For as long as I can remember, I've been spending Thanksgiving weekend camping in the boreal forest of Northwestern Ontario with family and friends. It’s an annual trip that I look forward to each and every year and this year surely did not disappoint.
Cedar Narrows Road can be found off highway 502 which is East of Fort Frances and runs north to Dryden. Cedar Narrows was originally built to gain access to the wood that fueled the pulp and paper industry in the region. There are too many secondary roads off Cedar Narrows to mention which not only provided loggers access to the wood they were harvesting, but also provide access to lakes and prime hunting habitat.
It would be safe to say that if you're from the Rainy River District and enjoy hunting and fishing, you've been on the Cedar Narrows Road or at very least have knowledge of it. This year camp was set up on a secondary road off Cedar Narrows close to highway 502 and I couldn't think of a better place to call home for the weekend.
My wife, son and I arrived at the secondary road off Cedar at about 8:30 PM on Friday night. I
immediately knew we were close when the darkness was filled with the aroma of a jack pine bonfire and as we rounded the final corner, the bonfire glow came to view and camp took shape. Five camper trailers in a semi-circle with a huge fire in the middle...awesome!! We we
re instantly greeted by my parents and close friends and I felt like I was 16 years old again...I don't think anything could wipe the smile from my face.
My Thanksgiving weekend experience has certainly evolved over the last 25 years. A once hardcore moose hunter, these days I'm just as satisfied enjoying the fall fishing. The plan was to target walleyes the next morning and I selected a lake that I haven't fished but one time, 20 years ago through the ice.
We woke up Saturday morning to cool temperatures in the lower 30's. The forecast was expecting highs in the mid 40's and West winds at 20 mph. Given the less than favorable conditions, my son opted to stay and play in camp with grandma and the other kids while my wife and dad decided to join me.
After a nice breakfast and couple cups of hot coffee, we loaded up and started the 20 mile trek down Cedar Narrows Road. As we slowly made our way north, we saw a sudden movement of black coming from a stand of birch on the driver's side. If you've never seen a moose up close, let’s just say that it’s an experience. A nice young bull moose emerged from the forest and walked down the road in front of us for nearly 100 yards before being swallowed by the forest it came from. We managed to get a couple shots with the camera and watching that bull disappear into the wilderness left us all on a high...that majestic animal made my weekend the first 20 minutes we left camp.
We arrived at our destination and found the water temps to be in the mid 50's. I immediately thought some fish should be holding deep on main lake reefs. We slowly made our way down the lake as I scoured for something obvious all the while soaking up the beauty of the brilliant fall colors. Mother Nature really doled out the weather and over the course of 3 hours we experienced blue skies, rain, ice pellets and some pretty nasty wind gusts...typical fall weather for Northwestern Ontario.
We began our search on a main lake reef and marked a few fish holding in 19-22 feet of water. We quickly boated a couple nice eater walleyes on Northland Fireball Jigs tipped with minnows. The bite slowed, so we decided to try a bottleneck that separates two main basins of the lake...again, an obvious spot with current. We started bouncing jigs in 20 feet of water and quickly found ourselves in 12 feet. Thinking we were too shallow, I started to turn back for deep water just as my wife swung a nice walleye into the boat. We caught a bunch more nice walleyes there relating to a weed line in 9-14 feet. As an added bonus, we also boated a couple dandy smallmouth. This was just another example of how important it is to keep an open mind on the water. Walleye in the weeds during the second week of October? Who would have thought?
A highlight of the weekend each year are definitely the meals we share. All 18 of us sat near the fire on Sunday night, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal in a spot some would not consider so traditional. It’s hard not to reflect while sitting there listening to the laughs and seeing the smiles on the kids. I'm truly thankful for my family, great friends and their health...and of course, the memories.
I hope all my fellow Canadians spent quality time with their loved ones and I wish the same next month for my friends south of the border.
Play safe and see ya on the water.