Back to the Chippewa River

Back in 1993 my good friend Robert Hart, who along with his brother, Matt, ran the Glidden Enterprise, dropped my golden retrievers (Ben and Star at the time) and me off at what he believed was the headwater of the Chippewa River. My plan, and I did it, was to canoe the entire Chippewa River.

To put it bluntly, that was a life-changing trip. I met a woman who I would live with for the next four years, I moved to Glidden and then Mellen where I bought five acres and a house for $10,000 and of course I canoed the entire Chippewa all the way to the Mississippi River.

So, on Saturday, July 15 I was talking to my buddy, Scott “Superman” Polencheck, of Glidden and he asked where my next trip was going to be and I said I was going to take Ruby, my 1-year-old golden retriever, on a training mission and camp somewhere.

Superman suggested I paddle a bit of the Chipppewa and said he would move my vehicle for me so that is what I decided to do.

Sunday, July 16

High 69, Low 53

So, here is the plan for this 30-hour adventure: get dropped off south of Glidden, paddle towards Pelican Lake, train the dog, build a camp, cast for musky, sit by a campfire and then fish musky in the morning, train the dog, break camp and paddle to Stockfarm Bridge where Scott and Gunner Polencheck have left my truck.

This part of southern Ashland County is heavily forested and much of it is in Chequamegon National Forest (I did not see another person either day).

Downriver progress was slow because everywhere that I looked there should be a musky, so I was casting a lot.

Let me tell you about Ruby. It was just two weeks ago that I started throwing dummies in the water for her to retrieve. It took maybe 30 minutes for her to do a triple and by the end of this adventure I could throw dummies into the deer tongue. Ruby knew generally where they landed but could not see them and she never failed, including triples.

I am as redneck as a dog trainer can get but I know how to train a hunting dog. My biggest enemy is that I am simply timed out in life which is why I figured a complete getaway might help me to accomplish the mission. I have to work on hand signals in a big way but I certainly have the pup to teach.

So, I remember Pelican Lake from back in ‘93 and thought about it dozens of times since I first saw it back in ‘93. It is maybe seven acres and I could see living on it as I like being alone and I would be if I lived on Pelican Lake. This evening I threw bucktails and top water baits for musky and had no takers, and did not care.

Just before dark I paddled back to camp, which was in a dense cedar and hemlock stand and was overrun by millions of mosquitoes that wanted to drink my blood. I lit a campfire and most vanished. I then cooked venison steaks on that campfire and drank a can of Leinenkugels that was brewed just downriver from my camp.

Monday, July 17

High 86, Low 55

I suck at catching musky but that is OK. Ruby was superb on her training today which was my real goal. It is so cool to watch a disciplined dog perform. I had no maps, so all I new was that I was canoeing to a bridge that was downriver and my truck might be there.

I had a real interesting situation when I came across a submerged canoe in the middle of nowhere which was apparently that way for quite sometime. I could see it was also damaged. The question that came to my mind was this: is it legal and ethical to take a submerged canoe that has zero identification on it?

I contacted three friends and everyone said yes without hesitation. After getting it above water I saw it had serious leaks. I trailed it behind my canoe which now made my caravan over 35-feet long.

To make matters close to insane, I came to shallow water for two miles that required me walking in rocks, removing lots of aluminum from my main rig and watching the new rig pass us up until its tether rope stopped it.

When I made it to my truck I had a Leinies in my cooler and drank it with gusto and pride.

When I took my boots off I had three leeches on my right foot and left them on while I drove home. After a while I could not take it anymore and burnt them off with a lighter. For the next three hours I bled like a stuck pig.

It’s been 24 years since I paddled this stretch of river and I am still nuts!


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