Not talked about in magazines or highlighted on outdoor fishing shows is a style of fishing foreign to most. The method involves lots of planning, mud, bugs and a little bit of work. For those who have fished the Boundary Waters Canoe Area or Quetico, you know exactly what I am talking about. And while it's not for everyone, anglers who accept the challenge are rewarded beyond comprehension. It's called Adventure Fishing.
It's probably easier to start by explaining what Adventure Fishing is not. First, it is not a walk out on a dock, jump in a boat fishing experience. It doesn't involve fiberglass boats that burn the water up going a million miles an hour. Electronics are limited to what you can carry on your back. Seats with back rests are rare and if you are looking for a cement landing with a dock hand, forget it. Contour maps are impossible to come by because most of these lakes have never been charted. And, last time I checked, it was hard to come by heated leather seats on an all terrain vehicle (ATV). In short, all the conveniences and comforts we grow dependent on, are not practical in this world.
Adventure Fishing does mean getting away from the crowds by going places others don't. There is no beaten path and getting there is most of the fun. Travel down less than desirable logging roads is often mandatory and while most people think of boat trailers to get their rig from shore to water, that's not the case when it comes to this style of fishing. A trailer gets you so far, most often hand carrying the boat is the only way to get into the lake. And don't forget a sharp chainsaw because down trees wreck havoc on any primitive access trails.
The mode of fishing screams of self reliance, being challenged and lots of pre planning. If you are a beginner, it means putting yourself in areas where you're bound to see action and quickly hone your skills. If you are well seasoned, Adventure Fishing will provide you the ultimate test. The more experience you have, the more efficient you become the better angler you will be.
Forward thinking is the corner stone to this style of angling. Typically trips are planned well in advance, long before the sun ever sets. Packing lists are a must and local knowledge is invaluable. Adventure fishermen add biologists, conservation officers and bait shop owners to their Christmas card list. They listen at the pub and are known to buy a local a drink or two. If there is a farmer who needs some chores done, these guys step up to the plate. You never know who will give up a little info that could lead to a fishing mecca.
Another important aspect of Adventure Fishing is hard work. People who are out of their comfort zone when they sweat had better stick to the over fished, boat crowded lakes with cement landings. The process in getting to these lakes will involve sun, sweat, bugs and the occasional bad word when things don't go as planned. Uncomfortable on an ATV? Better stay in the truck the AC cranked. In the end, this is untapped wilderness we are talking about. Getting there involves work. Productive waters will be found using raw determination, improvisation and lady luck.
As an example of what Adventure Fishing can bring, let me recap a trip from the recent past. Last spring while guiding, I found myself in a bad situation after traveling two hours on a logging road headed to a distant lake. We were loaded to the gills with gear and two boats. One was being carried upside down on an overhead rack and the other turned backwards in the bed of my truck (that's a common mode of carrying boats in our remote region). On the final leg of our journey, we hit a sink hole that jarred everyone and (unannounced to us) punched the skag of a motor through the bottom of our boat.
Once on the lake, I couldn't help but notice ankle deep water, a floating cooler and gas tank. After a little investigation, we uncovered a 4 inch gash in the bottom of the boat. Fortunately for us, we had a smoker who was in the beginning stages of quitting. So what did we do? We improvised. He chewed through a couple of packs of gum which was used to fill the hole. With a little duct tape and some TLC, we sealed it and went fishing. In the end, we landed over 200 walleyes giving us one of the most memorable experiences of the season. It wouldn't have been possible without some major perseverance, a little ingenuity and the desire to keep going despite short term challenges. Adventure Fishing is finding away to get it done when resources are limited.
To further explain the concept, I have a lake I routinely guide to and easily in my top 3 of all time. I am an addict when it comes to this lake, because the walleyes are just as numerous as they are large. On a typical day of fishing, an average walleye is 23" and as fat as a football.
Experience it once, and you are hooked for life. It consistently produces some the highest quality walleyes of this region, if not North America. Put simply, the fishery is nothing short of phenomenal. But you're not going to access it using a traditional means. There are no boat landings, docks or shorelines littered with cabins. Surrounding the lake is a mile and a half of pristine wilderness where no motorized vehicles are allowed. That reason alone keeps 98% of the population away. People either can't or don't want to walk that far. Everything you bring must be carried on your back or pushed in a cart. My packing list consists of my Duluthpak, rod and reel and a tackle box big enough to fit in my front pocket.
I could go on with countless examples of lake and fishing trips that are seared into my brain forever. Trips that have landed mind staggering numbers of fish. Adventures that have rewarded this angler with trophies most people dream of. This is not hype, this is reality. Hard to believe there are still fisheries like this on earth. Easy to get to? No. Worth it? Absolutely!
Adventure fishing. It is for everyone? No. It's for those who wish to experience remoteness, challenge and a desire to catch more fish than one can dream of. It's for anglers who want to test their skills and get away from the crowd. It requires thought, and perseverance. Things don't always goes as planned, but when they do, you'll have memories of a life time and the pictures to prove it.