Lerome/Sue Falls-Cirrus Solo, Explore, Fish: September 14, 2013

Description of Trip

A solo trip to base camp, explore ‘upper Cirrus’ and fish that I had wanted to take since the beginning of the summer. I had also considered taking my family in through this route in July but opted for Beaverhouse-Cirrus (which was a better option!). It was a 5 ½ hour trek heading in as I searched about for portages and fought a bit of wind. Coming out I faired only a little better taking 5 hours from my campsite outside of Sue Falls to the take-out at the Lerome Lake access just off the Trans-Canadian.

Day 1 of 5

Started the day from the Twin Cities. Warm and a bit breezy but a delightful day and easy drive. Had a quick detour over to Ely to pick up a used Thermarest Guidelite series pad from an outfitter. Road work almost completed on 169 which was a blessing and I zipped in and zipped out of town quickly. Finally made it to International Falls by 9PM and stopped at the Voyageur Hotel. A great little place that is run by an older couple like a bed & breakfast. Felt as though I was walking into their living room when I entered the lobby. Good night sleep.

Heading North from the Twin Cities on I-35!

Day 2 of 5

Awoke at 5:30AM. Red sky morning sunrise and out the door at 6:30 to head for the border crossing. Made Atikokan by 8:30AM and self-registered. Stopped by Robins to pick up a blueberry muffin and fresh coffee since I didn’t have time for breakfast in International Falls (a great place!). Headed back west on the Trans Canadian for the 5 ½ miles to the Lerome Lake access/put-in. Windy! Winds blew from the SW at 12km/hr (7-10 mph or so) with gusts a bit higher. Was blown back into the first bay and had to fight my way through a small islet of reeds into next bay on the eastern coastline where I was promptly blown back into that bay!

Voyager Hotel IntlFalls   Dont Bumpadahead

Since I need to make time, I got out, moved from the bow (I was trying out paddling backwards) to the stern, readjusted my packs and hugged the shoreline down to where the portage was supposed to be. Had a bit of difficulty as I always seem to have with locating the first portage but finally there it was.

No Name lake put-in was very windy – sort of a natural wind funnel there I guess — but once away I was able to paddle down the Jackfish creek portage. Despite the stinking, loon-crap muck at the put-in Jackfish creek water levels were up high enough for me to float my boat without having to do the extra 114 or so rod “bog-trot” that Beymer describes. Beaver dam lift-over was not a big issue and found myself paddling easily across Bewag to next portage.

Portage Lerome NoName Lake        Jackfish Creek portage

Located a steep takeout on southwest shoreline as I aimed off where I thought the portage should be. Found a steep, rocky 10- or 15- rod goat-trail climb that levels out and gently drops down to Lark Lake. As a word of caution: Don’t take this portage! Continue southeast about another 200 to 300 yards along the south shoreline of Bewag and you will find a gentler, sandy/grassy takeout with a gentle rise and then level carry into Lark (found this out on the way out on Day 4!)

This was becoming an adventure on shore-hugging and portage –location. At the back of Lark I had read about “entering the marsh”. With a bit of trepidation, I paddled the 5 minutes or so across Lark to the south shore and entered a narrow marshy, lily-pad

SF portage take 2

strewn swamp-lined channel with red pitcher-plants. As I wound my way south, a beaver dam stretched in front of me west-to-east. I found the short white rock at the eastern edge of the dam that marked the take-out into another stinking, oozy mess that I thankfully only sunk about calf-deep into with my canoe-hat. Good thing that my Wellingtons stayed on my feet for the 20 rod carry into what I’m guessing is the upper part of Cole Lake.

Navigating the narrow, but pretty switchback into Cole Lake is actually a treat as an eagle or two soared above this secluded water, lined by largely pine and various conifers. Finding the entry to Cirrus Creek, I paddled south on the highly-flooded stream and swamp to the portage just east of the beaver dam across the creek and carried down to Sue Falls.

SoloCirrus 1st night camp     Campsite night one Cirrus

It was now 3 in the afternoon and rain was starting to threaten overhead. I took another half hour to set up my trolling rig, snack, rehydrate and consult my maps before pushing off into the little bay protecting Sue Falls. Paddling to the west, I trolled past a set of islands and picked up a smallmouth bass dinner. Perfect. Located my campsite (A2) on a well-sheltered point of land shortly after that and made quick work of cleaning the fish, setting up camp and starting the fire…..as rain started to patter down….one drop…at….a…time. Hate to say it, but good nutrition suffered that meal as fish was followed by s’mores to facilitate a quick cleanup before diving into my tent at 8:30. Fatigue was also setting in!

Fish in a pan 1st night Cirrus   Smore dinner night 1 Cirrus

Day 3 of 5

Next morning, startled another eagle that soared across Cirrus from the stand of trees at my site. Beautiful sun peeking out. Caught a small walleye about 6 inch from the point of the campsite and released. Had to move on as I wanted to get down to the lower “upper part” of this upper arm of Cirrus (just above the north-south channel that connects both parts of Cirrus Lake). Started moving out under light winds on the northern shore of lake. With wind picking up, made a stop at a nice 5 star site (94) across the lake from the “pinch” in the land where the eastern upper arm meets the “lower” eastern arm.

Quick mid-morning break. After my own internal debate, I opted for the more conservative route which is to make a wide “C” by hugging the northern bay from this site and exploring the great little islands and potential sites back there. Beautiful potential camp sites back there! Then shot a gap between two islands guarding the bay and hit the opposite, southern shoreline which guided me to the pinch and I easily dropped down into the lower upper arm of Cirrus. Winds abated. Beautiful paddling now under sunny skies.

Island Campsite on lower arm of Cirrus Lake – Night #2 of trip by Nandagikendan

Finally made my destination campsite on an island (34Y) above the north-south channel but it was already taken by the only other two souls that I’ve encountered on the lake. So, disappointed I begin picking my way down the north-south channel ruling out potential campsites that turn out not to exist until I find the island campsite (3F) at the end of the north-south channel. This is familiar ground as my family and I paddled past this site when visiting the other great campsite at the end of this channel this past July!

Setting up camp first, I then get to work fishing some jigs and a husky jerk and a spinner but no luck even as evening sets in. No fish today with dinner as I’m appropriately humbled. Crawl in early as I’m beat from a long day’s paddle and tonight is supposed to get down to freezing.

Day 4 of 5

Fog! Woke early this AM to find the rain stopped and FOG had rolled in! Couldn’t see past the trees on the top of the island campsite and definitely couldn’t see the water below. Unbelievable. Was supposed to have frost during the night (Atikokan saw -2 C temps) but no sign of it — just the lake evidently cooling off and the air above starting to rapidly warm. Quickly burned off though as the sun came up over the trees to form a truly spectacularly beautiful, sunny morning with no wind. Time to get going!

Island Fog Cirrus from island camp day 2  Fog lifting from island camp Cirrus AM day 3

I could not resist throwing in a floating rap for a couple of casts. A few nibbles but I had to get going to make Sue Falls by midday in case anyone else had similar plans.

EDITED

Heading north via channel connecting lower and middle arms of Cirrus Lake, by Nandagikendan

Set up trolling with a storm thunder stick and jigging rod in channel. Caught and released a walleye and SM while trolling shadows about 10 to 15 feet off shoreline. All told there were 5 small mouth and one pike of 24 inches that morning. Finally had to pull in the line so that I could finish paddling up to Sue Falls which I reached shortly after midday.  Chose my campsite (BD) on one of  peninsulas after a 4-hour paddle start-to-finish with two seat breaks and one to tie up fish on my stringer and dump them in my 50L dry bag doubling as my day tank. Dried out gear. Cleaned fish and ate a late shore lunch/early dinner.

24 in Pike Cirrus   SM 15 and 17 together

Checked out site and did my part by partially relocating and rebuilding the lower fire pit. Finally located the upper fire pit and campsite. Apparently 2 or 3 other tent pads have been covered by the large blow downs up there and the undergrowth – would need a bit of work with a swizzle stick, crossbow saw and maybe a chainsaw to hack out a tent pad or two in that area, as well as a bit more fire pit construction both upper and lower to turn this back into a 5-star. Unfortunately, one of last residents had tried to burn tin foil and drink mix wrappers in fire! Picked up what I could. Need to return at some point for camp maintenance and cleanup….and more fishing.

Day 5 of 5

The regret of any trip is when you realize that it’s moving day and time to head back out! Broke camp at 7:30 which is a bit of a record for me – as much as I love an early start, I have a hard time motivating myself to get out of my comfortable sleeping bag (and now pad!) before 6:30AM on any trip. Gorgeous sunny day with no wind so off I went for a trudge up the falls and into Cirrus Creek where the fish were jumping! Finally made No Name before being buffeted by winds for about 2 or 3 minutes and fought my way into the wind tunnel (think Venturi effect in fluid dynamics!) that is the 5-rod portage back into Lerome. Expectedly with winds coming again out of the south/southwest, the southern shore was calm once I exited the wind tunnel portage. Hugged the shoreline all the way home taking my back passage behind an island through a swamp that probably is impassable in low water levels until I made landfall back at the take-out. Five hours start to finish! Time for some Gatorade and a rest!

The only question that remains is when do I get to go back?!

Quetico: Beaverhouse to Cirrus and Quetico – Family Basecamp & Fishing, July 27-31, 2013

Family Canoe Adventure
Entry Date:07/27/2013
Number of Days:4
Group Size:4

Trip Introduction:
This was an introduction for my family as a whole to Quetico. This trip would be a base-camping excursion with a chance to do some exploring, a bit of fishing, and a more laid-back family adventure.

Day 1 of 4: Ugh! July 27th

Rain. Wind. Cold. A trifecta of weather greeted us as we woke up in the Atikokan Hotel — this is a great place to stay by the way.

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

Atikokan Hotel. Photo by Nandagikendan, Sept. 2013

We packed up our gear and headed down en masse to the dining area as we watched the slanting rain and listened to it pelt the windows. Breakfast was enormous though. Word of advice: It’s worth not rushing over this as the food here is excellent. A local couple was in the dining area and proclaimed this little restaurant the “best in town”.

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Atikokan Hotel located in Atikokan, Ontario, photo by Nandagikendan, Sept 2013

Finally around 11AM we pushed off from the QP ranger station in Atikokan after my son (10 yrs.) and my daughter (8 yrs.) passed their orientation quiz with the ranger. Driving in to Beaverhouse via the turnoff dirt road was fairly straightforward. Soon we found ourselves on the narrow one-way logging road to the parking area and with a bit of coaxing, had everyone packed into the canoe and shoved off around 2:30PM — when the rain came again this time with a bit of wind.

Portage from BH into Cirrus (160r): Finding that first portage into Unnamed Lake is relatively easy and quick. We were there in less than 10 minutes or so even with the wind from the put-in. We hung up though on a submerged rotted pylon from the old bridge which was bit of bummer. Unloading, we trudged the 115 rod portage but is really closer to 160 rods – oh well — the maps can’t always be dead on! Arrived at the Unnamed lake fairly wet now and needing to coax everyone back in the boat and shove off just to stay warm. After some wondering around the northern shore, we paddled south on this condensed oval lake. My son found the portage trail which is tucked back to the left (east shore) only about a 5-minute from the put-in. Unloading quickly, we trudged the short path to Cirrus and shoved off into the little inlet, paddling somewhat sheltered from the weather until we found a fantastic campsite at #32. Here’s the proof: Cirrus evening west again

Cirrus Camp 32Cirrus Camp 32

 

 

Day 2 of 4: Here is where things started to improve! July 28th

It stopped raining during the night and began clearing on Sunday morning. Winds were fresh but actually calmed a bit as the sun rose. Taking our time over breakfast, exploring and camp chores, our little intrepid group of my wife, myself and our two little ones headed out with fishing rod and picnic lunches for campsite #3J at the southern end of the channel out of the upper part of the lake. My plan was to troll a deep tail dancer and experiment with an inline 1 ½ oz sinker rig — which I had never done before. Everyone else’s plan was to let me fish a bit, not fall out of the boat, get some exercise and fight back the boredom (from our kids’ perspective).

We found the campsite in excellent condition after reading some reports of a toilet-paper strewn environment. This had thankfully been cleaned up by others before us and the site was impeccably tidy and clean. Camp 3J cleanedWe found a perfectly gentle sloping rock face to spread out on and lunched on cheese/crackers/salami, pb&js, trail mix, and lots of water. I had no luck fishing either the little bay in front of our lunch spot or from the point in front of the site, but mid-afternoon in bright sunlight is probably a fairly lousy time to fish. I made up for it after the paddle home as we crossed Cirrus heading to our site. I jigged just off of our the campsite and landed a healthy 18in-smallmouth bass. Is there anything like the taste of fresh fish?

Here are a few pics of the campsite 3J and the meal:

Fish fry second round first LTDay 3 of 4: Early Riser, July 29, 2013

Rain during the night pelted our tent as we slept. I awoke early this AM to find the rain stopped and pulled out a Lucky Heddon 13 to try my luck in the little cove to the west of our site. I hit pay dirt with a few casts and another 18-20 in smallmouth which we released. With optimism and moods greatly improving amongst our group of intrepid canoeists, camp breakfast was extensive. Fresh blueberries were gathered from the hillside, pots of coffee to go with the pancakes, eggs & bacon and oatmeal seemed to hold over our kids for the moment so we decided to head-out about mid-morning into the brilliant sunshine and windless day. Cirrus eveningOur destination were the pictographs on Quetico. The portage from Cirrus into Quetico that seemed easiest to reach was directly across the lake from campsite #3J that we had visited the day before.

This is a beautiful rock channel bounded by about 50 foot cliffs on the east side and steep sloping conifer forest on the west. The water was high which meant using the first of two paths to the east of the channel. The initial 20 or so rods pass under part of the rock cliffs and wind through the forest to end at a small cascade to the right and a small pond. The rest of the trail to the left was blocked by at least three, 12-inch blowdown trees and a lot of low-hanging branches. Scouting out the trail, we put in before these, ferried our canoe across the shallow pool below the cascades and lined our boat down the shallow rapids. Cirrus to Q Portage StreamAll of this to the delight of our kids who loved the fact that everyone could get their feet wet — and off we went into Quetico lake.

We didn’t photograph the three pictographs that we saw probably because we couldn’t get our phone/cameras out of their hiding places in our dry bags and because the Anishinaabeg ask you not to. No matter as they were impressive to find & see.

On the way home, I kept us to the southern shore of Cirrus and crossed in front of 2Z to our campsite, hooking a niceMen and LT#1cirrus713 LT of about 21 or so inches for our dinner that evening. My son greatly enjoyed the filleting part while my daughter stayed at our campsite, mourning the loss of this wonderful fish – the dichotomy of emotion was very much in the spirit of the place. Cirrus evening west againAfter dinner, chores were quickly executed to give us a bit of free time before bed. Evening blanketed us in a peaceful twilight and early bed.

 

Day 4 of 4: Rain and a bit of wind moving back in. Kids were very excited to pack up although they were sad to be leaving “their Ethan on Beach Cirrus 713campsite” and were practically begging my wife and I for reassurances that we would return next year here to “our spot”. We acquiesced. As we paddled away, I trolled another deep tail dancer, a neon-tiger striped deep diver rap as we pulled into the middle of the lake passing campsite 2Z on the southern shore. The rod tip dipped precipitously towards the water surface meant “LT” or another humongous snag on the bottom. I had a devil-of-a-time reeling in with my 6’6” rod (next time I’m bringing the Shakespeare Ugly Stick 7 footer). My wife paddled us to the southern shore as I clambered out, still thinking it was a snag — the fish had bottomed just a couple of yards offshore and I couldn’t bring it up — I opened the bail to release the snag and then starting to reel in again and the 26 in lake trout emerged on the surface.

We paddled out of Cirrus to the first portage where we found a rock ledge on a peninsula guarding the cove for the put-in. Eating ripening blueberries on the point, we got down to work filleting our catch.

The rest of the paddle home was uneventful although the last portage created a mini-mutiny amongst the 4.5 foot-and-smaller crowd. Reaching the take-out we found, unhappily, that we had left a light on inside my car and now had a dead battery! Fortunately for us, some wonderful folks from Sudbury who had driven 16 hours arrived. They managed to double-up jumper-cables and we were off to Dawson to camp, clean up and rub our aching muscles…..What a trip! I can’t wait to do it again!