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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 8-20-2014

by Mark Walters

Chippewa River Canoe Trip

Hello friends, 

This past week I took a two-day, 18-mile canoe trip in Rusk County on the Chippewa River. My goal was to get away from the real world and hopefully catch my first musky out of a canoe. As has become the norm, my 5-month-old kitten “Popcorn” was along for the adventure.

Sunday, August 17th
High 78, low 53

In case you are wondering my golden retriever “Fire” could not make the trip. Last week a coyote or possibly a pack of coyote’s killed six of my chickens. I put a load of buckshot in one of them but just in case there are more, Fire is home guarding the fort.

This adventure would begin on Highway 8 near Bruce, and end where the Chippewa River meets the Flambeau and my good friends Joe and Dawn Flater’s resort.

No matter how poor the musky action was, I would not allow myself to fish for any other species of fish on this trip. The last time I fished this stretch of the river, I was with my good buddy “Musky Joe” Flater and I caught a 46-inch musky and a couple of smaller ones. The lure I was using was a fire tiger “Topper Stopper” which is a top, water bait and I was told that the Topper Stopper was still hot, so I would live or die on it during this trip.

This stretch of the Chippewa has occasional cabins but is 100 percent forested and the entire afternoon I did not see another person.

Popcorn is a complete natural at this way of life and spends her day either sleeping underneath gear, or running up and down the gunnels of my canoe where it seems she could fall into the river at any second. Several times I had thoughts of my cute little kitten being gobbled up by a hungry musky if she fell in.

Today, I was hit by a couple of cold storms while paddling. Popcorn would seek shelter, I would paddle harder which kept me warm. In an attempt to hit the end of the daylight bite, I paddled until the sunset and never saw a musky.

I built a simple camp on a sandbar near a long and deep hole in the river and tried casting from shore with no luck.

This trip would be a simple one food with everything coming from my garden, which included salsa, green beans, and broccoli. As always I slept like a baby and dreamt of the big musky I was going to catch the next day.

Monday, August 11th 
High 81, low 55

What do I like about canoe/camping/fishing trips? I do not have to listen to a motor or hope it starts or buy gas! I do not have to trailer or register a canoe. I can get very close to fish and animals on the shoreline. Most of all I like the physical challenge. In ’87, I tried canoeing up the Mississippi River, in ‘91 I paddled the Wisconsin River, in ’92 I paddled the entire Fox and in ’94 I paddled the Chippewa from ten-miles above Glidden all the way to the Mississippi.

In each case, and dozens of others, I need the physical challenge that comes with traveling by canoe and carrying your home, fishing, or hunting gear. Someday I will not be able to fish for salmon on Lake Michigan out of my canoe or hunt for moose in Ontario, my body will not be able to take it. Until then, I will relish every moment.

Today I did not catch a musky and I did not care. I spoke with two fishermen who were both in 14-foot boats and it was obvious that they both loved this stretch of the Chippewa River.

Gale Smith lives in both Madison and in a camper near the “Chippewa”. I watched Gale catch 3 smallies while I was paddling by him. I was way down river from Gale when I heard him laughing and saw he had a good fish on and decided to paddle back up to him.

I watched Gale land a 20-inch smallmouth bass and my kitten crawled into his boat while we traded stories for a half an hour.

I learned a few tricks about catching musky and then paddled on down the river to Flater’s Resort, where the beer is always exceptionally tasty and the laughter and stories are abundant.

Get in a canoe! Sunset

THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Cedar Country Cooperative.