Last week I wrote about watching clouds in Canada. An outstanding week on Ontario’s Lake of the Woods deserves more than a weather report. Here is one more entry about the trip.

If I judged my LOTW adventures solely on the quality of the fishing, this year’s trip would be the best trip ever. We caught walleye every day and mixed the walleye catch with a smattering of northern pike, perch, and small-mouthed bass. Jack caught a lake trout, and several of us had strikes or follow-ups by muskies. On most trips we see one or two muskies the entire week. This year we may have seen two dozen. I caught the biggest fish in my life (a musky) with a reel that Clare had recently given me for my birthday, and that connection added to the specialness. 

Maybe the reason my friends and I caught more fish this year is because we are finally learning the water in the region and know the best places to fish. More likely it was dumb luck, and our trip coincided with the water temperatures warming enough to bring the fish into the shallows.  

Another factor to our success might be the addition of Victor to our fishing party. Victor is the son of Tom, one of the original members of our group. While only twenty years old, Victor knows twice as much about fishing as I do and is happy to share his knowledge if asked. This trip he introduced me to braided fishing line. Braided line, unlike monofilament and fluorocarbon, has no memory. It does not take on a spiral curl after being wrapped around the spool of my reel. With no curl, it comes off the reel more cleanly, and it does not wind itself around the tip of my rod. As a result, my casts travel farther, and I do not waste time dealing with twisted line. In the past, I’ve avoided braided line because it is stiffer than other options, but I now know that the added stiffness is more than offset by the improved ease of casting. 

This is more about fishing line than most people care to know, but is only a taste of the long discussions we had on the subject during our evening campfires. It reminds me of a time years ago when I visited my mom for Christmas. She hosted a party for her friends, at which I endured an hourlong debate about bowling balls. 

Three of the guys in our current group of fishermen have been making a May fishing trip for a long time. I don’t even know how long. I joined them about fifteen years ago. Now we are up to seven men (and three boats). We missed one year due to COVID, but otherwise have annually fished Ontario or northern Minnesota. Each year we improve our trip in small ways. This year, for example, we drove to Canada two days before the opening of walleye season. By heading up one day earlier than we had in the past, the checkpoint at the Canadian border was five vehicles deep instead of a hundred vehicles. Also we were able to boat into our campsite a full day before the season opened, and we were ready to fish first thing opening day.

Improving on our trip does not mean reducing the weight of our gear. If anything, our equipment list gets longer and longer. With motorboats for transportation, weight and volume are not much of a concern. One year we added a portable gazebo as a sheltered dining area. Another time we brought portable chairs for sitting around the campfire. This trip Jack added a small camping oven for baking. Rather than bringing in bread that sometimes got moldy by midweek, we baked fresh biscuits with our evening meals. Excursions by motorboat, when compared to my backpacking and canoe trips, are luxury living. 

Steven Simpson