October is my favorite month of the year, and for the past two years, its been made even sweeter with trips up to New Brunswick to fish the Miramichi's tributaries with my friends Howie, Paul and Bill. I left for camp this year on October 1st, and made it to Paul's camp in Sunny Corner, NB, in about 11 hours from here in Bennington, Vermont.
That evening, we made plans to fish the Northwest, Cains, Renous, Little Southwest and Main Southwest Miramichi Rivers. Have you ever noticed that definitive plans are hard to make when the adult beverages are flowing?
Remember, you can click on the pics to see the large version!
First up was a day (October 2nd) on the Northwest Miramichi. I think its my favorite of the Main Southwest's tributaries. Gorgeous day, with classic reels on modern two-hand rods, racked up in my F-150 (by opening the windows on my cab and cap, I can haul 14 footers fully assembled).
Morning on the river...a time divine.
The river was very low.
Howie's phone takes a heck of panoramic shot!
Two-handed rods enable you to cast a very long line. Howie waits patiently as his fly makes a swing across the river:
At 64, I've been known to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak. At least that's what I tell these 40-something year olds I'm fishing with!
The fish were not particularly interested in our offerings that day, but they aren't the only thing about fishing for atlantic salmon that is so compelling. Talk about a room with a view!
Getting close to the end of our first day... a couple fish showed interest, but no hook ups for the lads.
Day 2, its down to the Cains River for us. I'm happy to report that after about 3 years flailing away with the two-hand rod, I can now occasionally pop a good one:
What's not to like about being on the Cains??
Water wicked low.
But that enabled us to wade across to fish both sides of the river (to no good effect, sadly)
Why do the lads always take pictures of me sitting down??
The day ended with nary a hit, but, as always, just good to be there. Tomorrow, the Renous.
The Renous is pretty much a low gradient, slow-flow river. A good swing is hard to come by, but it sure is pretty (another of Howie's panoramas):
Fall colors really starting to turn on.
As I mentioned, it is a tough place to get a fly to swing well, and forget about backcast room if you're using a single hand rod!
Nothing going on here, so we headed to a little pool on the Northwest, where Howie and I both raised a fish (mine on a small Green Picasse).
Day three ends with just those two hits. But a little rain showed up, which was much needed, with more in the forecast for tomorrow...but be careful what you wish for (or how much of it, anyway!)
Sunday morning begins with a light drizzle of rain. We headed back to the Northwest, where we had seen the most fish, just hadn't hooked any. It was one gray morning.
A bit later, the rains really came on. This video starts with a clip he took just before he hooked a nice big hen, then continues on with playing and landing her:
A sweet fish, well played. Good for Howie, he got things rolling.
That fish was it for the soggy, soggy day, but, as usual, we had a blast.
Monday, we were heading back to the Northwest, with the Little Southwest as a good possibility, too.
As we were loading up to go, I realized I had forgotten some essential thing or another back in my bedroom. We were all already wadered up, and no one was foolish enough to incur the wrath of Stephanie (Paul's wife, who lives in the camp full time during the season) by walking in wet felt soles across the entire inside of the camp. What to do?? Paul came up with this ingenious solution for me:
Suffice to say, we made it out of camp (finally), and headed to the river on another beautiful New Brunswick morning.
The river came up a bit from Sunday's rain:
Couldn't resist taking a shot of this little beaver-dammed backwater:
We weren't raising any fish this a.m., so we decided to head back to the Little Southwest again. On the way out, I noticed a perfect ruffed grouse drumming log, and without stopping there, mentioned it to Howie, walking maybe 10 yards behind me. Laughing, he said it must be, because it had a grouse on it! A little video from his phone:
On to the Little Southwest. Whoever named it the Little Southwest had a strange outlook on things. It is a big river.
Swinging down the river, I got a strong tug, and it was fish on! We got some fun video
Howie tailed it for me, and we got a heck of a buddy shot, taken by Paul.
It was a fat and sassy hookbill, maybe 14 pounds (guide weight at least 17, lol). This is what those big teeth he grew did to my tie of Emmett Johnson's great variation of the General Practioner. Forget the fly, you should have seen what those teeth did to a couple of my fingers!
That was our only landed fish for the day. A fine day, nonetheless, beautiful as the sun began to set.
Tuesday, October 7, and we're headed back to the Cains. The Conga Line (the gentleman in the foreground of the pic is a delightful, 94 years young angler, being guided by Paul's wife, Stephanie, who is camp manager and guide for Upper Oxbow adventures in Red Bank):
Howie, ever the intrepid wader, crossed the river and was fishing down towards me. The swing was all wrong for me to get into the two fish that were showing just upriver from where he was. I suggested he give that part of the pool a shot, and on about his second cast there, it was game on.
Another beautiful big hen:
We were seeing more and more fish, but that was it for the day. But tomorrow is always another day, and hope springs eternal among atlantic salmon anglers!
Wednesday, my last day of fishing for this trip. Bill had to return to work on Monday, and Howie had to get back home on Tuesday after hooking his big hen in the morning, so it was just Paul and I. We opted for the Little Southwest in the morning, and if things got slow, the Cains in the afternoon.
Pretty gray, cool morning:
But we were seeing fish rolling and jumping. We figured a pod of fish might be moving through, spurred on by the recent raise in water. Paul was at the head of the pool, and hooked up:
Another gorgeous big hen!
I took Paul's place at the head of the run, and immediately had a big fish make a run at my Green Picasse. Alas, it was a swing and a miss. We had seen a lot of fish early, but as the morning wore on, the action slowed to a standstill. Time to move on. The Cains was calling!
The afternoon was warmer and sunnier than the morning, thank goodness. I opted for the slow tail of the pool first thing. Waiting...waiting...waiting during the swing:
The reward! A nice grilse on!
I had an Orange Sneaky on, size 10, designed by Nova Scotian Mike Boudreau. A great low, slow water autumn fly. Tailing the fish was, shall we say, less than pretty. But hey! Grilse are hard to grab! I did a dainty little pirouette trying to tail him, but the barbless Sneaky slipped out, and away he went. I know Paul enjoyed getting these pics:
We saw a few more fish that afternoon, but the grilse was all she wrote, action-wise, and brought an end to my incredible week of October fishing. But wait! That's not quite the end of the fishing part of the trip! We had a ton of fun with a little project, and it needs a bit of a disclaimer so that any "powers that be" don't get too agitated, and maybe come to understand that it was just some lads having a lot of fun at no one's expense.
In New Brunswick, there is a Crown Reserve System, wherein only residents may enter a lottery to obtain fishing on certain dates on named pools in several rivers. I, as a non-resident, cannot fish them ever, and a resident can only fish them if they have been selected, through the draw, to do so. Every pool in the Reserve System has a name, and is placarded as such. The placards have the logo of the Crown Reserve System on them, were in the process of being replaced. We borrowed one for a couple days (and returned it!!)...it was for the American Pool. Thus began The American Pool Tour.
We carried the sign to every pool we fished for the couple days we had it, and took a series of pics of me, the American (get it? American? American Pool? Maybe you had to be there.) We had a blast doing it, and here are the results...me looking as doofy as ever!
Thus endeth the fishing portion of the journey. On Thursday, October 9th, I got to spend some real quality time with these guys:
I also got to spend that same quality time with the Brittanies owner and trainer, Brett Silliker, and a very nice gentleman named John, from New Hampshire.
Brett is on the left in the pic, and there are 5 woodcock on top of the dog box. In more than 40 years of bird hunting, I've never been guided, so it was a new experience for me. Suffice to say, it was a wonderful experience! Grouse and woodcock hunting over pointing dogs in New Brunswick was high on my bucket list, and now, thanks to Brett, I can cross it off!
Brett is a salmon guide during the summer and bird hunting guide during that season for Upper Oxbow Outdoor Adventures. His knowledge of dogs and bird covers is vast...I had a ball.
By the way, can you find the wounded woodcock in this pic? One of Brett's dogs did! No waste of game with his dogs around.
It was a great week, thanks to the hospitality and friendship of Stephanie and Paul, Howie and Bill, and Brett. And to those who spent their time this season staring at their computer screens reading doom and gloom reports about the number of fish in the system and the low water, cancelling reservations and staying home, I say thank you, more room for me and my pals. Remember, its hard to hook a salmon if your fly is not in the water!