Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I dreamed the dream of the other dreamers..." Walt Whitman

This is the first of a number of posts about a "dream" trip to Hudson's Bay.

Walt Whitman emerges from American literature as the 1st urban poet. His poetry, a rich mixture of detailed imagery and a kaleidoscope of experiences, is effused with vignettes of 19th century urban life, and, at times, transcends experience into the metaphysical. In other words, he can get a little freaky. "I dreamed the dream of the other dreamers...." I'll get to the picture of the bear eventually which is other worldly in its own right. In his poem "The Sleepers," Whitman walks about his world experiencing the lives and dreams of a whole host of people.

I have long dreamed of fishing in the usual exotic locals: Alaska, Patagonia, Iceland, New Zealand.... Besides the occasional trip to some of the famed waters of the lower forty-eight, I haven't taken a trip to exclusively fly fish for an extended period of time. When it comes to trout fishing dream trips, I have for the most part "dreamed the dreams of the other dreamers."

The Sutton River got added to my dream trip list twenty years ago when I read about it in a magazine. Big brook trout in a remote river that flows into Hudson Bay, all of the things that dreams are made of. The Little North of Canada, the region between Lake Winnipeg, Hudson Bay and Lake Superior has been a destination for me on other trips to paddle some wild rivers. However, I had never made it to the Bay by traveling through the unique region of tundra below the artic circle that rings the Bay, known as the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Its stark beauty and unusual wildlife, polar bears and seals and whales, makes it a fairly exotic place to travel only 500 miles north of where I live in Wisconsin.

Charlie d'Autremont, a good friend of mine, and I have talked of doing a remote river trip for a few years. Finding the time and the right river seemed to be the only things standing in our way. We started looking into the logistics of the trip about a year ago. Being a fly-in/fly-out trip presented some cost challenges. Coupled with the idea that we were to travel 90 miles by ourselves in one canoe in a remote part of Canada gave us additional challenges as well.

Berger and Terry's description from the web site was a great help in trip planning as was their book Canoe Atlas of the Little North.

There are few air services interested in flying into the Sutton River. Hearst Air of Hearst, Ontario, specializes in flying into the Sutton from july to August and has canoes stored on the river. They work closely with Albert Chookomolin, a Cree Guide, who runs a remote fishing camp on Hawley Lake (Albert's Fish Camp). He has rustic accommodations for fisher and hunters that want to home base out of Hawley Lake or to stay in his outpost lodgings on the river. Albert was born on the Sutton River and is a great resource for trip planning.

Once know as the Trout River, the Sutton is known for its big brook trout, its stark beauty, its clear running wadable water and its ability to inspire a soulfulness that I will never forget. It's gradiant drop is evenly spread out through its run to the bay which makes it a fairly easy river to run. The Sutton runs through Polar Bear Provincal Park. The likelihood of encountering one of North America's ultimate predators is very real. Besides resident brook trout, the Sutton also takes a run of sea-run brook trout starting in July.

For thirteen days Charlie and I paddled and fished down the Sutton and never encountered another human soul. The only man made sounds were our own and the occasional distant sound of an air craft. Evidence of other travelers along the river was minimal. I have traveled in remote parts of North America numerous times. Never in all of my other trips have I encountered a more enriching experience in such unexpected ways.

Sun set on the lower Sutton.

More about the trip and the encounter with a polar bear at twenty paces in my next few posts. See next post about our trip to Hudson Bay.

Keep a tight line,

Steve Therrien

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