This was to be a big canoe tripping year and then life happened. We had planned a 3-night trip into Algonquin for the opener, but some unexpected issues shut that one down. Now we had to scramble but brother Dave came to the rescue and booked a 1-night spot on Nunikani Lake in the Haliburton Water Trails.
Our group was Dave, Greg, Mark and me. We would head take 2 canoes in – including Dave’s brand-new Swift 16 Foot Combi. Greg and I paddled together along with Mark and Dave in the other canoe. The launch is at the Big Hawk Lake marina -about 15 minutes from Carnarvon, Ontario. We met up at 8 AM, quickly got our gear set and scrambled to find parking (not a lot of available spaces right at the launch.
As we left the launch, we scrambled to put on our rain jackets – the forecast was calling for scattered storms throughout the day and it was already threatening. It was a smooth but slightly uncomfortable paddle up Big Hawk Lake. While there was not much wind, we got soaked a few times and it was hot enough that I started to feel like a boxer cutting weight in my rain jacket.
Simply put there are two ways to do this trip (there are more but bear with me) – a loop over a few nights camping on Clear and Nunikani Lake or the busted loop - straight from Big Hawk into Nunikani and camp for the night, return the same way. Per the title of the post, we chose the latter – we only had one night and wanted to spend as much time on our home lake enjoying the campsite, fishing, and spending time by the fire. If you follow this link, you can see the various routes https://www.algonquinhighlands.ca/routes.php
We paddled towards the portage between Big Hawk and Nunikani and got lucky – the water was high enough that we cut off a substantial portion of the portage and only had 175 meters left to go around to Nunikani dam. A quick single carry through the portage and we were on Nunikani. We had campsite 63 A for the night, and we decided to make our way towards camp but throw out lures and troll on the way. Nunikani lake is home to both species of bass and well as Lake Trout (and millions of Rock Bass). Dave got a nice bass on a spoon on the way there and I got a small but feisty little smallie on a crank bait. We really did not dawdle as the skies had opened once more and the wind packed up.
Home for the Night
IMO 63 A was all you could want in a campsite. A nice flat-water entry, lots of tent area, solid fireplace, and good tree cover. We got to work getting our big tarp set – with rain coming down and more on the way we wanted a place to hang out, dry some gear and set up our tents. With camp set up it was time for a fire. The firepit is nice at 63 A – big area but I will call out that there was no grill and limited seating- no worries at all.
One of the wonderful things about the site was the shore fishing. There is a bay that runs parallel to 63 A – there is a deeper channel running into it (which eventually leads another portage). With camp set up and a fire going Mark and I decided to fire a few casts. Using Ned Rigs, In Line spinners and wacky rigs we soon realized this area was loaded with smaller bass and millions of Rock Bass. It was a great! We actually ended up keeping one small mouth who swallowed the hook deep and cooked it over the fire. I had some good pictures but alas they are lost forever (read next paragraph)
With some food in our bellies, we decided to head out for a proper fish. Our plan was to troll spoons toward the deepest lake, s turning our way to cover a variety of depths. As we made our way the wind continued to pick up making the paddle a grind as we were into it. No luck on the troll, Greg and I (well really me ad Greg was just paddling) decided to head back towards camp casting to fishy structure and leveraging the wind. A few small bass and rock bass was all I managed. Dave and Mark were also turning back and called us over. “Andrew – you should grab your phone, it’s getting rough” “No worries” said I, the idiot. My thought process was trying to connect the canoes was a surefire way of dumping. Sure, enough Greg and I turned for home and within minutes we heard some commotion – Piper Down! Dave and Mark were in, and my phone now rests in a deep-water grave on Nunikani lake – sumofabi#^E! We helped the guys, gathered some floating gear and fought the waves back to the campsite. We got a roaring fire going, had a few nips of the good stuffed and laughed it off. Note to self: Canoe with no ballast much tippier than a full one.
Throughout the night we were greeted by storm fronts but eventually woke to a nice albeit windy day. In no rush we had breakfast, threw a few shore casts, and packed up. Heading home was much more of a grind than coming in – we battled tough sidewinds, headwinds and never really got any relief. We did stop for a break at the bottom of the rapids coming out of Nunikani – picturesque for sure and we tried a few casts and caught tiny smallmouth and rock bass. When we reached the marina at Big Hawk my old man body screamed for Ibuprofen and a stiff drink lol. All in all, a great trip for sure. One thing we did different this trip was to simplify or meals. We had wraps both days for lunch, a great dehydrated pasta for dinner and oatmeal for breakfast. All very good but more importantly very light in packs and easy to prepare.
Check out the Haliburton Water Trails – while not a hidden gem is does provide some great backcountry paddling experience close to the GTA https://ahtrails.ca/