Monday, November 9, 2009

Notes On Talk With Bob O’Hara

We met at his house in St Louis Park which is a museum of far north canoe trips. Photos, posters, seal skin models of kayaks, carved soapstone by Innuit natives. Books and books and books on canoeing.

Short version: he’s the go-to guy if you want info on canoe trips in northern Canada. He loves to tell stories and he loves to help.

General Info:

  • Get sat phone delv’d here. Use only Iridium. He’s used GMPCS several times for rentals. If you need to pay extra to get it delv’d a few days before you leave, it’s worth it.
  • He thinks PakCanoes are the wave of the future as far as fly-in canoe trips. The Canadians changed the law recently and now pilots can’t strap canoes on the outside of planes if they have passengers inside. So a folding boat can fit inside the plane and you won’t have to pay for two trips. He has two 17’ and they “work well” the 3 times he’s used them. There is another brand made in Norway and that is also good. He might be willing to rent his boat to us if he is not using it next summer. He recommends the spray cover for the boat. Doesn’t know any company currently that rents them.
  • He uses a bug tent from REI and the Cook lean 3 tent. But he loves barren lands canoeing and so needs the Cook tent for shelter from the wind. The Cook tents are hot if the sun is out. I told him that we had the MEC bug tarp and he thought that would be OK.
  • Venture Air is the only company to use out of Thompson
  • Plan your trip so you can buy bear bangers and bear spray in Winnipeg. You can take a shotgun into Canada – he’s done it 3x – but you need to prove you’ve had a gun safety course. Polar bears are more of a danger for rivers running into the Arctic and far north Hudson Bay. Not so much around Churchill and south.
  • Doesn’t think anyone in Thompson rents good canoes.
  • He uses small plastic barrels and fits two of them in a big Duluth pack
  • It’s a good idea to practice whitewater skills. Practice your bow strokes before you go. “I’m at expert at lining. But I need to polish my whitewater skills. I think the Canoe U classes are great.”

Info on town of Churchill

  • Churchill is a “nice town”
  • Several good places to stay – Churchill Inn, Aurora ($35-45/nite). Gypsy is “the only place to eat.”
  • Plan to spend an extra day in Churchill to go on a whale tour
  • Jack Bastone is the guy to hire if you want a shuttle
  • Plan to take the train on Thursday from Churchill. This will allow you get back to TC by Sunday nite.

Deer River

  • They ran the Deer this June 22nd. It never got above 37 degrees and rained a lot. There was ice on all the lakes and the river was so high, they couldn't;t use the gravel bars to camp and had to camp in the brush. “It was bad.” They planned on canoeing for 6 days but moved faster because of the weather and only spent 5 days.
  • They paddled across the inlet – about 1/2 mile – to the fort at Churchill. “Be sure you pay attention to the tides. Paddling when the tide’s out means you have to be 3-4 miles offshore.”
  • Deer is “nice little river.” “Stunted, smaller, intimate.” No fish on the Deer. Maybe fish on main Churchill. The Deer is not on the precambrian shield rock so it and the main Churchill river are like the MN River. Stunted trees and not that scenic. “This isn’t the BWCA.”
  • Can’t plan on the train’s schedule. Figure 10-12 hour delays into your schedule. They left Churchill so late that they got into Thompson at 8PM and stayed there overnite instead of driving home.
  • It cost them $500/person to do the Deer. But they stayed for free for 2 nites in Churchill. $90n for train ticket
  • Probably better to run the Deer in mid to late July. “Scratchy in August.” Can check the river levels online.
  • Plan on 2 weeks for the trip; 4 days driving; 2 days on train; 6 days on river and 1-2 days layover in Churchill.


  • 16 hour drive Mpls to Thompson
  • They usually camp about 1 hour north of Winnipeg and finish the drive the next day
  • They leave their vehicles at the fire station and pay $15 week. Never been vandalized
  • There is another good place to camp just south of Thompson at a park
  • Bring everything you need with you to Thompson

Little Churchill River

  • “Better scenery than the Deer”
  • Probably not good fishing
  • Jack Crowley used to run it all the time. He used to live in Thompson but has since moved. (I think he’s the guy who used to rent boats in Thompson.)
  • Check with that camp counselor whose trip report is at mycccr about more details.
  • Bob doesn’t know much about this river

Other rivers he recommended

  • God’s River 10 days to 2 weeks
    • “Pretty river, run it any time. Good fishing, gorgeous river”
    • Gets you to York Factory which is nice place
    • Fly from Gillam to God’s Lake; may be possible to have your canoes hauled in during the winter because there is a very fancy resort on God’s Lake that takes supplies in during the winter.
    • Return to Gillam or Thompson via train
    • Buy cheap canoes and leave them at York
    • They once went 110 miles in 10 hours on the God’s/ Hayes
  • North & South Knife – fly in river; 2 week trip
  • Bloodvein -
    • Great river in Fall
    • Good fishing in August
  • Seal River
    • run by lots of people locally
    • Better later in the season
    • need to take boat shuttle by Jack Bastone to Churchill
    • Seals in the river up to 100 miles upriver of Hudson Bay
  • Winisk, Fawn/Severn – good fishing

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kopka River Reports

We got back Saturday about 6PM. Some photos are stored here.

Musical slideshow below. (If you push on the 4 arrows on the video player command line below, you can see the video in full screen mode.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Minitaki 2009

We had great weather for sunbathing but not so good for fishing. Here’s some video proof.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crane Lake Christmas in May

A collection of short videos which represent our trip.

Crane Lake May ‘09


Here’s a video of Denny’s Personal Record 28” Walleye. (If you click on the 4 arrows next to the word “vimeo” in the bottom right, you can expand the video to full screen size.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kopka River Map

The Packster found this map of our route on the Kopka River. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kopka River

Here’s part one of a trip Kevin Callan took on the Kopka River last year. Here are the other parts of his story.

They took the train in from Armstrong in the morning (so it was before the schedule changed.) I don’t think we’d have all the portages to get to the Kopka if we flew in.


Fishing in Wabakimi

Gord Ellis - “award winning outdoor journalist” – says this about fishing in Smoothrock Lake:

“Smoothrock Lake/Wabakimi P.P.

Wabakimi is one of the world's largest boreal forest reserves and is known for great wilderness canoeing, a caribou herd, and tremendous fishing. In 1997, the park was expanded to 2.2 million acres (892,000 ha). Smoothrock is the best and largest pike lake in this huge park. Its 20-mile (32-km) length is peppered with backbays and narrows that scream giant pike. Fish hard, and catching one 20 pounds or more is almost a sure thing. Numerous 25-pounders and better have been taken from these waters. Top spots include Outlet Bay, Lonebreast Bay, and Caribou Bay. Other excellent pike lakes in Wabakimi include Wabakimi, Whitewater, Whiteclay, and Shabuskwia. Large pike are also found throughout summer in rivers and other current areas throughout the park. This is one of Ontario's most untapped trophy pike fisheries.”

Circle Route in Wabikimi

From this website:

“We always used Little Caribou Lake as an entry/exit, parking @ the small bridge ( @ creek entering Little Caribou Lake) just south of Caribou Lake north out of Armstrong. Lots of circular routes to be found without rail or fly in. We once went east out of Caribu>Cliff Lake> Whitewater Lake>Wabikimi Lake>Smoothrock Lake>Caribou Lake, nice route very little traveled. Have seen quite a few Caribu, bear, wolves, moose etc along the way. We always went mid-May and had no bugs, but June 1st they are there and hungry. Never saw any of the fly-in fisherman then either. Paddling in October was gnarly cold, and my August solo trip was hot (but blueberries were abundant!) and saw a few fly-in folks fishing.”

Survivorman In Wabikimi

Les Stroud who has the TV show “Survivorman” spent a year living in Wabakimi with his wife. Here’s the first of 6 videos he made of that trip.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Product Info Sheet on Eureka VCS


From this website.

Eureka VCS Tarp Shelter

Here’s what we’re thinking of buying. More photos here.


German POWs in Canada

For you history buffs, a video about German POWs who were imprisoned in Canada during WWII.

Bill Mason Videos

Lots of videos of Bill Mason are on the Canadian Film Board archives website. Like this one:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Nice work on the site. I'll have to learn how to work this.

Google Earth View of Wabakimi

The blue pin is the town of Armstrong, You can just barely see the railroad tracks which run from Armstrong west thru the southern part of Wabakimi. (You’ll have to zoom in quite a ways to see our route.)


View Untitled in a larger map

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Center of the Universe

One of the “famous” routes in Wabakimi is called “Center of the Universe.” It’s a little too far to get to on our trip, so here’s a link to a trip report of Kevin Callan’s to that area (he’s the canoeing guidebook writer.)

Kopka River

Part of the route we’re considering would take us down the Kopka River. Here’s Part 1 of a trip by Kevin Callan down the Kopka.

Where Is Wabakimi?

We’re going to be in the south central area – a little west of Armstrong.

Preliminary Gear List

Fall 2009 Canada Trip Equipment


Pack: old Duluth pack for light bulky stuff (not as old as Cat’s)/ back up internal frame back/ new canoe pack??

Lem: new pack / duffel for small camp chairs/stools, fire grate, etc.

SP/Dick/Lem: Day packs

Rent a food barrel pack/extra canoe pack??


Lem: new tent

Pack: new tent

**Buy a tarp/bug tent combo…share cost. $200??

Personal gear

Everyone has their own stuff: sleeping bags& pads, knife, bug hats, headlamps, stuff bags, rain gear, extra shoes, personal hygiene, Nalgenes, thermo coffee/drink cup, fishing gear, hand cleaner, compass, bungees, camera, etc.

**If we all bring 2 piece rods and include one back up rod, can all 5 fit in Lem’s rod tube?

Lem: I-pod.

Cat: first aid kit.

Cooking gear

Pack: new fire grate, cooking utensil pouch, Steripen, fuel container, wash basin, 2qt pitcher.

Dick: stove (need a backup stove?), Steripen, windscreen? Fuel container?

**Buy a nesting cook kit—3 pots with lids: 4qt. 2-3qt. 1-2qt. & heavy fry pan.

**Need plates, bowls, & silverware. Buy a set or pieces?

Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided by the outfitter.


Pack: saw

Lots of rope for camp and lining canoes etc., carabineers, hatchet, repair kit,???