My paddle cut through the water like a sharp knife pushing the light Kevlar canoe along at a brisk pace. A strong south wind caught my back like a sail and tried to lift off my cap with each stroke. I was following my friend Eric Duffy and his 11 year old son Max in their 3 man canoe. Eric asked me to come along and be a spare tire in case of an emergency. “If something would happen to me I don’t want Max to end up bird food or bear bait.” Eric’s brother in law John Kadlec was on his first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, BWCA, as we paddled downhill with the wind.
Eric had been waiting to take Max along on this trip for three years but poor weather had denied him the perfect trip weather we had this year. I was happy to go along and be the spare tire but as Usual Eric had sweetened the pot talking about big Brook Trout! He had shown me pictures of big male brook trout with hooked jaws or kypes as well as fat female’s fish all in brilliant fall spawning colors.
We paddled through scenery off a post card until we hit the shoreline for one short portage to the only campsite on Eric’s secret brook trout lake. Eric knows much of the BWCA like the back of his hand; his family has a cabin across the road from the BWCA. It’s his love of fishing and all things wild and free that propel him along. Setting up camp was smooth as silk.
The fishing was all I could have asked for. Not only was the lake loaded with brook trout but their fight was there too. For me it’s the color of a spawning brook trout that rings my bell. I’ve never seen a fish as beautiful as a brook trout in spawning color. The only living creature to compare in beauty is a male wood duck.
Eric makes all of his freeze dried lightweight camping food at home from scratch. Of course it was only fitting that Max caught the biggest trout on this trip, a nearly 20 inch female brookie. I had a big male brookie follow right up to the boat to turn away at the last minute vanishing back into the crystal clear waters from whence it came.
The trip back was a fight against those same winds that sailed us to our destination 2 days earlier. There was no glide and slide against this bullying winds and whitecaps that fought us at every stroke as if we were paddling up hill. Worn out we arrived back at the outfitters camp and Eric and his group headed home for work and school. I planned on staying a little longer to enjoy the trip a bit more living in a tent and cooking overran open fire. I know Max is looking forward to next year’s return trip as much as I.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at email@example.com