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PostPosted: August 30th, 2017, 3:17 pm 
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Challenge #3 The Contents of the Food Barrel

The barrel wasn't ridiculously heavy. It wasn't agony to carry it on the Mothers, except for the time I was pinned underneath it after falling into a sinkhole. The prevailing theme during packing for this trip was to keep it light to avoid discouragement ( or worse!) on the infamous Mothers' portages. Well, the Mothers were now behind us. On this, Day 3 of our paddling adventure, I was now free to begin the dynamic process of waking up from a prolonged, fuzzy semi-conscious state. We were soon about to face a full-frontal inventory of the post-Mothers part of the trip. Wasn't it Mao who used the metaphor "two steps forward, one step back"? That had been our very own piece-work approach to preparing for this trip, from reading others' trip reports, to annotating maps, to putting the food together. I'd get some work done, leave it a week or two, then go back to packing willy-nilly for this or that aspect of the trip. I'm definitely going to consider revising this method in the near future.

The plan, albeit a slightly imprecise one, was to exploit aquatic resources to the maximum before accessing the official meals awaiting us in the food barrel. Obukowin was a rarely-fished grassy paradise quite obviously bursting its banks with northern pike and pickerel. Just take a look at it from our pristine island campsite as the morning fog slowly lifts. Even more fishy-looking than on the topo map! Coffee can wait. While Damien sleeps the sleep of the innocent, I put my tackle together and head out to catch our breakfast. The lake offers up an embarrassment of rich pike habitats to explore. I am torn between which species to serve Damien for breakfast. Pickerel are always a favourite, but I'm rather proud of my ability to fool unwitting fish-haters with my boneless pike bites, nary the ghost of a treacherous y-bone to be found, fried oh-so-crispy on the outside but tender, loving, and juicy on the inside. Let's get out there! I did, I got out there. In minutes, I was making my first cast to the sweet spot mere inches from a grassy fringe. Pike and pickerel paradise.

Hmm... nothing. One hour later, three or four lure changes on, a switch from casting to trolling deeper spots between grassy beds, and... still nothing. Nada. I think around this time I was beginning the stop-and-start process of waking up. There was a nuanced stirring. A little like a pair of old dry wooden chopsticks making brief, persistent jabs across the surface of a noodle-scorched cast iron fry pan. A "just-ignore-me, I'm-not-really-here" kind of reminder of something once stuck, sticky yet, but gradually working its way free. Of something not fully present. I was pretty sure that I could smell the coffee in its blackened percolator as it gurgled nonchalantly upon the timorous flame. Indeed, it was feeling more and more like a fried bagel kind of morning.

I trolled back to our campsite, a tad disappointed. A little bewildered. Had the lake suffered a catastrophic poisoning of some sort? Had the fish been turned off by an impending weather event that would see the skies open and 40 days of rain wreak havoc upon the dry and starving landscape? Wait, did I just say starving? I guess I was a little hungry. But nothing compared to Damien, my ravenous 16-year-old son, trusting and hopeful, now up and about, anticipating the gluttonous feed that would begin as soon as I got the fish filleted and he got the fire going. To his credit, Damien was as gracious as could be when, a little shaken, I shared my news about the morning's non-existent catch.

"No problem, Dad. I love pan-fried bagels!"

I hesitated.

"That's 'bagel', son. Singular. Pan-fried bagel."

You see, in this somewhat long-winded narrative the singularly lonesome bagel will achieve redemption as it becomes the defining metaphor for the contents of the once-venerable food barrel. I have something to tell you all, at least to the small, but generous group who deign to read these awkward sentences written by a foolish man who might just be a few kilometres past his paddling prime. Some less charitable might say "a few bricks short of a load". So be it. But as I said earlier, there were no heavy loads that day. And that, as some of you might be guessing, was part of the essential problem. I do have something of a confession to make. And my confession is not that I left home without compass, duct tape, or an extra set of triple-A batteries. It's darker than that. Reader, excuse me. I have to take a break from this soul-crushing task to seek fuel with which to keep the creative flame a-glowing. For now, suffice to say, back at the island campsite an idea was slowly taking root somewhere deep down in the pit of my stomach. It began almost the way old-fashioned black-and-white visual images used to begin their life: blurry, vague, ambivalent, moments before they emerge as recognizable detailed forms in the darkroom sink. More later.


Last edited by martin2007 on August 30th, 2017, 4:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: August 30th, 2017, 4:05 pm 
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Joined: January 3rd, 2010, 5:59 pm
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Location: Kanata
Well written, Martin. I've had surprisingly fish-less trips also, but not with a 16 year old boy/man around!

rab


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PostPosted: September 24th, 2017, 7:09 am 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
Just to assure you, there are plenty of pike and pickerel in Obukowin. Problem is, the southern portion of the lake is only 4-6 feet deep on average. The fish roam a lot. When we were sitting on that first Island we watched the Otters fishing and an Eagle perched on that Island, both indicators the fish are there.

We spent 4 1/2 days just fishing, found the fish the first night, caught many more before going back through the Mothers. Over 60 pickerel, 14" mostly. Jumbo perch in the river leading out of Obukowin, 12 inchers. I had my portable sonar unit with me so it made it easier to find the actual deep spots.

Funny thing is, one day, Christy was cleaning the days catch on the Island and I was casting from the Island and catching pickerel. I would get a decent one and pitch it back to be cleaned, it was a good fish fry.

We fish a lot on our trips, but we Never plan for fish meals.

Karin


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PostPosted: September 28th, 2017, 11:19 am 
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Joined: March 26th, 2013, 9:27 pm
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Location: Winnipeg, MB
Need more please! Had a cold & wet weekend on the water and could to read some hot weather reports.


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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2017, 7:58 pm 
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Joined: April 6th, 2007, 8:42 pm
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Karin, if I'd known you'd rub Manitoban salt into my wounds, I'd have charged more for my beloved Bastien Brothers canoe! Speaking of salt, that's yet another item I didn't pack enough of on our Bloodvein trip. If I'm going to count on fish as a major food source, I should have at least packed lots of salt. I didn't.


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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2017, 4:30 am 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
Well Martin, rather than rubbing salt in two wounds, we will sell you back the Bastien at a reasonable price now that it is finished.


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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2017, 4:47 pm 
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Karin, don't be tempting me where my will is weakest!


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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2017, 8:12 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
Martin, the Bastien is going up for sale. Christy needs to part with it due to ongoing health issues. When will you be in Manitoba again?


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