Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Mystery Tour February 7, 2011

A map of a small section of the Canadian and US border in lake country

I certainly appreciate all the readers who left comments on my previous post, a short while  ago, about me being a wilderness guide. One comment in particular prompted me to send an e-mail and the subsequent back and forth inspired yet another story from my cache for this era of my life. To reference the previous post of which I speak, it was from January 17th of this year, go HERE.
I did guide a few trips for my friend at Seagull Outfitters. He’d call, tell me the circumstances and I’d check my schedule. If I could help them out and make a few bucks, that was okay by me. One time in particular, they had need for someone to guide a family. 
The family was the Mom and Dad, the young son and the teen age daughter who had her boyfriend in tow. Mom wanted to see the sites, Dad wanted to fish. The young boy just wanted to have fun and the daughter wanted to be with her boyfriend and his raging hormones.

This is a photo from the camp on Saganagons Lake in the Quetico Wilderness circa 1989
L to R: Spadoman, hormone laden boyfriend, Dad, little guy and teen daughter, (Mom taking picture)

I got them over to a large campsite I knew of in the Quetico, a place with huge towering red pines, a nice clearing with a fabulous view of the lake, a  great fire pit and a fishing hole that I knew would produce a couple of meals.
One day on this trek, we were just sort of lazing around. I was out in a canoe, by myself, and trolling around with a big #5 red and white Daredevil spoon. I held the rod and reel over my left knee while the handle was under my right. I saw the tip bend down, hard and fast.
The famous red and white Daredevil lure has been used for trolling on inland lakes for many years

I had a big one hooked and on the line, and I started working the reel as best I could, but I needed one arm to paddle and steady the canoe. The teen and her beau were paddling around the island and I caught their attention. They came and grabbed a hold of the canoe and paddled me back to shore, all the while, I was fighting this monster of a fish.
We got to shore and I stepped out of the canoe and continued the fight for a good twenty minutes or so. I got a glimpse of the behemoth when it jumped out of the water and flashed in the bright sunlight. It was a big one all right, very big, and very heavy. I worked the rod and reel and used all the drag I could get out of that old Mitchell Garcia.

My rod and reel were very similar to this one

When I finally had the fish tired out and landed on the sandy beach, we took a few pictures and measured its length by putting my foot up against it. We were in the wilderness and didn’t have a ruler or a scale. When I got home, I measured the length of my foot and estimated the girth around the fattest part of the Northern Pike, the calculations say that it was right around 27 pounds, (that’s 12.25 Kilograms). This was extraordinary as the reel had ten pound test line.
That really impressed the people I was guiding, especially the Dad of the species as he was the one that wanted to fish. He did catch a few, but nothing more than a few nice eating size bass and walleye. We let the big Northern go after massaging it back to normal energy. When we let our hands off of it, it swam away faster than the proverbial speeding bullet.

This 22 year old photo of me with the biggest fish catch of my life, (so far)

Not all guide experiences are so successful in terms of heroic deeds or fishing success. I also can remember times when we couldn’t get a bite to save our lives. But I never got lost.
My guide experience continued while I was working at the YMCA Camp Menogyn. My main job there was to be a cook in the summer and the caretaker of the camps physical plant from September to May. The director knew my background and experience and utilized some of my talent for the outdoors guiding adult groups that the “Y” had provided programming to in the Spring and Fall.
There was one trip with seven participants and me as the guide. They were of all ages ranging from early twenties to a woman in her seventies. I can remember a few details about this particular trip, and one of them is that the Elder woman had brought new black leather high top boots.
The boots failed every test that was put in front of them. They had slippery soles on the rocks and branches found on the portage trails, they wouldn’t dry out when they got wet and they got wetter and wetter every time she got in or out of the canoe, and they caused blisters. I spent a lot of time making sure she didn’t fall and didn’t get foot rot.
There was a man on the trip that really took the cake. One morning, we were all packed up and ready to travel. The large Duluth packs were loaded into the canoes and we were just about to shove off. I heard a faint steady motorized or buzzing sound. It was a steady hum.
Now, you would think that it might be a sound from way off in the distance. After all, sound does carry across water and we were certainly in an area of literally hundreds of lakes. But the Boundary Waters and Quetico Parks rules do not allow motors of any kind. In fact, they don’t allow cans or bottles, any kind of mechanical devices like wheels or any kind of motor, gas or electric.
This is a typical canoe country pack called a Duluth Pack, originally from the Duluth Tent and Awning  Company, Duluth, MN

So, we’re standing there, ready to go, and I hear this sound. It is puzzling. I ask if others hear it. Some do, some don’t, but then when I describe it and we stretch our necks and ears, we all hear it.
I walk to the water’s edge. I listen. The sound is coming from far away, I think, then it sounds up close. I put my head right down near the water, like one would put his ear to the train tracks to hear the train rumbling on the steel.
I hear it more clearly now and I pinpoint the sound to a canoe. One of the canoes is actually buzzing, a low tone. I put my ear right on the aluminum body of each canoe until I found the one where the sound was coming from. 
“Who’s bags are loaded into this canoe?” I ask.
“Those are mine and Cora’s”, answers the man with the short beard and well tailored outdoor gear.
“The buzzing noise is coming from this canoe, from one of the bags. What have you got in there that might be making such a noise?” I ask.
It is then found out that in packing so much gear, food, clothing, equipment and doo dads, this guy had brought along his electric shaver. It had turned on, probably while pressing against some other item as everything is stuffed into these giant canvas packs.

A couple of old friends at a Boundary Waters emcampment many years ago

Of course we had to unload the canoe, find the bag that had the shaver in it, unpack the bag, turn off the shaver and repack, reload, etc etc etc.
“We’re burnin’ daylight” I proclaim. We left amidst giggles and some finger pointing towards the well groomed, expensively clad gear head. The jokes about his whiskers, or lack of them, continued throughout the rest of the trip.
Next, The Cache Bay Fiasco and The Moose Hunt, complete with the highly anticipated Moose dung stories for my friend Christopher.
Stay tuned, to be continued next Monday


Jeannie said...

The first part of your tale reminded me of my Dad fishing in the canoe - he held his pole the same way while paddling. And the pike! When my brother was 6 and I was 3, he caught a pike in the lake that was as tall as I was! The largest we ever knew came out of that little lake.

coldH2O said...


coldH2O said...

Oh yeah, I forgot: Joe, the New Guy, Jan says she'll enjoy the meal & we are both looking to get together with you & Mrs. Spadoman. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Duluth Pack said...

Great post. Thanks for mentioning good ol' Duluth Pack! Now 129 years young!

E said...

Looks like you have had quite a few fun adventure in the wilderness. And that is quite a catch.

Mel said...


That's one fine fish!
And one annoying shaver...LOL

And I can just imagine the fun folks had with you leading the way. LOL Always an adventure!

You stay safe, sir.
And feel better!
<-- workin on it myself

Anne said...

Ya, Duluth! : )

EG CameraGirl said...

That's a HUGE fish you caught! Imagine someone packing an electric razor and then causing all that unpacking and packing! I hope he was very embarrassed!

rebecca said...

you always have a great tale to spin....
so glad you have a shot of the catch of a life time!

you never cease to amaze me.

hope you are warm as you wait on your bride!

Noelle Clearwater said...

Hi Spadoman,
Wonderful tales as usual. You have a flare for storytelling. I thought I had head all the big fish stories that anyone could tell but yours was the best. It reminded me a bit of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea but with a much better outcome. Your description of the family you guided had me laughing. Altogether a wonderful story. The electric razor tale at the end was the tour de force! It was great talking to you the other day as well. Let's do it again some time.
Peace and Light,

rochambeau said...

It's cool how you were a guide, Spadoman. It illustrates how you are a TRUE survivor.
Did you eat your 27 lb. catch?
Thanks for your tale!

Unknown said...

I love these old pics! I have never caught a fish - not even a bitty one. Gotta do something about that! :-)

susanna said...

So many fond memories! I'd love to go on such a trip one day. Just reading about catching a fish and cooking it up over a fire has me daydreaming of hiking boots, tents, and waterproof matches. I'm impressed that you massaged (massaged?!) the big fish and let it go. Good on ya for doing that.

As for the electric shaver story...that had me grinning. When I was in the Cdn army reserves years ago, there was a very sweet girl who brought her electric blow dryer on a weekend exercise in the middle of nowhere. At another time, when we all were standing in morning formation in our fatigues, she showed up in a terry cloth bath towel. Oh Cindy... You couldn't help but like her. She was fun.

A Wild Thing said...

What a hoot, takes me back(way back) to my backpackin' days in the Colorado Rockies...there is nothin' as good as homemade biscuits and brook trout cooked over an open fire in a cast iron skillet...or coolin' off the tootsies in a freezing mountain stream after a long days hike!

Thanks for bringing back those memories...what fun adventures life does give us!

Thanks for stoppin' by, hope you're having a great time!