Late Season Canoeing

It was December 14, 2014, the temperature was +4 degrees, and I received a text from a friend who had a hankering for some canoeing and fishing.   Minutes later we launching the canoe on a local lake that was open all year for LTs.

This was officially the latest I have been out canoeing, and although we struck out with the trout, I still enjoyed every bit of it.

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Cheers from the Wild

Backcountry Camping on the French River

Ontario’s provincial park system includes some of the most beautiful sections of wilderness this province has to offer.  Every year, starting on the Victoria day long weekend, The provincial park system opens across Ontario and people flock to the nearest park in search of this beauty and a glimpse of the natural world.  Much can be seen at these parks and many of the parks do great jobs of displaying our natural heritage and history.  Car camping makes up the lion share of attendees at these parks and can be a fun experience for those looking for convenience and ease of access.  But if your like me, and you like a little more seclusion and remoteness, back country camping may be for you.

Backcountry camping and canoeing takes a bit more preparation and skill to execute, but the rewards are equally greater.  Packing must be minimal to what you can canoe and carry and each item brought must be deliberate.  Forget the kitchen sink!  But for all the trouble it is to prepare, this methods of camping allows the participant to see parts of the park that are virtually untouched by man and see nature in a undisturbed setting.

This was our goal when setting out for the backcountry in the French River Provincial Park.  Just like it sounds, the French River Provincial Park encompasses the French River which is approximately 110 kilometers long and flows from Lake Nippissing to Georgian Bay.  The river flows amongst rugged shield terrain around countless islands and in into countless bays.  The river itself is rich with logging and native history and once served as a major transportation route for aboriginal people and logging operations.  We were excited to relive some of these routes and sleep and experience the same wilderness our for fathers had many years ago.

After much deliberation, we chose a route along the lower arm of the French River with a start at Hartley Bay Marina.  The marina seemed very busy and had a distinct  ambiance with lots of character.  Including some interesting fish mounts.  This place was obviously a hub for fisherman in the area, and based on the mounts, dentists too.

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The trip was off to a great start and with anticipation and excitement we pulled away from Hartley Bay Marina.  About 10 minutes later we received our first surprise of the trip as Dave hooked up with a fairly hefty fish.  After a heated battle between angler and fish, Dave yells “its a musky”.  Fish of a thousand casts, people call these beasts, and Dave had one after 10 minutes!  Best guess puts it in between 8 and 10 lbs. Too bad the fish got off at the canoe (unfortunately no pics).

The trip continued through Hartley bay to the mouth of the Wanapitei River.  We encounter some pretty fast flows, many flooded areas, and the water was full of sediment; this did not bode well for the fishing.  After a valiant fishing effort with no success, we continued our paddle through some of the most scenic country our province has to offer.DSC_0031DSC_0018

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Amazing rock formations were common throughout the trip.  This river could be the poster child for all Canadian shield rivers.

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The Wanapitei was a tough paddle against wind and current.  We originally planned to camp at  a set of rapids, but due to flow rates, we had to change our route.  We headed south through a small confluence of two river arms called the forks and proceeded into Thompson Bay.

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After a lengthy (and tiring) paddle against the flow of the Wanapitei we found our campsite (617) and set up for the night.  Our hopes were that we could find clear water the next day which would hopefully mean Walleye and Pike.

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A classic French River sunset.

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We broke camp early In the morning and headed south down the French River Main Outlet towards the Elbow where four sections of the French converge.  After some searching we found an amazing campsite (624) with a great view and set up our gear.  On the way through the Elbow, I noticed a distinct edge to the murky water and suspected that would be our best chance for walleye.  We were desperate to find gold on the French so following the set up of our site, Dave and I immediately headed for the sediment break.  We wasted no time wetting a line and sure enough, our my guess was correct.  The walleye were stacked up in the break and the bite was on in a big way.

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After an intense bout of Walleye fishing we head back to camp for diner and a late night fish along our campsite.

We devoured a bit of the freshly caught walleye and some packed in Spaghetti for dinner while enjoying the scenic view from our site.  Nothing beats freshly caught fish on a long trek into the wilderness.

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During our campfire one of the guys decided to throw a set line into the water.  This resulted in a giant hit and a lost fish, however the mystery fish enticed us all to throw lines in.  Sure enough,  we started catching some fairly respectable catfish.  Probably the only fish that can be caught consistently in the currently murky state of the French River.

(below: the author with a decent cat)

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Most people travel to the French River to catch walleye and pike and to have a chance at a giant Muskellunge.  For good reason too, the fish here can grow to be giants.  Unfortunately this leaves species like the catfish a bit neglected.  Too bad too because these fish are tenacious and provided, pound for pound, more fight that any walleye we caught.

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The evening wore on and we settled in to watch another great French River sunset nestled up to a roaring campfire.  With a belly full of fresh fish, life was good and all was right with the world.

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The next day we headed up the Eastern Outlet of the French River with a decent tail wind and continued to catch both Pike and walleye as we travelled.

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(Ian seemed to have a knack for catching snot rockets)

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Thanks to one of the engineers travelling with us we rigged up a makeshift sail with one of the tent flys.  What a way to take advantage of a strong tail wind.  I think the dog travelling with us also didn’t mind having three canoes to walk around in either.

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After a great day of fishing and sailing we set up camp in Ox bay at site 629. The site was situated on some beautiful rock outcroppings on the south west point where Ox bay meets the Eastern Outlet.  This would be our last campsite for the trip.

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With that, our trip was over.  Fish were caught, sights were seen, and overall, good times were had.

There is something special about experiencing the majesty of Ontario’s wilderness through backcountry camping.  Nothing else seems to get you as close the serene beauty that is our park system.  It seems the further away from civilization you are, the more “connected” the nature you feel.

If you haven’t been already, I suggest you try a backcountry trip.  Most parks have a few sites that require canoeing or portaging.  If your not very experienced with wilderness camping, I suggest you contact a guide service or go along with some friends who are experienced back country campers.   Either way, find a way to try this unique natural experience.  These sort of trips are profoundly rewarding and generate memories that will last you a lifetime.  So go on, grab your canoe and camp stove and see what the Backcountry has to offer!

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Accessible Bathymetry for Ontario Lakes

I am a firm believer in knowing as much about a lake as possible before heading out on the water. In my experience, doing my homework has changed the out come of many a days fishing; turning it from a likely bad or mediocre day to a raging success. Although it takes work to understand the waters you are fishing, the benefits are enormous. Correction, it used to take a lot of work… Now thanks to Navionics and National Prostaff, the hard part is done for you.

Historically, access to lake info would only come from experience, paper maps, or expensive GPS units with map chips. Then came the navionics app for mobile devices. As awesome as the mobile app was, it cost a bit of $ to own. Now Navionics and National Prostaff haved moved this data to a free online data delivery system. Although not so portable, the website can expedite the research process for finding new water or even help to enhance your understanding of your favourite “go to” lake. Although it doesn’t contain all the data the chip has, it covers most medium to large sized lakes with sufficient precision to make a big difference in the way you approach a lake.

So give it a gander and see if you learn a thing or two about the lakes you love.

Cheers from the Wild
Albert

http://nationalprostaff.com/navionics.php

Here is a screen shot from the website:
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One Year in the Wild…

WordPress sent me an alert today; Apparently it has been one years since my inaugural post on this blog. Time certainly does fly when your having fun, or in my case, when your catching fish.
Thanks to all my readers and followers for your patronage and bearing with me on the learning curve to a successful outdoor blog!
Cheers from the Wild
Albert

Thoughts of Springs Gone By

Seriously winter…. what happened to you?

You used to be cool.  You would come creeping around every November after deer season heralding Christmas, and bringing hardwater for ice-fishing or an excuse to dip south for some R&R.  Then like a flash, March would roll around and, poof! you would retreat back to the southern hemisphere….

But not this year, oh no…  That would be too normal.  Just to see how stir crazy you can drive us, you decide, what the hell, lets play a cruel joke by repetitive flash freezing and dropping sloppy dumps of snow at random times.

Let me just say, you can stop the joke now.  Its not funny any more…

Since winter is taking its sweet time to retreat this year, Ive decided to reminisce on springs gone by; specifically back to a trip to Algonquin two years ago that I have been meaning to write a post about.  We had a particularily good spring and the weather worked out perfect for us on this trip as did the fishing.  I know the trip pre-dates my blog, but a flashback is warranted due to the epic nature of the trip.

A group of six made up of myself, Dave (a regular on this blog) and four other friends decided to do an early season portaging trip to Algonquin Park to celebrate the esteemed ritual of the Bachelor Party for Dave before he took the plunge into matrimony.  As a survivor of many other urban bachelor parties, including my own, I was curious to experience what a backwoods party would be like. Even more curious as to how the brook trout fishing was some 50+ km into the heart of Algonquin.

After much preparation and figuring out how to transport a sufficient amount of “beverages” for such an arduous trip, the day finally arrived and we set out for the north side of Algonquin.

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Our launching point was from Brent on the north side of the park.

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After a relaxing night at cedar lake campground we roused our selves out of beer induced comas and embarked into the mists.

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Our trek took us across Cedar lake into the throat of the Petawawa.  As our trip coincided with the spring melt, river levels were high the waters were raging.  This made for stunning scenery and some spirited paddling.

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Little did I know that the worst was yet to come, because on the first day, “my inaugural day of portaging in Algonquin”, we were to face whats infamously called Unicorn Hill. Well, la di da, doesn’t it sound nice and cozy?  The name kind of lulls you into a sense of relaxation.. .. F that.  Unicorn hill consisted of a coronary giving, death defying, 3km hike uphill through a twisted path that served as a portage around a particularly long stretch of rapids.  This portage was definitely not for the faint of heart.  Maybe that’s why the crowds seemed to miraculously thin out after that.  After almost passing out a couple times and losing half my weight in sweat, we finally made it through.  Following that, we had a bit more paddling and a couple of minor portages and we finally made it to our campsite.  I was bushed but I was also there for a purpose, and nothing would stop me from testing the waters of the Petawawa with my rod.  I think it was at this point that things got serious and we actually started trying to figure out the brook trout fishing, because so far we were fishless and Dave still hadn’t caught the first brook trout of his life.

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We fished near the campsite with no luck and proceeded to hike further up he river.  Past schools of sucker and down some steep embankments we manged to locate a few decent holes.  Low and behold, Dave hooked up and we were staring at the first fish of the trip and of Dave’s lifetime.

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What a first it was!  It demonstrated some  amazing colour and patterns as well as being fairly girthy for a stream caught trout.  This was to be the first taste of trout we would have on the trip.

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Although the trout tasted good, it was not enough to feed 6 big guys after a hard day of portaging, and so the E and B were broke out with a chunk of cheese for good measure.

The rest of the trip went by like a blurr of good times and lots of brookies.  Id love to recount more details for you but I will let the pictures do the talking instead.

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Smaller trout, like the one pictured below, were common and plentiful.

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Our journey took us all the way to High Falls and onto the Nippissing River.  Possibly some of the most beautiful country I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.

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Below the author is pictured cooking some of the delicious trout for the group.

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Brook Trout

The endless meandering waters of the Nippissing are something to behold.  In some sections it felt as though we were stuck in a time loop, paddling the same stretches over and over again.

This provided ample opportunity to pull out the camera.

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As much as I love to catch and eat brook tout, I have to emphasize that conservation is key.  Although we did keep some fish on this trip, the majority were caught on barbless hooks and were released with no real harm done.  Do your part to preserve these fish if you decide to venture into this section of Algonquin.  Collectively we need to recognize how special the brook trout in Algonquin really are and do are best to protect them.

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T’was a fine trip with a fine bunch of gentlemen and will not soon be forgotten.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

P.S for those planning a trip to the “Gonq”, here is a link to the best map available:

http://www.algonquinmap.com/

Get outside…with yor kids! An Outdoors Charter for Kids

The provincial government has recently put together an initiative to promote outdoor activities among our youth in Ontario.

http://www.childrensoutdoorcharter.ca/

Finally! In my opinion the current generation of kids are missing out on the richly diverse experience that is our outdoor environment.

In support of this, they have developed a website outlining a vast array of activities children can take part in.  This is a good first step, and here is hoping they are able to implement activities, outreach programs and connect with other existing programs to actually get kids outside.

oh BTW, kudos to the website for including “Harvest something to eat”.  As a forager, I am happy to see this way of life promoted.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

OFAH – Protecting Ontario’s Wild Heritage

A big shout out to OFAH and all the work they do to preserve Ontario’s wild heritage.

If not for them, I am sure I wouldn’t have much to write about on this blog!

http://www.ofah.org/fishing

Take a few minutes to look into what they are about and perhaps make a donation if you are so included!

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