Manyu and I made it home from France the evening before I was supposed to leave for Canada. We arrived jet lagged and tired, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to switch gears, unpack, repack, purchase an Ontario fishing license, restock my tackle box, and complete the mandatory ArriveCAN form by the next morning. I emailed my fishing companions to tell them to go without me. They immediately replied that they’d delay our departure by 24 hours, and I was in. 

Even though entering Canada by car was going to be much easier than entering the US by plane after testing positive for COVID, I was a little bit worried about the border crossing. I was right to be. 

The quarter mile separating International Falls, Minnesota from Fort Frances, Ontario is ugly, maybe one of the ugliest places I have ever been. The airspace is a dangling mess of electrical wires and elevated pipelines. The skyline is dominated by a large paper mill (or maybe it is a wood chip processing plant). The stretch of the Rainy River directly under the bridge is a series of turbulent death traps created by a half dozen seemingly random spillways. Vehicles entering Canada from the US must wind through a hundred yards of prefab barriers. First timers to the border might assume these vertical concrete slabs are in place as preparation for needed road repairs, but seasoned travelers know they have been in the exact same spots for over twenty years. A single lane of traffic widens into three right at the customs building. Drivers guess which lane is moving the fastest and pull into that one. Once committed, inevitably the pickup truck two vehicles ahead gets red flagged, and the lane thought to be speedy comes to a dead stop.

Because we make the trip into Ontario annually, my friends and I assume we know all of the items not allowed into Canada. Usually we get it wrong, and this year we were wrong on two counts. For the first time, fresh eggs were banned due to the outbreak of avian flu. Additionally dead minnows were not allowed, but even the customs agent could not tell us the reason for that. Live bait has long been prohibited as a way to keep invasive species out of Canadian waters, but now dead bait is also forbidden. All I can figure is that even a dead fish might carry viable roe. 

A week ago I was not going to write about our Canadian border crossing. Better I focus on the trip itself – the fishing, my time with a group of friends I see only once a year, our excellent campsite. Now that I have started writing about the crossing, I realize I can’t even tell the story in a single blog entry. This actually makes sense, as it felt like we spent the better part of an afternoon trying to get into Canada. Please come back Monday to find out how we disposed of our contraband.

Steven Simpson