Early Season Backcountry Brookies

With resident trout season now wrapped up, this will be the first of a series of posts I’ll be writing as I work through a backlog of content from 2022. This particular trip happened in May of this year.

It’s been several years since my last backcountry trips. Although I had full intentions on returning to spend more time exploring and fishing in recent years, my plans were ultimately derailed by a major knee injury, a canoe partner moving away, COVID and… several other poor exuses.

With my knee repaired, rehabbed and stronger than ever – I decided to scrap the excuses and head out on my own solo backcountry adventure for the first time this May. This wouldn’t be your Average Joe’s first solo backcountry adventure though – but a 6 day, ~70 km loop (closer to 100 km with double carries and detours) with 12 portages, one being the longest in the park (5.5 km). The goal, aside from enjoying the scenery and peace and quiet, would be getting into some brookies.

You could definitely argue that I overdid it for my first solo trip – my family certainly thought so. But, what I lacked in experience, I made up for in (a lot of) planning and preparation. I poured over maps, created detailed day by day trip, time and meal plans – and attempted to perfect my gear/load as much as possible. However, try as I did, I simply could not find a way to cut it down enough to allow for single carries on the portages.

My route would be : Opeongo ➔ Proulx ➔ Big Crow ➔ Lavieille ➔ Dickson ➔ Opeongo (with a bunch of smaller lakes and rivers in between). With double carries, I would be covering a total of 30 km on the portages alone. I’d start off on a couple lakes that I visited in the past, continuing on to some of the more picturesque areas of the park, with some opportunities for casting a fly rod. Given I was doing this solo in May, when the water was still cold, I again opted to use Algonquin Outfitters’ water taxi service to bypass Lake Opeongo.

What follows is a fairly detailed recollection of my trip. It’s going to be a long one, so grab a cup of coffee before diving in.

Day 1: Opeongo to Big Crow

I left home early AM and arrived at the Algonquin Outfitters Opeongo access point plenty early to set off for the north arm of Lake Opeongo by 12:00 noon. I picked up a couple last minute items in the store while they strapped the canoe I rented (a 15′ Swift Solo Keewaydin) to the water taxi. As I had come to expect from previous backcountry trips, the weather was predictably cold and rainy on my first day. I think it’s a way for mother nature to prepare you for what’s to come… if you can survive and enjoy the first day, the rest of the trip will probably be a breeze!

Finally back to Algonquin, with predictably cold and rainy weather to start the trip.

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Algonquin: There and Back Again

Not a very original title, but this was the theme of our backcountry trip to Algonquin Provincial Park last weekend. As planned (almost), we headed out Thursday after work. The idea was to leave Mississauga before 4:00 pm to beat the worst of rush-hour traffic, but due to some last minute hang-ups at work, we didn’t end up leaving until after 6:00 pm. Off to a late start, but at least we still managed to avoid traffic.

I’ve been to Algonquin a couple times in the past and it really doesn’t get much easier as far as driving directions go. Highway 400 to Barrie, Highway 11 to Huntsville, Highway 60 into Algonquin. Seriously, it should be virtually impossible to screw this up. Well, thanks to modern technology (in the form of my buddy’s GPS), we actually managed to screw it up!

We took the scenic route thanks to an unreliable GPS

I don’t quite remember why we decided to keep following the GPS, or even turn it on in the first place. Perhaps it was the excitement or lack of concentration due to constant chattering during the car ride. Whatever the reason, this devilish device decided to take us more than an hour out of our way, directly south of Algonquin Park and eventually trying to turn us into a private driveway that it thought was a road. Since there are no entrances to Algonquin south of the park, we had no choice but to drive back the way we came. On the positive side, we had the opportunity to see at least a half dozen deer, which would turn out to be the most wildlife we observed the entire trip. However, it also meant that a would-be 3.5 hour trip turned into nearly 7 hours (if you count our stop for dinner)!

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Not Your Average Fish

Earlier this summer I took a camping trip with my 7 year old son and a group of friends to Mikisew Provincial Park, which is located just west of Algonquin Park. This was strictly a weekend getaway to do some camping and a bit of fishing with my son.

Normally I would not post this here, since this was not really a fly fishing trip.  The kids were spin fishing off the rocks for bass.  There were a couple bets going around for largest fish and silliest fish. Needless to say, the boy who caught this won the latter award.  The poor frog had sealed his lips around the barbed treble hook of a spoon.  Thankfully we were able to remove it release him with minimal injuries, but after spending several minutes trying to free the hook from this poor guy, it really shows you how much safer single barbless hooks are!