Friday, October 30, 2009

Eels Creek - Serpentine Lake Loop

Who said there are no colours left at the end of October?!!

Hi Everyone,

Just got back from 5 days of canoeing in the Kawarthas with Lisa. The paddling season has definitely slowed right down, evidenced by the empty parking lots and lack of canoes on the water. (although we did manage to run into another canoeist in a beautiful green cedar-canvas) The hardy few to brave the cold and wet environment this time of year can still be charmed by the lingering colours and the sense of total isolation.

This small MEC shelter lent to us by Lisa's father was
great for keeping the wind and rain off of us,
as well as keeping us warm!

Lisa and I combined 2 trips in the 5 days we had, given all the routes in the Kawarthas are fairly short. We first headed down Eels Creek (curious how the name came about) as a "there & back" route since we didn't have the luxury of a shuttle. We then headed further north to paddle the Serpentine Lake Loop, a route I had done years ago but in mid-summer. It was quite different this time (and nicer) with the lack of people and a much more colourful landscape.

Lisa having fun playing at the final rapid on Eels creek
before draining into Stony Lake

Since most of month was inundated by lots of rain and frigid temperatures, this trip ended up being the only outing in October. Cancelling my last trip was all it took to stubbornly head out regardless of the conditions this time. However luck would have it that the rain gods took it easy on us and we came back fully refreshed and revived to still consider a few more possible outings. The paddling season is definitely waning, but its still not over yet!

Taking a moment to enjoy High Falls along Eels Creek

Still Holding On, (to the paddles!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Romaine River Trip - Fishing

Ben: "I'm positive that there's
fish down here!"

Years ago as a youngster, I loved to fish. (yeah, years ago!) My brother and our neighbours use to hike to the local creeks, rivers, and reservoirs to fish regularly. However being a fairly inpatient person, I got bored waiting to catch fish. (maybe it was my lack of fishing skills?!) Anyhow, with all the numerous canoe trips I head out on, it would seem ideal to throw a line in, especially in those remote out-of-the-way locations. One particular friend of mine (who use to trip with me) is incredulous when I tell him I don't fish on my trips anymore. He loves fishing and shakes his head at the thought of me passing opportunities to fish bodies of water teeming with them or hook into a trophy-sized one. I usually just shrug my shoulders.

Fishing on the Romaine - cold clean running water, solitude,
scenery and of course fish. What more can you ask?

I'm sure you've seen pictures of people with monster-sized fish in the far north. I could only imagine that it would be an experience of a lifetime hooking into one of those giants! So I figured if an opportunity came about (like the Romaine River), I would take my fishing rod. So the trip materializes and guess what I didn't take?! I knew Ben was bringing 2 rods and I figured if he began catching them left, right and center, I would borrow one of his to try my hand at casting. (pleeeese, Ben!)

Massive fish steaks - 3 complete meals for 4 hungry guys!
We weren't about to go hungry anytime soon!

Before heading out on the Romaine, we got various reports of the fishing conditions out there. They seem to hinge on both ends of the spectrum - good to not that great. So with this we headed with some expectations, but not too much. We also took enough food for every meal, so catching fish would only supplement our meals rather than replace them - we were optimistic, not foolish. So off we went, hoping to brag about the "big one", or come back with stories about how amazing the portages were or how much we enjoyed all the rain!

One of the many beautiful brook trout that was
caught lurking by the fast moving water

Okay, lets cut to the chase. The fishing was pretty good! Much better than our reserved expectation! Most opportunities to fish produced results. The only fish we caught on the Romaine were pike and brook trout. We were hoping to catch some of the land-locked salmon, but didn't luck out in this regard. In any case we were not disappointed. Although one time, we almost were.

No, its not caught on a log! Even I had
a big one on the line!
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

When people talk about the "big one" that got away, usually only evidence will vindicate your story. Fish stories always seem to get blown out of proportion. Once Ben hooked into a monster pike that he struggled with for almost 20 mins. All the while intensely discussing with the rest of us how we were going to haul this monster in! We had no net or gaff to pull it in without losing it or our fingers! (pike have rows of big razor-sharp teeth!) At one point as the tired pike rested close to shore Ben realized his line was tangled. But just as he was trying to fix it, the pike jerked violently and snapped the line clean. I'm not going to comment on the choice vocabulary that spewed from his mouth, but lets just say he was rightfully upset. Actually we all were.

You can't get any better than this! Fresh crispy fillets
(just caught) that melt in your mouth!

Of course there was no pictures or video to show how big this fish was, just "our word", so it would have gone down as "another fish story". Well, because we had a bit of time, Ben immediately replaced his spool of line for a stronger one and started casting away. After several cast, - we were all waiting at this point ready to go - his insistence that the present cast would be the "last one" had us rolling our eyes,.....until he hooked onto an even bigger fish! Well this time after another 20 odd mins of fighting the fish (I was surprisingly given the rod after 5 mins - thanks Ben!) we remarkably didn't lose it this time! All of us were filled with nervous energy and relief - yelling and screaming like kids when we safely got this beast onshore. It was an amazing accomplishment through team effort considering the circumstances and lack of proper gear. This time we not only had the pictures to prove it, but the amazing experience of really catching the "big one"!

Almost 4 ft long and 20+ lbs - its a fish guaranteed to
put a smile on any one's face!! Good job Ben!

Of course catching fish is only one part of the equation! Part 2 is enjoying the bounties of the wilderness! So if you figured it out by now, we enjoyed many fish meals - fried fillets battered in Fish Crisp, grilled/smoked fish steaks, fish stews, etc you name it, we had it! All of us were more than thrilled to have so much fresh fish supplementing (more like replacing) our meals. Even Rob, who wasn't much of a "fish person", came to love it so much he was always looking for seconds! We all came away with a positive experience in regards to fishing, - heart-pumping fish fights, sated stomachs, bragging rights and memories of a lifetime captured in pictures. Proof that "fish stories" are actually sometimes true!

What's a fishing trip without a shoreline lunch! Just one of
the great memories from the Romaine River!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chiniguichi-Sturgeon River Loop

Wow, time flies when you are never around. That's usually the case when you are enjoying yourself, isn't it? Before I knew it, my favourite month for paddling sadly ended after a whirlwind of activity. I shouldn't complain considering I struck out on 4 trips with more than half the month on the water. And let me tell you, the month of September did not disappoint! The weather continued to be amazing on the latest trip with only one day of rain in 9, considering the forecast prior to the trip!

Starting a trip and paddling into dramatic skies such as
these only portend good things

This last September trip was in an area I've been to twice before; the Chiniguichi area. However, not wanting to do the same route, I lengthened the loop and added to the already familiar one so that I could cover some new areas. Not that I don't enjoy the areas I've previously been to, but there is so much else out there to see and experience. I'm sure glad I did, as it was worth it; I love this area!

Going for a dip in a cool surging aerated pool is like
being in a world-class spa

I also had a chance to paddle with someone new whom I met on the Romaine River trip. Lisa is an experienced paddler with a solid background of tripping and whitewater skills. She is a Camp Kandalore alumnus and really knows her stuff. I found her to be more than my equal in the field, impressing me in many ways. It was a pleasure paddling with her. The combination of a great paddling partner, amazing route, and the spectacular weather was a great way to say farewell to September.

The dramatic display of colour on this trip
was a feast for the eyes...

Jumping into October, the rains began again with vengeance, just like last summer. Waves of rain after rain with no break in sight. I actually cancelled another outing due to all the rain! (imagine that!, I must be getting "soft"!) Anyhow, all is not lost, I still have a trip in mind for October. I'm starting to get stir crazy again so its planning time,..whether it rains or not!

...and lets not forget the visually stunning sunsets.
(Do I have to come home?!)

Now that I have a bit more time, I will get back to the Romaine River posts! Thanks for being patient! By the way, to all you Canadians, Happy Thanksgiving! (to you Americans, my sister is visiting from New York on your Thanksgiving, so I will send the well wishes then!)

Happy Paddling! (there is still lots of time!)