The annual trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is officially in the books. I believe a passing canoeist said it all on Saturday. He was paddling by and I asked him how he was doing, he smiled and said, "Better than I deserve." If you've never been to the BWCA or as we call it, the B-Dubs, then you owe it to yourself to make it happen.
I have been fortunate enough to share this trip with the best group of friends in the world. I don't know how, but I am greatful for it. Each summer, nine of us friends take 5 days out of our busy schedules and enjoy life from the perch of an island. Until you put the cell phones, computers and all technology to the wayside, you don't realize how peaceful, calm and relaxing life can be. I'll be the first to agree that I am spoiled and get the opportunity to fish more than I deserve, but when I am up there, I am reminded about how it all began and why it is so special. I can't explain it, I just look forward to each summer and I take it all in.
Walleye shore lunch is the obvious meal. Each year we eat fresh walleye every day, and 2010 was no exception. We caught and ate enough walleyes to make a fish factory jealous. Many years we hammer the smallmouth bass. This year was a struggled to catch them on every cast, but we still got a few and had several high flying jumps. Since we have a few days and only set up camp one time, we find ourselves searching new waters and targeting new fish. The last three trips have taken us into places where the giant panfish roam. It's become a staple and once again we caught pannies too big for the frying pan.
While all of the above is great and worth the trip alone, I now have a newfound passion swimming in the pristine waters. Pike. Big pike! Each year we have huge northern pike attack our walleye stringers. You will be quietly fishing when a huge explosion occurs boatside and you realize that your stringer of walleyes is one short, or still in the mouth of a hungry giant. I made it a point this year to bring some equipment and my goal was a 20 pounder.
I brought a few baits that I thought perfect for the job. We pack light, so I only brought a couple. While I made good lure decisions, the down side to the equation was that I didn't give these big fish enough credit and I slacked on my rod, reel and line. I figured that I could boat a giant on heavy bass gear and chose the ultra-light approach. I tried a couple of smaller baits with minimal success. It wasn't until I chucked the biggest bait in my box that I realized I was undermatched. Upon the first cast of my muskie topwater lure, I became almost frightened when a giant pike exploded from beneath. He missed the bait, but it was obvious that I found what they wanted.
For the next 30 minutes I had pike of every size exploding on my giant jackpot. I could argue that it was some of the most intense fishing of my life. It definitely rivals the excitement of a topwater muskie strike, but I will admit that it is even more fierce. There is no warning. They don't follow, they just explode. After I thought I had it all figured out and my quest for a 20 pounder was going to be short-lived, it all came to an end. As I worked my topwater lure over 20 foot depths and brought it boatside, a monster shot out like lightning, grabbed my bait and immediately shot back to the depths. My years of boatside muskie strikes didn't prepare me for the intensity of a huge pike eating at my feet. A big pike doesn't thrash around on the surface like a muskie. Instead they immediately give the most powerful explosion downward and if you don't have heavy enough line, they will simply take your lure and leader with them. This is just what happened to me, and after I wiped the water from my dripping face, I realized that I had hooked and lost the biggest pike of my life. To make matters even worse, I lost my only giant topwater lure too, not to mention my dignity. Apparently 20 pound braided line isn't enough for a monster attack boatside. It took a while for my nerves to calm. It was insane. I assure you that next year I will be bringing the big stuff. Shame on me!
While the fishing was great, the company was even better. Time around the camp is the highlight of each day. The fire is the center of it all and stories of years past and fishing tales never get old. The best part is that each year we continue to make more. For those of us that rise early, the sunrise over the island is an epic scene. Sunset are pretty good too. The weather was what you'd expect and changed by the minute. We battled out a thunderstorm that would have made most cry for help. Heavy downpours caused us to dig trenches and route gushing water away from our campsite. A first time task that we hope is the last. Like most years we experienced all that time would allow. When I thought I had done everything possible, I was shocked yet again. We found an inspiring group of kids and I was convinced to jump off of a cliff. Yep, that's right, I can now cross that off my bucket list too. If there is one bad thing about taking a trip to the B-Dub's, it's that at some point you have to pack up your gear and head back to reality. It really is that good! I want to thank Dusty, Sean, Matt, Ryan, Scott, Jason, Joe and Jeff for another trip of a lifetime! Until next year, keep on livin' the dream!