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Canadian Canoe Routes

To Obukowin... and back.
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Author:  Mihun09 [ August 1st, 2011, 6:17 pm ]
Post subject:  To Obukowin... and back.

Just home from our trip, albeit about 4 days early. It was something a bit different this time, primarily an exploration and fishing trip up to Obukowin Lake, which really isn't that far off the beaten path but the path to the lake has beaten some people.

Of note, we aren't young anymore, Christie is 52 and I turned 50 today and we generally don't pack light.

We did those portages twice, in a week. Coming out we managed to complete all three in 8 1/2 hours. We agree if you ever want to go that way, now is the time, they are very dry.

I will need some time to process photo's and my notes but for now, a list of critters seen on our travels...

Many, many Bald Eagles, male, female, mature, immature and entire families. Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Night Hawks, Loons, Terns, Crows, Ravens and Blue Herons in the woods, of all places.

Moles, chipmunks, red squirrels, rabbits, otters, beavers and a weasel.

Painted and snapping turtles, garter snake swimming.

A wolf last night, a huge cow moose and "The Bear".

More to come...


Author:  Mihun09 [ August 2nd, 2011, 8:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

The fishing was the main purpose for this trip and we were not disappointed, although the portages were definitely part of our need to get back there. Most anyone who goes to Obukowin is just passing through going somewhere else. There is an outfitters cabin on the lake, which we did visit, but otherwise, the fish rarely see a bait of any kind.

The difficulty in going to new water is establishing the "pattern". We did pack in my fishfinder and it was essential in finding the pattern since we found the majority of the lake to be 4 feet deep with the odd area of 6 foot. Vast expanses of water 3-4 feet deep makes locating the fish near impossible without the aid of the electronics.

What we did find was... in front of sloping rock faces the water was deeper, albeit only 8 - 10' for the majority and we did find a 12 foot deep slot. It is these faces that the fish use, although not always there, they cruise through these areas patrolling for food.

We actually found that pattern the first night and expanded on it the following days and it panned out significantly. Considering we were fishing from a canoe and the lake rarely settles down, we figure we fished 3-4 hours a day in 5 days and landed 77 fish, lost at least 30 more (barbless hooks here) and only killed 12 fish for meals.

Primarily pickerel in the 14-16" length. Nothing bigger and only a handful smaller. It took a few days but we finally located the yellow perch and they are jumbos. Christie had one that likely would have been a Master Angler fish at 13" and I released a 12" beauty. Pike were there as well but all small and very scrawny. We have found in other lakes the Pike seem to be the under class while the Pickerel and Perch are dominant.

41 Pickerel, 28 Pike, 8 Perch.

I made up crude lake depth charts which I will add once I get them refined. We intend to do a fly in trip next year to take advantage of the boats they have there to really be able to fish the lake properly.

The only bait you need up there is yellow jig heads and yellow 3" Berkley twister tails. All the fish were caught on that combo.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 2nd, 2011, 9:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

South portion of Main Lake

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 2nd, 2011, 9:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Second Map

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 2nd, 2011, 2:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

The trip began, as all our trips do, at the Wallace Lake Recreation Park, which is a 3 1/2 hour drive north and east from Winnipeg.

The trip duration was 10 days. We used 7 portages, which includes doing the Obukowin portages twice each and then exiting Siderock Lake through the portage into Wallace.

Two carries for each of us, nothing weighed less than 40 pounds, including my Swift Mattawa.

Total distance of portaging taking into account two carries for each of
us: 33.3 km. 14.7 km in one day on the way out of Obukowin.

I carried the canoe on every portage which left Christy carrying the two 30l food barrels, one strapped under her pack and the other in one of the Eureka canoe packs. The third pack contained all the tenting needs.

Total distance paddled on days not walking: 61.7km which includes exploration and fishing excursions.

We took my Mattawa simply due to it's lower weight and it worked perfectly for our purposes although it certainly isn't designed for this type of tripping, but, we have refined our packing over the past two years to help reduce weight, especially since we have to carry everything. Initial stability of the boat is still low when empty and on the occasions that I was in the stern we would add ballast to offset the weight difference. Also, I had taken the time to drop the seats a couple inches lower than factory, which helped a great deal.

We really weren't too far off the beaten path as it were, a mere 6km north of Siderock Lake, as the crow flies, but worlds away from any civilization. We saw no other people once off Siderock but there was always a reminder of human kind with commercial passenger aircraft, bushplanes and a mechanical noise that could be heard in the distance 24 hours a day, the entire time. It grew louder down on Siderock and we figure there is a mine close by and the noise was due to a diesel compressor feeding oxygen into the mine. Nothing else made sense.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 3rd, 2011, 9:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day one saw us arriving at Wallace Lake early afternoon to a north wind. When we passed through Bisset we saw an awful lot of wind damage. Huge pine trees lay on the ground from a massive storm that had passed through the previous Tuesday. It seemed most of the largest trees had all come down.

The lake was well below normal levels as was Siderock. We paddled up the Wanipigow river which was well down and quite narrow in the lower regions, sometimes just 3-4 feet wide but enough water for a canoe to make passage. The plus side of this water level is motor boats cannot get into Siderock so the fishery there can recover somewhat from the pounding it usually gets.

We made camp on the mainland a stones throw from the portage landing with the plan to get on the trail early the next morning. My first night in the bush is usually a bad one and I didn't get to sleep until almost 2am. It was sooo quiet there. We had the lake to ourselves and there weren't even any mosquito's, most likely due to the intense heat the past couple of weeks.

Siderock was kicking up enough we didn't even bother breaking out the rods yet, and that would turn out to be the main theme for the trip... wind.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 3rd, 2011, 9:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day two.

Not quite as early a start but we really didn't intend to push through all the portages today anyway. We were on the trail around 9am and although the plan was to take smaller chunks as we leap frogged through, as usual we went further each leg. First, past the creek and just before the beaver pond. Second to just past the fork where there is a clearing prior to going up onto the rock. We flagged and cleared a better path at this point due to alot of recent growth. Last leg was right to first lake. 3 1/4 hours to this point.

The necked down area that needs to be pushed through to get to the lake proper lacked water to paddle through so we had to exit and line the boat through including knocking down what looked like a young beavers first attempt at a dam.

Up the lake we finally went and right to the next port. We hauled gear up the the stoneman and then to the clearing at the fork in the trail and decided to spend the night there. It is about as perfect as one can get, flat, sandy and tons of berries. We had seen tracks and other signs of bears using the area and obviously camping in a giant berry patch has it's downside but we didn't have any issues that night. At this point I will say that bears are something I have never wanted to see out in the bush. I know they are there, we see evidence all the time, but if I could have avoided seeing one I would have been much happier.

We did have to walk all the way to Kidney lake to fetch water for the Katadyn but that gave us the opportunity to see the bog walk we would do the next day. There was a small river running down the trail almost at Kidney lake with nice cold water, we figured it was run off from the previous weeks storm.

A wee bit of rain that night but nothing that would add misery to the trails.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 3rd, 2011, 9:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day Three

A wee bit of rain first thing in the morning but again, nothing to worry about. It stayed overcast all morning which actually helped keep us cooler but didn't deter the biting flies in the least.

Off to Kidney lake we went, hauling all the gear to the last bit of rock before taking one of the side trails instead of the main since it was so muddy. We just cut back to the main trail further out where it was firmer.

The rock outcrop can be easily seen across this small lake and there is a large cairn on it as well. We added new flagging on our side of the lake but the landing is the only beaten down spot on the shore anyway. I liked this bog walk better than the First lake side because it doesn't bounce or sink at all.

The last leg starts out on rock then wends it's way left and down into the bush to meet up with the snowmobile trail. It was easy enough to follow. There was a lay down Christie hacked out while I went for another load and a little further down the trail a large birch lay down at about hip height. It was interesting in this little clearing as it looked as it a tornado had gone through. Alot of the standing trees had been broken off 15-20 feet up and we could see some had been twisted before breaking. It was easy to see the path of tree carnage.

A little bit of deepish mud just past this birch then back onto firm trail. Much closer to Obukowin there is another patch of muck with a side trail on the right side that has a little less mud but is a little more difficult to pick ones way through. The worst mud is right at the landing on Obukowin, the knee deep boot sucking variety. We adjusted some existing logs to allow us to avoid most of it and get the boat out far enough to load and keep it floating.

We made Obu in good time and worked our way up the lake through whitecaps, which would turn out to be the norm for this lake, looking for the existing island site. We did eventually find it and it has a cairn on it facing the north and it is an excellent site. Room on a flattish spot for our Wanderer 4 and possibly a second 2 person tent a little ways away. The island across to the west has two spots for tents as well, at opposing ends...

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 11:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

We got set up, settled in and waited for the wind to drop before getting out to fish on a lake that rarely sees anglers excepting in winter.

That evening we finally broke out the fishfinder and it was amazing at just how much water is only 4 feet deep on a lake so large. We did manage to find an 8 foot hole which produced the first fish and hence we sought similiar areas and they also produced. Only 3 fish that first evening out though.

Sitting and looking northeast we could see what at first we thought to be clouds but they actually never went away so we figure it was the smoke from a couple of large fires in northern ontario. One being about 20,000 hectares we believe.

The biting flies were really bad, not just deer flies but smaller ones. Mosquitos didn't show up until much later, almost 10:30 when they moved out of the bush part of the island but disappeared overnight.

Considering it is such a large lake, over 10km long, we had planned to move up lake eventually to give better access to the top, middle and the east portion, but I was quite happy where we were and would have just stayed put had the lake not blown up every day which limited exploration. The move would come on a less windy day.

It poured late that night, not very windy and distant thunder to the south, but plenty of rain. The new tent was wonderful as was the vestibule, our first tent with such a thing. There was a leak on the non vestibule end on some stitching where the bottom tub meets the tent wall, but we used the supplied seam sealer to fix that the next morning.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day Four dawned with a beautifully calm lake, which didn't last long. Our experience in the area is that the lakes tend to blow up in the afternoons, but this lake would start early or even overnight, these calm moments sometimes only meant the wind was changing direction.

Had a couple of turtles watching us this morning, as if we were on their space and there was a weasel tearing around the island as well.

We did manage to get out fishing before the lake blew up too bad, starting where we left off the night before then working our way down the west shore in the lee, down past the landing then up to the first island, putting ashore so we could both fish. Again, the sloping rock faces produced for us. The pattern fell into place at that time. Perhaps through constant wave action and ice in the winter a trough gets dug out at the base of this type of rock structure and the fish utilize this deeper water on their routes to feed. We figure they constantly move which is why we could hit alot of fish then nothing for hours.

It became obvious upon our returnt to the island camp that it is used alot by the local populations. We found a turtle shell, minus the soft inner bits, on top of the rock where there had been nothing earlier. Possibly one of our turtle visitors from the morning became a meal for predator in our absence.

It is funny how things can work out. While Christy was clearning a pickerel from the mornings jaunt, I stepped onto the shoreline about 10 feet from her and within 10 minutes had caught another 5 pickerel, 3 of which were added to that meal plan. We have had luck before on whatever islands we chose to stay on.

The weather continued to be rather coolish, something we referred to as "Autumn in July" on our first day on Siderock since the leaves were turning and falling from the birch trees there.

Our first fish meal was a treat and it looked as though the lake may just settle down for the night, although it was quite late before it did. Weather permitting we were heading up lake the next day to scout for potential campsites mid lake.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day Five

What would turn out to be moving day dawned picture perfect. Mist rising from the bays, a family of loons swimming by giggling and calling, no mosquitos be to heard and no discernable wind direction at the time.

After breakfast we loaded up and headed north on flat water for a change. After checking out most of the islands mid lake we found what seemed to be a perfect spot. Dumped our gear and headed back down lake, packed up and moved everything about 3.5km north before the wind came up once again.

The new camp is smaller and on an island much larger than we would normally choose, but has a nice east view and should be well protected from the steady wind. Not so good for swimming due to the reeds and the landing needs work but the tent pad is mostly flat. There wasn't an existing fire ring, which really isn't surprising since most paddlers are passing through this lake on the way to Carrol and the Gammon, besides, there is the April-October fire ban in Manitoba.

We are now less than a km to the tip of the peninsula that separates the two sides of the lake and potentially only a 5-6 km paddle to the top of the lake.

Again, alot of 3-4 foot water depths but we did find some consistent 5-6 foot and deeper troughs that held fish. The back bays are shallow and hold pike, the troughs are were the pickerel hang out. To this point we haven't found any perch yet which is odd. The pickerel seem a tad smaller up here, 13" average and we have agreed to only keep 14" fish for meals.

Saw our second eagle today and again, plenty of smaller animals and excellent moose territory as well, but the larger animals are still hiding.

Again, hordes of mosquitos later in the night but they didn't actually come out of the bush this time.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day 6 began with a wee bit of rain first thing and a stiff wind was bringing in clouds that appeared we would get wet again, but that never transpired.

The wind up there is difficult to figure out the actual direction. It funnels through all the islands so can appear to be coming from several directions. It happens that way for most of the lake actually, churning up whitecaps where ever they may be a sufficient gap.

We have noted the water temperature to be fairly consistant, around 72f with some bays topping 74f.

With time to spare I did something I don't normally do, I went exploring. It turned up something I really didn't expect nor wanted to see... bear tracks and scat... on an island. Sure, bears swim, we know that, but we generally choose islands since they are a deterrant to bears. This one of course is sufficiently large for bigger animals and we also found Caribou scat and tracks. Not much in the way of berries, but due to the chain of Islands the bear(s) could just be using them to pass through to other areas or feeding on the smaller inhabitants.

We've named it "Bearibou Island".

The entire area around the lake has what I call Tree Carnage. There is downfall everywhere laying in every possible direction and again we saw trunks where the trees are snapped off 20 and 30 feet in the air. Some of these trees peeled large rocks out of the ground as they came down, which isn't too surprising since it is indeed a shallow layer of dirt over the rock base.

Despite the wind we got out for some fishing and exploring later in the day and caught enough for another meal. We also worked our way up to the green shack on an island that has a large radio tower. It is apparently owned by a fellow in Pine Falls as a hunt/fishing camp. It has been taken care of and is boarded up tight. There is the usual trash around a site like that and an old shack in the bush that may have been the original prior the the new structure.

Christie caught a couple of pickerel from under the dock.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day Seven

There are 4 constants up here... Bush planes, Commercial Passenger Jets, biting flies and wind.

The wind blew all night from the west although we have the mile high bluebird sky which suggests a cold front moved through over night.

Today we ventured onto the eastern portion of the lake and over to the outlet. It didn't take long to get over there with the stiff tailwind and we found our way to the river leading to Ontario, which oddly enough has a rock garden right on the border. Not having a permit we didn't go further but the pools turned out to be excellent fishing and we finally found the yellow perch. Christie hauled in what may have been a Master Angler perch which was well over 12" in length but released it before I could measure it. We both caught perch, pickerel and pike in that stretch of river/lake before heading back out to the lake which had some serious whitecaps on it.

We hunkered down on the island on the south side just before getting to the main lake to wait for the wind to drop somewhat and once again got into some nice fishing. We had the pleasure of watching an entire eagle family soaring in the winds and hunting as we waited.

The lake had it's usual whitecaps with waves coming from 2 directions and the nasty gusts that come from all angles just to confuse and slow us down. Perhaps it is the shallowness of the lake that sets up these confused seas.

Eventually we ventured forth and quartered to the lee and down the shore to the outfitter cabin to check it out. Nice area and nicely nestled in the trees. It is very rustic, has 4 boats available and room for up to 6 in the cabin. The log book on the table had an entry from a paddler from Idaho on a solo trip last year who fought his way across the lake from the outlet to take refuge there until the wind dropped enough.

We took this opportunity to swim for the first time since we were out of the wind for a change and the area is nice for a dip.

Getting back through the gap was going to be a challenge with the wind funneling through it, so we jumped a short section of land, about 150 paces to cut the corner off and save an awful lot of work coming 'round the point and again into a strong wind just to get back to camp...

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 1:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

The evening of day 7 was interesting to say the least. The wind finally started to drop off, a huge thunderhead built and moved due east and we had the encounter.

Other than small animals we hadn't heard anything in the bush at all and as I was writing in my journal in the tent while Christine enjoyed some quiet time at the shore, I heard larger noises in the bush. I didn't alert Christie until after the 3rd time. I am very bear paranoid, I have never wanted to see one in the bush so I get jumpy when I hear sounds near camp of the larger variety. Now outside we were rather surprised to see a bear swimming to our island. We watched it for a good minute before it made it to shore just to be sure and it definitely wasn't a moose or caribou. Christie put it at 300-400 pounds.

It was 8:36pm, sunset would happen in 45 minutes but we tore camp down and were headed down a glass smooth lake as the sun set behind us. It was a beautiful paddle and we had camp re-established a few minutes after 10, just in time to get inside and away from the mosquito's.

Now having the relative safety of our smaller island, we both just dropped into blissful sleep after such a long day.

Author:  Mihun09 [ August 5th, 2011, 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: To Obukowin... and back.

Day Eight dawned in an awesome way once again. As I exited the tent an eagle flew off a tree thirty feet away and swooped the length of the island not twenty feet from me about 8 feet off the ground. Very nice start to what would turn out to be our last full day on the lake.

Despite the west wind we ventured out to the last unexplored bay at the south end which runs to the east. We found the deepest water yet, a longer trench 12 feet deep and once again it produced alot of pickerel and jumbo perch and we kept 3 perch and 2 pickerel for our third meal of this trip. We landed 16 fish in less than an hour in this little stretch.

Down in that weedy bay we found some of the history of the lake... the remnants of the wild rice harvesting era. The framework of the airboat they used to harvest was setting up on the shore. It appears that when they ceased operation they removed the motor and other more valuable parts then likely used the hull to sled it out in the winter, leaving the steel framework to rot in place. Other larger bits were there as well.

Later, back at camp, while lounging and doing initial packing, I spotted a moose walking across the bay behind camp. It was a large cow just walking along dunking her body and head to beat the heat and flies. We know that bay is 3 feet deep with about a foot of debris on the bottom and she had a large portion of her bulk showing. I have a simple point and shoot Canon A3000 IS and at 10x zoom it makes for somewhat blurry pictures. Hopefully someday I can afford a nice DSLR to get better pictures at times like that.

Tomorrow is moving day again and although we are hoping to get through all three portages in one day, we aren't going to kill ourselves to do it since we know where we can camp if need be.

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