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 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.

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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Two to benefit the Miramichi's wild Atlantic Salmon

Over the past several years, I have found, finally, a way to make financial contributions to non-profits I care about (i.e., The Miramichi Salmon Association, the Atlantic Salmon Museum, the  Atlantic Salmon Association, and the Central New Brunswick Woodmen's Museum).  Yikes, they're all in Canada!  I've taught myself how to frame flies and art in various forms, and folks seem to appreciate those framings with their dollars at the various institutions' fundraisers.  The most important (read: highest priced) framings I've been able to donate were actually "co-donations" where several fine artists have donated a piece of their original work to be included in a framing.  Val Kropiwnicki, Nathan Carter, my sister Kathy Rasimas and now my friend John Maticko have all stepped up to the plate to help me raise money for wild Atlantic salmon conservation.

John and I worked together to produce a framing for the live auction at the Miramichi Salmon Association's Icebreaker fundraising dinner on April 27, 2019.  John is a serious Atlantic salmon angler.  How could he not be, growing up the son of a salmon outfitter in Iceland, where he returns each year to fish.  John has the most incredible collection of classic Atlantic salmon flies I've ever seen (you can view John's fly collection and his lovely photos of Iceland and Atlantic salmon here: .

John donated a painting of a Logie and a Blue Charm for the Icebreaker.  I tied up one each of those same flies and came up with this framing (frame is white pine, milled to shape here in my shop): (you can click on the pics for the larger version)

Rather than flood the live auction at the fundraiser with more of my shadow box framings (especially since I'm the auctioneer and that could get a little weird!), I created one specifically for that event's silent auction.  Keeping with what I just realized is a "days gone by" theme, I came up with a framing I titled, "The Good Old Days."  It features a public domain photo, taken in New Brunswick in the 1920's by photographer Louis Hamilton, of a portly sport (has to be American, right?) and his two guides with a fish on.

That photo evoked thoughts of featherwings from the past, so I tied up a few, hopefully complementing the photo.  Again, the frame is pine, molded in my shop.

Hopefully these framings will bring in a few hundred dollars to go towards MSA's good and important work. 

I need to also mention how another cooperative framing venture benefitted MSA's conservation programs.  My friend and co-MSA board member induced fly tyer Bill Utley to tie a set of Cains River Streamers for the MSA-US fundraiser in Burlington, MA, back in February.  Brad bought the set in the silent auction.  He then chatted with me a bit about how to present them as a further donation to the cause.  Long story short:  I volunteered to frame them.   And Brad said he would get an online auction software package for his website, and do the auction there (

I've never framed 13 big streamers before, so it was time to put my rather rusty and wrinkled thinking cap on.  Started out in my usual way:

Gotta love that fifty-one year old drafting set!

This framing was bigger than any I had done before, and I didn't want to hand write the fly names on the background, or use any sticky thingies for the job, so with the kind permission of the boss (she knows who she is), I waddled off to our local Staples store, and purchased an Epson WF-7710 wide format printer, which can hand sheets up to 13X19 inches as well as heavy, card stock paper (or in my case, heavy artists' watercolor paper.   I ended up with this for the background:

Frame needed to be that good old backyard Vermont Black Cherry:

Well, the final product, photographed by fellow MSA-US board member Ralph Vitale brought in $1,000 for MSA programs.   My heart felt thanks to Brad Burns, Bill Utley and Ralph Vitale for making this happen!

Well, that's enough framing for now...have to go finish two more of these for a lodge out west!