A Dusey of an adventure

by Mike Borger | January 1, 2013
Dusey River

In the summer of 1989, I paddled the Dusey River, a little known artery of the fabled Ogoki system. My memory of the trip is dim, but what sticks with me are the brook trout — dark backs, orange bellies, and so voracious they viewed mice as slow-swimming double burgers.

Recently, I discovered that Seven Lakes Wilderness Camps in Nakina operates a remote outpost on Dusey Lake, a large widening of the river. A quick call confirmed that the river still teemed with trout. The bonus is the bountiful walleye and oversized pike in the lake. “Most of my guests can’t tear themselves away from the easy fishing on the lake,” said camp owner Brad Slagel. “The trout really don’t get fished a lot.”

That was enough for me.

Luxury in the bush
As the floatplane roared northward, I spied lakes and rivers that had taken me days to reach with pack and paddle. It almost felt like cheating. Almost.

As the plane banked and began to descend, the outpost camp came into view. Nestled in a snug cove at the lake’s western end with the inflowing river directly opposite, it seemed an idyllic spot.

Joining me on this trip was my 5-year-old son, Brendan, along with my dad and Uncle Horst, a true family affair. After landing and unloading we were given a quick tour of the camp by the pilot. With everything in order, he wished us well and was soon winging his way southward. Just like that, we were alone in the wilderness. It felt good to be back.

My son excitedly raced around, while the rest of us checked out our new digs. Newly renovated, neat and clean, it seemed a perfect venue. The best feature of all, in my dad’s estimation, was an on-demand propane water heater. If one felt the need for an extended shower at the end of a long day, the hot water was there. The boats were 16-foot with swivel seats and smooth-running 9.9-hp outboards. There would be no roughing it on this trip.

Not your average trout
Our initial foray saw Brendan and I head to the east end of the lake to fish the river’s outlet, a 20-minute run from camp. In waders, we carefully picked our way downstream. Granite outcroppings compressed the river and funnelled it into a boiling cauldron of water that dropped in several violent steps before leading into a long stretch of riffles. Here and there, rocks created current breaks in the heavy water. This was where the trout were hiding.

After I flipped a spinner upstream and swung it down through the slack water behind a car-sized boulder, the trout hit hard, then turned and bolted downstream in the blink of an eye. With Brendan shouting encouragement, I worked it towards me and into the net. It was a brilliantly coloured 22-inch male brook trout.

With some help, Brendan caught several chunky trout, making our day a complete success.

Back at camp, we compared notes with my dad and uncle. The two wily old foxes had done well. Following the river for several kilometres upstream in the opposite direction, they’d fished the churning waters of Loten Falls. Anchored in a mid-river seam, they’d both hit pay dirt, landing several large brook trout each. Horst, who was my childhood angling mentor, led the way with a brilliantly coloured 4 1⁄2-pound male, caught on a worm trotted under a float. Sometimes the old ways are still the best.

Later in the week, using a boat cached at the end of the outlet rapids, we checked the waters farther downstream. Tying off to some alder branches, we hopped out and waded into position. With a flick of my wrist, I tossed the spinner across and up, dropping it just past a seam bordered by some nervous-looking water. As it fluttered through the tail-out, the take was decidedly nonchalant. I swung back hard, driving the hooks into the fish’s mouth. Steady pressure from the rod soon had the fish subdued in a shallow pool between two boulders. The speck was a heavy-bodied female of about 41⁄2 pounds. She was perfect.

Planting a seed
Almost forgotten amid the frenzied trout action were the walleye and pike. Using my graph, I discovered a well-defined channel bordered by shallow weed flats, where the river entered the lake. It was crawling with walleye. On our first exploratory trip, we backtrolled slowly along the edges with soft plastic minnows, hauling in one fat walleye after another. For me, it might have become old hat, but the excited squeals of my 5-year-old, as he caught fish after fish, made the great fishing even better.

We didn’t concentrate on pike, but did ascertain the presence of large gators. I stung a healthy 42-inch fish burning a bucktail along a deep-weed edge. It came in hot, pushing water behind my spinner and hammering it in an explosion of spray. This was the highlight of the trip for Brendan, as I quickly handed him my rod attached to the angry pike.

I had hoped this trip would instill a love of angling in my young son and it appeared that it had succeeded.

As we lounged on the dock at the end of our trip, waiting for the plane, Brendan seemed a little down.

“What’s up, buddy? You okay?” I asked.

“Daddy,” he said slowly, “when can we come back?”

Seven Lakes Wilderness Camps
P.O. Box 38
Nakina, ON P0T 2H0
715-953-4788 (summer) and
715-949-7777 (winter)

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