Reige: Whispers on the Water

Published 8:38 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2010


The first fingers of light claw across a dark sky and in the distance you hear the haunting call of the loon as it awakes to greet the dawning of a new day. Water lapping at the shoreline almost rhythmic to a beginning march of a new day. Being near the water is relaxing and promotes a feeling of well being. Fishing also encompasses an unknown factor. One is never certain when he will catch a fish, or what size the fish will be. Hope springs eternal in the hearts of fishermen.

The water has a certain whisper, I believe, that calls all anglers to it’s shores and I was never more aware of this than this summer. Ginny, my wife and I decided to go on a fly in trip to Kitchi Island Outposts on the Berens River in Manitoba, Canada. After talking to some friends and looking into the area that would hold trophy walleyes and northern pike we decided to contact Kitchi Island Outposts. Duncan Ross is the owner of Kitchi Island Outposts. Duncan has worked hard to establish a unique tradition of fine Canadian hospitality. When you talk, he listens. If it is possible, he’ll do it. He understands your vacation time is very important. He wants to make your dream an experience.

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According to Duncan, “My goal is to provide the highest quality remote wilderness adventure available, for a reasonable cost… to provide excellent value for your vacation dollar… and to provide the kind of service I would enjoy myself.”

Choosing a fly-in outfitter can be compared to choosing a fishing partner. No sense spending the day in the boat with a guy who would rather be quilting. It is best to know what you want in a trip and then seek an outfitter who will exceed your


Duncan has been in this business long enough and enjoys what he does enough to be able to combine the best of the best for the best. Although Kitchi Island Outposts has three outpost camps we decided to go to Kitchi on the Berens River, we were told that there is a spirit of Kitchi that appears on a rock face when the sun was setting. This spirit was an older woman that was in a huddled hoody wrap she speaks to the fisherman in whispers and she was a good spirit.

Once at the cabin Ginny and I stowed our gear we were was out to do some fishing. We hadn’t gone very far from the cabin and I notice on my depthfinder graph that we had just cruised over a hump or a sunken island. We had tied on a jig and tipped them with a salted frozen shiner (live minnows are not allowed in Manitoba). We hadn’t gone five feet when I heard Ginny say, “ I got one.” She brought a nice 22” walleye to the surface and we quickly admired the fish took a few pictures and released it to fight another day. I should also mention, that Duncan highly recommends that this camp be a “catch and consume” lake. We would have plenty of opportunity to eat some smaller walleyes, so we only took what we could eat and snapped some great pictures then released all the others.

A sunken island is sometimes referred to as a reef, a hump, maybe even a mud flat. These raised structural elements are a variation in the floor of a river or lake. For example you can be running across your favorite lake looking at you depth finder and see the bottom come up from 40 feet deep to a 5 foot range. Kitchi has a lot of these mid river humps and sunken islands. In fact, the river is so full of structure a person would be hard pressed to fish it all in a lifetime.

Remember that current is the “mother or spirit” of Kitchi. Current is the number one factor when it comes to determining fish location on the river. During most of the spring the water will be high enough to greatly restrict the areas walleyes will inhabit. By mid summer, water levels will have stabilized somewhat, but savvy anglers continue to focus their attention on areas where the current is diverted.

Some types of current breaks are obvious, even to the beginning angler. The observant angler readily detects boulders, fallen trees, protruding points and rocky shorelines. Other types of obstructions are not quite as noticeable. A depthfinder is an invaluable aide in locating these hidden walleye magnets. Submerged timber, rock piles, boulders, subtle drop-offs and the series of furrows found on many sand bottoms are seen only through the use of the depthfinder.

By noting the precise location from which the first couple of fish are taken, current break anglers can accurately predict the mood of the fish on a given day. If the fish comes from the dead or slack water directly below the obstruction, chances are good they are resting and inactive. A limit will not come easily under these conditions. If the fish come from above the obstruction, on the very edge of the current or from the eddy below the break, it is an indication the fish are active.

Veteran jig fisherman develop a “milk run” of the best current breaks along a stretch of river. From experience they know which areas on each break are most likely to hold fish. Concentrating on these key points, the experts move quickly from site to site, catching the most active fish from each area.

Methodically checking out every foot of suspended fish holding water near a current break will pay the highest dividends. First check out the upstream lip and the downstream edge where current and slack water meet. These are the areas that will hold active fish. If there is nothing doing at the these locations, give the dead water directly behind the obstruction a quick going over to entice any inactive fish which might be present. Don’t waste a lot of time on one site just because it looks good. Move on and come back later to check it out again. If there is a secret to this style of fishing, it is finding active fish.

Vertical fishing also makes it easier to fish a small area, such as a brushpile, hump or other structure. You can often cast to within 5 feet of such an area and not get hit, but put your lure in it and you immediately come up with a fish.

I prefer to backtroll to slow down the presentation and many times I will even slip the outboard into neutral once in awhile to offer a slower presentation. Remember to use a pause-serge-pause presentation, this allows fish to move up to shallow running bait, plus it gives a vertical jigging presentation to your live bait rigs.

As the day drew to a close we watched the sun dip below the horizon. The quiet of the evening brought back the day’s activities and the fish that we caught. But, much more important than that we experienced the absolute quiet that the wilderness had to offer and then I realized that the whispers on the water were just that the peacefulness, the tranquility of trees, the eagles, the water lapping at the shoreline, and the violent eruption of a northern pike as it engulfs its prey at the surface. These sights and sounds cannot be duplicated in every day life. Fishing in Kitchi is more than fishing. It is an adventure that puts you in touch with the very essences of whispers on the water.

For more information, contact / Duncan Ross, Kitchi Island Outposts, 30 Talbot Ave., Winnipeg, MB R2L OP3, Toll Free 1-866-604-0567, Fax 1-204-661-0386 or on the web at, email