Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Few Days in May on the Miramichi

For the last couple years, I've been pleased to be the auctioneer for the Miramichi Salmon Association's spring fundraiser, The Icebreaker, held at the Woodmen's Museum in Boiestown, New Brunswick.  I have a grand time doing it, and it gets me up on the river for a few days with my good friend Vin Swayze.  Vin has been guiding and outfitting on the river for longer than I've been alive...let's just say he knows a thing or two about salmon fishing and the moods of the Miramichi.

Spring fishing on the river (April 15 - if the ice is out - to May 15) often means fishing from a boat.  The water can be many feet above summer levels, and wading can be next to impossible.  Vin has a great boat for spring fishing and general transport on the river.  Its a semi-V with a 20 horse jet drive; he can go where prop boats can't.  The boat has an interesting name, which I can say with some pride I had a hand in producing.  Vin was asking me about windshields for it several years ago, but was just talking about one for the driver's side of the boat, leaving the passenger (that would be folks like me) to brave the weather.  I kiddingly said to him , "Oh, sure, f#@k the guest!"  And that became the boat's name.  In polite company, the boat is just referred to as FTG.  And most importantly and for the record, FTG is something Vin would never do.

Vin getting ready to head out in FTG:

Tuckaway Cabins, where I stay, was started by Vin's father.  Vin has retired from active outfitting, and the day to day operations have been assumed by the Bullock family operating as Bullock's Lodge (   The camps make perfect salmon fishing "homes away from home":

I hit the river at a perfect time this year.  Water levels were up so we could motor to any spot we wanted, and the river was cold, keeping the fish around the Boiestown area during my trip rather than heading down to the sea to rejuvenate after a winter under the river ice.   Trees were beginning to bud out in Vermont when I left; not so in New Brunswick:

Fishing is by casting, long lining or trolling.  There's quite a tussle going on at the moment about whether trolling should be allowed on the river at this time or not.  Let me just say that if a gale is blowing, casting a sinking or sinktip line into it can be downright dangerous, if not impossible, so I say "troll on" in that instance.  The equipment I used this trip consisted of a 9wt Loomis NativeRun rod, a Battenkill Large Arbor V reel and a Teeny 400gr. sinktip line.  I tie my own leaders; a 9 footer tapered to a 10 pound tippet (constructed of Maxima "brown" material) allowed me to put real pressure on fish to get them landed quickly for a safe release. 

Flies for spring salmon fishing on the Miramichi are pretty healthy in size.  I was casting streamers like the Mickey Finn and Gray Ghost tied on #1 Daiichi 2271 hooks.

We were doing pretty well on those flies, but things really started to get interesting when I switched to what I'll call a Deep Green Beauty:

The Deep Green Beauty is tied like any of the other flies in the Ghost/Beauty series created by Carrie Stevens, but instead of peacock herl in the underwing, I've used Claret polar bear.  And instead of white bucktail as the throat, I've used UV Minnow Belly material.  The wing is a deep forest green, no hint of olive at all.  It is a very rich looking fly!  And it works:

I retired the fly after landing 7 fish on it, including the big 36 incher above.  That beautiful big boy jumped 15 times, and considering it spent about 35 minutes in his jaw, the fly doesn't look too much the worse for wear:

I lost the only other copy of that fly I had on the last hit of my trip.  The most vicious strike I've ever encountered separated me from it at the tippet.  The fly was out about 100 feet from the boat, and we got splashed by the big fish's tail!  No, really, we did!

Earlier in the trip, we were working the shoreline near Wendy and Shane Clowater's rental Moonshadow Cottage ( when Shane came out on his riverside porch with a coffee.  He suggested we needed to move upriver about 100 yards - I mean meters.   We did so and within 30 seconds I had a grilse on.  Talk about knowing your river!  Thank you, Shane!

It was a delightful trip.  The weather and the river were perfect for Spring fishing on the Miramichi, and it was great to be with my growing group of friends on the river.  I can't wait to go back.


  1. Congrats on that beast of a salmon!

  2. Hey Gary -

    I know you said you'd pass on your blog address to me, but I found you by accident anyway. Have you put the damned cane away yet?

    I hear you'll be back on the Miramichi in a couple of weeks. Bring some of that fine Vermont cheese for the macaroni.


  3. Cane's gone, Michele, I'm all over the place now and the cheddar is a done deal! Good to hear from you and looking forward to seeing you! Disco Wally will be in tow as well.