Friday, November 10, 2017

Miramichi Salmon Camps - Fall, 2017

Bridget, Brodie and I headed for the Miramichi bright and early on Sunday, September 17, 2017.  Oh wait, that's right, I left bright and early; Bridget and Brodie followed a few hours later, being the late-risers they both are.  I keep a pretty close watch on the real-time river cam at the Bullock's Home Pool in Boiestown ( ) where we'd be doing some of our fishing so I knew the river was pretty low going into the trip...I didn't realize just how low it would prove to be!

That night, after we got the camp organized, Bridget mentioned that she wasn't feeling all that well.  We often fish that first evening, but didn't this year; just took it easy.

I will tell you straight up that you aren't going to see any fish photos for this entire first week of the trip.  Bridget continued feeling poorly, never leaving the camp, and I fished an hour or so most mornings and evenings.  The only thing that I'm an optimist about is Atlantic salmon fishing; that attitude got me through the week.  And I can always use the casting practice.

Monday, September 18th, our good friend from Fredricton, Brian Cuming stopped by bearing tasty gifts.  I always enjoy trading stories with him...and a couple of Moose Lites!  (You can click on the photos for a larger image)

At least the weather was enjoyable!

Tuesday dawned as a pretty dark day.  I forced myself to take a couple photos of the water level in front of camp:

At least Brodie was enjoying the river at this level!

Wednesday was a brighter day, weather-wise:

My spey rods spent more time on the side of the camp than they did on the river all week, and with this water level, of course that's a Sneaky on the tippet of one of the rods.

Thursday, nobody but Brodie was enjoying the river!

Friday rolled around, and Bridget was finally feeling good go home.  It certainly wasn't much of a week for her, and I didn't blame her for heading back a couple days early.  I was staying up for two more weeks, and as much as I would have liked to keep Brodie with me, that just wouldn't have worked out, accomodations and situations-wise.  He's all hooked up in the back of Bridget's SUV for the ride home; handsome boy!

It was hard to believe, but the river continued to drop.  Vin's boat, the infamous FTG, was essentially landlocked; there was no way to get it out of its mooring.

My treat for the day was having half a dozen or so Black ducks land across from my usual sitting spot that afternoon.  I have rarely seen them in Boiestown!

Saturday seems to have been a blank; got nothing, not even a pic!  That evening, Vin and I attended the Atlantic Salmon Museum's annual fundraiser in Doaktown; I was doing the auction for them.  Tragically, the power went out during the Hall of Fame presentations, and wasn't back on by auction time, so that was that.  An all-around zero day.

Sunday, September 24th, came on as a cloudy day (It's an old, comforting habit of mine when I'm in camp, heading down to the river around 7a.m. with a cup of coffee in hand to think about what the day - and sometimes life - will bring):

The intervale is a mystical-looking place on mornings like this:

Vin Swazey's "Log Camp" is our favorite; it's one of the coziest places I've ever had the privilege in which to stay:

Still no rain!  Forced myself to document the ever-falling river:

Sunday is typically move-out day at Bullock's, so I headed downriver about 200 yards to Vin's family homestead, which the Swazey's graciously allowed me to stay in for the coming week.  I would no longer be officially "fishing", but rather, helping Vin with some projects around the place and just generally goofing off.

Monday was a good day for eagle watching:

And Wednesday was good for Canada geese:

Thursday was the best yet - it was Stella watching day!  Stella is Kyle and Liz Price's (local friends) new English setter pup...what a doll!

Kyle and Stella:

MOST importantly, that night we got rain!!  Basically the first good rain since June.

Friday, September 29th, the river was up and looking good.


Just two days before, it looked like this:

All along through this drought, cold temperatures have been all that have helped keep the river viable for salmon, even if they couldn't move around.  The intervale was frosty that morning:

A visit down to the Bullock's Home Pool showed that it, too, was once again looking like fishable water!

That afternoon, Vin suggested that maybe we ought to swing a fly through his Camp Pool after supper.  I did not disagree, and rigged up my favorite rod, the Loomis 13 foot, 8 weight, with, of course, a number eight Celtic Beauty tied on for good measure.  And a good measure it was: right in the heart of the pool, mid-way through a swing, I finally, FINALLY had a fish on.  I did not fish in the Spring, just a little in June, ten days in July, the previous week in September, and nary a tug through all those hours on the water.  She was a blast to play, land, and quickly and safely release...all fifteen pounds of her (who am I to argue with the guide's estimate, lol!).  Life was once again good.

We had a great celebration that evening at Vin and Hazel's home.  Linda Warren was in camp, and she joined in the fun (Renate Bullock stopped in to congratulate us, and took the photo).


I have no idea at all upon what I was pontificating, but my eyes look like I had been doing serious damage to that bottle of Famous Grouse for some time!

Linda and I reiterating the fact of fifteen pounds!

And even at 84, Vin is a man in perpetual motion!

There's nothing quite like salmon camp, friends, fish, and liquor, is there??

The last day of September, the 30th, broke cold and a little gray, but with a Miramichi River in good shape.  Even got a shore fire going.  Linda was about being over-guided, she had Renate and Dan Bullock plus Vin all on shore:

And in no time at all, it was fish on for Linda - another big hen!

I videotaped Linda fighting her fish.  (I really need to learn how to video edit, or at least combine videos, etc, - anyway, here's the fight):

That was a 10 to 12 pound fish that she landed in about 7 minutes.  Very nicely done!  And pretty much climaxed my two weeks in Boiestown.  Things were looking up!

Sunday, the first day of October, 2017 was the coldest morning of the season for me, as recorded in the frost on the window of my brand new Ford F-150.

Even the geese were well hunkered down in the intervale meadow!

Maybe a bit chilly, but a beautiful morning to be alive nonetheless (even though the river was already starting to drop!)

Time to head downriver to Sunny Corner, New Brunswick for a week with my friends Stephanie and Paul Elson and Howie Gould.  We've been getting together for the first week of October for several years's always one of the highlights of my year!   Also got a chance to meet a young man whose exploits on Maritime waters I've been following for some time, Chris Sinclair.  I am merely three times as old as he is.  He had been in camp for a couple days, and on his way back to school at the University in Fredricton, but we got to chat for a bit.  That was good.  He (with beer) and Howie (with food) getting supper ready Sunday afternoon:

Our hosts for the week, Steph and Paul:

An old pal of Paul's, Brandon Good, was also in camp for a few days.  Made for a full parking lot!

We had a raucous good time that first evening, working hard to rid the province of every last drop of demon alcohol on an individual basis.  Things were a little slow to develop Monday morning, but we eventually got ourselves together and headed for the Northwest Miramichi River to see what the salmon were up to.  Notably, this area did not get quite the raise of water that we experienced back up in Boiestown.  Howie had checked on the Cains, which we all love to fish, but said that there was just no water and that we might as well steer clear of it.  Somewhat disheartening news, but we cope.

Howie was the first (and if memory serves, the last) to hook up that morning:

Landing a nice grilse:

Sadly, ever the iconoclast, he hooked  it on this woolly bugger.

Everyone seems to enjoy the Low Country Boil I make, so we had that for supper that night:

Tuesday morning, we headed back to the Northwest.  It was chilly; Brandon was ready for it:

It's a good thing he was ready...he fell in.  Looked a might cold, but he weathered it.  We didn't find any fish that morning on the Northwest, so we decided the afternoon would be spent on the Little Southwest Miramichi, where Paul did well:


Incidentally, should someone ever hold a gun to my head and say that I must choose the person that will absolutely hook a fish or I'll shoot you, without hesitation, I'd name Paul.  That guy could find a salmon on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Wednesday, based on Paul's good luck the night before, we headed back to the Little Southwest, where Howie promptly got into a fish:

Sadly, I don't seem to have a photo of the fish!  One thing for sure, this particular pool (all the pools we fish during the week are Crown (or public) water) had room for us all!

It also has an intriguing run along that bluff:

Howie was behind me as the sun was topping the trees and caught a shot of an uncharacteristically good cast by yours truly:

All told, a beautiful day to be in New Brunswick, low water or not!

Every year, Howie and Paul seem to figure out how to put me into another bucket list-worthy situation.  A year or so ago it was that canoe trip on the Northwest...this year it was to be a trip to a river and region I'd never seen before:  The Nepisiguit River and northern New Brunswick. 

There is quite a story behind salmon and the Nepisiguit.  By the 1970's due to acid rain and mine waste, the river was barely habitable for salmon.  Along comes a man named Bob Baker and a group he was instrumental in forming, the Nepisiguit Salmon Association, and things change.  Rather than re-write a history book, you can read a good account of what transpired here:

This river is so different from the other New Brunswick rivers I've fished, with it's huge boulders and occasionally steep gradient:

For this trip, Howie's dad, Joe, met up with us to fish.  I'm, uh, two years older than he is, which, sadly, only serves to confirm what I've always figured:  I'm old enough to be Howie and Paul's father.  Ugh.

It was nice to get a photo of Stephanie and Paul enjoying the scenery:

Another thing that there is no absence of (beyond the beauty of the river and its banks) is signage.  I feel this is a good thing.  I have essentially never seen any signage, other than perhaps a "pool name" sign, anywhere else in new Brunswick.  They range from sponsor recognition to ethics and safety signs.  A few:

I should just carry this photo around in my wallet so that when people ask me what I like about New Brunswick, I could just take it out, show them and smile.

I hooked a nice little grilse mid-morning on a small Golden Pheasant Spey - one of the late Bob Warren's lovelier creations - with Steph ready with the net.


Paul is the master at getting release videos!

After all that exciting action, it was time for this old boy to relax on a rock and enjoy watching my friends getting it done.  The view:

LOL, Howie took a pic, too:

I did hook a salmon that day too, but conservationist that I am, I let it off the hook after a few moments.  What a guy.

As we were leaving for the day, Paul also hooked (and landed) a last Nepisiguit river salmon:

There aren't many better things in this life than spending the day on a salmon river with good friends.

And that was my autumn.  I leave you with Stephanie's lovely photo of quaking aspen leaves, a true symbol of the time of year:

Oh, one more cool thing:  I gave Chris Sinclair a small piece of the PB I dye dark green for Celtic Beauties when I met him the first evening at Steph and Paul's.  Upon my return home, he sent a couple of the Celtic Beauty he tied, and a fuzzy one of him fighting the salmon that took the fly!  Great stuff!