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. 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.