Thursday, July 23, 2015

Miramichi Salmon Camp - July, 2015

I headed up to Boiestown, NB and Bullock's Lodge ( on June 30th.  A pretty quick trip in just 10 hours and 560 miles, including a quick stops at customs, a roofing supplier in Woodstock, NB (for some materials for Vin Swayze), groceries and adult beverages.  It's always so good to get there!   My usual trip in July would have been 7/7 to 7/14 with friends Jamie W. and Bill D., but I had a little project to take care of before my serious fishing commenced.  

The Bullocks' guest camp was built by some guys that didn't use a lot of, shall we say, common sense when they constructed it.  Boiestown gets a LOT of snow, and the last place you want a door is under the eaves of a building, where all that snow can slide down in front of it (especially since most camps have pretty slippery metal roofs).  A couple years ago I moved two garage doors for Dan Bullock from under the eaves to the gable end of his garage for just that reason.  Here's a look at Renate's camp door situation this past winter (as usual, you can click on the pics for a larger version):

Not only did the builders choose a poor position for the door, but they also neglected to install it properly, so that when all that snow melted, water slid under the door and rotted the sleepers and subfloor, necessitating a re-do of that area, too, including new linoleum.  Here's just a couple pics of the process, and then we'll get on to the salmon!!
The floor situation:
Old door location:

Dan Bullock lending a helping hand:

Door moved:

New log siding:

Beautiful stain job by Dan and Renate:

Time to go fishing!!!

We fished for awhile the evening I arrived (June 30th).  We were seeing a lot of fish, and there were plenty of guides around, so my good friend and guide Vin Swazey waded in behind me, and within probably three casts, was fast to a good fish.  He is the most non-chalant salmon angler I have ever seen.  But then, I suppose if you've been fishing for salmon for 70 or so years, as Vin has, you become kind of used to the fuss.   I got a little of Vin's action on video:

He lost it a minute or two after I stopped the camera, but it was obviously a nice fish.  Ever the traditionalist, Vin was fishing a number six Rutledge.  That was the excitement for the evening.

July 1st, I was high above the river, working on the camp door.  My great friends Linda and Bob Warren and Bill Tomiello were down below, working Home and Elbow Pools.  I was taking a little break from pounding nails at just the right time, sitting on a bench above Home Pool that is a delightful vantage point from which to take in the sights below.  Perfect timing, as Linda was into a nice fish:

As technologically challenged as I am, I managed to figure out how to pick still shots out of the video.  Here's a couple of Linda (who casts as elegantly and effectively as anyone on the river) and her fish:

The fly Linda was using was her own design and tie, the Glenlivet (her husband Bob's favorite fly is the Cutty Sark...guess Scotch runs in the family! Oh wait, that's right, I know it does!):

July 2nd was another work day for me, but we fished again that evening.  And again, with more than enough guides to go around, Dan Bullock and I headed to Elbow Pool.  I was swinging my way down the pool when Dan got in behind me and hooked into a beauty of a fish.  (I'm detecting a bad trend here...first Vin and now Dan get in behind  me and hook fish that I've missed.  Note to self: cover the water better!)   Dan is an expert salmon angler and handled the fish with obvious skill.  But he was saddled with a more-than-novice net!   Never netted a salmon before, but got the job done (and heaved a hell of a sigh of relief at the accomplishment!):


Dan's fish took a number six traditional Shady Lady, with an orange butt tied a little longer than the way Don Leyden first designed the fly.  That was it for the evening's action.

Friday morning found me still at it on the camp door, and my friends all headed across the river to fish Home Pool and Elbow.  Renate first took Bob and Linda and Bill T's faithful companion Cinder across:

And then Bill T.:

 Bob Warren's go-to summer fly is the Cutty Sark.  LOL, its not his go-to fly, its his "only-to" fly (with good reason; it's one effective fly) and it worked its magic on yet another very bright salmon:

The Cutty:

That was it for the day, but it was really fun seeing those fish!  Speaking of seeing things, from my vantage point high above the river, I enjoyed the comings and goings of a whitetail deer.  Can you imagine anything much better than sitting comfortably above the river, watching the river and the meanderings of wildlife on a beautiful Canadian morning?  What a way to start your day!

Bill Tomiello started his day pretty darn well with a big, bright salmon on Saturday morning (7/4).  As far as I'm concerned, Bill deserves every fish he gets for spending so many hours tutoring me on the intricacies of two-handed casting.  He is a great and patient mentor:

Bill, Bob and I  are fortunate to call Charlie Krom (co-author, with Keith Fulsher, of Hairwing Atlantic Salmon Flies) a friend.  Charlie has developed a fly style he calls his Three Hackle Holographic Spey fly.  In fact, he's put together a lovely treatise on the flies that he's bestowed on Bill, Bob and I:

Bill was fishing a reduced version of a 3-hackle in silver and green when the fish took the fly:

Bob also chimed in with a nice chubby grilse on a #6 Cutty:

Sunday, July 5th was a quiet day for salmon fishing, but as I sat with my morning coffee watching the river go by, I observed the importance, with the help of perfect light conditions, the importance of a boulder known by us all as "Hot Dog Rock" to the health, if you will, of Bullock's Home Pool, which is a fine, fine, salmon pool.  You might turn your speakers up as I reflect on a simple stone's importance to atlantic salmon fishing.

My old friends Jamie Woods and Bill Dreyer got to camp Sunday afternoon for our week of fishing.  I must admit its always interesting to hang out for a week with a prosecuting attorney (Jamie) and a defense attorney (Bill); the conversations are never dull, to say the least.  But they are both very good at leaving their trials (in all senses of the word) behind and enjoying their time in salmon camp.

Vin and I did head down to Newcastle to attend the Miramichi Salmon Association's Classic kick-off dinner.  I did the auction for the evening, a small one, which I was thankful for.  It had been a busy week.

Monday, July 6 was a beautiful, bright Miramichi morning.  I was fishing the "home" side of Home Pool, and Bill and Jamie were across on the bar (a.k.a. Dreyer's least to Dreyer, lol!)
I rose a nice fish on a natural hair/white horns and tail Bomber (know at least locally as a locator).  Okay, so I located the fish, but it wouldn't come back (my work here is done??).  Bill is a hell of a caster, and could easily reach the fish from the bar. 

Bill believes in the bright day/bright fly theory - he had on a small, maybe size 10, Silver Downeaster.  I watched the fish roll hard on the fly twice...he was going to hook that fish.  Displaying an unusual presence of mind, I reeled in as quickly as I could and got out my little Nikon AW-110, which takes pretty good videos if I'm not hungover or swatting blackflies.   The result is that I got everything from the take to the release on video:

A couple still's from the video:

That was it for the hooked salmon for the day, but earlier that morning and the next (Tuesday, 7/7) I had been getting up early and wandering down to the river in front of the camps that the Bullock's now lease from Vin Swayze (Vin's outfitting operation, which he retired from, was called Tuckaway Cabins), where we usually stay.  There is a bar just upstream from Vin's Camp Pool that salmon must cross to continue upriver.  In the low water we were experiencing you can watch them make their way over the bar.  In fact, the water was getting so low that you could also see them break out of the head of Camp Pool.   I captured some of the fun first from shore (July 6), and then from a boulder in the middle of the river (July 7).  It was great fun to be out there with all those fish!!

We were fishing Camp Pool on the seventh.  It is a beautiful salmon pool with the sun rising on what was to become a very warm day.  Bill landed a grilse on the far side of the pool that morning, but too far from me to get a pic:

We felt it a little too hot to fish that afternoon/evening, so we decided to partake of neighbors Allan and Lucilla Wilson's hospitality on their porch:

I should note that the Bullock's were able to procure Vin's nephew Jason Swayze's camp for us, since the two other camps were full while we were there.  Jason also graciously allowed me to stay on for a few extra days to fish a little more, and of course help Vin with a couple chores.  Jason's camp:

Jason, I owe you a case of Coors Light!

We fished Home Pool again on Wednesday, July 8.  Not much in the way of salmon seen (water was warming and dropping), but 3 soaring bald eagles gave us something to see (at the end of the video, there's an eagle that flew about 10 feet over my head while I was working on the camp, and landed in a red pine over the river.  That was cool):

Nothing much to report about Thursday or Friday's fishing.  Essentially, due to warm air and water temps, the fish just shut down, likely just loafing at the bottom of any cold water pools they could find.  I did get a fish to come up to this Bomber:

The best part about Friday was the wonderful dinner the Bullocks prepared for their sports.  Wonderful food and drink...a grand time was had by all, I'm sure!

The gang:

The Kiddie table:

Dan learned how to make the best shrimp while he worked at Honey Brake Lodge down in Louisiana a couple years ago!

Popular stuff!

I am not known to be shy around a table full of shrimp!

Dessert included very fresh local strawberries!

My most serious decision of the day, reflected in my expression:  beer or wine?

Saturday morning, 7/11, Bill and Jamie headed back to home, while I stayed on for a few more days.  People often ask me, "Doesn't Bridget get upset with you staying  on and coming up here so often?"  My response is always that she's happy that I'm happy, and always tells me to stay as long as I like.  If my dear friend Vin Swayze is around, he always quips, "She pays me to keep him up here!"  He's such a funny man.

I was going to throw a Bomber around on the home side of Home Pool that morning; Vin was going to mow his extensive lawns.   I had just brought a fish up to the fly when I heard Vin on the steps behind me.  "Change of Plans!" was all he said, so I dutifully reeled in without asking about the change and followed him up to camp. 

Seems much of the Swayze family and friends were going to canoe from near Vin's home down to the Priceville footbridge...maybe 6 or so miles.  In 20 years I'd never done that, so Vin and I grabbed a canoe out of the boathouse and joined the group:

Perfect day for the trip!

What a gang!

I admit to coveting this canoe as we passed by.  Since I have no use for it here in Vermont, I think I'd just get a nice trailer for it and drive around town with it, looking cool as hell (in my mind, anyway)!

It was a great trip.  Took about 6 hours; we had to drag the canoes over more than a few low spots.  My arms were killing me when we were done; seems Vin lent me the only paddle in the world that is either made out of concrete painted to look like wood, or he hollowed it out and filled it with lead, just for me.  I'm going to find some other use for that kindling!

Sunday I put the log siding up on the camp I'd been working on, and pretty much lazed the rest of the day away.  What a fine place to do that, eh?

Monday was road trip day for Vin and I.  We decided to go see what New Brunswick's Christmas mountains were all about.  There are some long straight roads to get there:

Along the way, we traveled over one beautiful small stream after another:

Along the way, we had to stop for a few of these pedestrians:

There are just so many magical small places up there within the vastness of the area:

When we came upon this sign, Vin quipped, "Oh, look, some Americans must have been here already!" (referencing the shotgun damage).

You can pretty much say you are in the bush when you see this sign:

I could just sit and stare at this scene all day (provided I had a bug suit and a gallon of 100% DEET with me):

It is BIG country (and I figured out how to use the panorama function on my camera!)

We covered 340 kilometers that day; a great trip with a great friend.  We didn't find a couple of the places we were looking for...but there's always next time.

I love my time in New Brunswick, so many wonderful people and places.  It's true that the only fish I hooked this trip was a stupid 14" striped bass.  What was that fish doing all the way up in Boiestown in July??  Scarey.  Of course, it would have been against the law to dispatch it, so I'm sure it must have found its way back to the river from where I tripped and lost it in the bushes. 

But it's not all about the fishing, is it?