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Dick Schlecht- 35 Consecutive Years Fishing From Booi's Island

2 November 2006

Dear Friend,

Golly another year has gone by and I am sitting down and putting thoughts together about another trip north to the land of the sky blue waters. Our mentor and the pilot of old ONWARD 9 rose to the occasion again. With the early January newsletter the course is plotted and all are eager to sign on. Subsequent updates plot our course with additions and subtractions.

I will attempt to put this great trip in prospective-like writing a diary. This was Richard Schlecht's 33rd trip to the area and he has a lot of experience in planning it to the most finite detail. Initially he determines departure time with appropriate stops and Motels. This year it was Duluth, MN and Red Lake Ontario. Secondly he makes food purchases to stock our larder for the week. Since I am now retired and have plenty of time he allowed me to accompany him on this procurement mission.

As planned Richard picked me up at 0130 on the July 3 and we headed to Champaign where we loaded up Morrie. We stayed on schedule and prepared to meet Dick and Marge Breeden the oasis near Lake Forest. Dick was on his his very best behaviour and felt quite lucky that Marge was allowing him to accompany us. Dick had an ischemic stroke since our last trip and was now on medication. I am happy to report that I could detect nothing in his performance with us on the trip indicating anything unusual or different in his performance. He was his usual self and never let up on Morrie the whole trip. This is a running inside joke that you have to be on the inside to appreciate. I would like to mention for those of you who are joining us on this trip for the first time that there is a special relationship between the 3 senior members of the trip. Dick S. and Dick Breeden were fraternity brothers at Northwestern in the 30’s. Richard Schlecht’s wife Mary and Morrie’s wife Martha were sorority sisters at Illinois. I started tagging along after Richard invited my Dad to join in on the trip. Didn’t hurt that I was from Rossville, IL too. After contact was made with Dick we headed over to the Profile Plastics factory and picked up Steve Murrill’s van. This gave us plenty of room for gear and was quite comfortable. We said Goodbye to Marge and headed up to Steve Schlecht’s home where his son Rick and breakfast awaited us. Steve lives in Waunakee, Wisconsin just north of Madison essentially on the shores of Lake Mendota. We had a wonderful breakfast and got acquainted with Rick who was to drive with us to our fishing site. Rick had just graduated from college in Denver and was in the Peace Corps application process.

The trip to Duluth (about 640 miles) went fine. We arrived at about 1700 and the reservation at Days Inn was fine.

We were up at 0345 and on the road shortly after 4. We crossed the border at International Falls and its Ontario sister city, Fort Francis. Crossing was painless. We did not even have to show our drivers license. Our two-lane drive from Fort Francis to Vermilion Bay was not crowded and we coninued on, travelling through the countryside, which is dotted with lakes and pine forests. We arrived in Red Lake at 1630 where we checked in the Norseman Inn motel and made plans for the final procurement procedure-it is a science. The first order of business is a visit to the IGA store. Here we were divided into 3 teams with different responsibilities. Each team had a list of items—Breeden had cookies for example and Rick S. and I did cheese, bacon, eggs, margarine. All the teams then met at checkout and were surveyed by the leader to see that each cart was loaded to specifications. With minimal modifications we passed and he paid the bill. We then crossed the parking lot to the Government liquor store where we purchased adequate amounts of gin, scotch, and bourbon. The prices were good. Australian wine was the best buy. We then went to the floatplane base where were able to unload groceries and gear.

We were instructed to be back at camp about 0530 so we could be weighed loaded and ready for takeoff at 0600. Nice dinner that night at a Chinese restaurant adjacent to the hotel.

We were up at 0500 and all went well. All five of us were loaded on a twin Beach and we were airborne on a beautiful morning for the 15-20 minute flight to Booi’s.

The Booi family manages our Canada Lodge. Dick Schlecht was one of the first clients when Ron Booi, father of the present owner and manager opened it for business in 1969. It was quite primitive in the beginning and the present owners, Jim and Tracy Booi have brought it a very “fur piece”. In 1982 I made my first visit with my father and 3 of my sons-very rustic compared to the large comfortable buildings with showers and even dishwashers. It is located on an island in Trout Lake. The camp is only accessible by air and we make a 15-20 minute float plane flight from Red Lake to the camp and are unloaded by the staff and all our gear are transferred to our unit. As we unload our handsome hosts are there to greet us with a welcome handshake from Jim and a hug from Tracy.

Over coffee, rolls and cookies we get caught up on the news and Dick Breeden made a special presentation to Tracy. He had made a large platter with their picture on it. They were quite impressed.

Dick previously had painted an “aerial view” of the camp and they have it displayed prominently in the lounge. Our quarters were ready so the 5 of us got unpacked, geared up and fishing before the next wave of our group arrived. The main cabin was two stories and had 4 bedrooms and bath on the first floor. The second floor had 2 large bedrooms with two baths and a large common area with pool table. The first floor front area had a large kitchen with 2 big tables that our entire contingent could sit and eat together. We quickly unpacked the food, organized the kitchen and got our gear ready to fish. We were on the water by 1000.

The weather was beautiful and our luck was good fishing at Booi’s island just north of camp. We came in about 1330 and got ready for the arrival for some more of the group. They dropped in right on time and we met them at the dock. Tom and Dave Ellefson, son-in-law and grandson of Dick Breeden took a second floor bedroom joining myself with John and Jeff on the second floor in the main cabin. Steve Schlecht joined Rick S. in one of the main floor bedrooms. The adjacent building to main cabin 8 was of similar construction but divided into 2 units. Dave Schlecht along with Steve and Mark Murrill, Richard Schlecht's son-in-law and grandson. Steve M. is also the owner of the van that got us safely and swiftly to Red Lake. By 1700 we were back in the lake and our good luck continued. John M had the hot hand in our boat catching lots of big walleyes. All of the boats had similar luck and after cleanup we had a late dinner of great fried walleye prepared by the team leader. We sampled the wine and enjoyed some canned fruit for dessert. After dinner the van contingent hit the sack but the late arrivals went out for some late night fishing. Gets dark late and mosquitoes are not ferocious. I was pooped and knew we would have to get up early.

Sunday was the first full day on the lake and during breakfast the decision was made to go to Little Trout and while over there to enjoy our own shore lunch. Breakfast is traditionally a major meal in camp with Richard S. preparing a potent oatmeal roughage mixture to be sure all “move” in proper order. Morrie does toast (this year it was Panera and not Martha) and David S. if present does all sorts of things but always thick sliced bacon. This year he was into omelettes and pancakes and all good. Shore lunch decisions re: baked beans, fruit, Mazola oil, dishes and silver ware were thought out and packed. We also got the propane tank and deep fryer out.

We got to the dock and packed the boats with plenty of beverages and minnows for a long day. This trip to Little Trout is not for sissies. It is a 60-minute boat trip through some narrow and shallow waters. If you look at the map we head out of Booi’s north and east up to Sand Narrows then by “Pecker Bay” to Verns Point then south to Mikes Pike Narrows. We go by one of the competing fishing camp on the way and action was slow there. Booi appeared to be the only busy camp around. After the Narrows we head through Otter Lake and Mud Lake through a narrows into Little Trout. Once in Little Trout we head directly across to Schlecht’s point, the home of small, tender and juicy walleye. My captain was Dave Schlecht and we navigated flawlessly.

Using radio communication the decision was made for lunch and we headed down to lunch Isle in Patrick’s Narrows. After cleanup as we prepared to leave the roar of aircraft appeared and on landing we were informed by the camp plane that a severe storm was imminent and we were encouraged to return to camp. A severe storm with wind and hail had hit Kenora and should strike us in 2-3 hours. We were all impressed with concern expressed by Jim Boois and headed slowly back to camp fishing a few spots along the way. On return to camp the storm missed us and we headed back out close to camp for some more action.

At dusk we headed in and made preparations for the feast of poached walleye and sweet potatoes prepared by Steve S. Dinner had to be put on hold for the arrival of John Hecker and Fielding Cocke. As mentioned earlier their arrival was heralded by the arrival of 2 cases of wine that was served by Fielding. NICE TOUCH. He and John were worth the wait with or without the wine. The food was great and what a great evening. Chef Steve Schlecht summed it up in his toast, “Let us enjoy a great evening of male bonding. Our group has birthdays extending from 1915 to 1980. What a special evening.”

Monday we headed up the north and west side of the lake trying Anderson and Picnic point for trout. Then up into the Moose Bay for fantastic fishing. At Charlie’s Point- Booi’s camp had a scheduled shore lunch.

Monday evening we were treated to steak night by the club. Cook your own T-bones with salads, potatoes and dessert provide by the Booi’s. It was also the occasion of Tracy’s 40th birthday. She and Jim shared with us how they met in high school when he was able to share a book with her and romance blossomed. Near the end of August they leave the camp with their family and head to Vancouver where they spend the winter and their kids can take advantage of the school system there.

Tuesday morning we said goodbye to Steve and Rick Schlecht. They flew home to prepare for an Alaskan adventure. They are canoeing with a guide down one of the rivers in Alaska that promises to test their guide’s skill. Sounds like fun but they are leaving the fun bus right here in Canada.

Today we decide to join the camp shore lunch at Caribou Point on the east side of at Island. Jeff and Dave S., John and I along with Fielding C. and John H. tried Johnson’s Bay and the area of Halley’s Channel and opening into the with nothing but mud, weeds and not even the usual moose sighting at the south end of the bay.

We finally gave up and tried some points and reefs on the way to lunch. No luck! Other guests did well and a great lunch was shared by all.

After lunch we again tried for trout in the Five Islands area along with Picnic Point and Andersons Point. The Five Islands have a notorious spot in our history. In the 2002 season Richard S. made a wrong turn here and headed north instead of south. He and Bill Regan ended up lost in an abandoned camp. Jim Booi went out in search after the plane was not able to sight them. He found them and they were brought back after midnight. They screwed up cocktail and dinner hour but we were glad to see them anyway. For Christmas this year he received 5 compasses so a similar error was avoided. Dinner this evening was prepared by Dick Breeden and the Ellefson’s. Masterful job. Cleanup chores were always passed around. John, Jeff and I took a evening pass to fish around Booie and Berry Islands. We heard the tail slap and saw a beaver. John caught a nice northern on his fly rod. Great finish because they were to leave in the AM.

Wednesday dawned as a very nice day so that the flights out proceeded fine. We lost 6 today heading back into the real world were2 Ellefson, 2Murrill and 2Mason. We decided to try another day at Little Trout but Richard from Camp was to do the lunch honours. Fishing was great this time and we enjoyed the morning and a wonderful shore lunch. Richard agreed to clean our fish so we could ice them and take them to cabin to freeze. He is masterful with the filet knife and he finished that job while we fished in the area. Fishing was slow in the afternoon but we were in good shape on the limit so we headed leisurely back to camp. The chef’s tonight were Fielding, John and Morrie Hecker. Fielding grilled the fish and they were quite good. Long evening of cooking, visiting and cleanup so we were late to bed.

On Thursday Dave S., John Hecker and Fielding Cocke departed early so we are now down to the basics.

We tried to get Trout all morning with no success. Dick B and Morrie caught 2 walleye so we headed in and prepared walleye chowder so that the walleye catch could stay at limit. This was one of the better tasting chowders of memory. We threw in some salsa and lots of vegetables because supplies were still quite plentiful. The weather was calm and hot with the lake like glass. Other boats near us were getting some trout-but not a nibble for us.

During a brief fishing attempt in the PM all fish except one walleye eluded us. Grilled hamburgers, au gratin potatoes with salad and blue berry muffins were on the menu tonight.

Friday, our last day went fairly well, successful Northern fishing in the Am. I got 2 big ones and Dick B got a good sized one too.

So our boat got the trophy. Mine was particularly exciting as I caught him on my ultra-light gear. We polished off the chowder for lunch and organized the kitchen packing up 4 boxes (1 each) of groceries for departure.

We took a final spin out into the Lake for the big ones. Unfortunately they continued to elude us. In the evening we settled up with Sarah from the camp office. For the whole week excluding transportation to Red Lake it was US$1170. This includes all food, minnows and gas that Richard has prorated. Shorter stays were cheaper but not much because the flights in and out are a large part of the cost.

We were up and ready to leave shortly after 0500 but did not leave till 0630. When we arrived at the Red Lake base there was a full group of Iowa farmers ready to take our place. Our gear and ourselves arrived in 2 separate planes so it took a little while to get loaded up. We got on the road at 0730 and were ahead of schedule pulling into Vermilion Bay for gas, breakfast and dry ice for the fish. The road to Fort Francis was somewhat busier this week but no significant delay at customs. The usual Dairy Queen treat at International Falls and then we were off to the races and arrived in Rice Lake at about 1830. There is a good restaurant adjacent to the hotel and for me fried chicken was a welcome change.

Sunday we were on the road about 0500. There was some fog and at a rest stop we met a woman who had just hit a deer and damaged her car. Same thing had happened to her about 20 years ago at the same place. After lunch we crossed Illinois and dropped Dick Breeden at the Murrill’s home where Marge met us.

After a glass of lemonade with the Murrill family we loaded our gear onto old Onward 9 and headed to Champaign where we said hello to Martha and goodbye to Morrie.

At each stop we got lighter as the gear and frozen fish left with the participant. Dick and I got back to Danville a little after 5. A successful conclusion to a very fun trip.

J. Mason

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