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  • Tuesday August 10, 1999

    Peter Brewster writes:

    Otters, osprey and mayonnaise

     MILE 200, WINISK RIVER: Can you hear the rain?

     Right now, it's slanting down out of a pewter sky ... a sky where there is little division between atmosphere and water.

     I call it a Scottish night, because of my ancestry (and because the occasion may require a drop of the west coast single malt from Oban to soften its increasing chill).
    Blue asters, red canoe.
    -->to photo gallery

     We have arrived at mile 200, on schedule and in good shape, against an easterly headwind. It's been a stiff wind most of the day, and it brought with it this misty, steady downpour before abruptly turning southwest again.

     Which means that we have absolutely no clue what the weather will be like when we wake up tomorrow.

     Camp is on an island, where there is a resurgence of poplar amid the spruce and willow, and the view out the tent door is of a briskly-moving channel perhaps 300 yards wide.

     We have done about 20 miles today. There were no nocturnal bear visits, which had seemed a possibility last night after I found fresh tracks behind camp.

     Paddling along today, clam shells were evident along the shore in many spots. These could be the leftovers of a number of different animals. When I saw an otter watching us in customary heads-up pose I figured I'd found at least one of the culprits.

     The Winisk is rich in water-life, There is no shortage of clams, frogs are all along the shorelines, and the last pike I cleaned had been feasting on large crayfish.

     One e-mailer asked if we had seen any leopard frogs, as they have been scarce if not absent along the Winisk in the last decade. We believe that we have seen them, but on the upper river before we received that inquiry. So - sorry, no photos, but we are now on the lookout.

     There is again highly encouraging news from Toronto. The folks at CANOE are ecstatic over 14,500 hits IN ONE DAY - Monday - and it is our belief that the surge in interest in what is clearly a well-visited website was due to some front page coverage of this trip.

     We are still having battery power problems, and obviously on a grey, wet day such as this little solar is being collected, so we have not been able to call up the website and see what sort of page-one exposure we got. Suspicions here are that it may have been a photo of Dave about his evening bath. Anyone enlighten us?

     Anglers out there will have noted a lack of fishing news. Truth is, the river is in a lengthy stretch without much structure, and the last pickerel I caught was on Sunday - also the last time we saw fast water.

     Along the left hand shore there are many little points of gravel and rock, pushed into place by the ice in spring, and behind each one is a small area of slack water and few weeds.

     Each pocket seems to have a small pike or two, and they hit a lure readily but are very small. Their biggest enemy comes from above, as the ospreys and eagles can see them easily in the weedy shallows. We have watched more than one osprey come in for the kill.

     I am hoping for more brook trout in the lower river, but I am assuming that we have lost the pickerel. Bernie Cox of North Star Air and Canoe Frontier told me when we flew in the pickerel just fizzle out down the river.

     Too bad. They are willing and strong, and we still have mayonnaise left to accompany fried fish.


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