Hook and bullet club - Kettle Falls trip

by Nick Wognum

“I got a bite,” I said, watching my line moving through the water. <BR><BR>“No you don’t,” said Mike, my brother-in-law who was sitting in the front of the boat.<BR><BR>“Sure I do, the current is going out and my line is going upstream,” I said.<BR><BR>We were fishing in the Canadian Channel between Kettle Falls and Rainy Lake. From here the water from Namakan Lake flows toward International Falls through some of the best walleye fishing grounds around the area. <BR><BR>“That’s not a fish, you’re probably hooked on the bottom,” said Mike. <BR><BR>“Then why is my line going upstream?” I asked.<BR><BR>“Probably because we’re floating downstream,” said Mike.<BR><BR>“Well, then shouldn’t my line be floating down with us?” I asked.<BR><BR>“So go ahead and set the hook,” said Mike.<BR><BR>I let the line play out some more before making a decision on whether to set the hook or to wait a little longer. <BR><BR>Maybe this fish was heading back to Kettle Falls to whoop it up at the bar with all the houseboat party animals who were having a very good time on a Saturday afternoon.<BR><BR>We had stopped in there just to see the tilted floor in the bar and the summer atmosphere of the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, one of the area’s most well-known tourist stops.<BR><BR>The site is owned by the U.S. Park Service and leased back to a concessionaire. The scenery around the hotel is magnificent and a number of the old Hamm’s beer photos were taken in that area. <BR><BR>My fish was apparently looking for a photo opportunity since the hook set in the upper lip and I reeled in a slot walleye. <BR><BR>“Okay, so it was a fish,” said Mike, apparently unimpressed. <BR><BR>We fished around some of the buoys in the channel, drifting with the current toward Rainy Lake. It was a picture perfect day to be out on the water and fishing in the river was a great place to be. <BR><BR>The walleyes were on a real slow bite, more or less taking the bait into their mouths and tasting it to see if a leech was what they had in mind. There were no ferocious hits, just bites that required a lot of patience or you would end up with a missed set.<BR><BR>We moved back into Rainy after awhile, working the reefs and trying some of the windblown points to pick up fish. We followed the Canadian rules (one walleye per person per day) and released fish that were outside the slot.<BR><BR>A slow troll worked the best although we didn’t put the Rapalas on and troll those at a higher speed. We did talk about it but just when we would get to the point of switching tactics, a walleye would hit one of our jigs and we would decide to stick it out a little longer.<BR><BR>As the sun set where the water met the horizon, we motored back to Stokes Bay to whip up some dinner and put some fillets on ice.<BR><BR>Evenings can be an amusing time on Rainy if you have a marine band radio. Around 9 p.m. one of the houseboat rental businesses runs the “Ronnie Ray” trivia contest. <BR><BR>Anyone one can play and the contestants are usually houseboat groups recovering from their afternoon of fun at Kettle Falls. Each group answers several questions, accumulating points along the way. <BR><BR>I believe the “Grassy Girls” were the winner the night we were listening, correctly answering the true or false question, “Zebras of the same family have the same stripes.” False, of course.<BR><BR>The winner gets a certificate and the satisfaction of outguessing other hung-over city folk sitting on houseboats from Crane Lake to Ash River and beyond. <BR><BR>Crane Lake is just under two hours from Ely but a world away in the type of tourist it attracts, especially for houseboat rentals. <BR><BR>These are people here to kick back and have a very good time, with motorized transportation taking them along the way and a generator providing the juice to run the refrigerator and microwave oven. <BR><BR>Powerboats rule the day and canoes were rarely seen during our trip to Rainy Lake and back. We did see seven sailboats on Sunday but other than that, horsepower through gasoline was the way to go.<BR><BR>So now when you’re travelling to the Twin Cities and you see multitudes of cars and trucks pulling big boats on trailers heading north, you have an idea of one of the places they may be going. <BR><BR>And if you haven’t been to the Kettle Falls Hotel bar at 4 p.m. on a hot summer day, you’re missing out. Quiet and solitude will more than likely not be found, but you probably arrived on a houseboat or speedboat anyway, so what were you expecting? <BR><BR>And if you start singing, “From the land of sky blue waters…” then maybe you’ve been in the bar a little too long.