicked up. The overcast had prevented the warming of the darker, tree covered land. John and I headed back north to the islands and Joe and David headed into the river.

John and I trolled around and cast to the two islands twice with no success. The water was smooth as glass but we couldn’t find a fish. We trolled halfway back to the cabin before deciding to try the shores of the round knob-like hill attached by a thin peninsula tot he shore on the west side of the lake. Slowly drifting by, we were both casting to the shore and feeling like we were getting hits but not making hook-ups. Finally, John hooked a small, 20-inch pike from the area. Perhaps, like others, he was just hitting the blade of our spinners or the trailing rubber worm and missing the hooks. Shortly after that, we decided to pack it in and head for the cabin.

As we sat on the porch, we could hear Joe and David in the mouth of the river and around a curve half mile away. We couldn’t make out their words but could tell which was speaking. They pulled up to the dock with some branches they had cut from overhanging dead trees. That was the only thing they had “caught” all day. They did report that a major caddis fly hatch was underway in the river and, in one area, there was “one fly for every six cubic inches of air.” If they had been moving through the area any faster than trolling speeds, they would have had to have had goggles and/or face shields. Yet, Joe said there were no splashes of feeding fish and no birds plucking the bugs from the air.

The sky darkened as the clouds thickened in the late afternoon. By 4:30 the rain showers were back and heavy at times. Despite the foul weather, we had grilled kielbasa for dinner; cooked by David over the coals of the dead fir they had brought back.

This was the first time in five trips that either Joe or I could remember one boat being shutout all day long. That includes the one trip where I was fishing on my own and one in which Joseph (Joe’s other son) and I fished in separate boats.

Total fish for the day: 5 pike

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 05

Day Five: Thursday, May 26th

Joe and David packed another lunch and headed back to South Lake very early trying to beat the 10:30 winds. They picked up seven pike, one walleye (which they brought back for dinner) and one “other”—a river chub. They were back at the cabin by 3:30 PM.

John and I tried the north end of Lac Larouche again and picked up three pike up to 28-inches in size. We brought one back to add to the fish platter.

The wind was really blowing out of the North-northeast after 10:30 or so. John and I had returned to the cabin for lunch in some very, very rough water. At 11:30 the wind had shifted 180 degrees and was blowing from the south in front of the cabin. Our pilot had said to expect some rain if the shift occurred, we will have to see what kind of forecaster he is.

John and I went across Larouche to the small lake/cove on the west side to try our luck there again. We got nothing. When we got back out into the main body of Larouche, the wind was really howling out of the north. Some waves were clearly over a foot and a half in height and there were lots of white caps on the lake. We decided not to fight the water and headed back to the cabin even though it was only 2:30 PM. Joe and David pulled in with their walleye about an hour later.

Total fish for the day: 10 pike, 1 walleye and 1 “other”

As we sat on the porch, the wind in front of the cabin was blowing out of the south and some cloud cover was beginning to drift in from the southeast. Perhaps we will get some foul weather after all.

There have been a few tree swallows in the area. The number seems to be growing daily as the bug population climbs. One or two have taken to checking out the fish cleaning table, knowing that the smell, blood and slime attract the flies. They will perch on the table and pounce on any fly that comes near. Add the two or three whiskey, or gray, jays that have come to the cabin every morning looking for hand outs and the solitary herring gull that comes calling when the boats pull into the dock and we have a very entertaining bunch of neighbors.

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow

Whiskey Jay, Gray Jay or Camp Robber
Whiskey Jack, Gray Jay or Camp Robber

Fried fish for dinner again tonight.

Sunset tonight was as dramatic as the other night. The clouds were lit from behind the western hills but instead of pinks, reds and purples we had yellows and golds.
Thursday's sunset on Lac Larouche.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 04

Day Four: Wednesday, May 25th

John and I packed our lunches and set out under a cloudless sky for our trek over to South Lake this day. The walk over in the cool of the morning was really quite pleasant.

John took the helm of the little 4-horsepower Mercury and we first fished the area covered by Joe and David on Tuesday without their success. After refueling the engine and eating our lunch, we headed further back away from the launch site, past a cabin and into some twists and bends of the lake where we were out of the strongest winds. (The wind had picked up again at around 10:30 AM as the sun headed the hills.) The strong sunshine of the last two days has made sunburn a real threat! This is NOT what I have come to expect from these trips, but is quite a pleasant change.

We got to see where the major portion of the water flows into the this South Lake in a ten yard wide stream that tumbles over some boulders into the lake. (The outlet is by the boat launch and is just like the waterfall at the trailhead coming over from Lac Larouche. The water appears to drop off a table edge out of sight leaving only the sound of the rushing water as witness to its passage.)
Inlet of South Lake
South Lake Inlet Stream

During the day, John caught five pike and three walleye, while I got one of each. We released all of these fish, even the walleye, rather than try to pack them back over the trail. Just as well, it was far warmer going back at 3:30 than it was hiking in at 8 AM!

John's 17 1/2 inch Walleye
John T. with 17 1/2 inch walleye on South Lake.

One of John's Pike from South Lake
John with pike on South Lake.

Joe and David fished Lac Larouche trying to fill our walleye plate for another fish dinner but succeeded only in catching five pike, all of which they released.

Total fish for the day: 11 pike and 4 walleye

Joe cooked up some venison tenderloin, Bisquick biscuits and fried onions for dinner. Man, I could get used to eating like this!

The weather has been incredibly good but the wind has been troubling. The clear nights and days mean a big swing in temperatures. Early morning lows of near 40 degrees give way to very warm 75-80 degree afternoons. We have all had to take some precautions from sunburn, as I’ve said, NOT our usual Canadian fare! Our rain gear has had to be worn to protect from the wind and splash of the boat and wave spray. You can also see the change in some of the vegetation in the lake. Submerged weeds and plants are growing like crazy. The change in the lily pads in some areas could almost be watched from barely out of the mud to floating on the surface, to emerging flower buds in three days. Some insects have started to appear, but the black flies haven’t really become a problem yet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 03

Day Three: Tuesday, May 24th

Last evening’s red sky was prophetic in that today was gorgeously sunny day with nary a cloud in the sky. It started as a calm day but as the sun heated up the forest, the wind kicked in again and came out of the north-northeast straight down the length of Lac Larouche. It again caused sizable waves with some white caps in the middle reaches of the lake.

Joe and David packed a lunch and went off to South Lake. Every one of Oliver’s outpost cabins seems to have some smaller lake or lakes you can walk to and that have boats and motors for you to use. This one is a 45-60 minute walk through the forest over a well-marked trail with some tricky footing. Fir roots and mud holes wait for every misstep. They had a 4-horsepower Mercury and an aluminum boat to use on the lake. Between them they caught 6 pike in the first hour before the wind kicked up and made maneuvering more difficult.

John and I fished the south end of Lac Larouche and then the river down to the trailhead just above the outlet waterfall. John caught two small pike in the river before we returned to the cabin for lunch. After lunch, we went to the north end of the lake to try our luck around the islands again. The wind was still blowing pretty hard from the north-northeast and we allowed it to blow us past the islands into the main lake. About 150-200 yards from the islands, we started to bounce our lures off the bottom, apparently having found a shallow area. John caught a nice walleye so we ran the boat back to the north and let the wind blow us over the area again. I picked up another walleye. So we tried a third run. We kept getting snagged on the bottom and had to repeatedly maneuver the boat to unsnag our lures. After the fourth or fifth attempt and no more fish, we gave up and headed back to the cabin with our two walleye.

Dinner this night was pasta and meat sauce.

Joe went out again on his own after dinner and caught two more pike.

The total for the day was 10 pike and 2 walleye.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 02

Day Two: Monday, May 23rd

Monday morning was slightly overcast but the day cleared after noon. The morning was also a little less windy than Sunday afternoon but that too changed as the day warmed up.

John and I went to the north end of Lac Larouche where there are two small islands. The wind was blowing in our faces as we headed to the north-northeast. We cast along the shores of the islands and then trolled around them. I caught a 31-32 inch pike and then John caught a 25-inch pike. We checked a shallow bay on the west side of the lake to no avail and so switched back to trolling some of the deeper waters. John hooked a large pike—I would estimated it to have been around 35-36 inches—and was just reaching to pull the fish into the boat as I reached for the net, when the fish shook the lure and took off. We decided to play by tournament rules, and since John had touched the leader, the fish was officially caught. We fought the wind for another hour before heading back to the cabin for lunch.
John T. on Lac Larouche, Monday May 23rd.

Joe and David had fished the south end of the lake, where David had caught a nice walleye, and the river heading out of the main lake to the southeast. They picked up four pike in the river including a 28-inch specimen by Joe, before they returned to the cabin for lunch.

After lunch, John and I went back to the west side of the lake and tried to maintain a drift along the shore but the wind, which had increased to around 20 mph again, kept blowing us into the shore. We found an inlet to small protected area and began fishing there. John was casting a weedless lure with a purple worm attached. He had a small pike come after the lure but only hit the worm. I cast my spinner and the pike hit the blade but not the hook, so I cast again and this time hooked the little bugger who measured only around 15-inches. Later I caught another small pike in this cove. We went back out into the main body of water and let the wind blow us back toward the cabin.

Joe and David fished the south end of the lake and got only one pike before returning to the cabin for dinner.

We had the one walleye and two pike filleted for dinner. Joe breaded them in a flour dredge of Bisquick and then Italian breadcrumbs before frying them in vegetable oil.

We weren't the only ones looking for a fish dinner. It didn't take this guy long to figure out that when the boats returned to the dock, he might get lucky, too.
Herring Gull

After dinner, John and I went out to drift/troll the west shore right across from the cabin. Joe went up the lake to fish some shallows on the east side. I got one small pike while they got none.

Then, still feeling the effects of the long Saturday night drive we went back to the cabin to sit on the porch and enjoy the long, long and colorful sunset. The clouds were lit in pinks, reds and purples as the sun sank behind the hills across from the cabin.
Tuesday's sunset from the cabin on Lac Larouche.

Total for the day was 13 pike and 1 walleye.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Northern Quebec Day 01

Day One: Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22

We left the Bolt Hole at 9:30 PM Saturday night, May 21 on our way to Cousol Base of Caesar's Outfitters on Clova Road in Quebec. There were four of us on this trip, John T., Joe M. and his son, David, and myself. Joe and I shared the driving of his Suburban. He took the wheel as we went up Route 12 to Watertown, there to pick up I-81 toward Canada. At the rest area south of the Thousand Islands’ Bridge, I took over to wind our way across the border, to (Chy 401, 416 and 417) and through Ottawa, northward to Grand-Remous (via Chy 5/105) and to Clova Road (via Chy 117).

We stopped at the end of the Clova Road to await the sun. Joe was to drive and he didn’t want to chance the run of 104 miles on this sometimes dangerous dirt road in the dark. (He was driving this stretch because if something went Kaplooee, a possibility with the 138,000 miiles on the Suburban, it was his responsibility.) After an hour of rest, the sun had lightened the sky sufficiently to make travel feasible and we were off. The first 5 miles or so were a little bumpy as the road had some washboard to its surface. Then things got better and there were miles and miles that were as good as a paved road. An occasional washout that had eaten into the side of the road made you stay alert—and near the center—and the one or two spots where beaver had flooded streams to cause water to wash over the road made you slow down below the posted 50 kph speed limit. There were even two spots where beaver had erected small dams along the sides of the road to keep water (unsuccessfully) from flowing across the road. The sky was clear but the morning dew kept dust from boiling up behind the Suburban. The last 15 miles were the most challenging with several very large washouts on either side of the road. The 104 miles took us just about three hours to complete and we arrived at Coursol Base at around 8 AM, well ahead of our estimated ETA of 10-11 AM.

Our early arrival was of little consequence as a quick radio call to Caesar’s Lodge got the plane and pilot to us by 9 AM. After the pilot, John, got us squared away with fishing licenses and such, we were on our way out to Lac Larouche about 45 minutes and 75 miles to the north-northeast. As we flew along at an elevation of 2100 feet (800 feet above the ground), John pointed out the town of Clova (30 year-round residents), and the outpost cabins on Goin Reservoir (Goin 3 & 4), Nancy’s Lake, Lac Simard, Lac Impossible and other sights to be noted. You could see many logging roads cut into the area and acres and acres of clear cutting sites. Some still had the logs stacked along the road. I don’t know if there was no activity because it was a Sunday or because they would take these logs out in the fall when the roads froze up again. Most of the wood taken out was fir and spruce destined for the chipping and pulp mills. Paper and oriented strand board would be the final product.
Upon landing and unloading our gear, John took us for a tour of our cabin and equipment. He showed us how the refrigerator, stove and hot water heater worked. (All were propane and had pilot lights that needed care.) Made sure we knew how to operated the water pump. (Water was pumped from the lake to two 50-gallon drums up on the hillside behind the cabin so gravity would create water pressure for the shower, sink and toilet. These drums would have to be refilled two or three times a day.) (Hey, I said we were going fishing in the wilderness area, I didn’t say we were going to rough it!) Then he made sure we knew how to operate the 9.9-horsepower Mercury outboards that would be mounted on our boats. By now the sky had become very overcast and John, in a break from tradition, told us we could expect some rain every day but especially after within 24-36 hours after the wind shifted from the north (from which it was blowing at the moment) to the south. I say it was a break from tradition because in four previous trips we had been cautioned about the drought conditions that existed—only to have it rain every day of our trip. This was the first time we were told to expect rain. Then, as he prepared to leave us, John made sure we knew we could expect a fly-over on Wednesday and possibly ever other day as well and we knew what signals to send if we had a problem. A two-foot square piece of plywood painted red on one side and yellow on the other was to be placed on the dock if there was any problem. Red would mean there was something wrong with the equipment and assistance was needed, please stop. Yellow would mean there was some other emergency and/or we were ready or needed to be flown out. His duty finished, John climbed in the plane, took off for the main lodge and we were on our own.
Outpost cabin on Lac Larouche.

It was noon. It didn’t take us long to get our gear squared away for the week. Food was unpacked and put in the refrigerator or freezer, sleeping bags were unrolled and bags stashed in the bunkroom, and fishing gear was assembled for use.
The gang of four.

Then we did what we had come for—we went fishing. Joe and David went in one boat, John and I in the other. We were exploring the lake but also getting comfortable with the boats. The wind was a problem. The lake was long and narrow running basically from the northeast to the southwest, which was exactly the direction the wind was blowing. Coming out of the northeast at around 20 mph, it had an opportunity to create a pretty good chop and wave action in the middle of the lake. I’d estimate the waves at a foot to a foot and a half with some white caps being formed. The strong wind made handling the boat in the open a slight challenge and also made trolling a matter for the wind, not the motor. Three hours latter we returned to the cabin. We had only caught three pike, one each for Joe, John and myself.

We had been on the road, in the air or on the water since 9:30 PM Saturday and after a meal of spicy sausage on a bun, we decided to take it easy and hit the sack early.

Total fish for the day: 3 pike

Thursday, May 19, 2005

At The Bolt Hole

I moved up to The Bolt Hole, our little cabin in the southwest Adirondacks, last Wednesday, May 11th. This serves as our jumping off point for the fishing trip to Quebec this coming Saturday.
The Bolt Hole

For the most part the weather has been unbelievably gorgeous during the entire week I’ve been here. Bright sunny days have combined with crystal clear nights.

Being at the end of the paved road and the last house on the power line, I’ve been able to see the Milky Way in all its splendor. Aside from Mark across the street, and a few hunting cabins up the road to the east, the nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away to the west so it gets pretty dark at night.

The owl’s call (“who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all”) is the only sound I hear at night. During the day swallows, mourning doves, sparrows and warblers galore sing in the trees and shrubs or as they pass over head.

There’s the occasional small airplane—sometimes a floatplane—that passes on its way to one of the many Adirondack lakes during the day with it’s single engine drone, but at night they’re grounded since most fly by sight alone. I can see the contrails of the jets passing parallel to the Thruway to my south as they head out of Boston or Albany to Chicago and points west. There is usually one every half hour or so. When the breeze is slight, their trails form parallel lines in the sky reminding me of the lines one sees on a music score.

I’m a little surprised by the lack of frog calls but the woods are pretty dry compared to other years and they may have moved to moister quarters. Or it could be that they are just too cold at night to have thoughts of romance. It has been down to 30 degrees most nights and 25 on some. When the breeze stops everything is eerily quiet.

I’ve been clearing brush from around the yard and cutting trees for firewood. Many of the cherry trees in the woods adjoining the clearing are twisted and diseased making them fit only for the fire. By cutting them out I hope to 1) open the woods for the sun and 2) promote healthier trees. During the process of doing this clearing, I’ve found several apple trees I didn’t know about. Many are about to burst into blossom. I'd say they are about a month behind those trees I passed in the orchards along the NY Thruway on my way up last week. Whether they get through the frosts to produce any fruit worth eating is immaterial, they will serve to attract deer and other creatures.

I have close to two acres of lawn around the cabin that I cut using an old walk behind power mower. While its noise can be intrusive to the quiet, I find the 2-3 hours it takes me to cut the grass an almost Zen like experience. There’s not much thinking necessary to do the job and my only concentration has to be on where I’m walking. I watch for insects and meadow voles and snakes and toads. I try to avoid the voles, snakes and toads. The latter are defense against the insects and such that tend to trouble me. In the air, the swallows and flycatchers join my cutting routine, as the bugs that I disturb become a meal on the wing. Later in the summer I know dragonflies that will hover and zip around after the black flies and deer flies will replace the swallows and flycatchers.

Besides the company of Terry, who remains in NJ, the thing I miss most while at The Bolt Hole is my high speed DSL connection to the internet. The dial up service takes sooo long. I guess I’ve become spoiled.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Freshwater Jaws

Northern pike are known for their aggressiveness. They will attack anything that looks like food, even if it’s just a stick being jerked through the water. Shiny spinners and spoons as well as stick-baits with silvery, scaly paint jobs work well. Retrieving one of these baits through shallow water can get very exciting as the “log” that you could see from a short distance away, suddenly detaches itself from the lake bottom and swings in the direction of your lure. If it is shallow enough, a wake is created on the surface and grows as the fish rises to the bait. Then comes the explosion as the fish smacks the bait to snatch it and stun it at the same time. If this happens near or at the surface, water flies everywhere and the fish may even rise out of the water before joining you in battle. If you are using a surface plug, you might have it thrown at you by the force of the strike (or you might jerk it away from the fish in the excitement of the moment)—in either case—DUCK! You don’t want that treble hook as a new body piercing.

As a group, we have cracked the 40-inch mark only three times—all on our 2001 trip to Goin 2. While a northern puts up a heck of a fight on medium weight tackle, even a 40-inch fish will tire in about 15 minutes. It only weighs about 18-20 pounds (at least on our cheap spring scales), but it is all muscle. During that fight the fish builds up large amounts of acid in the muscle tissue and may cramp up like a human runner. It’s a heck of a fight and thrill while it lasts. I’ve caught several that measured 39 inches and one of the 40-inchers. At first you think you’ve snagged the bottom or a pile of weeds but then things get crazy. On our first trip, to Goin 1, Joe and his boys were trolling in front of the cabin at twilight. Joseph’s line started to pull off his reel. He called out to stop the motor as he thought his had snagged the bottom. Joe stopped the 9.9 horsepower Mercury when the line started pulling away from the boat instead of the other way round. For nearly 20 minutes, the fish pulled the boat, a 16-foot aluminum craft with motor and three people inside, back and forth over a 30-yard span as I watched from the cabin. Then the line snapped. We’ll never know just how big that fish was but Oliver guesstimates, based upon years of experience, it may have gone up to 50 inches or more. We want a rematch.

David & Pike
David & Pike

Canadian Sunshine

I mentioned tricky weather earlier, let me explain. The first year we went, we were booked for Goin 2 but Oliver reported that they were in the midst of a drought and the reservoir’s waters were so low that they couldn’t land safely near Goin 2, so he switched us to Goin 1. That was okay with us as long as the fishing was good. And it was. But it rained almost every afternoon. Some drought they had in Canada. Two trips later, the pilot gets us to the cabin and kicks at the dusty ground around the campfire ring. “Careful with your cigarettes and campfires,” he says. “We’ve been pretty dry lately.” Of course, it rained every day we were there. We saw some great rainbows, however. Not the fish, the kind in the sky. Often they were doubles. One day on this lake, Rick and I were around a bend 1/2- 3/4 of a mile from the cabin and out of sight of the clearing. The rain clouds moved over our heads and it started to come down. Not so bad at first, just dimpling the waters of the lake, but then harder so the lake’s surface had no flat areas. Then it came down even harder. We were soaked even with our rain gear on and water poured from the bills of our caps. Rick was curled up in the bow of the boat as I started the motor to head back to the cabin to dry out. “Well,” I shouted above the sound of rain on the aluminum boat’s hull, “it can’t get any worse!” And it started to hail! Rick gave me the dirtiest look!
As we rounded the bend and looked across the open water toward the cabin clearing you could see Joe and his boys standing on the dock IN THE BRIGHT SUNLIGHT! It wasn’t even raining where they were only half a mile away.
Canadian Sunshine
Typical Rainy Day

We have thought about contracting with the Canadian government to help alleviate droughts north of the border. We haven’t tested our abilities here in the states. The five of us have very strong powers up north, however. But even with Rick missing on our last trip, we did all right in the rain department! Doesn’t stop us from fishing, just makes the woodstove in the cabin that much more comfortable.

Great Eats

Our fishing trips are catered. No, seriously, they are catered. Joe does all the meal planning and purchases all the good. When he was first out of high school he worked for a catering business for a couple of years. Add the fact that the three boys are all Eagle Scouts, Rick taught the cooking merit badge at camp for two years and I have been known to flip a mean flapjack or two and we are pretty well cared for in the kitchen. Joe usually has some excellent meals planned and the ingredients packed on ice when he gets to our Adirondack rendezvous at the Bolt Hole. I cook the getaway dinner the night of our departure and Joe is master of the kitchen once in camp. Our first night at the wilderness cabin might be steaks, although this year he has said he has some venison tenderloin. Sometime during the week I predict we will have kielbasa with onions and potatoes au gratin. Beyond that, we better catch some walleye (breaded and fried fillets—yum!) or pike (watch out for those y-bones!). Both species are sweet with the walleye just a touch better on the taste scale and lack of y-bones. These will be the only fish we keep during our trip. Most of the lakes are catch and release but the allow you to keep some for immediate use. Any pike between 25-28 inches in length is ideal for dinner as are any walleye between 14 and 18 inches. If they are bigger, they go back in the water unless their gills are damaged. One thing we won’t do is go hungry.
Walleye Dinner
Walleye for Dinner

Goin’ Fishing

I leave for the Adirondacks and my cabin, The Bolt Hole, on Monday, May 9th. I have spring-cleaning to do up there, and lawn mowing, and tree cutting and lots of other chores around the yard and in the cabin so I’ll be quite busy. But then, on Saturday, May 21, Terry’s cousin, Joe will roll into the yard around noon with his son, David and a former co-worker, John. This is stage one of our biennial fishing trip to Caesar’s Lodge in northern Quebec. We’ll drink some beer and go over our gear while packing it into his Suburban. Then it will be dinnertime to be followed by a short nap. At 10 PM Saturday, we’ll lock up the cabin and head north on Route 12 and then I-81. We’ll get to Ottawa/Hull around 1-2 AM and (if we don’t get lost—again—in the maze of streets) head further north through Maniwaki and Grand-Remous on highway 105 until we reach highway 117. We then turn northwest for a few miles before turning north onto a dirt road that provides access through La Verendry Park. We usually stop at this point for a bit until the sun comes up as we don’t want to travel the dirt road in the dark nor do we want to be too early at the seaplane base at Coursol. This is a well maintained logging road that is as wide and hard packed as most two lane paved roads. We take this for about 120 miles (three hours over this “improved” road) to Coursol Base where we park and load up a seaplane for our flight into the wilderness. From the Bolt Hole to Coursol will take us about 10 hours.

Joe and I have been doing this for about 10-12 years now. We hooked up with Caesar’s Lodge after hearing of them from one of Terry’s co-workers, Felix. Seems Felix goes up to fish for walleye every year and has never had a bad time. After meeting Oliver Brossard at the Outdoor Show at Rockland County Community College and looking over his information, we knew we had to try out his facilities. We have been going back ever since.

Usually we have our sons (Joe’s: Joseph and David; mine: Rick) as fishing partners. They were only 10-13 years old on that first trip; they are now 25 (Joseph) and 22 (David and Rick). The last trip, in 2001, Rick was at basic training with the Marines so it was just David and Joseph. This time, Rick has to work and Joseph is getting married in August so he wants to save some money. Hence, John has filled a slot in our party. This will be his first trip but I’m sure he will enjoy it as much as we do. We have gathered lots of memories of big fish (mostly walleye and northern pike), great boating, moose, eagles, tricky weather and all around great fun.

Our trips have been necessarily booked in July or August to work around the school year. At first that was the kids' problem as well as mine. Then they went on to summer jobs and college that affected the schedule. Next it was the Marines and marriage plans. On every one of our trips we had a good time and caught, what was to us, a lot of fish. But every time, someone, either a pilot, or Oliver, or even his mom would say to us how we really had the misfortune of fishing the wrong time of the year, that we should get there just after ice out when the fish are spawning in the shallows. Joe could do so because his work lets him take vacations any time of year, the boys could do so when college classes end in the first week of May, but I was locked in Middle School until the third week in June at the earliest. Having retired last year, that is no longer a problem. I just hope the ice is out when we get there on May 22. Certainly, daylight should not be a problem. As we approach the Arctic Circle we should have light until 9, maybe 9:30 at night even though we will be a month before the Summer Solstice.

We have never been to the same cabin (I almost said lake) twice. Oliver has about a dozen cabins on nearly as many lakes, although a few of them are on huge Goin Reservoir it is almost as though they are on different lakes. In addition, there is Caesar’s Lodge which serves as both a destination and a main base. Our little group stopped there on our way out of the wilderness on the first trip. We wanted a hot shower and someone else’s cooking for at least one meal. We haven’t been back since. Not because the Lodge isn’t nice, rather the wilderness cabins have been upgraded to the point that nearly all of them have hot water so we can shower when we want—and Joe’s cooking grows on you after a while.

I did take the family up one summer to the main Lodge for a short week. The lake there has Lake Trout and some rainbows. There is a short walk to a small lake with lots of rainbow trout (we had a tough time trying to get our hooks below the smaller4-6 inch trout near the surface to reach the larger 10-12 inch ones below) and another short walk to a lake with pike. You can also take a day excursion to one of several lakes with some great pike fishing. We had a good time and really enjoyed the trip. The Canadian couple, in the cabin next to ours, were very friendly and shared the one large lake trout the husband caught (maybe 7-8 pound) and grilled for dinner. (Although Terry wasn’t real happy about the 120-mile long dirt road as it had quite bit of washboard along its length making for a bumpy ride.)

It was on this trip that Rick and I were flown into a small lake about 20 minutes away and provided with a canoe from which to fish for pike. We would cast to the shoreline catching 18-20 inch fish every few yards and generally having a ball. The sides of the canoe were only a few inches above the water so, once we unhooked a fish, the lure often dangled just above or even at the surface of the lake. As Rick held up one pike to show me, he let his lure slide across the side of the canoe. “Nice fish,” I said. “And so is that one!” Just then, a pike darted from under the canoe to attack the lure, that shiny thing at the water’s surface. Now he had one in the hand and another on his line. Luckily, the pole’s butt end was between his feet and he just clamped his ankles down on the reel or it might have gone overboard.

I wonder, what excitement awaits us this year?

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Even though we haven't broken any ground for our new home (heck, we haven't even gotten the engineer's plans), we have started to shop for things like kitchen appliances and cabinets, bathroom fixtures, lighting fixtures, and such. We would like to decorate the house in Mission style so there's a certain look to the cabinets and fixtures at which we are looking. The shopping has been enlightening, enjoyable and frightening. Again, as mentioned with the house plans when a decision has been made, it is often final so it better be the right one. Luckily, we haven't laid out any money for fixtures, yet.

Both of us have been pouring over catalogs and on-line sites pricing cabinets, counter tops, flooring, appliances and a dozen other items. In one sense, it's like Christmas shopping but it is A) more expensive and B) enduring. By "enduring" I mean that they may very well be decisions that will have to suit us for the next 20-30 years.

We have seen excellent appliances and cabinets at Lowes. And they were at reasonable prices. Kraftmaid's Mission oak cabinets look nice, are quality construction and they have enough options for both floor and wall units that they could where we go. Counter tops will either be DuPont™ Corian® or Formica Corporation's solid surfaces. Whirlpool Gold refrigerator and the Whirlpool dishwasher look good. Our problem is finding a 36" gas or dual fuel range that won't break the bank. Kitchen Aid makes a nice one--and it better be at just over $5500!

Log Home Update: Part 2
One Step At A Time

We traveled out to Beaver Mountain Log Homes yesterday to meet with Joan and graphic designer John to draw up preliminary plans for our home. We spent a little over three hours sitting at the computer tweaking the design ideas Terry and I brought with us. We had selected the Killington model (unfortunately, it is not one of the on-line models on the BMLH web site) as our starting point. The original is a 28 x 42 foot rectangle with a 24 x 24 two-car garage connected to the house at right angles with a 8 x 24 foot breezeway. To this we added two feet to the length of the house (making it 28 x 44 feet) to increase the size of all the bedrooms. We widened and enclosed the breezeway to create a foyer for the primary entry and first floor laundry room. We tacked on a shed dormer to increase the size of the master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. Then we widened and covered the porch on the west side of the house to give an eating area outdoors with a view to the sunset. It sounds like a lot of changes but in reality, the basic rectangular form of the house with its T-shaped garage ell were retained.

I had laid out the floor plans using graph paper and even built a model out of cardboard to better visualize what we wanted to do. We had pictures form on-line sources, magazines and stylebooks. It all helped in the design process (and impressed everyone at BMLH). The final product surprised us with its spaciousness. On my designs, the kitchen looked small but once John got done, it looked huge. The same is true for the master bath. I wanted a shower and a soaking tub (not a Jacuzzi tub—just a soaker for my old bones).

Things are progressing. Every little step and decision brings us closer to the end product. But they are also a little scary. Perhaps, it is just the commitment that has to be made or how some of the decisions are irrevocable. Between decisions, there are periods where things are out of our control or simply on hold. Even then, there is some gut wrenching going on. Did we do the right thing? Is this the house we want? Is that really the way it will look?

Like the man who fell off the Empire State Building said as he fell floor by floor, “Everything’s okay so far!” Just hope there is a cushion at the bottom for a soft landing.