Tag Archives: BWCAW

A Bombardier fire plane lifts off the surface of the lake.

Forest Fires and the Sunset

Imagine this: your boat is full of canoe packs and pushing hard westward into the setting sun. Both the fishing rod and the camera are out as you try and grab a few walleyes and some great shots of the amazing sunset. It is almost time to find a campsite, but you just aren’t ready to leave the water yet. The sun dipping below

the horizon has captivated you and your bowman, both.

The sky is full of reds, oranges, and pinks as if it is ablaze tonight. And in some ways it is on fire tonight, or at the very least fires are contributing to the brilliant sunset. What is creating these vivid sunsets are the fires burning in Canada, specifically Ontario. As the smoke fills the air and drifts into the U.S. it creates the crimson and other colors you see as the sun goes down in the evening.

As of July 24, 2011 there were 118 fires burning in Ontario, with new ones reported each day. At the present time there are fire restrictions in the northwest portion of the province. Currently, those restrictions do not include Quetico Provincial Park, but the Ministry of Natural Resources is asking everyone to be vigilant about fire prevention.

In terms of the “Made in America” fires, not so many are burning at the present time. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) saw two small fires burning on Kekekabic Lake, but those are now winding down and should be no threat to paddlers.

Remember to keep your campfires within the fire ring, and under control. Please put your fire out completely before going to bed, or leaving the campsite for the day. And while the BWCAW has been wet this season, it doesn’t take much for a fire to get out of control and cause a lot of damage.

Enjoy those colorful sunrises and sunsets, and get out on the water!

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A nice smallie resides in a fly fisherman's net

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Open for Fishing

A nice smallie resides in a fly fisherman's net

In last week’s blog I gave you an update on bear reports coming from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As of this writing not much has changed, and no new problem bears have been reported. Keep your camp clean, protect your food pack, and all will be good.

Here in Duluth we have one curious bear making news and that is Dylan the Bear out on Park Point. Seems Dylan swam across from Superior, WI sometime in May and has been raiding the local bird feeders. Other than a few upset robins and finches he hasn’t been much trouble. However, there is a live trap set for him in an effort to relocate Dylan to a less residential neck of the woods.

The news I have for you today is two-fold; first, the BWCAW is open and unaffected by the state government shut down in Minnesota. Second, the fish are biting, and it is time to get out on the water. After spending some time roaming around at recreation.gov (that’s where you reserve your BWCAW permit) it is apparent there are still permits to be had for good entry points. Book a permit today, and then choose the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park as your permit issue station.

The bait shops in Grand Marais are reporting that fishing is good in general in the east end of the BWCAW. Walleyes are starting to slow down, but if you know where to find them a shore lunch is in your future. Smallmouth bass are being caught while still in shallow water in the lakes. Fishermen are finding surface lures and very shallow runners are catching these smallies.

The report out of Ely is a little bit different; walleyes are being caught at a pretty good pace in 12 to 18 feet of water. In the evenings they are coming shallower onto structure in the eight-foot range. At the present time anglers seem to be having the best luck with leeches. Smallmouth bass in the Ely area are running a bit deeper than their eastern brothers. Fisherman are catching smallies in five to eight feet of water on Rapalas and other shallow to medium running lures.

If you are a fly fisherman, and would love to see some flies tied this Saturday, July 9, head on over to the Duluth Pack store at 365 Canal Park Drive. EJ from the Great Lake Fly shop will be there from noon to 3:00 p.m. demonstrating his tying abilities with flies and streamers made to entice the big ones. As always there is no charge for the fish stories or other lies told.

Get out there and enjoy the adventure!

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hybrid

Canoe or Kayak? Both! The Canak by Wenonah

The popularity of the kayak is growing by leaps and bounds. The canoe is the preferred method of travel in the Boundary Waters and the Quetico. There must be a hybrid that tours like a kayak and hauls gear like a canoe. I promised you a curveball and here it is: the Canak by Wenonah.

The following is a review I wrote last August just after paddling the Canak prototype for the first time.

The first thing I noticed about the Wenonah prototype kayak/canoe blend was the stability. I climbed into the cockpit from a dock and the boat hardly waivered. Being built on the Prism this should have been no surprise. As I paddled out with a kayak paddle the boat gained speed easily, with no loss of stability.

At one point I did attempt to roll the boat up onto the shoulders, and while stability felt good, it is really a maneuver to be done while kneeling. And this is not a kneeling cockpit because it is made up of a tractor seat and rail.

The wind was blowing stiff the day I tested the boat, therefore I headed out into the whitecaps to check performance. The boat tracked well on flat water and did very well in the waves. Going straight upwind, quartering upwind, and even letting the waves take the boat broadside didn’t affect the ability to hold the line or the stability.

Some water did come over the bow and I made the mistake of taking the cockpit covers off before venturing out. Should have left that cover on to protect from splash. On trail in such a case the covers should be left on both the bow and the stern.

Additionally, I paddled with both the kayak paddle and the canoe paddle, but I have to prefer the kayak paddle. Using a Bending Branches adjustable I stretched it out to the maximum and was able to reach out for a nice stroke. The decks on this boat created a situation where I felt I was reaching out too much with the canoe paddle.

The seat felt tall, I would like to paddle another prototype in which the seat might be lowered to the hull, but still keeping the sliding rail and seat. I moved the seat on the rail and could feel the boat change favorably with the weight adjustment. After having spoke with the designer I now know keeping the seat high was a purposeful design trait.

Additions to the cockpit might include a foot bar or foot pegs to brace against. I was pulling hard upwind and would have liked to have an anchor for my feet.

There’s the Canak, a great blend, and the best of both paddling worlds.

By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: truenorth@tds.net.
joannakayak on on the St. Louis River, MN

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Canoe vs. Kayak

Kayaking is hot. From fishing kayaks to sea kayaks to the short, white water kayaks you see folks taking over waterfalls. These little boats are easy to paddle and a fun way to spend some time on the water.

But this is canoe country. Will the kayak replace the canoe on of our lakes and rivers, which we like to think of as their domain? Let’s compare and contrast, and you can tell me what you think.

Kayaks are easy to learn, easy to paddle, and fun to use. Kids take to them quickly as do adults who don’t have a lot of experience on the water. With their low center of gravity they are pretty stable once you get down into the seat.

But, how about packing and portaging a kayak? First, packing a kayak is like putting together a floating puzzle. You must pack into small dry bags and then stuff them into the limited areas under the deck of the boat. And when it comes to carrying all that gear you are going to need a lot of hands for those multiple bags.

Second, portaging a kayak may not be the easiest. The best way to carry the boat is “two-man,” which means one person grabs the bows of both boats and the other grabs the sterns. Good for short distances, tough for narrow 200-rod portages. I realize there are portage yokes made for kayaks. But, when I turn that boat upside down, and put my head inside the cockpit I can’t see a thing.

What are kayaks built for? They are great for big, open water with very few portages. If you are going to do a five-day exploratory of the Apostle Islands sea kayaks are perfect for your trip. It is ideal to pack small dry bags into the hatches and handle them once in the morning and once in the evening. Pull the boats up on the beach at night, no portaging needed.

Canoes will always be the gear haulers and the preferred boats in the Boundary Waters. Big, old Duluth Packs jammed between the gunwhales, and a portage yoke on the middle thwart will be the scene for many years. Canoes are easier to pack, easier to portage, and while the j-stroke takes some time to learn, it is worth knowing how to make a boat track straight.

As an outfitter I have sent groups out with kayaks. And they really enjoyed their trips, portages and all. But for what it is worth I am going to fit the boat to the occasion. Kayak for the big water, and canoe for the Boundary Waters.

 

Photo and Article by: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney works at the Duluth Pack Store. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: truenorth@tds.net.