“Singing Waters” Chapter 9 – Martin Falls

by Ken Hupila

July 24, 2006 N 51 31.837’, W 86 31.099’ Elevation 621 feet

“It’s after 11:00 and I’m just getting to bed. It wasn’t really a long travel day, but fishing kept us from moving very fast. Stormed last night and we had our closest call on the trip. The wind blew a dead tree into the crotch of another just above our tent. Could have been nasty.” Ken Hupila – trip diary

This stretch of the river is supposed to have some great brookie water. That said, we stopped at every little riffle and stream that came into the Albany. Not a lot of miles traveled, but a lot of water pounded with Mepps and streamers. From a brook trout stand point, it was discouraging. Lots of walleyes and northerns caught – another supper of fish fried after dark – but through much of the day but no sign of the speckles.
In the middle of the afternoon we hit Tom Flett Rapids. It’s just a remarkable stretch of water going for over a mile. It’s all fast water, but very manageable to paddle. We could pull to the side of the river whenever we wanted to and fished every inch of it from top to bottom. Lots of action, but all walleyes and northerns until the very end of it. Finally, we started to catch some brookies as the fast water turned smooth again. These were the first trout we had seen in three days!
We left Tom Flett late in the afternoon and made Martin Falls with just enough light to set up camp. There was a well-used, flat piece of ground about fifty feet from the water’s edge. Besides the fact that it was a large grassy spot, the mountain of tin cans indicative of a First Nation camp site was present just into the trees on one side. There was also a tripod of thin saplings on one end. As the locals move through the area they bring tarps instead of tents. When they get to a campsite they just throw a tarp over the tripod, weigh the edges down with rocks and camp is set up!
We intended to lay over here for at least an extra day, maybe two. Lots of reasons for this. We had paddled for seventeen days straight and our bodies and minds needed a break. The fishing should be good in this area and plenty of shoreline was available to walk the river for a good distance. This falls marked the border between the boreal forest and the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Within the next few miles of our travels the country was going to look a lot different. And finally, it was just about exactly the halfway point of our trip. We were into it for 250 miles, and we had about 250 miles to go. Time-wise, we were past half way. The rest of our journey would see fewer portages and whitewater would be less common and so we figured there would be ten to twelve days of paddling left before we hit the Bay.

July 25, 2006 Martin Falls, day 2
“It feels good to kind of kick back for a day!” Ken Hupila – trip diary
Martin Falls has a unique history. For over a hundred years this was the site of an Indian Village. After WW2 the village was moved downriver to a spot where the Ogoki River enters the Albany. Although the new town site is officially called Ogoki, many of the natives still refer to is as Martin Falls.
Tom was up early and had landed two brookies before I even got out of the sleeping bag. I cooked breakfast this morning and let Tom fish. After coffee and some corn meal mush I washed the dishes and then did some laundry. I had five sets of underclothes along and had just recently put on my last clean ones a day or two ago. You do the math! Having clean socks and underwear again was a real treat! I also cleaned everything out of my pack and took it out for a good drying and a bit of needed repair. I kicked around camp and finally joined Tom for some fishing a little after 10:00.
It had been several days since we had seen anyone. Fort Hope was a few days behind us, and we hadn’t come across the Queen Elizabeth group since before that. Although there were signs of campers every so many miles, the solitude was real.
We caught some nice fish before lunch and decided to keep one 16-incher to have for a mid-day meal. It was the first of the brookies that we had eaten on the trip. I sloughed around and took some pictures and explored a bit.
Early in the afternoon Tom was interested in jumping into the canoe and spending some time fishing on the other side of the river. We went over and found it to be very uninteresting. Not far down the river was Gorley Creek entering from the north. We decided to explore that.
There was a hint of a trail along the left side and so we left the canoe at the confluence and decided to walk and fish along the way. Sometimes there was a trail – sometimes not. We’d pop out into the water whenever we could find an opening and cast what we could. We caught a few small brookies, but nothing to write home about. Two hundred yards in and we came out along a rock outcrop that had a neatly folded, fairly fresh disposable diaper sitting on top of a boulder. That was a mystery we never solved!
Tom can move through the brush. I’ve been bushwhacking many times with him where his long legs make good time and I struggle because of short man’s disease and have trouble keeping up. Today was one of those days! Tom would get a hundred yards ahead of me, and by the time I reached him it was time to move to the next spot. Our thin trail disappeared and soon we were crashing through alders and willows tangling both legs and lines. I’m sure we only went upstream for about a mile as the crow flies, but I felt like I’d put on five!
We did catch some nice fish towards the end of our explore but they were paid for in blood let from mosquitos and willow cuts – worse on the way out than our hike in. We finally returned to the canoe about dark, paddled across the river and back to camp. Feeling it was too late to cook a proper supper we dove into our dwindling cache of chocolate and had a double ration for a meal. While it seemed satisfying at the time, we paid for it dearly the next morning when our energy levels were at an all-time low. We decided to never do that again!
“A lot of people around Ely knew I was going on this trip and thought I was crazy. When all is said and done, I’ll be proud of what I accomplished. Though others may think they understand what a journey of this nature is like, no one can really know unless they’ve done it themselves. It will be hard to explain.” Ken Hupila – trip diary
Hopefully, telling this story through these articles will help.