Living close to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has afforded me some wonderful camping opportunities and some great country to travel and fish in. I’ve made some unforgettable canoe trips through the BWCA and the Canadian counterpart, Quetico Provincial Park. Early on I was impressed with the idea of going it alone and soon found my way to owning several solo canoes before I settled on the one that I still have today. My first trips were learning experiences. I used gear I’d collected when I was tripping with a group and quickly learned that weight is the enemy for a solo traveler and I took to updating just about everything I owned from tents to sleeping bags, to stoves and packs. When all was said and done I was comfortable and confident with my stuff and was spending weeks each year in canoe country, by myself.
I recall easy quiet mornings where the only sounds were from songbirds and my deer hair popper’s “bloop!” on the still surface of a border lake shoreline. Always expecting the ferocious strike, it seems so unexpected when it does happen. Like buck fever in the deer woods, my heart races as the fly rod bends to the weight of a diving fish. Then there was the evening on the north end of a broad Quetico lake when schools of minnows boiled the surface and jumped from the water hoping to escape the pursuing lake trout that coursed back and forth just beneath my canoe. I wonder if I’ll ever see anything like that again, or experience that kind of fishing? And could anyone ever tire of the loon’s piercing call that startles you awake during the night, then to lie back on the sleeping pad and enjoy the song through thin tent walls?
I’ve caught scores of walleyes in those lakes, and pike so large I wouldn’t try to get into my canoe. I’ve been pulled far across clear lakes by large lake trout not willing to give up and I’ve enjoyed backwoods fish fries that still make my mouth water. I’ve camped in the best of weather and some of the worst. I’ve lain on rocks and became sunburned at water’s edge, and I’ve huddled under a tarp while storms pummeled my camp to a muddy mess.