Fishing In The Backcountry - 4 Tips To Help You Select Your Tackle

Fishing has always been a major part of our camping experience. Its something that’s always weighed in when planning our route and usually sits as a pretty high priority.

One thing that I’m sure other anglers can relate to when camping in the backcountry is tackle condensing. When on a weekend trip at a cottage its really easy to take ALL your tackle and choose what you’ll use once you’re there. This is a luxury that isn’t realistic when you have to portage and are constantly on the move in a canoe.

This is something I’ve always struggled with. Growing up a bass angler, I have every lure for every condition in 3 different colours…its insane! If I didn’t spend my savings growing up on lures I may have already had enough to put a down payment on a house….okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but you can believe I have too much tackle for my own good.

So I write this to you from my own experience and heartache over the years trying to dial in my tackle game on interior camping trips. 

Choosing your tackle - A check list to keep your canoe light and your line tight:

1)     Target a species- The easiest way to lighten your load is to figure out what species your route offers. With this you can instantly reduce a large portion of your tackle and still sleep well at night knowing you’ll still have the appropriate hardware. For example, if you’re in a northern Ontario lake leave your duffle bag of largemouth soft plastics at home, they wont do you any good up there. 

2)     Bread-and-Butter Baits- This is something that I still seem to forget. Although fishing is a big part of the trip, its sometimes shadowed by the fact you have to make distance to reach your campsite each night. Unlike a weekend trip to the cottage, you wont be able to sit on a weed flat all day trying a grocery-list of different coloured jerks, cranks, spoons, jigs and plastics to figure out the perfect lure for the fish species you’re targeting. Realistically you’re going to be casting a single lure as you paddle from point A to point B. So in this case, pick a couple lures you know have a history of producing results and stick with them. If your line stays wet and you have confidence in your lure, you’ll most likely pull out a few fish on the way.

3)     Rod Selection- Rods that can break down will save you plenty of headaches when portaging and loading the canoe. A rod I recommend is a 6.6 medium-heavy action spinning rod because the size and stiffness is pretty versatile for fishing any Ontario river and lake system. A rod doesn’t need to be 300 dollars either, most of the rods I own are less than 100 and they have done a great job for me.  A brand I recommend is a Shakespear Ugly Stik, these guys can be broken down in fours or twos, are very durable, cheap and have great warranty.

4)     Plan-B- We’ve all been there…you’re using a lure that has been on fire all week and all of a sudden you’re snagged on a log 20’ deep or a snot rocket slashes and cuts you off.  Lures that you’re going into the trip with that you have a lot of confidence in, bring an extra or two, it really wont take up much room and it may save you from having a sad moment. A rule of thumb, ALWAYS bring a back-up spoon. This lure has been a staple for years and can catch you multiple species. Don’t be a rookie and go into the backcountry with one Little Cleo, break the bank and by a back-up.  

When I’m packing for a trip these are the rules I follow and it helps me keep in line and not go too crazy with the tackle. Another rule of thumb is that I try to fit all my tackle into one Tupperware container, this also restricts me from bringing all of Bass Pro Shop. 

Fish species lure checklist I follow when planning a trip into the backcountry:

Smallmouth bass: light coloured stickbaits, natural coloured tube jigs, jerkbait and poppers

Largemouth bass: dark coloured stickbaits, natural coloured flip n’ tubes, white spinnerbait and top water frog

Pike: silver, gold or bronze spoons and chartreuse spinnerbaits

Walleye: white jigs and silver spoons

Lake Trout: heavier white jigs and silver spoons

Brook Trout: mepps spinners and small spoons *Note: Early season - bait fish coloured Late season - bug coloured

 

Preparing for Ideal Conditions

Picture yourself, exploring your favourite lake. It’s a perfect day, the sun is shining, and you’ve been paddling all day. Maybe you caught a couple fish, took the perfect photo, you were so busy you probably didn’t notice you forgot one thing – sunscreen.

It’s the all too familiar feeling of coming back to your site after a long day of fun and having to feel that sting all night long trying to catch some z’s in your sleeping bag. Luckily, most of us only suffer from a medium rare shade of pink and get off pretty easily. However, some cases of sunburn can ruin a trip if they are serious enough.

Not only are sunburns a nasty way to ruin your trip, staying in the sun too long without being mindful can lead to heat stroke. Which is another good way to put yourself out of commission from all the fun you had planned for the day.

Your best bet on keeping a nasty sunburn from ruining your adventure is protecting yourself before they happen. Here are some of my favourite tips to make sure you can make the most of beautiful camping conditions – 

1. Bring sunscreen

I can’t stress this one enough. Putting on a layer of sunscreen before you head out for the day is a huge game changer.  Apply generously in the morning and again any time after you cool off in the lake. Also waterproof sunscreen is a great option to stay protected even when you’re sweating.

2. Drink plenty of water

Bringing a large water bottle with you on all of your journeys is a great way to make sure you stay on top of hydration. Try to drink about 2 liters of water per day in order to keep from feeling dizzy, sick, or even fainting.

Making sure you keep water in abundant supply on your campsite is an easy way to make sure everyone remembers to drink throughout the day. My personal favourite tool right now is the Platypus Gravityworks 4L Waterfilter. Check it out on the Cascade Designs website here: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/platypus/filtration/gravityworks-40l-filter/product

Platypus.jpg

3. Cover up – hat, shades, and sleeves

In the case you feel yourself already burning, covering up the area is your best bet from stopping the progression of the burn. Invest in some light long sleeve shirts or pants that you can bring camping with you feel a burn coming on. Hats and sunglasses are another great way to shield yourself from the sun that won’t make you sweat anymore than you already are.

4. Limit your exposure

As much as it sucks, sometimes you just have to step into the shade for a minute and let your body cool down. Taking a break every couple hours allows your group to avoid heat stroke.

5. Bring aloe

Sometimes, you try your best but you don’t succeed. Prepare for a slip up by bringing some soothing aloe vera gel. It’s a great addition to your first aid kit and will help cool down your skin to take away that familiar sting after a long day in the outdoors. Aloe can be found at your local drug store in many different varieties.

Sunshine sets the stage for a perfect weekend, but don’t let it ruin your fun. Be sure to follow these tips to make sure you maximize your fun in the sun! 

What To Bring On Your Camping Trip

If you are getting ready for your next camping trip its nice to have a list of essentials to go through. Every trip is going to be different and what you pack will change from time to time, but a good amount of these things will stick by your side throughout all of your trips. 

Inside the Tent:

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
  • Clothes (Warm & Cold)
  • Bathing Suit & Towel
  • Rain Gear
  • Lantern

Cooking:

  • Stove & Fuel
  • Pots and Pans
  • Plates, Cups, & Cutlery
  • Water Purification System
  • French Press or Coffee Filter System
  • Sharp Knife 
  • Spatula 
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Folding Grill

Technology:

  • Cell Phone
  • GPS
  • Battery Bank
  • Camera & Video Camera

Essentials:

  • Tent
  • Tarp 
  • Axe
  • Folding Saw
  • Flashlight or Head Lamp
  • Fire Starters
  • Matches or Lighters
  • Pocket knife
  • Rope
  • Water Bottle
  • First Aid Kit
  • Waterproof Canoe Bags
  • Bear Spray or Bangers

Canoe or Boat:

  • Canoe
  • Paddles
  • Life Jackets
  • Safety Kit
  • Patch System for boat
  • Foam Blocks and Straps for Car

Other:

  • Fishing Gear
  • Binoculars
  • Deck of Cards

Planning for Portages

     Properly planning your portages is essential for making or breaking your trip when out in the woods. As I usually say there are two different ways to pack for your trip. You either pack light and have easy portages, or you pack the more luxury items that provide greater comfortable on your trip, but also make your portages more difficult. Where this changes significantly is when you have either a lot of portages, or long portages. I personally enjoy bringing a cooler with me on some of my trips allowing me to pack better food. That being said I would not be planning on bringing a cooler if I knew that I had long portages on the trip. Another reason I like bringing a cooler is that it makes a perfect seat for the middle person in a canoe. Adding a third person to your canoe gives you advantages on portages as it is an extra set of hands. This person does not require you to pack many additional items and will provide an extra set of hands. When you add a forth person, you typically need to bring an additional tent and canoe, which would be the same efficiency as having two people. 

     You must take the time to think through each pack you will bring on a trip to effectively plan your portages. You should know how many packs you have, and if you will need to find a solution for other items like fishing rods or paddles. Items like rods and paddles can be easily secured to the canoe and do not add much extra weight to the person who is required to carry it. The person carrying the canoe can sometimes also take an extra bag depending on their experience. In many situations I have been able to carry both the bear barrel and canoe in one trip which significantly cuts down on how many trips you need to make. 

     The more portages you have, the lighter you want to pack. If they are all short portages or lift-overs then maybe you don't mind doing a few extra trips. If you have any long portages that go over 1-km you will really want to reduce how many trips you need to make. It is a good feeling when your planning pays off and you are able to complete portages with only one trip. It speeds up your trip significantly and also helps you to maintain your energy. 

Happy Camping!

Packing your Bear Barrel

I will never forget my first trip with a bear barrel, it was truly a game changer. Not only is this a helpful tool to keep your food safe from bears, it is also a great way to cut down on how much you have to carry. I use my bear barrel not only for food but for all of my other kitchen related supplies as well. The only caveat would be that you must be cautious about the weight of your pack or it will not be an easy one to carry. 

I recommend organizing your barrel by either weight, importance, or frequency of use. I usually put things like canned foods, cups, plates, fuel, stove, and others at the bottom. These are typically items you would only need once your on a site and they wont be damaged being in the bottom of the barrel. You might want to keep the snack foods up near the top so that you can dive in for a quick snack after a portage.

 

What’s in my Bear Barrel?

  • Axe & Folding Saw
  • Fire Starters
  • Pots & Pans
  • Stove & Fuel
  • Coffee Thermos with filter system
  • Mini folding grill for fires (sometimes I hang this on the outside of the barrel to save space)
  • Water Filter (tablets or systems)
  • Plates, Cups, & Cutlery
  • Dry Food (Bread, Canned Food, Jerky, Trail mix, PB, Tang, Noodles, etc)
  • Tin Foil
  • Cooking Oil
  • Rope

 

Hanging your Barrel:

It is also good to note the correct way hang your bear barrel. This is a topic that has been under debate by many people. The most important thing is to keep the pack away from your site when you are not using it. Whether you decide to hang it in a tree or secure it to the base of the tree, it will not make much of a difference. If a bear wants your barrel and its in a tree, its going to get it down. I will go over this in more depth in another post. 

Planning Your Next Interior Camping Trip?

If you are looking to plan your next interior camping trip, here are some points to consider for your trip

1. Length of Trip

The length of your trip will help you to determine the type of food you will pack. A two day trip allows you to bring things that spoil such as meat or eggs. A seven day trip would be difficult to keep your food from spoiling so you may decide to stick to dry and canned foods

2. Amount of Paddling

Knowing the total amount of paddling for the trip helps you to break down how much paddling you will have to do on any given day. Do you want to have to paddle everyday? Do you want to move to a new campsite each day? Or would you prefer to stay at one single campsite and do day trips each day. 

3. Number and Length of Portages

Portaging can be difficult and tiring. The more portaging or the longer the portages, the more difficult the trip, and the more effectively you need to pack. You want to avoid having to do multiple trips on each portage if you have many or long portages.

4. Do you need to make Reservations? 

Provincial Parks require you to make reservations. Most of the time you cannot reserve for a specific campsite but rather book for an entire lake. If there are only 3 campsites on a lake, the park will only allow 2-3 reservations so that there are not too many people on the lake. This is done so that you do not run into a situation where the lake is full and you cannot find a spot to camp. More and more parks are becoming available for booking these lakes online, however it is still easy to call in to reserve as well. You also want to make note to book well in advance. The longer you wait the less sites will be available. Crown Land is another alternative that allows you to go camping without reservations. The benefit being cost, and the risk being site availability. 

5. Are you Renting Equipment?

If you require renting a canoe and paddles, you ideally want to choose an access point that has this at the launch or at least close to the access point. One of the best parks that I have seen for this is Algonquin Provincial Park with outfitters directly on Canoe Lake and Opeongo Lake, as well an many other outfitters you pass on your way into the park.

6. Number of People & Canoes on Trip

The number of people on your trip will help you determine how many canoes you require. If you are able to fit 3 people in your canoe, it can really help you as it is an extra set of hands on portages that doesn't require you to bring another boat. That being said, it is likely also a bit more tippy in the canoe.