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Greg Koelker


Some time back a diehard fisherman friend of mine, upon hearing of our plans for another fishing trip to Canada (we have made the trip over 20 times), exclaimed, “Hey, I can catch walleyes and perch and big pike right here! Why would I go all the way to Canada?” Fair question I guess.

OK, let me count the whys: the anticipation and the preparation are fun in and of themselves; the journey north is familiar but always interesting; the border crossings are always about wondering what will happen this time; time spent away from life’s regular responsibilities with family and old friends is precious; the stories and memories sustain all year long; we never tire of the scenery; the bears, moose, deer, eagles, loons, beavers, otters we see; the meals; the cool nights with loons singing; the long, beautiful days on the lake; the hunt for hungry perch and/or feisty small mouth; often when I mention fishing in Canada to someone, there is this look — maybe awe and/or wonder that comes on their face at the prospect; we know lots of people who travel into Canada every year, so it isn’t just us; and finally even people who are retired take vacations — heck some sell their homes, buy a motor home and stay permanently on vacation.

Anyway, Ellen and I and her sister Barb and Barb’s husband Chuck Wright, Gordy Hierlmeier, and for the first time ever, Ron Von Glahn, caravaned up to Ontario and Cedar Lake and Keystone Lodge. (Unfortunately, our friend Curt Christensen had to bow out due taking a terrible fall on a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he broke his right arm and left leg. He is recovering in a rehab facility in Rhinelander after several surgeries.)

There were those — including Ellen — who were concerned about Ellen making that long trip (13 hours each way). She enjoyed the ride and the time spent with Barb and Chuck and our friends. At the lodge, our hosts Leanne and Dave Frostiak, were always checking in on what they could do to make her more comfortable, and she did great. El enjoyed the sights, food, and time on the water. Ellen’s first fish ever caught on her new Zebco Bullet reel and ultra-light rod was a 21-inch walleye. She fought an 18.5-inch small mouth into the net. It weighed 4.4 pounds; she released it.

We ate well as usual with numerous fish fries, grilled pork tenderloin, lots of cookies, salads, snacks, and farmer breakfasts. El even had a whiskey Coke a couple of evenings at cocktail hour.

Our weather was too nice. We had mostly clear skies all week along with warm afternoons, including getting up to near 100 one day. Unfortunately, the nice weather conjured up fish fly hatches almost every day. That said, though the fish were often literally stuffed to the gills with flies and small leeches. Still they were greedy enough to bite on the “meat” provided by our Amish nightcrawlers. We have seen some pretty rough days on Cedar Lake in past years, so it was a pleasure to glide over the nearly glass-like lake as we motored around.

Gordy gave Von the royal guide treatment, getting him up early and getting him on the walleyes in the morning. Ron said he never caught so many fish, let alone big walleyes. He said he must have caught and released over 100 walleyes early one morning (while we were sleeping in — hey, remember VA-CA-TION). Von has been ending his sentences with “Eh!” ever since.

We had a good time on the way up, while at the lodge, and on the way home. The only sketchy weather we had was when we drove north through Duluth/Superior. We could see dark clouds gathering to the north from way back in Wisconsin. There was lightning and an occasional drop of rain. At Duluth, all heck broke loose as we drove up the steep hill out of the lake basin. The temperature dropped 50 degrees in a matter of minutes in the downpour. When we turned north on Hwy. 53, we managed to drive out of the worst of it and then back into sunny skies, not knowing what we missed out on.

Earlier that Friday on the way north, we ran into our nephew and niece Clay and Holly Kirschbaum and their daughter Ava at a Rice Lake Kwik Trip. Clay was planning on running in Grandma’s Marathon the next day in Duluth. I hear tell they got to Duluth just in time to experience the 10-inch deluge that made the national news that evening. From the air conditioned comfort of our hotel room in International Falls that evening, we watched vehicles driving through headlight high water and people walking in thigh deep torrents on ABC News. I read where the West Duluth Menard’s (that we drove by earlier) was flooded with about two feet of water in the store’s garden center and about four feet of standing water outside the doors. Employees had to sandbag the doors, but they never closed, helping many get the stuff they needed to recover! Clay ran the marathon the next day in chilly 53 degree temps!

Until next time, get out — we missed some serious storms here at home. One of our ancient majestic pines was struck by lightning on Tuesday of that week. We found the power knocked out in the garage Friday night, so the freezer was thawed out, our satellite system was fried along with our big screen TV. There were long, thick strips of pine thrown as far away from the tree as 100 yards. Still the air was still on in the house and the house appears unscathed. Finally, the search for Scout’s successor continues. Life is good. Enjoy.



Greg and his wife Ellen Koelker are retired and live on Grouse Hollow Farm near Stoddard. He is chairman of the Vernon County Chapter of Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

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