Fishing the Grand Cascapedia

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The Grand Cascapedia is a river on the Gaspé peninsula of Quebec, Canada and  is re-known for its very large wild Atlantic salmon as well as being a historic river. It has long been recognized as one of Quebec’s richest salmon rivers. To think of their return every year making their journey to spawn where they were born after confronting so many predators, braving so many challenges, is in itself incredible.  I used to dream of fishing this river for the ultimate freshwater game fish. It is true that dreams can come true!

Last July my husband and I made our annual trip to the Grand Cascapedia. We usually arrive the day before for our three day trip to check things out which means driving along the river and stopping to watch anglers fishing at some of our favourite pools. We also stop to get the salmon news at the famous Sexton & Sexton fishing shop in St-Jules where guides and serious anglers gather for a cup of coffee. While at the shop we make sure to find out “what they are biting on” purchasing the killer flies, the ones to capture the big ones in the appropriate sizes for the current water conditions.

The first day we were up at the crack of dawn and met our guides Carl Bujold and Perry Coull at the parking lot of the Cascapedia Society office. We followed them to the Lower Murdoch pool in anticipation to a wonderful day fishing. Both guides are veterans of the Society having spent most of their adult lives fishing and guiding on the river. The water was a cool 58 degrees Fahrenheit and the Atlantic salmon were there! I cast as far as I could because it seems that the salmon were hugging the other shore. Bang! My efforts were rewarded as I landed an awesome 23 pounder on a Picasse fly.Fly Fishing for the Atlantic Salmon A quick picture and salmo salar was released. A short time later and I had another Atlantic salmon on. The reel screamed, he jumped! And on the second jump which was probably five feet in the air, this “moby” came off. Well I thought this salmon was “Grand”. We all saw this huge salmon and my guide confirmed afterwards “that was a  trophy fish”.

The second day we fished the Lake Branch with guide Lawrence Coble, Chubby as he likes to be called. Chubby was replacing his uncle the late David Caplin a native guide who had guided this sector for over forty some years. Nevertheless to say Chubby has huge shoes to fill and he didn’t disappoint us. He knew this stretch of the river very well. I managed to land a grilse. His uncle David would have been very proud of him. He taught him well!

On our third day we fished the Salmon Branch sector with guide Jason Ferland. Jason is one of the few guides I had who takes time before fishing to check your equipment thoroughly and is willing to share new discovered tips that might make a difference. We made our way to a pool called “Nine Mile” well nestled in the valley. From our perch we could see in the pool many fine looking salmon. Fly Fishing for the Atlantic Salmon GMy Tiger Ghost size 6 was ready! It didn’t take me long to hook one of these fine silver salmon. On the second cast, mission accomplished! I landed an eighteen pounder. Fly Fishing for the Atlantic Salmon - salmon branch with jasonWell it was only 8:30 in the morning, the fishing was very promising. To change scenery we crossed the river to fish the other side. Jason quickly advised me to take it easy and perhaps to take a few breaks between changing flies because regulations on the Grand specify you are only allowed two salmon a day. But when you are pumped, you are pumped. On the first drop on this side with a number six Silver Rat Fly Fishing for the Atlantic Salmon- silver ratI hooked an awesome nineteen pounder. The fish was as silver as the Silver rat itself. A quick photo and this world’s finest salmon was released.Fly Fishing for the Atlantic Salmon with jason second photo It was a wonderful morning fishing!

How lucky I am to live  close to some of the finest Atlantic salmon rivers in the world, the Grand Cascapedia being just one of them. It is with great anticipation that I will be returning next summer.

 

 

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Atlantic Salmon flies for annoter season

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Atlantic salmon flies for another season
by Sylvie Malo-Clark

In my part of the world, anglers start preparing for wild Atlantic salmon fishing the day after the season ends. Stories of the one caught or the one that got away are told and retold. Most importantly salmon flies especially the ones successful at catching a wild chrome are reproduced. We choose certain patterns according to the time of the fishing season, the river you will be fishing and the conditions of the water. In preparation for fishing both rivers the Miramichi and Restigouche which flow in the province of New Brunswick, Canada, I will refill each of my boxes to represent a few scenarios. For instance I will tie flies for fishing the kelt in the Spring, the fresh Atlantic salmon run from the sea for the months of June and July , August is mostly for dry flies, and for Fall fishing the time of the year when the Atlantic salmon is preoccupied with spawning. My husband and I also make a trip a year to the Grand Cascapedia which is situated on the Gaspe peninsula of Quebec, Canada, home of some of the largest Atlantic salmon in the world.

My two loyal flies for kelt fishing in the Spring are the Magog Smelt and the Renous Special all tied on Partridge of Redditch hooks size 2/0’s which seems to be a popular choice for most anglers on the Miramichi. The same patterns are also tied for the Restigouche but in the larger version 3/0’s and 4/0’s. Why large flies you may ask? In the Spring after the snow and ice have melted the water levels on most Atlantic rivers are pretty high therefore the salmon are deeper in the pools. When the water is deeper the current will be faster as well so you want your flies to reach the fish. It is better to fish with a sink-tip line with a shorter leader with heavier flies to get deep down where the kelt are.

In the early season for the first run of the wild Atlantic salmon, mid June to mid July, I make sure I have an assortment of various flies for various conditions. I will fish mostly with wet flies in sizes 4’s, 6’s and 8’s which salmon seem to prefer because the water is colder. Orange Blossom is one of my favourites and has done well on the Restigouche River in June. But the list is endless….I could name so many. For instance in July, the Undertaker, the Blue Charm, the Same Thing Murray, the Butterfly, the Silver Rat, the Rusty Rat, the Thunder and Lightning….and not to forget the Bugs in various colors including the Green Machine, Shady Lady and the Smurf. On the Grand Cascapedia last year in early July, I caught an awesome salmon with a Green Highlander. Armed with some Green Highlanders I will be back this July.

You never have enough flies! Well one day I met an older fellow, a typical Miramichier, on the shores of the Mighty Miramichi. I asked him “What are your favourite flies?” He answered : “The Black Bear Red Butt and a spare one.” He also added “Only tourist fishermen have all kind of fancy flies.” Every time I put a Black Bear Red Butt on I think of this angler. Another time, another fellow I asked the same question and his reply was “The Green Machine in size four with a white tail, and I only change it if a salmon runs away with it.” He also promptly replied that he had the same fly on for the last ten years. He also added way back when the Atlantic salmon were plentiful if you didn’t catch fifty plus salmon in your season , you would be walking in the village of Blackville with your head down. Very funny I thought but anglers took fishing, and still do, very seriously in my part of the world.

In August when the water levels are sometimes at the lowest and warmest I found dry fly fishing very effective. Salmon prefer a fly floating on the surface it seems. I will carry a box of Bombers tied in many colour variations. However for some reason the Orange and the Shrimp Bombers have been my most faithful over the years on the Miramichi and the Brown one on the Restigouche. My only explanation, not a scientific one, is that the wild Atlantic salmon seem to have a mind of their own having seen so many wet flies over their head and in front of their nose they become selective and will only take if in the mood. I have seen days myself trying almost all the flies in my boxes striking out but came home more determined than ever to be successful the next day. That’s fishin’ for you !

Fall is for many anglers their favourite fishing time. There is nothing like being surrounded with the beauty of the Fall foliage. It’s the most magnificent time of the year. The days are cooler and the Atlantic salmon seem to be more frisky. Equipped with a GPS, they make their way to the streams where they were born. What an amazing fish the Wild Atlantic salmon! Like the season, time for a change, time to take with you the Fall fly box tied with a range of Fall colours. The Ally’s Shrimp, the General Practitioner, the Clark Combination are some of my favourites.

When the fishing season is over I retire my boxes with a special note to my flies thanking them for a job well done. Angling for the wild Atlantic salmon is truly magical and is one of the most fighting game fish in the world!

About the author- During the fishing season you will find Sylvie angling for the wild Atlantic salmon and brook trout mainly on the Miramichi and the Restigouche rivers. She enjoys participating in fly fishing shows as a guest fly tier and speaker. She is currently part of the Regal Vise Pro Staff and the Partridge of Redditch Pro Team. The Green Highlander was featured in the Summer 2014 issue of Fly Fusion.

The East coast Girl fishing the West coast

The East coast Girl fishing the West coast by Sylvie Malo-Clark

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The Elk river in Fernie, BC, Canada

Back in  January when IWFF member Vicki Green invited me to fish the Elk River, a river she knows very well, I was ecstatic. It didn’t take me long to give her a positive answer. The East coast girl would fish the West coast, a river on her bucket list. I waited eagerly eight long months before my departure to British Columbia, Canada, destination Fernie home of the Elk river in August. Once in a while I would go to YouTube and have a peak. I soon realized that the best way to navigate the river was with a drift boat or pontoon boat. A later email came from Vicki confirming the use of a single pontoon boat for two days, something I have never done before and a drift boat for a day. Being an adventurous person in nature she wrote that fishing from a pontoon was easy. I took her word for it until I got there avoiding looking at the YouTube videos in the meantime. Upon arrival I was delighted to find out that I would be fishing in a double pontoon boat navigated by her husband Richard and Vicki would be going down in a single pontoon. This proved to be a wise decision! I knew that fishing for cutthroat and bull trout would be different from fishing for brook trout in my area. We wade or fish from a canoe and we fish casting our line most of the time upriver when dry fly fishing, a dead drift dry. It didn’t take me long on our first day out to realize that “mending” was a necessary technique while drifting.  “Setting” the hook as soon as an interested fish was in sight was also something I would have to work on although we do pretty much the same back home. I would have to re-familiarize myself  with these drifting techniques learned somewhat while fishing in Montana a few years ago. Let the dry fly ride the water while keeping an eye on it and most importantly good timing!

Watching Vicki landing quite a few cutthroat the first day made me decide to look on the internet for articles and video’s about the topic before going to bed that evening. I found an excellent one in the online www.MidCurrent.com  magazine library “Mending Primer” by Philip Monahan. In this article he mentioned that in the fishing industry much emphases is put on learning on how to cast instead of “how to fish”. Knowing how to cast is one thing but knowing “how” to fish is the essential. A few videos later on mending I was ready for our drift boat day with The Elk River Guiding Company, with guide Darcy Richardson.

elk river bestHe was excellent navigating his drift boat to  the potential holding spots. such as eddies, log jams,  transitions between fast and slow water, oxygenated riffles, where the change of color meets, near shore, while giving me some mending instruction. We stopped on the way  at one potential holding place and I raised a big one! Darcy did everything to make sure I would land this beauty. I put a smaller dry fly on and cast in the same spot. The same fish surfaced, and I had it…until it came off near shore. Oh well I told myself there was still hope for me since it was early in the day. Later on I watched Vicki land a nice 17 inch cutthroat. Another difference with back East we don’t measure the fish we weigh them.  All the same! We were happy for her and the fish was also, as he was released.

CutthroatThe cutthroat likes warm sunny weather which means a later morning start fishing compared to the East coast brookies. The brookies tend to disappear to the bottom on sunny days liking cool cloudy days meaning for anglers an earlier start fishing. I teased my hosts letting them know that by the time we put in we in the East Coast (my husband and I) are usually done fishing, which would be somewhere around 10:00 AM.  On the hot days we take the afternoon off and make our way back in the evening.  However, one good thing about ending the day in late afternoon with a shore lunch; it enables you to have an early evening dinner. And that we did, a celebration of a great day of fishing in one of the finest restaurant of Fernie. When the heat of summer comes into play on the Elk River many anglers fish using dry fly patterns. The teaser dry flies were the Grey Drakes, Double Wing Olive, Purple Haze and many foam flies looking like grass hoppers. I tend to use them on my brookies and Atlantic salmon. Could be a gourmet snack for the fish, who’s to know unless you try! When I reflect on my Fernie experience I think what made it interesting is the different techniques and ways used to lure the magnificent cutthroat and bull throat. But best of all Vicki and Richard were perfect hosts showing me all the best Fernie and the Elk river have to offer. The mountains surround Fernie and the freestone Elk River flows through it offering renowned fly fishing from June to October. I can now understand why people keep coming back for more and develop a love affair with Fernie!

About the Author – Sylvie is an artist and fly tier and spends much time fishing the rivers of Eastern Canada especially the Miramichi and Restigouche. She has been a member of IWFF since 2005 and is serving her second term as a member of the Board of Directors.