My First Walleye Themed Mystery Tackle Box!

mystery_tackle_box_logoI’ve done several reviews in the past on various Mystery Tackle Box orders I have received and they were fun. Some I purchased, some were given to me as gifts from people who knew I loved to fish. I did stop however, because most of the tackle is really designed for Bass Anglers, and that’s just not my preferred fish to target right now. I had contacted Mystery Tackle Box and had been told that other themed boxes were in the plans for future, and my hope has been realized. They now produce Walleye Boxes, that come out not all 12 months, but many. I received my first yesterday, have a look at my review!

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Ellen Island Camp Review

Heading to the portageRecently I had the pleasure of spending 3 days at Ellen Island Camp on Lady Evelyn Lake. This lake has 5 outfitters on it, and has been on my list as a potential destination for quite some time. I was further encouraged, and specifically to contact Ellen Island Camp, by Canadian Fishing Guide Mike Borger. One of the reasons Ellen Island Camp was appealing to me is that it offers a housekeeping plan so that I’m able to cook my own meals, which is something I enjoy while on a fishing trip. Dealing with lodge owners Jeff and Jane was a treat, with them being prompt in communication and very professional and accommodating.

A group waiting to get picked up at Mowats Landing, heading to a different lodge.

One of the special parts of this outing was that it was going to be a nice get-a-way for my wife Carolyn and I. Carolyn will come fishing with me on occasion, including our annual “couples trip”, but this would her first time at a dedicated fishing camp. I really enjoy that Carolyn is willing to participate in my passion for fishing adventures. So after dropping the kids with Grandma and Grandpa in Huntsville, we made the journey to Haileybury, just shy of New Liskeard. We needed a place to stay the night before we went to the lake, and chose the Leisure Inn based on recommendations from Lodge Owners Jeff and Jane. The Leisure Inn provided a clean and comfortable room, parking for my car / boat, and a complimentary breakfast in the morning, and all for a very reasonable price.

Ripping across the lake!One of neat parts about Lady Evelyn Lake is that it is boat only access. The lake is man made, as part of flood control and hydro electric dams on the Montreal River. You access the lake by heading first to Mowats Landing. We made the appx 30 minute drive to Mowats Landing to prepare for departure, arriving to find cars and people everywhere! Each of the five camps on the lake use this location for the pick up, at staggered times. Most people do not bring their own boat, but use the camp boats provided. Because this was to be a short 3 day trip, we decided to bring out own boat. We launched, then tied off waiting for the staff from Ellen Island Camp to arrive to pick up the guests and act as pilot boat for us. It’s always great to use this waiting time to chat with other anglers who are heading in. We spoke with a few groups who have been coming to the lake for 2o years!

This is what our trip was about.Our pick up time was slated for 9:30 and right on cue boats began arriving. In short order people and gear were loaded onto a series of tiller boats, barges and Stanley cargo boats. We made a short trip upriver to the base of the dam, where one by one the boats would be portaged over the dam by a local resident. In a surprisingly short amount of time we were all over and into the main lake. It was about a 20 minute ride to Ellen Island Camp. Upon arrival the staff took all of our non fishing gear up to to our cabin, and we took a few minutes to settle in. Below is a link to a video I shot describing the cabin we were in, and it was dynamite. I’ve been to my share of camps and this was one of the best in regards to the accommodations.

There are some beauty fish in this lake.Jeff had provided me copies of maps in advance of my arrival, but once we were settled in he asked us to join him at the dock, where he provided a further full color map of the top section of the lake. These maps are invaluable to anglers on their first trip to a lake. Jeff though did far better, he loaded us into his boat and took us on a tour of the area including showings us many of the spots marked on the map so it would help us with our bearings. Lady Evelyn is in my opinion a huge lake, and you could easily get turned around or fish unproductive areas if you didn’t have this type of resource.

Checking for the slot...So with our tour complete it was time to head out. We had our first fish in the boat about 5 minutes in, a nice eater sized walleye caught trolling a wind swept shore. I quickly released the fish, thinking there would be plenty more to come…a decision I’d come to regret! What I learned from talking to Jeff and the other long time guests, was that the most effective way to fish the area of the lake we were on, was to drift over large areas marked on the map, dragging jigs or similar along the bottom or just above the bottom, preferably in the weeds.

Ready for the trip!That presented two challenges for this trip. First off, while I love to jig, I prefer to jig defined structures like drop off, rocky area, islands etc, and not so much weeds. The second challenge is that like most trips, you have to fish a style that everyone in the group is comfortable with. Carolyn not only does she not fish much, but her interest level in learning to jig let alone drift jigging on the bottom was zero. Further, the idea of casting of any sort such as shore lines, weed tops etc, was not on the agenda either :). This trip was 90% about her and I getting away, disconnecting from busy life and reconnecting with each other, so I wasn’t in a position to push the point. So the bulk of our fishing was trolling areas, focusing in on wind swept locations. The conditions were great, if not a bit too much sun, but the wind was up, and darn right aggressive. When I did do some drifting the wind pushed me almost 2 mph in some instances!

Charlies DenSo I’ll disclose right now that while we did catch fish, we did not catch nearly the quantity that we should have, nor close to what the other guest we doing. Don’t allow our lack of success to be an indictment of the lake or the camp, this one is a winner. For those of you considering this camp, there are a few more key features for you. There is an excellent screened fish cleaning hut that is well equipped, but if you are not in the mood to fillet fish, not problem because the camp staff are happy to do it for you! The boats were 16 Lunds with 20hp 4 strokes, flat bottoms with fish finders. There is also a recreation building called Charlies Den that had a TV, games, bumper pool and comfy seating. Be prepared to fish a big lake! To put it in perspective I drive a 16 ft Princecraft with a 40 hp, and I was running about 25 mph. It took 20 minutes flat out to get to the camp from the dam, and about 25 more to get to the far end of the lake, and that’s just to top half of the lake. There is a whole other basin yet to explore that is at least as large.  I spoke with one guest who was up for his second year, and he shared his story that the first year he really didn’t get that many fish, but the second year he fished the lake the way it wanted to be fished, and had the luck you’d expect. A return to Lady Evelyn and Ellen Island Camp will have to occur so I can do the same, and experience the fishing this lake is known for.

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Two Reports Coming!

Complimentary hat given to all guests of Ellen Island Camp.

Complimentary hat given to all guests of Ellen Island Camp.

Well we just got back from our short visit to Ellen Island Camp, having just put the kids to bed and unpacked the cold food. I have some pictures to go through and some writing to you about my trip to Lady Evelyn Lake. I also have a long overdue report for my trip 5  years ago to Esnagami Wilderness Lodge! I’ll have both reports up in the next few days / week at the most. Stay tuned…

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Prepping Meals for Ellen Island Camp

 

Ready for the freezer, then next stop my belly....

Ready for the freezer, then next stop my belly….

This time next week Carolyn and I will be wrapping up our first of three days at Ellen Island Camp on Lady Evelyn Lake, hopefully already talking about our amazing catches. But if for some reason the fishing is tough, or the weather doesn’t cooperate, then the importance of quality meals becomes even more important than normal. I pride myself in ensuring that those who join in on my fishing trips experience above average meals, and this short two person trip will be no different. Ellen Island Camp is housekeeping only, so all the guests will be in the same situation of doing their own meals.

I’ve fished camps that were full American Plan, and no doubt it’s nice to start and end your day with a delicious served meal, and no dishes, but cooking for yourself has it’s advantages too. First of, you can control the menu, which means controlling costs as well. You also get to pick the times you want to eat based on the schedule of your group. For this short trip I have to plan 3 each of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. We’ll be doing 2 shore lunches, which is a must on any fishing trip, and the third lunch will be nice and easy BBQ hot dogs. Breakfast will include eggs, pancake and french toast, accompanied by either sausage or bacon, along with toast and hash browns. Our dinners will be home made burgers, ribs, and a nice filet mignon. Not bad fare if I do say so myself. So with the bulk of the meal prep done, now my attention turns to making sure all of the gear is in top shape. Below is a short video of me doing meal prep!

 

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Mercury Big Tiller – Quick Review

UnknownI like to troll. It’s one of my favourite types of fishing, so I do it a lot.  Now, years ago trolling would have meant driving around in the boat for hour upon hour, switching out lures every 15 minutes hoping that one of them would get in front of a hungry fish who rewarded me with a bite…sound familiar? Well all those years of fruitless trolling actually helped teach me the right way to troll. As I was talking to my family on one of our annual fishing trips (we’ve been going to the same location now for over 3 decades), it dawned on me that while we trolled countless miles of water, most of our fish were caught in very specific locations, year after year. And thus, my focus on trolling the right way was born. Trolling for me now takes into account weather, time of year, depth, structure, speed, wind, lure size, lure colour, distance from the boat… you get where I’m going. bigtillerpart-1.jpg__1000x750_q85_autocrop_replace_alpha-#fff_size_canvas_subsampling-2_upscale

So last year when I purchased my first new boat, I got a tiller because I loved to troll and I wanted that added control. This year I added to that control when I installed the Mercury Big Tiller on my 40hp engine, and it’s been great. I was excited for a few of its key features. First off, it is longer so as I troll I don’t have to reach back so far, which is easier on the body and much more comfortable to control. Next, came the power tilt which is located right at the end of the handle. In the stock design, you have to reach over the tiller to the main engine, on the opposite side you sit, to raise or lower the motor. This is fine when you are docked, but when you are either at speed, or a shoal pops up unexpectedly, you may not have time to raise the motor and to steer, and this solves both issues.

With Big TillerThe third, and arguably the most important feature, was speed control. The big tiller allows greater control of speed by allowing you to drop the rpm on your engine if you add on the rpm adjuster. This allows you to effectively increase or decrease your standard trolling speed, which can make all the difference. The other added benefit is that your gear shift is right up front on top, allowing you to put the engine into and out of gear with no difficulty, allowing you to “coast” for a time to control the speed. I have an electric trolling motor on the front as well, but in big waves or high wind, the added power of the tiller is often the ticket. While it was not an inexpensive add on, and I should probably have ordered it when I purchased the boat, I’m really pleased with this addition, as it makes both driving and fishing that much more enjoyable.

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Rapala Scatter Raps – My Love Hate Relationship

GLASS_BUCKLE_LOGOLures, lures and more lures! There are so many to choose from, and each manufacturer has there own versions, often very similar to others. Some lures are as effective today as when they were introduced decades ago, and every once in a while a new lure comes out that doesn’t just catch my eye because I’m itching to get out on the water, but because it really does have the potential to be really unique and effective. When the Scatter Rap was introduced a couple years ago, I was immediately intrigued by the potential. A lure that would dart from side to side, in addition to the traditional wabble that Rapala is known for. The idea that I could get dramatic changes in action simply by speeding the lure up and down.

All of the promos made it look amazing (as they should from a marketing standpoint), but the proof would be on the water. When I got my hands on my first few minnow and shad bodies, I was excited to try them out. It’s now been two years, and I’ve been using the Scatter Rap on most of my fishing adventures. Each time I use them they produce fish, and usually some of my better catches! So for that reason, I love them. They are great for when I’m trolling, where I can move my rod forward and back to change the speed, or I can speed the boat up or down, or just allow my trolling patterns to effect the action as I turn corners or use a zig zag pattern. On my last few fly in trips, the Scatter Rap Minnow has accounted for some of my better fish, while the lures lasted that is.

rapala-scatterrapminnowAnd that’s what brings us to the “hate” part? Well here goes. Where as most all of my other Rapala products are durable, taking a beating from fish, rocks etc, the Scatter Rap is not. The lip, the key feature on the lure that gives the action, is glued into the body and will literally fall out when put under duress. Now, I’m not talking heavy duress, I mean snapping it through a weed, bouncing it off a log, or heavens, having it smashed by a hungry Pike. I’ve now blown the lip out of over a  dozen lures. The first 4 I sent back, filling out forms, removing the hooks and mailing them back, but they came with a letter saying no further replacements. The effort alone would deter you from returning them. After 2 and a half years I continue to use them, but I have to say after I spent another $40 replacing three blown lips after my last trip, the “hate” may surpass the “love” soon.

I have to believe that I’m not the only angler who has experienced this, and it’s my hope that they find a way to maintain the key lip feature, but find a way to make it more durable because it has been an amazing lure to use.

UPDATE: If anyone knows a Rapala Rep, I’d be happy to discuss with them. Not trying to badmouth Rapala, if you saw my gear it couldn’t be further from the truth!

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Fly In Trip to Brace Lake Outfitters

Caught on a jig.

Caught on a jig.

This year our group once again planned on a remote fly-in fishing adventure in northern Ontario. This was our 5th trip together and we decided to try something a bit different. After 3 years of outpost fishing trips, we decided that a bit of electricity and indoor plumbing would be a nice treat. As is the usually case, after last year’s trip I began researching options for 2015. It was my hope we’d be landing lots of big fish like the one pictured here, my first Pike of the trip caught while jigging for some lunch.

Not exactly ideal conditions...

Not exactly ideal conditions…

Here is the list of what the group identified as the key elements of this year’s trip (great fishing for Pike and Walleye was a given):

  • Electricity
  • Running water with hot shower
  • Fly In destination
  • A lodge with a good reputation
  • A price point agreeable to the core group

With that in mind, I began my research on the internet, forums, fellow anglers, magazines, tv show, radio program, etc. The one that caught my eye, and popped up on numerous locations was that of Brace Lake Outfitters. This lodge had recently been re-opened by Teri and Kyle Polesky, had hosted the New Fly Fisher and Fishin Canada, and a friend of mine had been there the previous season and had enjoyed the fishing.

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Brace Lake as we come in for approach.

With that information in hand, I contacted the lodge. Any question of where we were going was washed away simply by the interaction I had with Teri. Her promptness, professionalism, attention to detail and enthusiasm for her business caught me right away, and I promptly moved into booking mode. There are things you can control on a fishing trip, and things you can’t (more on the latter coming), and I knew that working with Teri we’d be well covered from a planning standpoint.

Great boats!

Great boats!

I should mention at this point that we departed from our normal July / August fishing trip to being on the water for opening weekend, which was May 17th 2015. This is an important part of the trip because we knew it would be prime time for big post spawn fish, but that there was an element of risk with both May weather, and the question of if the ice would be off. Well the latter was answered early, the ice was off in plenty of time due to the great weather leading up to our trip. Interestingly it was great for the days after we left as well, but for the 5 days we were there, it was some of the roughest conditions we had experienced from a fishing perspective. A full on winter storm came in dumping 15 cm, 60km gusts, sleet, freezing rain, you name it. 4 of the 5 days we had sub zero temps without the wind. Two days the lodge pipes were frozen so we couldn’t enjoy the running water and hot showers. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you respond to it, and Kyle and Teri worked hard to make sure we made the best of it. Kyle was out first thing in the morning to shovel the boats (yes shovel), when he guided us he gave us a great shore lunch in pouring rain and sleet, and did a great job putting us in locations that we could still safely fish in.

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Departure day, of course the weather improved as well left…

Let’s look at things from a results perspective;

  • Flight service by Nakina Air Service was great.
  • Main lodge at Brace is spectacular
  • Cabins were a good size, well equipped, had private docks and great views
  • 18ft cedar strip boats are a dream to fish from, and the new 25hp mercury 4 strokes were quiet and reliable
  • Brace Lake was a good size to learn for our group, but the weather prevented us from getting to Meta and Ara lakes which adjoin it.
  • The fishing has real potential. I say this because the conditions really were extreme. We had a 20 degree temperature difference in less than 24 hours. Any lake will get shut down with that type of cold front. At one point I was using a lighter on my baitcaster because it had frozen solid, and you had to bust the ice out of the line guides after every few casts. We still managed to catch a lot of fish. Average walleye size was probably 20 inches, and we caught many fish in the 30-40 inch range, but did not crack the 40s on this trip. That being said, a group that stayed two days after us, when the weather warmed up caught more than 15 40inch pike in one afternoon, so there is no doubt it is a quality fishery.
The guys...

The guys…

All the planning in the world can’t do much to prevent extreme weather (though I’m glad we all packed the right gear for it), but at the same time the experience and memories are all the more rich because of these unique conditions. We saw enough of what Brace Lake has to offer that we’ll be back for round two, we just hope that the weather is as cooperative as the owners of Brace Lake Outfitters area.

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