Come Stay, Come See – Pack it all in?

I have to laugh a little.  The world, under digital “assault” and influence has become a bit silly in how it seeks recreation these days.  I’m referencing the “need everything/do everything that-can-be-fit-into-a-day” crowd who kindly call to find out more about making a reservation to stay here at Northwind Lodge.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about anything but I am marveling at what appears to me to be either a really high set of vacation expectations or a complete lack of common sense or a little of both.

We get calls from new guests who want to stay here at the lodge.  Many times, they are only willing to commit for two nights.  That’s fine – we are very happy to get them here to see what they’ve been missing for all this time.  But, in the reservation process, with knowing that Check In is usually 3:00 PM or later and Check-Out is 9 AM, two nights and about two days is not a lot of time.  Heck, you just get here and it’s time to go already.  (We hear that all the time.)

The interesting part is the initial phase of making the reservation.  Now everything is laid out in the website as to available activities here.  Nonetheless, I think they just need to hear a human say the activities roster on the phone.  As a result, they want to know what species of fish are in Jasper Lake (Large/smallmouth bass, sunfish, northerns, perch and some walleyes) plus they want to know what they are biting on (three weeks into the future – OK, we’ll guess), and if they will be catching fish (another guess – Most Certainly, Sir! – 6 to 10 hours).

Then, many need to know what the hiking options are (Blackstone/Secret Trail – 3 hours, Kawishiwi Falls Trail 1 -hour, Bass Lake Trail 3-hours) and how difficult/easy they are.  Then, they want to know what there is to do in Ely (Wolf Center – 3 hours, Bear Center- 3 hours, shopping in Ely – 3 hours).  Then they need to know what dining options there are in town (Italian – Sir G’s, Nouveau – Insula, Chocolate Moose,  American-Evergreen Restaurant, Rockwood, Steak House Gators Cheese Emporium,  Fast – Dairy Queen, Subway, and a few others I’m forgetting here.  Each restaurant will burn up about 2-3 hours of time.

After that, they need to know if they can fit in a Boundary Waters Day Canoe trip to an area that will have few people (Sure, how fast can you paddle?).  That’s another 6 hours minimum.  Many times, they will need us to rattle off all the entry points (Moose Lake, Snowbank Lake, Lake One, Ojibway Lake, Fall Lake, Wood Lake) that surround us for their consideration before deciding to pull the trigger on a two-night stay here at the lodge.

OK, at this point, knowing that it is two whole nights and about the equivalent of two daylight days, you may want to do the math and add up some of the hours.   Usually after that barrage of questions in making time-management decisions, we see people checking in, going to town to have dinner, and oversleeping the following morning by about 2 hours.  At about 11 AM, they are up and around saying they “usually don’t oversleep like this at home”.   Then, some head down to the lake and sit in the Adirondack chairs and look out across the water.  Others head out in a kayak and enjoy the day.  Then, they come in for a sandwich and later, check out our store and then take a nap.  Then, maybe a hike on the gravel road to Ojibway Lake and it’s time to grill a steak and have a beer or glass of wine.  Then a nap before bedtime.  Maybe sit by a fire at the beach.

After that, they wake up the next morning and have to check out at 9 AM.

I grew up right here and for 48 years have observed this going on for all these years.  In my opinion, two nights at a region like this is  great, but doesn’t quite hit the mark for the vast majority of vacationers.  In pre-trip decision making,  one needs to realize that in fresh air surrounded by the incredibly beautiful area called “Ely” and particularly at Northwind Lodge, the activity list usually gets chucked and time speeds up, even in a week long stay.

So, in making plans to run all over the state in a week-long whirlwind tour, give that some thought.  It’s not Wally World and Youtube and in reality,  you most likely won’t be getting a heck of a lot done in just two nights.

Stay a bit longer, plan on wasting a few of  your days snoring.  Then go paddle and hike and fish and shop and explore.

Birding With Lori at Northwind Lodge – Who Knew It Could Be So Much Fun!

Wilson's Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

As the summer winds down in the North Woods so does migratory bird watching. The Warblers are getting prepared for their southern decent to their winter home. As our group heads north from Illinois for our late summer fishing adventure, I may be fortunate enough to view a few birds before they are gone.

Two years ago we came up to Jasper Lake as usual, for our fun fishing frenzy. The first few days the Warbler were everywhere in the trees and shrub.  The Worm Eating Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and the Pine Warbler were all easy to spot. The next day GONE. I was disappointed to say the least. Over the winter months I perused the idea of heading to Jasper Lake and Northwind Lodge in the early summer when the Wood Warblers would be active and singing. So I called Joe and booked a cabin for mid June. My mom and I packed our field guides and binoculars and headed north, leaving the other three of our fishing party at home. Nope-no fishing this trip.

We were not disappointed. Not only could we bird watch taking short outings down Fernberg Trail (which is really a road), we birded right out our cabin window while eating breakfast. The small warblers would stop by for a few seconds on a branch or pine. The Redstart, Black and White, Yellow Rump, Blackburian, Chestnut Sided, Northern Parula, Cape May, Nashville, Yellow, Magnolia-warblers all. They abound in the North Woods. Not to mention the beautiful Purple Finch. With the cabins surrounded by trees there was never a dull moment during the day light hours. In the summer those hours are quite extensive. In fact I’m not sure if it ever truly got dark. In the evenings we would sit by the window and play cards, which would take us longer than normal due to the fact that if a bird landed, down would go the hand and up with the binoculars for a closer look at the small creatures.

I’ll try some imagery here: Imagine sitting on a cabin deck, bacon frying on the stove, coffee in hand, listening to the soft song of the woodland warbler. A creek is running in the background along with the calming sounds of the lake. A morning summer’s breeze is whistling through pines. Just sitting-waiting for a view of the songbird working its way through the trees.

Ok Birders have I sold you yet? I should also mention our other sighting:  The Common Loon with it’s sorrowful call, the Bittern (which I thought for an hour was a stick, the American Bald Eagle (mature and immature), the Commom Merganzer,  the White Throated Sparrow, the Song Sparrow nesting, the Veery,  the Downy Woodpecker, the Brown Thrasher, the White Crowned Sparrow, the Blue Heron and the Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher and Flycatchers of different varieties one being the Phoebe.

In a few weeks our fishing group will be heading north again for our FFF (Fun Fishing Frenzy) The warblers won’t be there but my memories of June will be. By the way I did fish a couple hours (literally) in June and pulled in a nice Large Mouth Bass and a 6 Northern Pike. I’m not allowed to add those to our FFF contest. HA!

This Excellent Blog Post Written by Lori Wilson

A Landing Net’s Life

My dad turned 83 years old yesterday and just to make the younger world feel diminished, I dragged him all the way down the Wood Lake portage and forced him to catch fish on Wood Lake for the day.  The portage is 210 rods long or .58 miles long and it was muddy and rugged after yesterday’s heavy rains which is par for the course on portages.  For an old guy with a fake knee and a double bypass some 15 years ago, he does pretty well.

Of course, I brought along my sidekick Delilah.   Once we hit the trail, she began her Wood Lake portage routine of blasting ahead at full speed,  turning off the trail into the woods and running parallel back along the trail only to come out behind me.  From that point, she snorts past me again, tongue flopping and nothing but a blurry streak of fur to do it repeatedly for the entire trail. I figure that she runs about three times the length of the trail every time we walk it.   In the back of my mind, I’m waiting for the moment she drives out a momma bear and cubs to meet me, but that hasn’t occured….yet.

As I walked the trail carrying my oars, our rods and my pack, I noted the fresh tracks in the mud – two people ahead of me.    As a boy, I was trained to not leave tracks – not in the figurative sense connected to symbolically saving the BWCA,  but instead, for real.   Hunting and trapping as a kid, we never wanted to be followed and the best way to avoid followers is to never leave tracks as best we could and we still do this to this day.  As a result, I observe this telltale “flaw” in others all the time and today’s tracks in front of me were no different.  I could tell both were men, in their late 30’s to early 40’s, weighing about 185 lbs. each.    They wore big floppy hats, mosquito head nets, blue, white and black, paddling gloves, and brand new long sleeve, nylon button-down shirts with brand new nylon, zip off pants.

As Delilah blasted silently down the portage, about 150 feet in front of me, up a hill and around a curve, I heard her let loose with the most ferocious, attack-dog bark her nine pound body could muster!  First I thought ” bear”  but that was immediately corrected.  There was a scream and panic as a voice-in-terror yelled, “Gggaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!  GET OUTTA HERE!  GO AWAY!!!! ” as Delilah stopped them in their tracks.  I tried to call her off, but she was unrelenting, so I picked up my pace to see two guys decked out in nylon shirts, zip-off pants, trail boots, blue-white-black paddling gloves, big hats and bug nets.  Delilah finally shut up as her job was done attacking the space aliens.  I chuckled and said when they passed, “I bet that scared the crap out of you!” to which one replied “Maybe a little…”

Delilah looked back at me all proud and alert for taking down the “aliens” with a good, solid whoopin’.  Then, she blasted down the portage once again.

When we hit the water, we endured a beautiful day with moderate catching but enough to keep up busy all day long.  In a pretty true test, we found that live bait and artificial lures ended up producing  about “neck and neck” .    There was no real, obvious gain in using live bait over lures.   Later in the day, the wind picked up and screamed from the west making for about 1.5 hours of tough rowing with a significant chop and some whitecaps.  I put together this video called “A Landing Net’s Life”  since the I had the camera stuck to the net.

Upon returning to the parking because not much wears Delilah out, she took off and chased a 70 foot long semi roaring past on the Fernberg Road.  The present road crew tried to catch her but she blew past them, returning to me and prompting a parking lot visit by a concerned, but laughing foreman looking for “a little brown dog that was chasing one of their semi’s down the new asphalt.”  Delilah stood up on the truck seat and smiled at him.

Good dog, Delilah.  Never give up.

My Big Fish at Northwind Lodge

This is a true fish story by Terry Rose, a longtime guest of Northwind Lodge.  Terry had a really great day a few summers ago and told this incredible story to me – and a lot of other people from what I can tell.  It’s a heck of a good story about how everything went right for once.    

Sheila and I just finished cleaning up after a great fish dinner in the cabin and I was kind of tired and thought I would just stay in and relax.  Todd and Ali went out past the narrows and it was so nice and calm on the water that I  thought, “What the heck?” – I will go out and throw the Spook around a little before it gets dark.  I went to my spot across from the cabin in the big lilly pad area.  I was in about 4 feet of water and working the Zara Spook across the top when there was a huge swell in the water behind it.  It looked like a submarine rising to a breach and then it’s mouth opened and the Spook was gone!   Before you knew it I was hanging on as I lost my grip on the reel handle and the turning handle spun over my knuckles, beating them up.  Keep in mind,  there was no real splash or anything in the water.   I could not see the fish but knew there was something really big on the line.  At first I thought it was just a good sized small mouth bass, but it just did not budge when I pulled on the rod, so I just maintained pressure with not even a millisecond of slack line.  The fish shot out in one direction taking my line around a lily pad stem and then line would cut through it like a hot knife through butter with the pad floating free.  Then, this unseen monster would shoot off to another pad and saw it off as well while lots of other weeds rose up from their tethers not surviving the strength of this gargantuan fish and the line he towed.

After shearing off weeds in various directions,  the fish finally found a clearing and actually started dragging the entire boat towards the north shore of the island on Jasper.    At this point, I just hung on some more hoping the line wouldn’t break and my reel’s drag would not fail.  About 15-20 minutes passed.  I finally got a look at him as he passed by the boat on another shorter run.   It was one of those looks where you take a big breath and then forget to breathe as the monster surfaced for the first time in many long, arduous minutes.  A thousand thoughts flew through my mind including “How am I going to net this?”, among others including, but not limited to, “OMG!”

On the shorter pass, I could tell he was about as tired as I was, but I was still able to get his head into my very small landing net.   It was really only his head up to the end of his gill covers that actually fit in the net.  I somehow managed to flip him over the gunwale into the boat and realized I had more than I could handle by myself!    At this point, I thought about just cutting the line and letting him go, but I knew that no one would believe me and it would just be another fish story.   Keeping my foot on the net to keep him from jumping out, I reached back and started the motor.  After going as fast as a 5 HP Honda four-stroke outboard would go, I arrived at the piers at Northwind Lodge.   Wouldn’t you know it?   There was not a soul around.  Nobody!!!!   I just wanted to get that monster back in the water before he croaked and, to my amazement, there was nobody at the beach on this beautiful day!   Not knowing the next move to make, I stood on the pier and yelled at the top of my lungs for help.

The man in the cottage across the lake road, Pat Webb  came down the hill as quick as he could.   He helped me measure and weigh my fish.  My major concern at this point was to get the hook out and release him.  As Pat held the mouth open, I looked inside and saw the lure just laying there in that big white cavern of a thousand, razor sharp teeth with those white and blood red gill edges at the bottom.   It appeared – to my surprise-  that the Spook was just laying in his mouth on the top of the gills and throat opening!    None, not even one,  of the big treble hooks on that good-sized Zara Spook were actually stuck in the fish!  After all that fighting, all that pulling and towing and slicing off lily pads and weeds with the Sufix 832 braided line on my reel not to mention the fish also actually towing me in my 14 foot aluminum boat out to deeper water, the fish was not hooked!  He simply would not let go of the lure.  It was a fight of him vs. me and the most stubborn won, apparently.

Wanting to get it back into the water,  I was forced to actually reach down inside with a 9″ Baker Hook-out tool and my hand had to cross the boundary of the fish’s outer most lips and into the “forbidden zone”  of its mouth.   Full knowing that touching any part of a northern pike’s mouth would result in a sudden, overriding “clamp-down” like an alligator snapping shut on a baby sheep, I was very careful to not touch anything as I gingerly reached in for that Spook.  It was very intense and felt like I was  diffusing the detonator on a nuke knowing that while extracting the device, touching any of the side would make the bomb blow taking out half of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and all of Northwind Lodge. The intensity of focus along with the adrenaline rush of seeing a fish THAT big that I managed to get in the boat when I was all alone was immense.   Amazingly to me, I was able to get the lure out without “setting off the veritable nuke” on my hand thereby not needing a trip to the ER for extreme, slime-infused, lacerations.

After I got the Spook out, we quickly placed the fish back in the water and with a little back and forth motion to get the water across his gills he perked right up and swam away with a big flick of his big tail.  Of course, Todd and Ali missed the whole thing.  The fish measured 46 inches and weighed approximately 28 pounds.  This was certainly an experience I will never forget.   My grandson Dylan always talks about it because he was only 48 inches tall at the time.

And, that big northern is still marauding fish much smaller than himself to this day in Jasper.  That was quite a day!

Fish Are Biting!

Reports have been coming in from Northwind Lodge guests.  While the week started out slow, it began to pick up tis pace yesterday as many Northwind Lodge guests caught small mouth and large mouth bass, bluegills, northern pike and perch.  We have several guests at the lodge and everybody has been eating fish in the last two days.  One guest caught an 18″ small mouth bass with several more reported in the 3 to 4 lb. range.  Another party ended up boating about 15 small and large- mouths  combined yesterday (June 15).  As I predicted from looking at the weather, the increasing barometric pressure of yesterday afternoon resulted in great catching action for most of the day but particularily from 3 PM to 9 PM.  One guest had the drag ripped out of his reel by a very large fish which subsequently broke his line and took his lure.  He said “aside from almost losing his rod, he didn’t have a chance.”   Who doesn’t love a violent fish attack?

Fire last night at the beach
Fire last night at the beach

Several guests ended fishing by supper time since they had a good day and wanted to kick back on the beach and enjoy a campfire.  That was evidenced by the Adirondack chairs circled around the fire pit.

Today, a whole bunch are heading over to Wood Lake in search of excellent walleye fishing in the BWCA.  Unfortunately, the  barometric pressure is dropping today, but any movement, even  downward can improve biting activity.   It’s when it sits steady and unbudging (hi or low) that makes fishing somewhat sluggish.

Bug Activity for this week at Northwind Lodge:  I saw a mosquito and killed it.  They are coming out at dusk a bit, but they aren’t here in full force by any means.  That makes sales of bug repellent kind of lousy, but it’s been really nice!

Temperature for this week:   During the day it has reached 80° F for about an hour – once.   At night it is dropping to 45º F or so.  Our cabin guests have all been complaining that they are sleeping too hard and it is tough to get out of bed.

Comments of the week thus far:  From three unrelated parties in three different cabins – “I really love my cabin!” & “We’re having a really great time!”

Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun
Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun

Ely MN Fishing Resorts – Northwind Lodge on Jasper Lake

When you stay at Northwind Lodge, you re probably going to go fishing for our great bass, northerns and sunfish in Jasper Lake.  It’s not unusual to catch 4-5 lb. small mouth bass and 5-6 lb. large mouths.   What can really make the day exciting is catching sunnies and having the northerns tear them off before they get into the boat.   They usually become pretty active in early June and sometimes the northerns can be ferocious and huge.

Jasper Lake is noted for it’s big weed beds and our fish love to hang our in them.   Everybody in in there along with the occasional big walleye cruising under cover.  But, some of our biggest fish have been landed in the shalllows using top water lures.  When the northern pike are hitting top water and bass spinners, it’s all you can do to NOT be fighting a fish.  The big ones are particularly hard on your equipment.   Lures aren’t cheap so we stock for sale a Finesse Leader that is a 30 lb, super fine leader that won’t chase away the other fish in the lake but gives you a greatly improved chance of landing the northern pike of a lifetime as well.

Finesse Leader
Finesse Leader from Red Rock at Northwind Lodge
Connie Wegisin
Connie W. 2014 – Jasper Lake

 

Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Neil S. with smallmouth bass
Neil S. with smallmouth bass off the dock