This was my second trip to the BWCA. The group consisted of 3 different groups of campers, totaling around 18.....no, we all didn't paddle together, or camp together, or even arrive at the park together........just our planning sessions included 22 different people. This made for some interesting conversations when planning the trip. Our group usually begins planning sessions around the first week after New Years Day.
The first group, consisting of 4 members planned a traveling trip, where they would set up 3 or 4 mini base camps deeper in the BWCA. This group was primarily seeking out new territory to fish, and would probably share their information with the group for future planning sessions.
The second group, consisting of 6 members, including myself, would set up a single base camp on Zephyr Lake, and make day trips from this location. This is the same lake that we chose to base camp from as last year. We chose this as a base camping site because we did not want to portage all of our crap across monument portage, and did not want to stay on Saganaga.
The final group, consisting of an additional 8 members, would also set up a single base camp on Second Bay of Saganaga Lake. This was done to be in close proximity to the Zephyr campsite..........for visiting, and resupplying. Not all of the food had been purchased and packaged when the second group left Louisville, so it was decided that the third group would resupply the first group with some additional provisions.
One thing to remember...........when our group base camps........it really base camps. We brought in 2 huge Styrofoam coolers, 1 packed full with meat, more meat, more meat, a couple vegetables, more meat......and finally, some more meat.......Did I mention that we brought in some meat. Ham, chicken, hamburger patties, sausage, bacon........you name it, we brought it. We also brought enough eggs for bacon/sausage and eggs for breakfast practically every morning. The other cooler was loaded with block ice to keep all the perishables fresh.
At this point, I must give credit to Mots, and his father Mots Senior......These two guys were the camp cooks. They did a very fine job of providing meals to the camp. This was there only job, and they did a very good job of it. Other members of camp were responsible for additional chores such as firewood, water, dishes, camp cleanup....etc. My primary job in camp was chief fish cleaner......I also participated in most other camp chores.
The trip started off with decent weather, and ok fishing. I brought a minnow trap to catch some local bait to use for walleyes. This proved to be a great success.........on a single trip out to a favorite walleye spot, Chms and I caught 7 walleye on 7 consecutive casts. We would continue using local minnows, until the minnow trap was destroyed when it was ran over by a canoe..............long story, still have scars, don't ask.................
After day 1, the weather turned cold..........really cold, with mornings starting out in the mid 30's, and not warming up much past 60 during they daytime. Not only was it cold, but it was also rainy. Rainy, wet, cold........these all equated to pretty miserable conditions. We still were having a pretty good time.
Day 3, four members of our group decided to take an overnight trip to Ester Lake. This would be my first overnight trip taken from a base camp. We left most of our stuff at base camp along with the 2 other members of our party. The trip to Ester was pretty uneventful, traveling about 3-4 hours to reach Ester from our Zephyr base camp. To reach Ester, we would have 4 portages.........5 rods out of Zephyr, 5 rods over Swamp, 80 rods over Monument Portage, and finally 80 rods over Ester. On this side trip, we took enough food for 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and 2 lunches. This would cover lunch on the way, dinner that night, breakfast the following morning, and lunch on the way out. Well, instead of staying 1 night, we decided on to stay 2 nights. Food was going to be scarce......
We set up camp on Ester around 4:00PM. While setting up camp, we realized that we had accidentally forgotten the rainfly at base camp. It was too far to travel back to base camp to get the rainfly, so we decided to used the ground cloth as a makeshift tarp to cover the tent. This worked very well. Lucky for us, it did not look like it would rain.
The fishing was not very good, but we managed to catch 4 or 5 puny smallmouth bass. This was not much, but was enough for dinner. As I was cleaning fish, I heard someone paddling around our island campsite. When I looked up, I recognized the two paddlers as Dave and Mark, from the first group. They had been looking for a campsite for the last 2-3 hours, and were glad we were here. We had mentioned earlier in the week that we would be making a trip to Ester, and they should try to find our camp. They added an additional 3-4 fish, along with some other food, and joined us for dinner around the campfire.
This night would prove the be the coldest night of the trip. With no rainfly to block the winds, the tent was really cold. There was no ice in canoes, but it felt like there should have been. This would be the last time that I do not bring a decent sleeping bag to the BWCA. The second night was not too bad, but was still pretty cold.
Fishing on Ester was basically a bust......Dave and Mark would later report that Ester was one of their hot lakes, with numerous fish being caught before the cold front pushed the fish off the nest.
Back in base camp for the last few days, I found out that some members of our group had not fished for walleye using a jig. Being the nice guy that I am, I gave these guys some jigs and leadheads, and proceed to best explain how and where to catch walleye with these baits. Long story short......the largest walleye of the trip 5.5lbs was caught by one of our crew who had never used a jig before......
This is pretty much all I can remember about the trip. I can tell you this much, I love this area of the country, and will continue making trips into the BWCA. Hopefully, I will make it into Quetico in the near future. I would also like to eventually move away from base camping, and start making trips that involve minicamps instead of 1 single base camp.