Enjoying the beauty of the Rainy River on first weekend of fall

Last Thursday was the first day of fall. But for some reason, my Manitoba maples have been shedding their leaves for the past month. On Rainy Lake, many of the white birch have had their leaves turn to gold and they, too, are dropping.
I travelled to Rainy River over the weekend for their annual walleye tournament. The trip at this time of the year is one filled with colour. The leaves are just beginning to change to their autumn palette while the grass alongside the road is hovering between yellows and browns.
Several deer could be seen grazing in the fields along the highway.
Sunday was a great day to be driving around Rainy River District.
Bill Godin, who acted as weighmaster for the tournament, offered me a ride out to visit fishermen in the Lund live-release boat shortly after lunch. I have travelled the river from Fort Frances to Rainy River, but had never gone downstream past the landing there before.
We were out to see how the fishermen were doing and find out from the first day’s leaders how well they were faring on the final day. Doug McBride and his partner, Steve Ballan, were fishing under the highway bridge close to a centre abutment that the current curled around.
They had their four fish in the boat with more than two hours to go looking for the big one.
Much farther downstream, Day One leaders Norm Hyatt and Brian Bonot were working a weed line that had given them the biggest catch of the day on Saturday.
The Canadian side of the river was taken up with boats from the tournament. Some were jigging with worms and minnows; others were trolling with deep-diving crankbaits. Both methods seemed to be working.
The water was calm. The fall colours were just starting to appear as many of the trees’ leaves were becoming a faded green.
I was surprised by the number of lodges on the U.S. side of the border and their size. I was even more surprised by the boats that lined the docks.
I had heard stories about the size of the lodges and the number of boats that went out onto the “big traverse” daily, but had never really put the words and images together.
The last time I had seen boats of that size and number was when I chartered a boat out of Ucluelet, B.C. to go salmon fishing on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Canadian side has far more residences and open space available. It is not built up yet.
Bill took us out to the mouth of the river. Alas, all too soon we had to return to the hustle and bustle of the tournament weigh-in.
The walleye tournaments in Rainy River and Emo are being used to showcase the fishery of the river and to help develop the tourist industry on the Canadian side of it.
On Sunday, the fishermen brought in full catches of walleye. The river lived up to its reputation of being able to produce large fish.
And those fishing the river on the final weekend of September were not disappointed.

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