Trip Report Quetico Provincial Park 2019

Young Engh

Active Member
Howdy Y'all. I figured I would post a report about an area in North America that needs MORE love in a time when many of our beloved fisheries need a little less attention and impact from anglers. The Quetico is a beautiful provincial park in Ontario just north of my homeland Minnesota. It borders the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or the "B-dub"). My friends and I try to get together every summer for a trip. In the past we have packrafted in the Bob Marshal Wilderness and even tried an ill-fated trip on the North Thompson River in BC (that's a different story). We originally planned a longer push trip but decided to settle for a more relaxed trip that focused on catching warm water species in the Quetico. Before our Quetico trip we stopped at Great Lakes Fly shop and John, the owner, was a massive help.

Route:
We put in on Seagull Lake off of the Gunflint Trail and paddled north to Cache Bay, where a ranger station/entry point is located on an island. We paddled north through Saganagons Lake (aka Shagnagons). There we had a layover day and fished around the epic lake. Didn't see a single person that whole day. We had the lake to ourselves, jumping around from island to island. We proceeded further north to the falls chain and stayed about 3 portages in on a lake in that area. We day tripped to the top of the falls chain and then headed back south, the same way we came. Simple out and back route. IF anyone wants to do this trip I can offer more specifics in a PM. The fishing was the best next to the falls. We used poppers on floaters and big streamers on sink tip and full sink lines. Note that you can take a ferry to skip a significant day of paddling to get to cache bay from Seagull lake but as young able-bodied men we decided to paddle that section and didn't regret saving the 200+ dollars. We ended the trip camping for a night on the North Shore of Lake Superior and getting donuts in Grand Marais (a must).

Fishing:
We caught Smallies, Rock Bass, Walleye, Northerns, and probably some others thrown in. I have never spent much time warm water fishing and it was a blast to have a multispecies trip compared to the usual trout that we have been catching on our trips. I found that the winning fly was a olive sparkle crayfish fly stripped slow beneath falls. If you go bring plenty of crayfish, in different colors. I imagine a rust colored crayfish would be killer. We cooked up a lot of walleye battered in shore lunch. The most memorable fish was one that got away. I was casting from a rock that was perched above some falls and saw a potentially 30+ inch northern absolutely demolish my crayfish fly. It flashed on its side and I lost my shit. After a 30 second fight he was gone and my leader had snapped below the loop. Mind you, this was a RIO Big Nasty leader and was supposed test up to 20lb. I was devastated but it left me with a want/need to pursue big northerns on the fly.

Anyway, it was an awesome trip and I hope that more people get out and experience the Quetico. We rarely saw more than 2 groups a day and apparently numbers of visitors to the park have dropped from 5k annually to 1k. So I'm hotspotting the Quetico. If you're planning a canoe trip to the BWCAW, consider the Quetico instead. Here are some pics:

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Attachments

Northern

It's all good.
WFF Supporter
Nice report! I haven't been to Quetico specifically, but fish up in NW Ontario every summer. Will be doing a fly-in trip about 200 mi north of there in August, to a lake where we're the only cabin, period. I bring a fly rod for the northerns! It's beautiful country - I love it up there.
You definitely want to pick up some wire leader or toothy critter bite tippet if you're targeting the pike!
 

NukeLDO

Active Member
Did BWCA years ago and loved it. Can't beat fresh walleye cheeks in batter! And yes, areas below the falls always seemed to be the most productive for smallmouth and walleye. The northerns seemed to like cruising the weed beds and rushes.
 

Young Engh

Active Member
@Northern a little story for ya: Everyone in my group used to be canoe guides at a summer camp in northern MN. As campers went on progressively longer trips throughout high school. 2 of us from this group went on a 27 day canoe trip in northern Ontario- paddling out of Pickle Lake. During the trip we found a cabin on a lake that was a fly-in fishing cabin. We checked it out, respectfully, and found a map that had spots around the lake for different species. Bays for northerns. Spots for walleye. We crashed on the beach and had a bonfire. The next morning we kept paddling and found some buoys that corresponded with the map. Sure enough we cast out and immediately got several walleye. Nothing like a mid-day fish fry when you’re hungry from paddling! I hope to return to a spot like that.

Thanks for the advice for chasin’ pike. I’ll have to pick up some wire leaders. The crazy thing about that big fish was the leader broke high and not close to the fly which is where I would expect a northern to break off from.
 

Greg Armstrong

Active Member
WFF Supporter
Not too long ago, and near to there is where I found out what Blackflies were all about.

I assume you do these trips after Blackfly “season”?
 

Young Engh

Active Member
@Greg Armstrong Yea black flies can be brutal. We didn’t have any issue with them on this trip which was in early August. However, if you weren’t in the tent at 8pm when the sun went down... good luck. Mosquitoes would descend on us in swarms. It was almost comical how bad they were at dusk. Don’t be caught cooking after sun down or you will be miserable.
 

Greg Armstrong

Active Member
WFF Supporter
@Greg Armstrong Yea black flies can be brutal. We didn’t have any issue with them on this trip which was in early August. However, if you weren’t in the tent at 8pm when the sun went down... good luck. Mosquitoes would descend on us in swarms. It was almost comical how bad they were at dusk. Don’t be caught cooking after sun down or you will be miserable.
It was early June when we got our personal introductions and became educated about Blackflies. Mosquitoes can be bothersome, but I’ll take them over those swarming Blackflies any day.
That looks like a magical place and trip, thanks for sharing. If I ever go I’ll wait until August though!
 

Northern

It's all good.
WFF Supporter
@Young Engh , I grew up in MN also, but haven't lived there since high school (a looong time ago.) I have siblings in Alexandria, so we do the Ontario trip most years. Pickle is north of Lake St. Joseph, I think? We fly into lakes in St Raphael PP, just south of St Joe, with Slate Falls Outfitters, out of Sioux Lookout. Truly great outfit if you ever want to do a fly in! Here's a northern bycatch while walleye fishing from up there. (Chill, fish handling police; northerns are an order of magnitude tougher than trout. Released unharmed.)
DSCN0093.JPG
 

cdnred

Active Member
Howdy Y'all. I figured I would post a report about an area in North America that needs MORE love in a time when many of our beloved fisheries need a little less attention and impact from anglers. The Quetico is a beautiful provincial park in Ontario just north of my homeland Minnesota. It borders the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or the "B-dub"). My friends and I try to get together every summer for a trip. In the past we have packrafted in the Bob Marshal Wilderness and even tried an ill-fated trip on the North Thompson River in BC (that's a different story). We originally planned a longer push trip but decided to settle for a more relaxed trip that focused on catching warm water species in the Quetico. Before our Quetico trip we stopped at Great Lakes Fly shop and John, the owner, was a massive help.

Route:
We put in on Seagull Lake off of the Gunflint Trail and paddled north to Cache Bay, where a ranger station/entry point is located on an island. We paddled north through Saganagons Lake (aka Shagnagons). There we had a layover day and fished around the epic lake. Didn't see a single person that whole day. We had the lake to ourselves, jumping around from island to island. We proceeded further north to the falls chain and stayed about 3 portages in on a lake in that area. We day tripped to the top of the falls chain and then headed back south, the same way we came. Simple out and back route. IF anyone wants to do this trip I can offer more specifics in a PM. The fishing was the best next to the falls. We used poppers on floaters and big streamers on sink tip and full sink lines. Note that you can take a ferry to skip a significant day of paddling to get to cache bay from Seagull lake but as young able-bodied men we decided to paddle that section and didn't regret saving the 200+ dollars. We ended the trip camping for a night on the North Shore of Lake Superior and getting donuts in Grand Marais (a must).

Fishing:
We caught Smallies, Rock Bass, Walleye, Northerns, and probably some others thrown in. I have never spent much time warm water fishing and it was a blast to have a multispecies trip compared to the usual trout that we have been catching on our trips. I found that the winning fly was a olive sparkle crayfish fly stripped slow beneath falls. If you go bring plenty of crayfish, in different colors. I imagine a rust colored crayfish would be killer. We cooked up a lot of walleye battered in shore lunch. The most memorable fish was one that got away. I was casting from a rock that was perched above some falls and saw a potentially 30+ inch northern absolutely demolish my crayfish fly. It flashed on its side and I lost my shit. After a 30 second fight he was gone and my leader had snapped below the loop. Mind you, this was a RIO Big Nasty leader and was supposed test up to 20lb. I was devastated but it left me with a want/need to pursue big northerns on the fly.

Anyway, it was an awesome trip and I hope that more people get out and experience the Quetico. We rarely saw more than 2 groups a day and apparently numbers of visitors to the park have dropped from 5k annually to 1k. So I'm hotspotting the Quetico. If you're planning a canoe trip to the BWCAW, consider the Quetico instead. Here are some pics:

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Looking at the fourth pic from the top, it looks like a canoe wrapped under the logs at the top of the rapids..?
 

Northern

It's all good.
WFF Supporter
Ouch! Didn't notice that before. Hopefully someone got a good story out of that and nothing worse.
 
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