Our Man In Canada
April 18th, 2005

Why We Fish
By Christopher Chin, Jonquiere Quebec

At 14h36 on a Friday afternoon, all I see blinking on the screen of the workstation is:

"Visual FoxPro 9.0 Fatal error nExpr reporting error nExpr. No error number is returned. Visual FoxPro closes all open files and exits. Record your recent actions while using Visual FoxPro and then call Microsoft Support."
It's late July. I'm in another era from today. My job seems to have more deadlines than there are hours in a day. Time for a reality check.

Just as I'm leaving, a light spring already accentuating my step, the secretary asks, "Can you be reached on the weekend, you know,... just in case something comes up?"

I reply, "Sorry, no, there's no cell phone service there."

It takes about 30 minutes to load up the pickup, lash down the canoe and I'm off. A two hour drive but even the Friday afternoon traffic becomes insignificant in my mind. I let the portable boom boxes (Honda Civics) pass as I'm on another mission.

Round a curve, over the knoll and there we are. A sweeping curve in the road opens to a vista of peace and tranquility. The highway plunges into the river valley and I am Home.

The view from the west as the regional highway drops into the Ste-Marguerite River valley.

Happens every time...I feel my breathing deepen and relax,...I'm positive that the blood pressure settles back to normal.

I stop at the Head Warden's camp to leave a note on the table with a hunk of aged cheddar and a small bottle of Port.

Twenty minutes later I pull into one of my favorite haunts and shut down the motor. Silence. No phones, no photocopiers chugging, no low level background noise from air conditioners,...nothing.

Well, not nothing really. Instead of noise, there's sounds. A brook babbling as it merges into the 24 pool. The breeze on the other side of the valley swirling through to Firs and Spruces. A few gusts rustling the Aspens overhead.

I set up camp slowly, not like a robot, just automatically as I'd done it many years ago. I like to get setup early and settle in with a campfire and a mug of JD to listen to the river settle in for the night.

Moon rise on the #24 Ste-Marguerite River

As dusk sets the pool awakens. Trout looking for forage move into the seams. They (try to) displace the Salmon. The ensuing shoulder rubbing leads to some spectacular air shows as big mature bulls (Salmon) circle wildly the pool and leap out of the water on each half circuit. The medium sized trout just try to keep out of the way and the consequent movement sets off a chain reaction of whirls and splashy rises.

An old friend smells the birch wood smoke and has come by for a meal. I break out a small snack of smoked trout, biscuits and cheddar. While I'm cutting the cheese, I ask him if there are were many anglers on the river during the week, how's his family, where are the best pools. He doesn't reply really. He just seems as content as me to be there sharing a meal.

The trout is a tad dry,...more like jerky, but that's the way I like to prepare it. My visitor doesn't seem to mind and gobbles up almost a quarter pound of it. Then again, I can't remember the old Red Fox EVER refusing anything from me.

It's dark now,...my diner guest has gone back to do his rounds. I string up two rods. A 5 wt for trout and a 9 wt for salmon. I secure them to the rod rack and hit the sack.

5 a.m. and a light rain has been falling since about 03h00. The rain hitting the tent was reassuring to me. I know the water temperatures will go down a bit and the river will rise later in the day a tad. Morning ritual is as innate as setting up camp.

Coffee, bacon 'n eggs, some baked beans and toast. The Fox is there waiting for some scraps. For the past 4 years he's been there for breakfast. Funny, he won't be there on the second evening. He just shows up the first evening to make sure it's me I guess.

I see another Guide looking over the 25 so I leave a note on the tent to tell him I'm gone for the day and how the trout are holding (strangely) on the near side of the 49. I'm off to another beach.

Back up to the upper section of the river, I pull into the #3 as I know I'll be alone. I leave another note on the Section Warden's table so he doesn't have to come down just to see who's there. The #3 is a slow pool about 120 ft wide with 40 feet cut into the trees for a back cast. I'll try a Woolly to see what'll move first.

This isn't swinging, not enough current. I quarter the pool on short, medium and long casts. Finally, out at 2 o'clock, a swirl under the fly and a flash 3 feet behind that. I roll and recuperate then quickly spool up and change rods. A 5 lb trout on a #9 10ft XP isn't my idea of fun.

The movement from the hen that wanted the Woolly has stirred up the pool pretty good, so I settle in with a coffin nail to let things calm down. Nice time for a nap too.

30 minutes later, #14 Red Tag (dry) on a REALLY long lead. I lay out the line WAY upstream. Mending twice, the fly drifts for almost 2 minutes to get to the lair. The hen accelerates from in front of the lair so I roll and recuperate my fly. I'm looking for the bull that's lurking IN the lair, behind the hen. The quick pickup of the fly on the hen's nose has driven her inshore. I quickly cast again, this time 10 ft upstream from the lair.

Quickly mending to get some free drift, heart RACING, the fly passes directly over the nose of the Bull. Nothing. Another cast, same presentation. Nothing. Maybe he's plastic, placed there by the Warden to get me riled up, ...No, there was a flash there 30 minutes ago.

I strip in and cut off the hackles. Same cast, same mend,...the fly is 1 inch under the surface. I see the trout dig in his heels, the pool is over 10 ft deep there and it takes almost 3 full seconds for him to accelerate and charge to the surface.

The fly disappears and the leader plunges. I wait for him to turn back and I lift the rod tip to 11 o'clock. The fly line lifts out of the water tracing a ripping rainbow of water from the trout towards me as the line goes tight. Not a happy camper, the trout zigs and zags about the pool. He has lots of room and the surface erupts here and there where smaller fish and an occasional salmon scurry out of the way.

The water is still fairly warm so I don't play him to exhaustion. I fight him from the reel but he still gets into the backing by about 20 ft. Brookies don't run like a Bow and the current is not strong here so he soon comes to hand. I trace down the leader with my right hand and hold the fly solidly for an instant. Flick of the wrist and he's gone.

No pictures, no witnesses.

I like it that way.

No one will ever know.

I do this for me.

This is where I belong.

Looking for Rises on the #3A Ste-Marguerite River, Saguenay, Quebec ~ Christopher Chin

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 8 years now and started guiding about 3 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 40 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me last October."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christophers website, www3.sympatico.ca/chris_chin/

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