Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bill's first fish on a fly

By way of background: Bill Hodge is among that very small group of people I call "friend."  In fact, he and I go back some 40 years, when we lived near Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.   I'm pretty sure I went there, and I think he did, but I don't remember whether we graduated or not.  Wait, I know I didn't.  Don't know if Bill did or not.   Anyway, even back then (ca. 1972), we shared a disposition towards certain beverages from Scotland.

In case you're wondering, Bill is the one with the moustache.

Fast forward:  Bill has been a life-long gear fisherman, but since he started reading this blog, became mildly interested in the finer form of fishing, that which involves the fly.  He took the free Orvis half-day Fly Fishing 101 course at his local (that would be Buffalo) Orvis dealer, and took advantage of their generous discount to course-takers, purchasing their Clearwater outfit.  Lots of lawn casting apparently ensued.

Faster forward:  After several aborted efforts (usually due to me staying overlong in New Brunswick), Bill took the train to Albany where I picked him up for a few days stay here in Bennington, Vermont.   Point of trip:  take the Lund to Cossayuna Lake over in NY for some real fishing with the fly.  OK, popping bug.  Still fly fishing, though.

First thing I noticed was his reel was set to left hand retrieve, the way all good reels should be (heh heh, that'll raise some hackles).  Problem is, Bill's a lefty, so he needed right hand retrieve.  A simple enough operation on the Clearwater reel....IF you have the right fingernails.  We didn't.  So he coped with the issue.  (Note:  the guy at the Orvis shop in Buffalo, upon Bill's return, didn't have the right fingernails, either.  Fortunately, Orvis' cleaning lady did, and all became right with the world).

Once Bill began stopping his forward cast before the rod tip was touching the water, he was just booming his casts out there, and was popping that Sneaky Pete for all it was worth.  Eventually, the big reward...Bill's first fish on a fly:

Uh, well, actually, that's his second fish on a fly.  The first one didn't quite show up in the photo, if you know what I mean.

I think we both had a grand time both on the water, and just hanging out.  Although Bill has aged a little over the past 40 years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two Weeks on the Miramichi: July, 2012

Late May and the Miramichi was, as my friend Renate Bullock said, "Desperate low."  So we all prayed for rain.  And got it.  Lots of it.  River up more than six feet at Bullock's Lodge (formerly Vin Swayze's Tuckaway Cabins) in Boiestown, New Brunswick.  I headed North anyway, bringing sink tips and spring streamers in addition to the usual summer salmon gear.

Made the trip on Saturday, June 30th, in a new record 10 hours and 1 minute, my driveway to McCloskey's beverage counter.  Including a 25 minute wait at the border (I always pick the wrong line).  Five hundred and fifty that north of Bangor the speed limit is now 75 on I-95!

Click on the photos for the big picture!
First fishing of the trip was Sunday, July 1, at Vin's Ledge Pool.  It's a great high water pool:

You can see that the water is well up into the grass on the island to the right.  My friend Bill Tomiello (in the photo) was in camp, and had been since before the water came up...he'd been experiencing some tough conditions.

But beautiful summer weather was setting in after the rains, and the river began to drop:

Tuesday was one big treat for me.  I'd done friend Alan Wilson and his wife a small favor, and he returned the favor many times over via a trip to McKiel Camp, of which he's a member.  On the 1.5 hour trip into the camp, I got my first view of Miramichi Lake in the distance:

We made a stop along the river at Half Moon, a popular spot for canoers and kayaker to put in.  Love the ingenious boat slide:

Riding with Vin and Allen is a hoot.  The conversation often goes something like this:

      A:  Is that the road to...
      V:  No, its the next one
      A:  I thought that went to, uh...
      V:  Nope, goes right there, but only if you take the fork
      A:  Which fork?
      V:  The first one.
      A:  No, which fork do we take?
      V:  The first one.
      A:  Oh.  We should go there sometime
      V:  Yup.

And I still don't know where they're talking about!

We finally arrived at a fork in the road.  Don't think its the one they were discussing:

Finally, McKiel Camp, a short canoe ride away (better be a good canoe'r in this water):

Allan took the canoe out while Vin and I fished (to no avail this day) from shore.  That is some tough, tough wading!

Fished for awhile at McKiel, then decided to do some sightseeing.  First up, Moose Call Camp:

The boys at the put-in:

Oh, and there are moose at Moose Call:

That was a great way to spend a day in New Brunswick!

Back in Boiestown:

As I mentioned earlier, Bill Tomiello was also in camp, along with his faithful companion, Cinder.

Cinder really doesn't care much about salmon fishing; she bores easily, I guess.  She was sound asleep, enjoying the sun.  I watched her wake up with a "where the hell am I and where the hell is he?" look on her face.   She looks good in a cap, I'd say:

And with the high water, she knew where the "high ground" was!

Bill is a fine two-hand rod caster, and spent an incredible amount of time with me helping me with my two-hand efforts.

He even spent an afternoon helping the ladies with their spey rod efforts:

He's a fine tyer, too, and gave me some pointers in that area, too!

I had a great time getting to know Bill better, and Cinder, too!

Bob and Linda Warren were in camp the first week, too, along with their setter, Molly (the fastest dog alive).  We had a great time in camp and on the river:

Linda had her lucky "Tanner-Tied Flies" hat on; she's a great caster and fish lander, so luck didn't have much to do with this fish:

Bob landed a few, too:

I just love camp life:

Except when Vin's porch needs work:

The first week rounded out with a wonderful meal prepared by Dan Bullock with an assist from his mom, Renate:

Thumbs up for week 1!

Week two and the Miramichi Salmon Association's Classic

For the past several years, I've been pleased to be the auctioneer at the opening fund-raiser for the MSA's Classic salmon fishing event.  I was particularly happy to auction at this year's event a Wheatley fly box full of 86 proven flies tied by members of the forum.  It was an incredible effort on their part (I even snuck a few flies into the box) that raised important funds for MSA.  A framed set of flies was also contributed by the group, and more flies were added to the box at the last minute:

The MSA Classic is all about bringing folks to the Miramichi system.  It's 2.5 days of fishing the Main Southwest Miramichi and its tributaries.  The New Brunswick non-resident guide requirement is waived for the event by the province, and a 3-day license is included in the $350 cost of participating.  For a guy like me, its a great opportunity to fish the tributaries of the Main Southwest at an incredibly reasonable cost.  Lunches are even included!  Importantly, it is not a fishing competition.

Vin Swayze and I fished the Classic together.  We were fortunate to find great accomodations downriver from Boiestown through the efforts of NewBrunswickSalmonFishing forum member Brian Cuming.  Brian hooked us up with White Rapids camp owner Kirk Gordon, who rented his camp to us for the duration at an exceedingly fair price.  Thanks to them both!

Monday morning we fished the Cains River with Omer Mackenzie.  Beautiful pool, but the salmon hadn't found it yet.

I think over the course of the morning Vin and Omer solved most of the world's problems on the riverbank!

The Cains is certainly easy on the eyes!

Monday evening we fished a beautiful pool on the Renous with Stephanie Elson.  Another beautiful spot, and we did see, but didn't hook, a grilse.

Tuesday morning we fished Emory Brophy's pool with him in Blackville.  I hooked a nice fish on one of Bill Tomiello's Shady Lady Spey flies, and very kindly gave it a long-line release.  What a guy.

Tuesday evening we fished with Bill Chamberlain on the Little Southwest upstream a ways from Debbie and Dale Norton's Upper Oxbow Adventure Lodge.  Debbie and Dale are great supporters of MSA, and their place ( is an excellent place to stay!  We didn't get into any fish that evening.

Wednesday morning was a treat!  We were originally scheduled to hit the Northwest, but due to low water, elected to skip it.  Paul Elson and Howie Gould, "forum friends" from took up the slack and trucked us WAY up the Little Southwest Miramichi.  What a place!

Vin kept Paul and Howie laughing on shore with his stories while I fished:

I bet this white pine's roots could tell some stories of ice and floods along the Little Southwest!

Even my casting got better due to the calming effect of this serene scene

Howie put his two hander and a little chartreuse buck bug to good use, landing the only fish of the outing:

Paul and Howie really went the distance (all puns intended) to show us a wonderful time, and Vin and I are really apreciative of their efforts.  Of all the MSA volunteers' efforts, for sure.

The last lunch of the event takes place at MSA's hatchery operation.  Great cookout, and one "guest" enjoyed brook trout from one of the rearing ponds:

The little bear even went back for seconds, then thirds!  Great scene to end the Classic!

Back to Boiestown (again)

My good friends Jamie Woods and Bill Dreyer had eased into camp while I was fishing the Classic, joining Bill Tomiello and camp manager/guide Dan Bullock:

Bill D, using mostly an original style Shady Lady with orange-ish body, landed fish large and small:

Jamie hooked into good (lol, have you ever seen a bad atlantic salmon) fish, too, mostly with Bob Warren's Cutty Sark:

Even your faithful correspondent got into fish - and the Celtic Beauty did its job!

A little change of fly:

That one ended in a long-line release, I'm chagrined to report.

But with a full crowd of kibbitzers, the Celtic Beauty and I prevailed again!

Back you go!

I hooked fish on just three flies over the course of the two weeks:  The Celtic Beauty, Bill Tomiello's Shady Lady Spey, and the mis-named (because there already is a streamer with this name) Christmas Tree:

It was a wonderful two weeks - the first full two-week vacation of my adult life.  My deep and abiding thanks to all my friends that made it so.