Catfish and a birch bark canoe

I’ve been on the road the past few days, a welcome turn of events for anyone covering the outdoors beat.

It’s hard to do the outdoors justice sitting in front of a computer screen, after all.

The first stop on my travels took me to the Northwest Angle, where I interviewed Talon Stammen. A senior about to graduate from Grand Forks Red River High School, Stammen spends every possible moment at the family’s cabin on Lake of the Woods, and last fall, he built a birch bark canoe, gathering all of the materials from the area and even making the traditional tools the natives would have used back in the day.

Before building the canoe, Stammen consulted with a tribal elder who lives on Lake of the Woods. When Stammen explained what he planned to do, the elder responded, “You know they make these in fiberglass now.”

Stammen laughed as he recalled the encounter.

Talon Stammen of Grand Forks paddles Lake of the Woods in the birch bark canoe he built last year.

A story about Stammen’s canoe — which turned out beautifully — and his inspiration for embarking on such an ambitious venture will run on Sunday’s Outdoors pages. In the meantime, here’s a photo of Stammen paddling the canoe.

“It was an incredible experience, and I plan to build many more in the future,” Stammen said. “I would love nothing more than to at least have people appreciate it, if not build one themselves.”

From Lake of the Woods, I ventured west to Lockport, Man., to meet up with a couple of friends for a day of cat fishing on the Red River. Thanks to some much-needed rain, there were no signs of the fires that had threatened portions of southeast Manitoba the previous weekend.

I’ve written about fishing catfish at Lockport many times, and Monday’s excursion on the Red was a pleasure trip. The cats cooperated, and while some of us started slower than others, the three of us finished the day with 58 catfish, including several weighing more than 20 pounds.

I can only imagine trying to land one of those brutes from a birch bark canoe.