Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Brunswick Salmon Camp - October, 2014

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.  

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's knowledge of the woodcock's ways is vast; I had a blast hunting with him.
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!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Tanner's LBT (Little Brown Trout)

I recently tied up a batch of Deep Green Beauties for a gentleman from Michigan, Jay G.  He's interested in big brown trout, and likes to swing featherwing streamers as well as soft hackles.   He asked me if I tied anything in the way of a Little Brown Trout (LBT) streamer.  I didn't, but did a good search of Google images and looked in all the books I have, hoping to find something that would work for him.  I suggested the standard hairwing LBT to him; he's used it to no good effect.
There are some other barred featherwing flies out there, but none struck me as particularly similar to a brown trout.  Time to hit the drawing board!

Viewing a few hundred brown trout images, the yellow in their body struck me first and foremost, and then, of course, there's the "dots."  I've seen brook and brown trout streamers with "painted-on" dots...don't care for that.   And then there's the silvery belly.   I really like tying Carrie Stevens'-style streamers with their cheeks of silver pheasant or wood duck or other feathers, but didn't see where a cheek would improve the look of the fly to a big brown looking for dinner, so I bagged the idea of a cheek.

Long story short, here's what I came up with:

This is one labor and material-intensive fly, but I really think its going to be worth the effort (Jay does too, can't wait for his first report on it!)

There are six feathers in the wing (three on a side), plus the Jungle Cock eye, plucked from these capes:

The yellow is an Whiting American rooster cape, the Cree came from eBay awhile ago (either that or I stole it from my buddy Wally; can't remember. heh heh), and the barred ginger came from my recent visit to Doak's in Doaktown, NB ( (Had a nice visit with Bruce Waugh, helpful Doak employee who also ties many, many of their flies, while I was there, too.)

I think the strong shaft of the Whiting cape will help prevent the wing from wrapping around the hook.

I use the same process to tie this fly as I do my Deep Green Beauty - you can check out how I tie that here:
Glued up, the wings look like this:
The body is actually the easy, least time-consuming part of the fly.  Looks like this:
I mount the wings at about the 11 and 1 o'clock positions at the head of the fly (a la' Carrie Stevens method):
Finished fly (again):
A bunch on the drying rack, heading to Jay tomorrow:

The pattern:

Hook - Mustad 3665A (sizes 4 and 6 in this instance)
Thread - Orvis 8/0 Pale Yellow
Wing - Whiting American Rooster dyed yellow under Barred Ginger under Cree (one set for each side); Jungle    Cock eye
Tag and Rib - Lagartun Metallic Gold Oval Tinsel, size small
Body - Bright Yellow Uni-floss
Belly - Hareline UV Minnow Belly and a Golden Pheasant tippet over that.
Wing Flash -  Cascade Crest Tools Orange Crystal Mirror Flash.

I don't usually name a fly before it fools a fish, but I couldn't resist this time.  Here's hoping!  
UPDATE!  Ken F., friend of Jay that I tied this order for, just informed me that he hooked a trout on his first cast with the LBT I sent him!  So the name sticks!  Very cool.  Thanks for letting me know, Ken!           

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Miramichi Salmon Camp - Spring 2014

I left Vermont at 4:30 a.m., headed to Boiestown, NB, on April 24th.  Heading east, as the sun came up, I had to put my sunglasses on; clear blue skies.  Into New Hampshire, still pretty darn nice day.  Up around Bangor, Maine, winds picked up pretty good, and it started to rain.  By the time I hit Customs at Houlton, the wind was howling, and I had my wipers on "high".  Just into New Brunswick, a light snow was falling. By the time I hit Fredricton, with an hour to go before getting to my home-away-from-home, Boiestown, it was a blizzard.  Renate Bullock caught the moment when I arrived at her camp 10 hours after leaving Vermont:

Her son (and Bullock's Lodge camp manager) Dan came down to show me the river:

Lots o' ice!

I had several reasons for this trip.  I wanted to hear some presentations by various agencies on activities affecting (potentially or actually) the Miramichi watershed on Friday.  On Saturday, I attended the Annual General Meeting and then the Board of Directors meeting of the Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA).  I'm very proud to say I was elected to the Board at that meeting.  I look forward to working on that board on the river's and the salmon's behalf!

Mid-day my bud, Rene Warren, tracked me down just to say hello.  He gave me three flies he tied, which will have a place of honor back home:

The MSA's Icebreaker party/fundraiser was Saturday night, and I was pleased to once again be the evening's auctioneer.  That is one fun party, and the auction is always characterized by spirited bidding.  I didn't get a photo of it, but one of the finest items in the auction was a box of 48 Spring and 48 Classic Atlantic Salmon flies tied and donated by my friend Brian Cuming of Fredricton.  Really an incredible donation; I know how much time and money those flies take to tie.

In case you're wondering where Boiestown is, it's the geographic center of New Brunswick...or so the sign says!

Sunday was a kicked back kind of a day; Renate and I went for a walk along the river.

Renate says the sounds of the river going out are really something to hear.  This year it happened, in front of her home, at about midnight a few days before I got there.

Monday, yet another reason for my trip began: renovations to Renate's kitchen.  New flooring and tongue and groove cedar to replace old paneling.  The floor was one of many layers; all but the bottom one had to go.

Next the old paneling came off:

New paneling, then the new floor:

It took another day or so to replace sink, faucets, etc.  Here's hoping Renate, a great cook, is happy with her new kitchen.  I think she is.

Did I mention the deer?  They were everywhere: on lawns, in driveways, and, dangerously, on the roads.  I snapped a pic of them here and there:

Enough of the deer already!  But  they sure looked like they had come through a long, hard winter (and they had!).

Renate got a great shot of a grouse in the flower bed alongside her driveway.  The bird is actually standing in the spot my truck slid back into, messing up the bed, when I forgot to put it in four-wheel drive one morning. The drive was frozen over most every morning that I was there.

Ruffed grouse in the back yard, atlantic salmon in the front yard...what a grand place to live!!!

And yes, I went fishing!!!  Early in my visit, Vin Swayze and I went out for a couple fun hours, but no fish. After we finished the kitchen, Dan Bullock generously offered to take me out for the day on Thursday, which would be the last day of my visit.  And after two weeks of mostly gray, rainy weather, with ice in the river, the day proved to be about as nice a day as you can get in New Brunswick in the Spring!

Nothing like a box of Spring salmon flies in the bright sun of Spring!

In the morning, I hooked a nice, small, salmon:

Happily, the kelt took a liking to the Deep Green Beauty (obviously dragging it through some hay on its way to the net)!

After lunch, Dan hooked a nice salmon that jumped seven times for us.

His fish took my rendition (lots of "bling" added) of Carrie Stevens' Green Beauty, which was the inspiration for my Deep Green Beauty.  Very cool.

I'm REALLY glad that I took my Loomis 13 foot, 8/9 Stinger two-hand rod up with me.  My shoulder was killing me after picking that 300 grain sinktip up out of the water all morning with a singlehand rod.  Dan and I both used the two hander all afternoon (Rio AFS 8/9 head, fast sinking poly leader with 10lb tippet); life was good again!

It was a great treat to spend so much time with good friends again in New Brunswick.  And whether they like it or not, I'll be back in a month!!   CHEERS!