Why The Backcountry?

Pictured to my right is fishing partner, Andy Lewis. We just hiked the portage trail from Clearwater Lake back to Eagle, and it had been a long, adventurous day. Our senses were in overdrive as we felt hot, sweaty, thirsty and tired. Cold beer was less than ten steps away and we could already taste it.
This day was spent traveling to Caribou Lake to fish for smallmouth bass and pike with Gord. He accepted our invitation for a 5:30 breakfast featuring pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee and juice. My favorite sausage is produced by DCW that appears to be the leading name for collagen sausage casings. By 6:15 we motored away from the VBL dock and just less than two hours later we arrived at Caribou. Between the dock and Caribou were four lakes and four portage trails.
We fished the hell out of Caribou, making hundreds of casts to bass concentrated very close to shore and pike bunched up on a rock reef. We threw poppers, spinners, jigs, swimbaits, and shallow divers. It didn’t matter much to the fish; they hit nearly everything. We stopped only for a lunch break on shore. By 4:30 I was fished-out, and shortly thereafter my partners called it quits, too. Then the two hour return trip began. But what a day it had been.
So, why the backcountry? Caribou Lake is in a near-wilderness setting and is rarely visited. Prior to our trip only one other party fished this lake during the past two years, according to Gord. The fishing opportunity is exceptional, but so is the genuine solitude that this truly wild place offers.
Nearly 100 years ago, John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” That’s why I go to Caribou. And I’m grateful that Gord and Andy value this kind of experience as much as I do. We had a great time together.
Caribou Lake is the most remote portage lake available to VBL guests. But, there are two additional options that are easier to get to and offer good fishing, undeveloped shorelines and the potential for solitude. However, there is the chance of seeing other anglers. But, I usually have these lakes to myself when I fish them. Ask Gord about Clearwater and High Cliff for detailed info that could put you into the backcountry on your next trip to VBL.
A few words of caution…Backcountry trips take you into wild country. The trails are decent for the most part, but you have to pay attention to rocks, mud, tree limbs and slippery spots–especially if it’s been raining much. I wear very good boots and have never had a problem with my feet. Everything I need for such an outing usually fits into, or onto, my daypack. That way my hands are free and hiking is safer and easier. I’m in reasonably good shape and find the trails to be moderately challenging. Two weeks ago, I hiked the portage trail between Eagle and Clearwater six times. It always took me just under 20 minutes at a steady pace. Stick to Eagle Lake if you’re out-of-shape or don’t like hiking on terrain that will be challenging at times. And remember to apply insect repellent before you hit the trail.
Well, I hope you find this post helpful. Perhaps it will inspire you to give one of the portage lakes a try. These lakes offer nice alternative to Eagle and can spice-up a VBL fishing trip.

11 thoughts on “Why The Backcountry?

  1. This is a great report. The photo of the smallie with a "Banjo" minnow on it's lip is great too.
    Yes, Caribou Lake is worth the trip.

  2. Very nice report Professor and you are correct when making these trips you have to be prepared for some hiking and the unexpected specially when going on one of these with Gord you just never know what you might run into.

    I give you and Andy credit the reward can be GREAT but is alot of work doing one of these.
    I would recommend it to anyone looking for a day of anything can happen type of day….

  3. Well written post Professor! I have saved the bass head photo and am using it as the background on my computer. Nice colors on that bass. I agree with the sentiments on sticking to Eagle if you can't cut the mustard……but really most people could do it, just wear the proper footgear and don't walk too slow (the bugs will have a field day). September is probably the best time to do the trails…..cool weather, no bugs, the best fishing of the season!

  4. In case you were wondering, it was me who posted the anonymous comment.

    Chuck, you are right..that is a banjo minnow in the bass. They worked great!

  5. Great Post! I am really looking forward to making that trip next year!

    I don't suppose there are any primitive campsites back there somewhere, are there??

  6. Hi Dustin…Caribou is surrounded by what is considered Crown Land, that is, government owned. A Crown Land Camping Permit may be required. Primitve camping is the only kind on Caribou.

  7. Hi Joe, What a great post!! I'm at about 2000 miles away from VBL and you make it feel like I'm there. I have been coming to Eagle for 38 years now. I tell whoever will listen that I can remember when I was taller than Gord.I'll be back in September and I'm counting the days. I remember when you got me to turn the corner from Muskie only to some walleyes. Now it's about half and half. My back thanks you.

    Be well…….Bill

  8. Good to hear from you, Bill. I would expect that the September walleye fishing will be outstanding. When will you be at VBL?

  9. Hi again Joe,
    We'll be at VBL on September 4th. It seems like so far away. I wish I could make more than one trip a year.
    Be well, Bill

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