September. Time for Bridget and I to head to the Miramichi for our annual week together on the river. For the past several years, we'd go up for our week (third week of the month), come home and then I'd go back up a week later for my time with friends downriver from Boiestown. Bridget, brilliant executive that she is, came up with a better plan: take both her SUV and my truck - she'd come home after the week, and I'd be able to stay up for three straight weeks. The cost of taking her Subaru would be much more economical than making two trips up in my 13mpg (at best) F-150. AND, I would take Brodie up, she would bring him home after the week, as I wouldn't have the time/accomodations to handle him. Three straight weeks on the river. Life is good.
We headed up to Bullock's Lodge (www.bullockslodge.com) on Sunday, September 18th. I left home with Brodie in tow around 9am, getting into Boiestown in mid-evening. Bridget, well, she sat down to have a cup of tea before leaving...woke up 3 hours later...got into camp around 1 a.m. I was worried about moose on the road until she walked in the door!
Don't forget: you can click on the pics and videos to see the large version!
We were greeted by a misty dawn our first morning in camp. The amount of gravel showing at the head of the island out in the river is a good barometer of the river's level; very low at the moment:
I took Brodie out for a little stroll to stretch his legs and ended up with a great opportunity to teach him the "whoa" command...a flock of geese that didn't want to budge on the interval:
We left a pretty wet dog behind as we headed out for a fish!
Before heading down to the river, we met up with our old friend Walter:
Walt had been a busy boy the day before!
Heading down to Home Pool:
which was a very low Home Pool (keep all that gravel that's showing in the back of your mind):
and were joined for coffee by our good friend, Vin Swazey (and remember that bench that's just showing in the photo):
By the way, I love the Redington waist high waders I have on; they have two waterproof pockets perfect for camera or whatever. I fished hard in them this past season, and have no issues to report (a very unpaid endorsement.)
My friends Brian Cuming from Fredricton and Fred Hall from Connecticut stopped by for a visit in the afternoon. Bad blogger that I am, I forgot to get a photo. I fished with Fred at Bullock's about 6 years ago, and hadn't seen him since. Good to renew a friendship, especially when the renewal takes place at salmon camp! And Brian always shows up with wine, flies and music!
We saw no fish and hooked no fish this first day in camp, blaming the low water and no recent rain. Ever hear the saying, "Be careful what you wish for?" Heavy rain started in the afternoon, and was still cranking at bedtime.
We awoke to a changed river Tuesday morning (9/20):
Remember all that gravel and the bench on the Home Pool bar I mentioned for yesterday? Yup, the river came up a bit. Good thing the Bullock's have an anchor attached to the bench!
We fished the Boat House pool in front of Jim and Caroline Swazey's home that morning, which is only a salmon pool when the water is this high. No fish to report.
We fished Home Pool in the evening, where I proceeded to lose a very nice salmon:
I hooked that fish on a pattern that was based on this fly, called a copper and orange shrimp: http://www.salmonfishingforum.com/forums/thread137213.html . I include the link to the Salmon Fishing Forum - a U.K.-based forum, because it has some very good fly tyers posting their work, which is so often very different from North American flies. My pattern is a little different (lol, aren't they all?); it had no name until it hooked a fish. Renate and Bridget agreed it should be called the Highwater Shrimp. Who am I to argue with the experts? The fly soaking wet:
A beautiful morning to start Wednesday (9/21) - that pesky high water was still with us:
A great morning to start getting Brodie used to his e-collar...that boy loves to run!
Not much happened salmon-wise the morning at Elbow Pool, but I hooked (sigh, and lost) a good fish on the late Bob Warren's Golden Pheasant Spey:
You may have noticed that there is a trend developing here, me and salmon-wise, that I was not particularly enthused about.
The week was passing by quickly, but we were greeted by yet another beautiful morning on Thursday (922). And the river is starting to go down:
The salmon showed us no love that day, but Fred Hall stopped back by (with a lovely bottle of scotch!) and brought a new friend along to us, Howard Rossbach. Howard is President of Firesteed Cellars. They make fine wines, and have been very helpful to organizations like the one near and dear to my heart, the Miramichi Salmon Association. He and Fred were fishing at Salmon Brook. While they were visiting, my pal Rob Feeney stopped in from Fredricton. We had a great afternoon sitting around outside the camp. And of course I didn't get a photo of the group (again).
Friday (9/23) was a cold, drizzly morning...just what we needed: more rain. Although the river was still dropping.
Home Pool was our fishing venue for the day. Renate is on guide duty, rain or shine (and you can start seeing the bar show again)!
I hooked a grilse that morning on a fly tied by my bud, Stephen Nye. He's an incredible classic and contemporary fly tyer (you should see his Bombers); he had given me four classic flies that he wanted me to fish a year or so ago. They are too large for most summer fishing, but one of them, an Orange Parson, looked perfect to me for the high autumn water we were dealing with. Sadly (here's that trend thing raising its ugly head again), I lost that grilse, and the fly, to a bad tippet knot (my bad tippet knot) right at the net. But here's another Orange Parson tied by Stephen (I stole the photo off the www.nsflyguy.ca site, where Stephen often posts his flies):
The day cleared off nicely as we headed back to Home Pool for our evening fish. We had been fishing primarily orange-ish fall patterns; Bridget decided she wanted to change things up by putting on a Celtic Beauty. Good move.
The Celtic Beauty:
In the early going of that shift, she landed a nice grilse:
She also lost a salmon after a brief encounter. I was still fishing the High Water Shrimp. After I reported to Renate that I had had two good tugs on it in so many casts, she suggested that I switch to a Celtic Beauty, too. Good move. On my first cast with it, I hooked into a salmon like I have never hooked into before. All I could think to myself was oh my god, what do I do? I don't know how to fight this...and on like that for several minutes. Finally it jumped clear of the water (mind numbing sight) and crashed down on the leader/tippet and was gone. That fish actually scared me. Sadly, no pics.
Oh, yes, the trend: GT hooks 4 fish thus far, ZERO landed. Not a lot of good excuses floating around, either. But tomorrow's another day, right? Right.
Saturday started with a cold, crisp morning. We were fishing Home Pool today.
Bridget and I were both still swinging Celtic Beauties. I hooked two salmon, lost them both, finally landed a grilse:
My hip and psyche were getting the best of me. I essentially live on oxycodone, for better or worse, and sometimes it all just gets the best of me. Renate captured my mood perfectly. Whining over.
Well, the whining is almost over. The evening fish was not much better from a certain standpoint: hooked two salmon, landed a grilse. Again, all on Celtic Beauties.
How's that trend going for you now, sport? Oh, that's right...8 salmon lost, 2 grilse landed. My, what a great salmon angler you've become. Not. At least the Celtic Beauty is performing up to expectations!
And the Bullock's Lodge pools are certainly doing their part, too.
The good news is: the fat lady hasn't sung yet.
While Bridget was supposed to go home on Sunday (9/25), and I was just going to hang out for the week somewhere, she decided she wanted to stay and fish a few more days. Our good friend Bill Tomiello was coming in from New Jersey to start his stay in the camp we were in, so we needed to move out of it. Through the good graces of the Swazey family, we were able to move just two camps over into Vin Swazey's late brother Lawrence's camp. And the Bullock's had enough pools and guides to keep us fishing. Lawrence's camp:
We spent the morning moving camp, then headed to Home Pool for a nice evening fish. Every so often I can pop a pretty good cast...Bridget caught one on her phone:
The Celtic Beauty continued to produce. I finally actually landed a salmon! She was so fat I had to lift her up out of the water a bit to show how big she was:
Monday (9/26) started with yet another beautiful morning, and the river was coming down:
We were so happy to be fishing with Linda Warren again. Her husband and our great and good friend Bob passed away back in July. It was wonderful to see her again. And the woman can cast:
Her first morning fishing she put on a Cutty Sark that Bob had tied and had never been fished, and took herself to his favorite place to fish on the river, a run into Elbow Pool that he called The Gut. And she landed a salmon. Best story.
Bridget and I didn't move any fish that morning. Some excitement did occur that afternoon when this hawk tried to commit suicide by flying into Vin and Hazel's picture window. The New Brunswick DNR took it off our hands. I think it was just shaken up; nothing seemed broken. That's the good news. The bad news is, the next morning coming in from the morning's fish, I heard a racket coming from Renate's chicken enclosure. Raced over to see what was up. Ended up literally kicking the same species of hawk off of one of her chickens. The really bad news is that that chicken, and one other it had attacked, died. Mother nature always presents a two-edged sword, it seems to me.
Bridget and I fished Camp Pool that evening. The home side of that pool can be tough to wade, so Dan Bullock poled Bridget to the opposite side, where wading is a bit easier (she has hips that are problematic and needs to take great care not to fall).
Sadly, the fish were all on my side of the river that night. Hooked 2 salmon and a grilse; landed one of the salmon and the grilse. Bridget took these videos of the salmon and grilse; I didn't edit out the endings where we are photographing the fish. I wanted to show the care we take when taking photos. I do realize that some folks don't take photos of their fish anymore. I still do; guess I figure I'm not a good enough storyteller to do so without photos...and these fish are rested and strong when they head back into the river.
Tuesday (9/27) was planned as a work day for both Bridget and I. She can telecommute to her office (which she keeps telling me she is retiring from) and Vin had some chores that he could use some help with, which is always fun for me (and is another whole blog post!).
We did take time out to visit Camp Pool that morning to see how Bill and Linda were doing. What a pair (us, not them - and that's Bill fishing in the background):
When Bill got down the pool nearer the fire we're enjoying, he hooked up. Large.
More good news: he hooked it on this Celtic Beauty he had tied the night before:
Vin and Hazel invited us over for dinner that night. Always a good time.
Wednesday (9/28) - the fall colors are starting to show, and the river keeps coming down (at this point that's still an OK thing.)
We were fishing Home Pool. Bridget got the only taker of the morning, a real head shaker that no one could have kept on, especially with our barbless hooks. Check out her rod tip in this few second video:
That afternoon I spent more time with Brodie. He's such a stylish setter:
And such a goofy boy. He's always taking selfies:
In the evening, I landed a grilse on that Highwater Shrimp:
Cool thing - while we were fishing Home Pool, Vin was fishing his own Camp Pool, and landed his first salmon of the season (he hasn't gotten to fish much this year) on a Celtic Beauty I tied for him...on his spey rod! Three firsts for him in one outing.
After fishing, we had Bill, Linda, Vin and Hazel over for a roast beef dinner, courtesy Bridget's awesome cooking. Nice way to end the day.
Thursday ((9/29) presented us with yet another gorgeous morning:
Linda brought her delightful setter Mollie up with her again this year. Mollie is pretty sure she's human...she barely put up with Brodie's antics. Here's what we called the wag-off:
This trip was the first time Brodie ever saw water other than in his bowl. He got the hang of it quickly. He's such a people dog. He saw two gentlemen fishing out in Camp Pool so decided he'd go visit them. Didn't think they'd appreciate his visit, so with some not-so-gentle coaxing, got him back in to shore.
Later in the morning we watched Bill land a grilse at Camp Pool:
Here's the Ackroyd the grilse took, fresh out of the water:
The gang at Camp Pool. It's so much fun just being together on the river.
Bridget and I fished Camp Pool that evening. This time she fished the home side with me. Except the fish were all showing on the other side, where she fished the other day! Of course.
Friday (9/30) - a frosty morning!
I couldn't resist a few artsy shots of the frosty hawthorne and aspen:
Later in the morning, fishing Schoolhouse Pool, Bridget landed a nifty small salmon. Small, but would have been illegal to take if grilse tags were still out there.
Over the past 10 days or so, her casting has improved dramatically:
Her fish took one of my ties of Emmett Johnson's simplified General Practitioner (my friends downriver, where I would be heading next week, were also having great success with this fly):
And again, related to her hips, thank heavens for Dan's ferry service!
Took Brodie for another run in the early afternoon. He's a really smart boy. Here, I know he's pointing a squirrel (he's young) because he has a hind leg lifted. If its a bird, he lifts a front leg. Really, it's the truth. Would I lie?
And of course Mollie was always fun to chase:
Linda Warren brought her late husband Bob's ashes with her on this trip. His wish was to have them scattered into the Miramichi, the river that had given him so much joy for so many years. Bob's daughter Allie made the trip up from Massachusetts for the occasion. Allie and Linda share a moment as they watch his ashes mingle with the river.
They then hosted a lovely luncheon for us all. It turned into quite a celebration of Bob's life and good times on the river.
Bridget would be going home in the morning, so she captured one last Brodie run:
Bridget left around noon for home in Vermont. I spent the day relaxing in anticipation of doing a hopefully lively auction for the Atlantic Salmon Museum's annual Hall of Fame fundraiser. It's always a great crowd...everyone's bidding!
This event always gives me a chance to catch up with my young friend Julian, an incredible fly tyer at age 12! (every year we try to get a photo together in front of that "Gentlemen" sign)
Sunday morning, before heading down river to camp at Sunny Corner for the coming week, I watched a pod of fish heading over the bar in front of the camps:
I also stopped by Camp Pool in time to watch Bill Tomiello land yet another beautiful salmon:
The big hen took Bill's tie of a Hunter's Ponoi Shrimp (it became a hot fly for Bill and his campmates the rest of the week):
Spending the first week of October together has become a tradition for Paul and Stephanie Elson, Howie Gould and myself. During this particular week several other friends would take part in the festivities. In fact, when I arrived at the Elson's camp Sunday afternoon, it looked like quite a few friends be taking part!
Home for the coming week:
Monday, Oct 2 - with extremely low water everywhere, we decided to hit the Main Southwest Miramichi at Quarryville where the river is still tidal, and therefore almost always has water. I had never fished there before...it is a very popular public pool, and has a reputation for being quite a zoo. Combat fishing, if you know what I mean. The intrepid team that day:
Stephanie took this photo of the group and posted it on facebook. My delightful much older sister Kathy, ever the comedian, inquired there, "Do you all live under that bridge?"
On to the fishing! The Conga Line:
Stephanie hooked up first...such a poised angler!
Howie tailed it for her....Striper!
The Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had recently lengthened the striped bass season so that we could keep one fish per day per angler as long as it was within the slot size of a minimum of 50cm and a maximum of 65 cm. Steph's fish was within the slot, so dinner was on the table!
My pal Bill Lendorf was top rod for the day, but most of the fish he hooked were to big for the slot.
The highlight of my day was meeting up with Bryant Freeman, an icon among New Brunswick salmon anglers. He owns a small fly shop down in Riverview (http://www.eskapeanglers.com/). Fly tyers from all over go to his shop for his excellent collection of fly tying materials for sale, as well as his flies. When I first started dyeing my own materials, Bryant, who had never met me, was so helpful as I got started. Too many experienced hands like to keep their knowledge a deep, dark secret. Not Bryant! I do have to report that Bryant said, with a wry smile on his face, that he'd never speak to me again if I showed a photo of him at Quarryville! Sorry Bryant, can't help myself!
Oh, if it isn't bad enough that he was fishing at Quarryville, he was fishing a Green Machine (here embedded into the cork of his brand new Sage X)!!!
He gave me one of his Carter Bugs, a fly he is famous for tying. It was great meeting him.
Back to the fishing! We hooked more than twenty stripers that day. They appeared to come in with the tide. We had no striper flies amongst us; they took all the salmon flies we threw at them, but they seemed to like dark shiny stuff the best. I hooked and landed three, all on the Highwater Shrimp.
There were 7 of us, so we could keep 7 fish that fit within the slot. That we did! (one fish is missing in the photo; our friend Freddy had to leave before dinner, so took his fish with him.
Howie took care of the cooking...what an awesome meal! And we were pleased to be able to do our part to reduce the number of bass in the river!
After dinner, Bill L. asked Howie and I for some tying lessons. He's a good guy to have in camp!
Tuesday morning (10/4), with low - and getting lower - water everywhere, we decided to split the group up. There are few pools in New Brunswick that can handle the number of anglers that Quarryville can take, especially in low water. Steph, Brad and I would head to a certain pool on the Northwest Miramichi; Howie, Bill and Paul would head to another.
Steph would have to be my guide (and she is a Guide I), so she watched while a fished awhile, then I watched while she fished. She cast a sweet, tight loop!
While we saw a few fish, there were no takers, so it became a photo day:
The boys had gone to the pool at Wayerton Bridge; the only fish hooked and landed was a grilse on as close to a Celtic Beauty I tied the night before with Bill that I could get with Howie's travel box of materials. I do think it had a marabou wing.
Speaking of marabou, this is the kind of fly Howie and Paul tie and fish often (pretty non-traditional, to say the least!):
The group headed back to Quarryville, armed with striper flies, that afternoon. The stripers weren't in. I stayed back in camp and made a Low Country Boil for our dinner. Stephanie got to load up her plate first; last year she got back to camp late and, sad to report, us boys didn't leave her much to eat. Remedied the situation this year! Oh, and there were no leftovers.
After dinner, I asked Howie to show me how he ties and trims a buck bug - he's as good as there is when it comes to tying bugs!
A finished (but blurry) bug with a few of the Emmett Johnson-style GP's he tied earlier:
Wednesday (Oct. 5), we loaded up the truck and headed upriver to Boiestown to try and find water and fish;
Essentially, we found neither. But we had fun nonetheless!
Still life with gear:
Thursday (10/5), Steph had a guiding gig, so Howie, Paul and I headed to the Little Southwest Miramichi, again in search of water and fish. In that order. Oh, wait, that's right, and birds, on the way in to the pool. Believe it or not, I actually saw Howie hit a bird in the air (as opposed to on the road) here last year!
More low, low water:
I do hang out with a bunch of good casters. Tight loop Paul:
I even tried to find fish with good taste with my Famous Grouse fly (to no avail):
At least the autumn colors were there for us even if the fish were not!
In the afternoon, Howie had to do some actual real work for his job, so Paul and I headed to the Renous. Upon arriving, we looked down into the pool and saw at least 20 salmon and grilse finning quietly. I enhanced best I could a photo of the pool from up on the bank...you can kind of make out some of the fish. I circled on. (would have killed for a polarized lens!)
Paul actually got one grilse to take a casual look at his fly. Then he watched from the bank as I first swung a wet fly over them, and then drifted a bomber. Not a single fish even twitched. Time to take fall foliage photos.
That was it for salmon fishing for me for 2016. Friday, I headed back upriver to Boiestown to spend the night and head home Saturday morning. Fall colors were in full swing, and the river was, as Renate calls it, desperate low.
There you have it...three incredible weeks fishing for atlantic salmon with family and good, good friends. I want to thank Bridget, Dan and Renate Bullock, Vin and Hazel Swazey, Paul and Stephanie Elson, and certainly not last nor least, my pal Howie Gould for helping me along one incredible journey. To my other friends that I met up with along the way...thank you for being there.
A Sting song was playing on my truck's CD player as I made my way south through northern Maine. It made me think of the gold I was driving through at 80mph, so I replayed the song and made a little video of Interstate 95's scenery. Turn your speakers up and take a 3 minute drive with me: