There were no designated campsites on Brunne Lake. We knew that before leaving home but figured the lake too remote to need any. Our intention was an island site with a panoramic view and a landing every bit as good as the one back on Wedge Lake. There we had a tiny, corner lawn almost level with the water. If Al and I paddled hard and leaned back as we hit the shore, the canoe would actually slide a few feet onto the grass. That we were looking for another every bit as good said we were idiots.
Over the next hour we paddled and circled a fair number of islands and found nothing. Maybe the lack of canoe landings was the reason for no designated campsite on Brunne (or maybe they simply didn't print enough sets of regulations to nail on trees. Could be I forgot to mention that each designated sight was marked with a large, blaze orange diamond made from genuine Canadian plywood and a set of camping rules, both mounted in plain sight. Not real wildernessy but, as I wrote earlier, we were there for the fishing)?
On our return west, off in the distance we spied what looked to be perfect. Over the years we came to understand that didn't mean squat. At a half-mile most every stretch of shore looked good. What seemed level shore was usually atop a three foot ledge. The necessary opening in the forest and doable landing weren't on an island, but instead were on an east-facing peninsula. By now we'd dropped being choosy and shot straight for it. This time the ledge wasn't but two feet high. With a little canoe stabilizing and a dance step or two, one of us at a time, we were able to climb ashore. The open dent in the woods was just large enough to set up a kitchen, erect the tent, and unfold the chairs. We were home.
Over the next few days Allan and I discovered the fishing was good but was disappointing at the same time. We were four lakes and two portages from the access and expected to be boating walleyes by the dozens, many dozens. Retrospect tells me the walleyes were in post-spawn. Not a one we caught was over two pounds, probably males. The ladies were no doubt mid-lake somewhere, suspending, and going through their postpartum depression. Timing is the key to excellent spring walleye fishing and we were off by no more than a week. It was a typical case of, 'you shoulda been here last week.'
Immediately to our north, a portage away, lay two hundred acre Copper Lake. Our map showed no path from Brunne and the ranger made no mention of one, but it was there all right, right where it should be at the closest point between. Again the walleye fishing wasn't what we were hoping. I doubt we boated more than two dozen in our morning. Again, they were all males. Back home in Minnesota a couple of dozen pickerel in a few hours would have been cause for rejoicing. Yeah, we were ugly American greedy bastards.
Back at the access in Cranberry Portage we mentioned our luck on Copper to one of the old-timers. He recalled Copper as it was ten or more years earlier. Said it was the lake closest to virgin he'd ever fished. Then, a few years back, it changed. For some unknown reason what had been a fish a cast slowed dramatically and he had no idea why.
Two years later we came to see what might have been the reason. Years earlier the Canadians had a rail line running east to west across the northern part of the park. Eventually the line was shut down, the rails and ties pulled out. The fine citizens of Snow Lake, twenty miles northeast of Grass River Park saw a golden opportunity and graded the right-of-way smooth as could be. Now it was possible to drive to what had earlier been fly-in water, one of which was Copper Lake.