Sunday, July 10, 2011

To Bull Moose Camp, Upper Goose Lake, Ontario

Day Two: “de plane, de plane”—from Red Lake, Ontario to Bull Moose Camp on Upper Goose Lake
8 July 2011: 4:23am. Dad’s alarm goes off a whole 7 minutes early. I debate trying to snooze but am too excited to get out to Bull Moose Camp to fish & too worried about the tiny hydroplane that we will have to take to get there. So I, too, roll out of bed & put on the clothes I had placed on the counter the night before. We brush our teeth, attempt to brush our hair, shove our few overnight possessions back into our bags & are driving down the still-dark road from Balmerton to Red Lake at 4:45am (as planned!)

When we arrive at the plane docks just before 5am—literally docks like one uses for a boat, but with planes floating next to them—we find we are the second group to arrive. We are allotted 150lbs of “luggage” each, & our luggage is loaded onto a massive rolling cart (see pic—yes, all of that is ours!) & it is weighed, then we stand on the outdoor scale & are also weighed. There is one plane for 3 people + pilot (dad thinks it was called a "beaver") plus a second plane for 9 people (dad thinks this one, which dates from around WWII, is called an "otter"). I am told that I will ride with the couple from Missouri on the smaller plane. (“Great” I think—given that in many ways the plane part is the part which worries me most--"a smaller plane, to really feel the air currents around us!".)

As you can see, this is not like flying in a little United or Air France or British Air or KLM mini commuter plane. The seats are a little rusted and the seatbelts are less reassuring since you can feel the breeze coming in through the windows around you! The luggage & equipment is loaded post haste & is in the space strapped in behind us. We belt ourselves into the little seats after climbing up a few steps of a metal ladder to get in (& I am thrilled to not get the "copilot" slot!).

The plane has a bit of dew from the early morning--so how does the windshield get clean? Well, as we coast away from the dock on the water the pilot opens his little window & towel dries half his window—enough to see through!

We have ear protectors to keep the sound out & as the sun is coming up, our little plane is off!

In fact, the windless morning is wonderful—I didn’t even notice when we hit the air! First, we could see Red Lake & passed by what looked like an air strip for a normal airport for small planes. For awhile, there are still some roads cutting through the pines below us & then, farther, what looked like it might be a paper mill.

In little time there were no more roads, homes, human structures. Stretching out as far as the eye could see in every direction were lakes & forests, occasional rivers running jaggedly through the green land, & the sky turning from a rosy red to blue.

I noted the pilot looking around a lot &, as I was taking photos, suddenly there was another plane on our right—I would learn later that the slightly larger plane my father was riding in goes much faster than our little beaver, but it flew parallel with us for a bit—long enough for me to snap these two pictures (cameras are wonderful ways to distract oneself from fear of flying!).

As we flew farther north, there was a sort of misty fog over a lot of the lakes or smaller bodies of water. We had heard there were forest fires in the area, & that an area called Deer Lake had been evacuated (with all of its 400 inhabitants) the day before. But from where I sat no smoke was visible. The earth looked curved & the expanse of unpopulated pockets of lakes & forest was awe-inspiring.

I did my best to take pictures without too much morning glare—some looking down over the back pontoon, others directly out my window which was under the wing, others still through that tiny window back by the freight we’d stacked behind us.

Note that our pilot looks only a few years older than some of my students--but he seemed to know what he was up to, so I felt we were in good hands. And with very little shaking & no bumping at all, we glided along until we took a big curve & then we were heading for water where, with a pretty good splash, we landed.

We coasted to a slow then waited a bit on the water for a bit for the larger plane to finish loading its return passengers.

We then stepped back down that ladder onto the dock at Bull Moose Camp (see their site at:, & with the help of everyone the plane was unloaded in what felt like an instant. Then the pilot turned back out into the lake & was off.

Dad & I loaded our stuff onto a big, white flatbed wheelbarrow & took it up to cabin 1 where we are staying. We unpacked the food—getting anything that needed to stay cold quickly into our fridge—& then figured out the order of the cabin.

The place can sleep 5-6 in bunk beds, so we certainly are not scrunched. Dad took the little room at the back & I am in the big main room with kitchen attached. The kitchen is well equipped with a stove & oven, double-sided sink, & all the pots, pans, dishes & cutlery for 6. I stacked the food we brought—things to cook with fish, mostly, like some rice & pasta & many sauces, while dad got our fishing equiptment ready—reels on, both rods for trolling & for fishing with minnows (see picture of him getting our lines ready).

After that, & despite our early morning, we were excited to get out fishing, so we got ourselves set up in the boat with our tackle boxes, rods & reels, borrowed a stringer from Eric—the helper who works here & who was kind enough to let us use his stringer—& life vests. We also put a few cold sodas into our mini cooler & brought along our duffle of rain gear just in case. But it was SUNNY—as you can see in our pics—& so we slathered on the 45spf protection & kept our hats on while out on the lake.

We motored on out across the lake to a spot called Hog haven–hog is supposed to imply a big walleye—but all we caught through there were some little fish—like the one I am holding in my hand. It was my first catch of the day & our first catch of the trip--Nice, eh? Don’t worry, I wasn't giving him the squeeze despit what it might look like. I tossed him back quick & he swam off to get caught by some future fisherman or perhaps a big northern pike.

We enjoyed catching the fish along this little island we were fishing by, & not long after we had been there Eric boated by heading to a spot he likes to troll. But we were generally catching little fish, so we decided to shift & boat out to a hump in the middle of the lake—a place where the lake goes from being very deep, dark & cold to only about 13feet deep.

There we began to catch some larger Walleye & then I caught my “Big one”—really a tremendous catch for a walleye! (see photo at the top of this blog entry--that is it, my big walleye!) It is a 27” long walleye & was quite a surprise—both because we caught it on the first day, & also because I caught it without getting too impatient to get it into the boat. On our last trip fishing a few years back (click blog “fishing” to see some of the pics from Fireside Lodge where we were) I caught medium sized fish but often got too anxious with the larger ones & they either snapped the line or I just never managed to hook them well enough. But this time I was patient & took my time & let the fish pull out drag then reeled in when he got a bit tired until we could see him at the surface & netted him.

For anyone reading this who is worried about the big fish—according to Canadian law for here, we are allowed to catch & keep 2 walleye fish per day of a certain size—& that size must be large enough to be worth it, say 15”, but not over 18” which means that it is spawning size. So, I let this massive fish go happily back into the lake after the struggle to get this little photo—& a fish this size really does NOT want to pose for the camera, so I never could get a fun picture with its fin up without getting sporked!

We did, however, catch a descent sized Northern Pike for dinner & 3 other walleye keepers to eat, too. The many other fish we caught we tossed back for future fishermen or predators. After a full day out on the lake, with only a brief time back at camp for lunch sandwiches, we called it a day. Dad cleaned our fish while I cleared out the boat & got things set up for dinner.

Then, we had some fried fish (see pic) with a can of corn we had brought along.

The sun was now just beginning to set, so we had a few casts off the dock & caught a few fish there, too. We also had a nice conversation with some of the other Bull Moose Camp campers, who had had a good day out fishing as well. Before the mosquitoes began to swarm in the dark, we were tucked up tight in our cabin for the night.


emmie said...

Jen ~ A great report & terrific photos! I can smell the fish frying from here. Look forward to seeing threads of the adventure in yr writing.
Mary Ellen

Lisa Pasold said...

makes me wish i was in the cabin, to eat the results of the day. i love the first photo of you & the fish (perfect literary poet photo, i say, tilley-hat and look practically Canadian, my dear!)