Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Three More for the Miramichi

Like every other non-profit in (at least) the U.S. and Canada, the Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) had to cancel all of its Spring and Summer fundraising events.  In order to take up some of the resulting financial slack, it is currently holding an online auction,  I have donated these three fly framings to the event (click on the pic to see a larger image).

The first is a map I legally borrowed from a New Brunswick government agency.  I played with it to create a sepia-toned image and added ten tied-by-me modern hairwing salmon flies.  The map and fly background are printed on a single sheet of 140 pound cold-press watercolor paper.  Matting is of course acid free.  The frame is oak milled into frame material in my shop.

Next framing centers around a fun poster I created, "The Eyes Have It" (get it....the "ayes" have it??)  Anyway, I printed the poster and triple matted it in acid free white, and added my version of Carrie Stevens' Green Beauty and my own Deep Green Beauty in the framing.  Frame made it my shop, pine done up in black.

Last, but hopefully not least, is a framing I call, "Autumn on the Little Southwest."  The framing includes a photo I took a couple autumns ago up on the that river while fishing with my pal Paul Elson.  I included several of my favorite fall flies, tied by me.  Frame is black cherry, which I milled from a tree in our backyard.

I hope you access the auction here: https://www.32auctions.com/MSAoutfittersauction?fbclid=IwAR2wohZKkEKN2ygqQe8H6nP05IW8pa1RuaKteqkoCxi6TiHt2Y2bHBLGSFY

If you are in the U.S. and are the winning bidder, the framings will ship from my home.  If you are in Canada or elsewhere, I'll ship the framings to MSA in Canada and they will ship from there.   There are other great items in the auction, hope you'll hurt your wallet a little in the name of Atlantic salmon conservation!


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Friendship Flies

You can click on the pics to see enlarged versions.

I'm a lucky guy - I have very generous friends some of whom are also very good fly tyers.  Lots of the flies I've been given were handed to me on-stream.  I bring them home where they line up nicely on a shelf down here in the cave.

My friend John Miniaci up in Montreal gave me a bunch of those, and Stephen Nye up in New Brunswick sent me that huge joke bug on the end.  He knows how fond I am of deer hair bugs (not.)

I have also been given a number of classic Atlantic salmon flies that have been begging to be framed.  With nothing but time on my hands these days (I should be in New Brunswick building our camp...but that pesky border is closed due to the virus), I decided it was time to get framing.

I usually cut the mats for shadow box frames first and then let the fly or flies and mats dictate the frame style.  Awhile ago, Paul Rossman gave me a huge and takes-two-strong-people-to-carry oval mat cutter.  The base of the monster is something like 3 feet by four feet:

Once I got cutting ovals figured out, I started matching mat colors and flies.  I have a set of Rangers given to me by Stephen Nye, and I initially thought I'd frame them individually:

But I have more than a couple flies to frame individually, and thought that maybe I would frame these in a group in one frame instead.  I bought a large format printer that can print on heavy card stock; I like to use 140 pound textured watercolor paper for fly backgrounds.  That printer (Epson Workforce WF-7710) allows me to print right on the paper, negating the need for added-in labels.

First I mess around with mat colors:

I settled on white and a blue that picked up a color in the flies:

My pal Brian Cuming always visits us in salmon camp bearing gifts, be it music cd's, great wine, or beautiful flies.   I decided to frame three of his together as well, going with with and a dark brown, again to pick up a color or two in his flies:

Back to that oval cutter and some individual flies from friends and again trying to find mat colors that compliment the flies.  From Stephen:

From Royce Stearns:

Another from Stephen:

And from my young friend, Julian Furlaga:

After all that matting, I decided that "simple" would be best for frames, and I wanted them all to be the same so that they made lovely groupings.  I had a piece of 1"X 6" red oak laying around, so I milled it up to make the essence of simplicity frames.  And fortunately, had a nice day to spray the frames outside:

BTW, in my experience, this is the best clear satin finish I've ever used on stained or natural wood (shameless plug...it's how I got the manufacturer to sell cans to me wholesale!).

I think our camp, if the U.S and Canada ever let me cross the border again, will really look swell with these additions to the walls:

One more frame:  A gentleman that has been fishing my salmon flies for a few years is quarantined down in South Carolina.  He sent me a note a week or so ago, saying that he'd like a framing of some of my flies to enjoy and bring thoughts of salmon fishing past and future to him.  That was a happy project....this time I stained the oak.

That's it on the framing front....now back to a few more streamers and a very messy kitchen table (Bridget let me bring some stuff up from the cave while I recovered from a new hip.  That was in February.  So far she's let me stay!


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Miramichi Salmon Camp - Autumn 2019...and where's the fish?

Bridget, Brodie and I headed up to salmon camp at Bullock's Lodge on September 15, 2019.  As usual, Bridget picked one of the two bedrooms for her personal space:

We have stayed, these last few autumns, in the Log Camp, owned by Vin Swazey and leased by the Bullocks for the season.  Since we now have a temporary trailer to stay in while we build our own camp just down river, this is perhaps the last time we'll enjoy the warm ambience of this camp.  It has been a fine place to stay.

Monday, September 16th, the river was looking to be a good height for fall fishing:

And, happily I landed a small grilse....the first Atlantic salmon I have landed on the Miramichi since September 29, 2017 with close to 60 days of fishing in the interim.

Our friends Jamie and Pete Woods were staying in Vin's other camp, and Pete hooked a grilse the same day I did:

Not to be outdone, Bridget hooked up, too, with guide Adam Munn manning the net!

She was a happy girl when the fish was in the net!

That is, until we realized it was a dreaded striper of about 22 inches.   It tasted good, anyway.  More about stripers and so few fish later as i ascend my soapbox.

By Thursday, September 19, the oaks were starting to turn under clear skies.

But the river was dropping:

Saturday, September 21, more oaks were coloring up.

And you can't beat the Miramichi for Autumn sunsets!

Sunday, September 22, the Canada geese are still trying to enjoy the grassy intervale.  Difficult when Brodie is in camp (lower left in photo)!

Speaking of Brodie, he surely loves to run along the Miramichi's shoreline looking for whatever it is he thinks he'll find!

Monday, September 23 and the river is still going down...but somehow we got a rainbow...harbinger of things to come?

Tuesdays's rains brought the river up:

We've known right along that we would need a place to stay while we build our camp.  We've looked at trailers both in the States and in Canada, but haven't found the right one at the right price.  But this day Vin asked if we've seen the one that's just a half mile away and is for sale.   Went to look....right size, right place and right location.   For the moment, it sits right on the site of what will become our camp...hooked up to our septic, well and electric that are already in the ground.  Vin was a ton of help with his tractor getting it situated just right.

Sunday, September 28 and the river is still coming up:

Bridget is a fearless wader...

and her loops keep getting tighter and tighter:

Camp neighbor Bill T. and Brodie had some catching up to do:

Have you noticed there is a paucity of fish photos in this blog post yet??  But I should note that one morning while Bill was there, he and a partner hooked 8 fish, landing four, up at Schoolhouse Pool.  By far the most success I'd heard of that year.

Thursday, October 3, and the colors on the island across from the camps are starting to pop:

The view from our own camp site is getting pretty colorful, too.

There was plenty of water in Home Pool on October 4th:

And on the 5th it was a might chilly:

But lo and behold, I hooked and landed a salmon...my first in two years of trying.  And I don't mean just trying for a week or two each year!

Hooked it on what Renate Bullock named my High Water Shrimp three years ago, when I hooked (and lost) quite a salmon on it!

Sunday, October 6 - No time off for the guides...gotta make hay while the sun shines.  Vin Swazey and Dan Bullock at Camp Pool:

And Camp Pool is looking really good!

And good old Log Camp....likely we won't be staying there again once our own camp is complete.

Monday, October 7 and the view from our camp site down to the river:

It's hard to resist taking a photo of autumn oak leaves against a blue sky, so I didn't!

The view of Camp Pool from our shoreline:

and downriver:

Our home away from home until next autumn:

October 16 - the season is over....Brodie making a point of that!

Speaking of Brodie, some readers may recall that last fall he got a deep cut on a forepaw pad, which took him out of the bird season.   Not to be outdone, this season, he stepped on a hawthorn thorn, and drove it into a "finger" joint on his right front paw.   The first vet we took him to in Canada missed it.  By the time we got home and showed it to our regular vet, she tried antibiotics for 10 days.  No go.  Finally, she called me and said she needed to amputate that toe; the bone was infected.  Having the same thing happen to me in third grade (!), I told her to go for it.   As you might expect, this was a little before Christmas, based on the bandage:

He's fine now, and back to his old ways:

I could go on, showing pretty photo of the Miramichi after pretty photo of the Miramichi, but I won't.   The main reason I have not left a record of several seasons on the Miramichi is because there were simply no fish.  Comraderie, great food, lots of drinks, sure....but no Atlantic salmon to speak of in any sort of appreciable numbers.

The Miramichi Salmon Association just came out with this statement today:

January 22nd, 2020


SOUTH ESK, NB – One of Canada’s leading salmon conservation groups is urging immediate action to address the dramatic decline of Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River.
The Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) says today’s report, by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that adult salmon returns to the Miramichi have reached an all-time low, is devastating news.  The last time adult salmon numbers were this poor was 2014 and this year’s numbers are the worst in recorded history for the Miramichi River.  “We were expecting bad news based on our observations and unfortunately that’s what we received,” said Mark Hambrook, MSA president.  “After seeing the live-trap numbers through the season, hearing what the catches were like on the river, and knowing the natural life cycle of the salmon (5 years), we fully expected the numbers to be poor this year but perhaps  increase slightly next year, similar to 2014 and 2015.  However, the trend is the numbers keep spiraling downwards and action must be taken to reverse this.”
The MSA believes the decline can be attributed to three main factors: predation, habitat degradation, and stock-management issues.  “Some of the biggest problems include grey seal predation in the bay, striped bass predation in the river and estuary, the warming of the river, invasive species and illegal removals.  Hambrook states, “it’s time for everyone to work together to ensure these problems get solved.   “We see a conservation plan happening for the Miramichi watershed that includes both short-term solutions, like restocking programs, and longer-term measures such as a sustainable seal harvest and a commercial striped bass fishery, both proposed and executed by First Nations.” 
Hambrook also said preserving habitat areas along the watershed, eliminating invasive species like smallmouth bass, protecting cold-water sources along the Miramichi are key to saving Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi.  “We don’t want to be like the St. John River, where there is no recreational fishery and no First Nation food and ceremonial fishery,” he said.
Hambrook said the MSA is particularly impressed with proposals put forward by their First Nations partners.  “Our First Nation partners want to lead many of these conservation initiatives and have already been successful with the cold-water habitat enhancement project and are leading the smallmouth bass eradication project.” Hambrook said. “We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with all our partners to restore the salmon and the river,” he concluded.
The Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) is a conservation charity based out of South Esk, NB with over 2,500 members and supporters.  MSA has invested over $1 million on its river programs in the past five years.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has known about the smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake for almost a decade.  They chose to throw a little band-aid over the problem, and now those fish are in the river.   They should be ashamed of themselves.

And what about striped bass?  DFO says there needs to be 35,000 stripers on the spawning beds in the Northwest Miramchi River (especially) to maintain the population.  A couple years ago, the estimate was that there were more than a million of them clogging the river.   The Atlantic Salmon Federation estimates (through a scientific study) that striped bass may be eating as much as 18 percent of the Atlantic salmon smolts leaving the river as the stripers are coming in to spawn.  Yet the retention limit (with a slot limit!) has remained at 3 fish per angler for several years.  I have friends and acquaintances that are hooking 300-400 stripers per day!   DFO should be ashamed of itself.

I am pleased and heartened to see that MSA is addressing concerns about the habitat that Atlantic salmon need in order to thrive.  New Brunswick forestry and agricultural practices are abysmal as they relate to the water quality of the Miramichi.   The river comes up and goes down like a piston in a high performance motor after a good rain...something it did not do before.   Hardwood trees, those lovely water sinks, are being replaced by conifer plantations all over the province.    Hardwoods, after being cut, are sprayed with glyphosate to prevent regrowth.   Who knows what other harm that chemical is doing.

So that's my little rant.  If you can figure out a way to support efforts on behalf of the Miramichi's Atlantic salmon, I hope you'll do so as well as standing up and letting DFO what a great (NOT!) job they're doing.

My friend (and MSA co-board member) Brad Burns is hosting an online auction and raffle on his website.   I hope you'll check it out, and bookmark the opening date of the auction (1/31/2019) and make some good strong bids on behalf of the Atlantic salmon.  https://www.bradburnsfishing.com/auction/

I wish I could say "cheers!" with more conviction this time around!