Friday, November 30, 2018

Late Fall Fun in New Brunswick

An important Atlantic Salmon Museum board of directors meeting was scheduled for Monday, October 29, 2018 in Doaktown, NB.   I'm a member of that board and really wanted to attend; Bridget said, "So go!"   Who am I to quibble with her logic?

I also wanted to continue some site preparation for our camp which we started in September, so I decided to go up a few days early, and stay a few days after the Monday board meeting.  I headed up on Wednesday, October 24th.   I watch the weather for New Brunswick pretty closely, especially if I'll be traveling up there.  Long story short:  I knew the weather was going to be a little rough, but 4-wheel drive all the way from Bangor to Boiestown?  Seriously?  It was like driving in a two-track trail, except one filled with ice and sludgey water.  At the border, I told the young agent that I hoped the driving would be better in NB than it was in Maine...she laughed and said it was sure to be worse.  She was correct.

The entire front of my truck was filled with icey stuff when I got to Bullock's, who had graciously given me their guest camp to stay in during the time I was in town:

Things were kind of slushy at the Bullock homestead, too!

I think you could have surfed the Miramichi when I arrived in camp!  And these waves are heading upriver!

Renate Bullock had started a fire in the guest camp woodstove before I arrived.  That was some welcome warmth!

Thursday morning I headed the mile or so downriver to our land; still some snow on the ground, looking out towards the river:

Looking kind of chilly across the intervale to the river:

Now, our dear friend Vin Swazey, from whom we bought our land, seems to have a penchant for storing BIG piles of softwood from various sources, with the thought that when cut and split, they'd be great sources of firewood for the camps that he leases to the Bullock's.  Great concept.  With one problem:  you do, in the end, have to cut and split them and stack them under dry cover or those lovely big piles of softwood start to, shall we say, return to the earth.  Vin is a very busy boy, and these big piles of softwood seem to have eluded the wood splitter for a bit too long.  Several of these piles are on our land, and have definitely gone by.  With Vin's agreement, it was time to take care of the piles.  First step:  use the Kubota to break up the piles:

The business end of my F-150.  I'm glad I didn't have to explain this stuff to the border agent after I said I said the purpose of my visit was a Museum board meeting!

We had two splitters going!  Vin's for the smaller stuff we could lift up onto the ways, Dan Bullock's which can go vertical for some really big stuff.

Friday warmed up a bit, and the snow was gone.  Made for a nice day of woodsplitting.

Of course, in New Brunswick, if you don't like the weather, wait a'll change!  As it did by Saturday morning:

Walking to work, so to speak, these two wondered who was interrupting their breakfast!

Even flushed an eagle from its roost:

Cold or not, the cutting and splitting continued apace:

Did I mention something about changing weather in NB?  Sunday morning, early:

Sunday was pretty much a day off for Vin and I.  His daughter, Michele, was in from Fredricton, making her usual wonderful Macaroni and Cheese lunch (made, of course, with Cabot's "seriously sharp" cheddar that I bring from Vermont).  She commemorated the day with a little snowboy:

The river was way up on Monday.

We had a job to do before we could get back to the wood piles that morning; move the Central New Brunswick Woodmen's Museum's airplane from along Route 8 to its winter quarters.

This former military aircraft was used in forest fire suppression (I can't resist:  I guess that was in the days before we started raking the forest floor, like they do in Finland (according to HIM), to prevent forest fires).  A cool thing about it is its folding wings, held in place when extended by a single steel pin!  Took a little finagling to get them to come unglued after being in place all summer:

Ever the ham actor:

Wings folded and ready to be towed to the hanger by Vin and his Kubota:

All was going well on the way to the hanger until Vin swung a little wide and got mired in the mud.  Even in four-wheel, things were only heading south.

And now, for the pundits among my friends and acquaintances that enjoy deriding Ford F-150 pickups in favor of (ugh) Dodges and GM products, let me just say I'd like to see your truck pull an airplane and a good-sized tractor out of the mud!  Put 'er in four-wheel low, lock both differentials, and get 'er done, thank you very much!

Safely entering the hanger for the winter:

The rest of the day was more time with the splitters.  Renate stopped by the site for a little portrait work:

Tuesday, however, a command decision was made:  a large pile of slabwood had gone well by...the weather was good for it, so we decided to burn it.  Did I mention that Vin likes to play with matches?


The front-end loader on the Kubota came in handy for folding new wood in on the burning wood.

Wednesday, early A.M., the fire was still going, and made for an interesting sunrise photo:

I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to once again be able to call a grouse covert "home."  Most of my adult life, except here in Bennington, I have lived in the middle of a good covert,  Feels like home, especially as the sun is coming up on a frosty morning:

Thursday, Renate stopped by mid-morning with tea and crumpets (well, coffee and pastry).  I finally got to take a picture of her relaxing!

Obviously, Vin takes advantage of ALL coffee breaks:

I took a minute (well, 2.5 minutes, actually) to survey the site:

Vin had some appointments Thursday afternoon, so I spent a little time in the tractor (had to turn the heater in the cab down and I'll be darned if I could figure out how to change the station from the old timey country music Vin likes to something a little more to my taste!) - the view for the cab:

Felt good to see how much we'd done over the course of my visit...and even better to put my feet up near the fire and enjoy a lovely, made in New Brunswick, Porter.  Life is good, eh?


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Miramichi Salmon Camps, Fall, 2018

Brodie and I left Vermont early dark-thirty on September 16, 2018, heading for salmon camp in Boiestown, NB.  Bridget was visiting a friend in Maine, and would meet me there early in the week.  As I was driving up, I wondered if she remembered her passport.  My nifty new-ish F-150 has hands-free telephoning, so I called and left her a message.  A hundred miles later, I got my answer: no.  Too far from home for either of us to turn around and retrieve it, we wondered what to do.  We both have "enhanced" Vermont drivers licenses, and she has a copy of her birth certificate stored in her phone...maybe those would work?  My job was to ask the customs agent that would be checking me if those would suffice to get Bridget into Canada.

Well, so the customs agent was a very attractive young woman, and I sort of forgot to ask that musical question, only remembering that I was supposed to ask it when I was about 100 yards into Canada.  There was a spot where I could turn around easily and get over into the lanes for folks entering the U.S., so I swung over and got in line.  When the nice young woman in that booth asked me how long I had been in Canada, I replied, "About thirty seconds."  Her skeptical look required a further explanation about needing to ask Canada customs a question which I had forgotten to do.  She shook her head, and pointed me to the place where I could turn and get back into the "enter Canada" line.

I got the same young agent that had interviewed me just a few minutes prior.  She gave me an interesting look (never a good thing coming from customs agents), and asked if I hadn't just gone through.   I explained that I forgot to ask her my question and proceeded to ask her that question, to which she replied that just the enhanced license would be all Bridget would need.  She also needed my passport again to log me back into the country.  After all that, she bid me a fond farewell.  Or something to that effect.   One of my more interesting border crossings.

The trip into Boiestown was uneventful, and Brodie and I settled into camp that evening.  Monday morning's dawn was lovely sight, the sun just coming up over the intervale:

A flock of Canada geese helped me greet the new day as well:

That is the good news.  Period.  The end.   One look at the river, and I figured it was probably going to  be a long week (you can click on the pic to enlarge it):

The water was so low that a trout, much less a salmon, would have a hell of a time getting over the bar that is out in front of the camps, visible in the above photo.  And it was warm.  Very warm.  No fish seen, much less touched, either morning or evening.

Tuesday dawned a little bit cloudier, with, course, even less water in the river.

This wasn't going to be a fishing day.  My friend and fellow Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) board member Vin Swazey and I were going to a non-public meeting among key players in what I think I should start calling The Striped Bass Wars.  Except that this meeting was only attended by folks on one side of the burgeoning Striped bass issue - those of us concerned about the effect a growing (exponentially) striped bass population was having on Atlantic salmon.  Sad to say, I don't think much was accomplished among the attendees; I'll let it go at that.  At least for now.

That evening, in the same hotel in Fredricton, the MSA was hosting one of it's larger fund-raising dinners.  Although Vin and I weren't going to it, we toured the live and silent auction items before heading home.  This canoe really caught my eye, but I figured it would go for funds way above my pay-grade anyway, so I put it out of my head.

I found out a day or so later it only sold for six hundred bucks....AAAAARGH!!!!  What a deal.  Oh well.

Heavy rains brought the river up nicely Wednesday into Thursday.  Might have been great fishing, but Mr. Brodie decided it would be a good idea instead to slice open a toe pad badly enough to need stitches.   We were going to drop a kennel crate off to our friends Paul and Stephanie Elson in Sunny Corner that day, so rather than take him to Fredricton (closer), we made some calls and found a vet in Miramichi (close to Sunny Corner) that could take him if we could get him there by 2pm, which we did.  We had to leave him for a couple hours while they knocked him out and stitched him up.  We picked up a stoned-out-of-his-gourd Brodie around 4:30...he doesn't usually sit around with his tongue hanging out!

Things were really looking up, river-wise, Thursday morning.  Even a thirty pounder could have gotten over the bar!

That was all that was looking up that day.  Brodie certainly was not.

The high point of the day was a visit from two friends, Fred Hall (left) and Brian Cuming (right).  Fred was fishing at Salmon Brook, upriver from Boiestown, and was getting into fish.  I was not.  But I do love it when friends stop in to say hello!

Friday comes along and the river is already dropping:

No fish seen nor head Friday.  Or Saturday morning.  Saturday evening was the Atlantic Salmon Museum's annual Hall of Fame dinner and fundraiser.  I always have a good time doing that auction; a great and fun crowd!

Earlier in the year, Bridget purchased a day's fishing at Wilson's Camps (just below Boiestown) in an online auction for the Museum.  Keith (Wilson) had an opening on Sunday, so we loaded up our trusty guide Vin Swazey and spent a few hours at Wilson's Big Murphy pool.  At 85, Vin can still pole with the best of them!

Bridget gave it her best shot, but nobody with fins wanted to come to the party that day.

Our "official" week of fishing at Bullock's ended Saturday, but through Dan Bullock's good graces, we were able to stay on in the camp for the next week, working on preparing the site for our camp.

Did I mention that neither of us touched, saw or heard a fish all week.  Ouch.

Monday morning, September 24th,  and the river was still dropping, but it was a beautiful day to work outside.

Brodie was not happy about being couped up in the camp!

Here's a rough idea of the property lines:

We started clearing the view down to the river, and siting where the camp itself will go:

 And for the record...bear poop in the woods?  No, in our field.

The beginnings of a view of the river:

Lots of brush to burn when the weather is right for it (much more about this in the next blog post!)

Thursday, September 27th, and Bridget is hard at it:

Leaves on the island are finally starting to turn.

Brodie is not pleased with his situation in life.  So many grouse and woodcock in the area to be learning about, and life dishes this out.

Bridget and Brodie had to head back to Vermont on Thursday, so without any adult supervision, the games began:

Saturday, the oaks along our bank...

...masked the maples on the island's bank really starting to turn.

Sunday, September 30th: last morning before I head downriver for a week of fun and fishing with friends:

For the past few first week of Octobers, I've been privileged to spend time with Paul and Stephanie Elson, and my bud Howie Gould at their camps in Sunny Corner on the Northwest and near Blackville on the Main Southwest.  This year a new camp member was on hand to greet me, Dohgee (D-oh-gee) by name, the newest member of the Elson clan:

Her momma is a wire-haired pointing Griffon; dad is a suspected n'er do well of questionable lineage...but a pointing dog nonetheless.  She is the apple of Stephanie's eye!

We decided to celebrate the first day of October with a float down the Cains river, putting in at Salmon Brook and taking out where the Cains meets the Main Southwest Miramichi.

The Cains, like the Main Southwest, was the lowest I've ever seen it.

Paul (l.) and Howie (r.).  Even when the fishing sucks (and it did), time with these guys is the best.

And lots of people float down rivers and don't even fish, so I just enjoyed the scenery and time with friends.

Mighty low water where the Cains meets the Main Southwest!

Howie had to head home on Tuesday, so Paul and I were on our own.  Since it was a weekday, we figured the crowds wouldn't be at Quarryville on the Main SW, so we gave it a shot.  If anyone I know can hook salmon in tough conditions, it is Paul.

He had a handicap that he didn't know about when he hooked that hen:  he was fishing his grandfather's reel for the first time and found out during her first run that the backing was locked up with a knot.  A testament to his skill fighting salmon, she hit that knot on two runs.  He still got her in.

Apparently those sudden stops weren't too kind to the fly, however.  Twisted quite a bit!

Not your standard fall salmon fly, but then Paul is not prone to standard flies.  More about that in a bit.

Stephanie brought a little visitor down to the river to watch the fun!

Tuesday lunch was just Stephanie, Paul and myself...had to make the annual Low Country Boil!

Wednesday, October 3rd, Paul and I decided to hit the Cains again.   As I said, if anyone can hook up, Paul can.

It was a tagged hen.

As I said, Paul often takes an untraditional approach fly-wise.  That hen took this (which makes me crazy):

Thursday, my last day on the rivers, Paul hooked up his ATV and took me to the uppermost public pool on the Little Southwest Miramichi.  Simply a magical place...another example of the wonderful pools and places on the rivers that Paul and Howie have taken me to.  What incredible gifts.

We met up with a fellow that Paul knows; I had to snap a photo of his hat!

It's big, rugged country (wading the river there was a bitch!).

Paul hooked a grilse here, which came unbuttoned at his feet.

He also hooked this pretty, if skinny, brook trout:

If a person has to end a trip like this, it is good to end it here, with a good friend.

All told, I fished for Atlantic salmon about 21 days in 2018.  I hooked one grilse.  I guess all I can say, without getting into a rant about what I think is affecting Atlantic salmon, there's always next year...and more fine times with good friends.