Friday, November 28, 2014

Miramichi Salmon Camp - September, 2014

You can click on the pics to see the larger version.
Bridget and I headed up to Boiestown, NB and Bullock's Lodge (  at 8:30am on Saturday, September 13, 2014.  Now, my usual departure time for that trip is 4:30am, but, well, you try getting her going that early!  With a stop in Fredricton for provisions (read: adult beverages.  I knew McCloskey's in Boiestown would be closed by the time we got there), we got to camp about 8:30 Atlantic time.  The sun was setting on a very low Miramichi river.
Home base for us was the Log Camp, owned by Vin Swayze and leased for the fishing season by the Bullock's.  Its my favorite of the three camps there.  It's just a cozy place to call home for a time.
Started fishing Sunday morning with Dan Bullock.  Must have been a long trip up to NB; Bridget slept in and I didn't start fishing until 10a.m.   A cloudy, breezy morning.
My buds Dick (second from right) and Walter (right) were staying at the Bullock's camp on their Home Pool and came out to give Dan (left) and me a send-off for the morning's fish.  Those boys rarely get on the river before 11; guess they've figured out how to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak.
I started fishing with a Green Picasse (designed by Marc LeBlanc), and got one subtle tug on it.  That low, slow water just looked perfect for a Sneaky, one of Mike Boudreau's creations.  Sure enough, it was game on shortly after the fly change...a big, wicked quick hen took the fly.  She wasn't a jumper, but she could surely boogie around Home Pool!  A beautiful salmon.
During the mid-day break, my pal Brian Cuming from Fredericton stopped by for a visit.  Brian has been incredibly generous to the Miramichi Salmon Association, donating dozens of his flies to their fund-raising efforts.  As a little thank you (I'm on the MSA board), I was giving him a batch of the little fly display stands I make.  Brian is a tough guy to return favors to!  He showed up with two bottles of yummy red wine and this lovely River Helmsdale classic fly for my collection:
We had a great visit.  I enjoy it so much when any of the friends I've made on the river stop by.
During the evening's fishing, I hooked a grilse, staying with the Sneaky.  He slipped the barbless hook at the net.  Friends Walter and Dick were in camp, too.  Dick landed a 7-pounder and Walter a grilse (also on a Sneaky) that evening.  A four fish day at Bullock's Lodge...not bad for a river that the pundits were claiming had no fish around!
Monday was cloudy most of the day, temps in the 50's, the colors of autumn starting to show.
The fishing was slow that morning, one of those "just good to be on the river" kind of days.  I was having leader problems, and decided to head downriver to see the lads at Doak's ( a solution.  Bruce Waugh and I were discussing the ins and outs of the various poly leaders on their rack, when Jerry Doak came out from his office with a little package in his hand.  He set it on the counter, telling me "give this one a try."  (LOL, Jerry will probably kill me for telling the rest of this story, but I can't resist)  I said, "Sure, how much?"  His reply, with a big smile on his face: "It's on me...but don't tell anyone that I gave it to you...they won't believe you anyway!"   If you know Jerry, you'll get that one.   But seriously, it turned out to be a great 15 foot, tapered to 8 pound, Maxima Chameleon leader, tied by Jerry.  Maybe if enough people start asking him about them, he'll make a few for sale.   That was one of the most enjoyable visits I've had to the shop.
This bad boy greeted Bridget and I upon our return to camp:
Monday evening and Tuesday continued to be tough fishing.  Always does my heart good to see the ladies (Renate and Bridget) heading out for a fish, though.  I do seem to have "missed the boat", eh? 
Wednesday was a better day, fish-wise.  For once, the wind decided to calm down, which made life with the two-hand rod much easier (and safer!)  I landed a nice grilse on a Park Shrimp in the morning:
That was my first fish on a Park Shrimp (designed by Ross MacDonald).  The colors and flash seemed perfect for autumn...guess so!
Lunch that day was a special treat!  I always bring up a big brick of  Cabot's Extra Sharp Cheddar (made in Vermont, of course) in hopes that Michele Swayzey (one of Vin's two delightful daughters) will use it to make her incredible Macaroni and Cheese casserole.  Well, she whipped up a batch, and Bridget and I headed to Vin's home (all of about 75 yards from our camp) for the treat.  I wasn't bright enough to get a photo of that casserole, but I did get some pics of Vin and his latest wine.  He and Renate both like to go to a place called WineKitz (I think that's how its spelled) in Fredericton to sort of make their own wine.  Anyway, he likes to give cool names to his wines, and Michele makes labels for them.  This batch was a Gewurztraminer.  Vin's boat is named the FTG (if you were at his "roast" a couple weeks ago, I revealed what that stands for, lol).  Well, here's the label he and Michele made up.  The wine is much better than the two mugs on the label, luckily!
We had a blast that afternoon.  Anyone that thinks salmon camp is all about the fishing really needs to rethink their position.
Bridget got a good tug on a Celtic Beauty that evening, and I rose a fish to a Blue Bomber, but nada to the net.
Thursday was another one of those tough days on the river.  I'm always impressed at how comfortable Bridget has become in the river.  At the end of a shift I have to practically drag her out of the water!
She's gotten to be an effective caster, too.
While I'm on the subject of Bridget, I need to discuss her "outfits."  And I don't mean fly rods and reels.  She is a very successful business owner, and likes to pride herself on her grasp of risk management and efficiencies.  Well, I have to say that she has transitioned those skills over and into her day-to-day preparations for her time on the river.  That is to say, she has reduced the likelihood of pissing me off by taking too long to get ready to go fishing by doing this:
That's right.  She has a pre-selected, pre-packed outfit, consisting of complementary inner and outer scarves, fishing shirt and hat for every day of the trip.  The camp is a two-bedroom affair; she appropriates one of them as her dressing room.  The scarves are hers, the hats and shirts used to be mine.  And I must report that before Bridget started going up with me each September, there were just two little mirrors above the sinks in the bathrooms.  There is now a full length mirror behind just about every door.   I'm good with that.
Back to Thursday:  the evening fish wasn't anymore productive than the morning's.  But all was not lost!  Danny and Renate Bullock often host a "Guide's Party" at their guest camp, where Dick and Walter were staying.  Our hosts at work in the kitchen:
And then the entertainment starts.  Renate is a wizard with her accordion!
She's so good Vin even dances with Dan's Brittany, Tucker!
Walter joined in with this crazy music stick:
Life is good.  At least that night.  The next day, not so much, owing to a brutal up-river wind.  Thank goodness for hoodies and hot coffee!
We fished for awhile, then retired to camp to weather the storm.  A cocktail or two helped warm body and spirit.
Saturday was to be our last day on the river, and it was still pretty windy.  But I tied on my trusty little low-water Celtic Beauty, and gave 'er a go.   I hooked up...
...and a  nice grilse came to hand and Danny gave my new Nikon AW110 Waterproof camera a chance to show off:
That fish was it for our day.  But wait, there's more!  Bridget had a pretty tough week on the river, nothing more than a couple tugs and pulls to show for all her efforts.  Vin to the rescue.  He came over to our camp and asked if we could stay one more day; he had a little surprise fishing for us.  A quick check with Dan and the camp was still available for one more day.  Bridget cleared her schedule back at the office (have you noticed that I never seem to have a schedule to clear?).  Sunday morning we packed some gear and goodies and headed upriver to a lovely pool, still on the Main Southwest Miramichi. 
We could see numerous fish showing, some out towards the middle of the river, which is very wide and boulder-bottomed at this particular point.  Vin looked at me and said, "See that boulder way out there?"  I did, sadly.  He told me if that I was very careful, and stayed on the tangent from where we were standing to that boulder, I wouldn't go in over my head.  Fine.  Away I go, trusty wading staff in hand.   And there were BIG fish out there.  One even jumped and landed on my line.  And another even did me the courtesy of making a mild pass at my fly.  Back on shore was another story.
Vin set Bridget up in about a foot of water at river's edge, next to a fairly perceptible trough in the river.   A few casts, and she landed a grilse.  On a little Celtic Beauty.  I was too far away (I think I was in Never Never Land, I was so far from, well, safety, lol) to get a pic.
I saw her rod bend several times more after that, but didn't see any netting activity.  Then I heard a happy shriek, saw what looked like a rod bent double, and figured, even though I was having so much fun watching fish jump all over my line, that I'd try to get a little closer for a look.  Got some video, and yup, its a little shakey, but hey, you try and balance yourself on two greasy bowling balls and hold your hands steady!!
I was never worried about her landing the fish.  She's good at it, and she had 64 years (that's as many years as I've been drawing breath on this planet) of licensed professional guide on her shoulder.  How cool is that?
The A Team:
In all, she tightened up on seven fish.  I call that a good day.  I was glad for her. No, really, I was!  I mean, I like seeing other people hook fish all day as I fear for my life trying to get to and from the spot my alleged friend and guide sent me to, don't you??  Kidding.
And the "After Party":
The flies that worked for us this week: The Park Shrimp, Celtic Beauty, and Sneaky:
Another great week on the Miramichi.  We had a blast, and our deep and abiding thanks to Dan and Renate Bullock, Vin Swayze and Manley Price for ensuring that we had the fine times we enjoyed. This year we missed incredibly the company of Bob and Linda Warren in camp, who had to stay home and fight the good fight concerning Bob's health issues.  We thought and talked of them often during the week.
But they'll be back next year, and so will we.  Cheers!


  1. Gary,

    It seemed as though I was standing in the water next to you. This is a great blog! Thanks for sharing your experience last fall with us.


    1. Thanks, Doug! Our time on salmon rivers is so precious. It's fun to share those moments.

  2. Great blog Gary. I especially like the video of Bridget playing and landing her salmon. Glad that you enjoyed the wine and fly that I gave you.
    Brian C

    1. We totally enjoyed the wine, Brian, and I cherish the fly...thanks again for all your generousity! Looking forward to seeing you in the Spring!

  3. Great read as always, Gary. Particularly enjoyed the comments on Jerry and wondering what your secret is to get him to "loosen up".