A (Salmon) Fishing Story or Quality not Quanity
My friend and (then) office mate wanted to
try for Atlantics over on my home waters.
By Chris Chin
Now, Frank is the "action" oriented type of
sportsman. He likes to limit out on Snow Geese
(20 per day) or have a fine fish fry after an
evening of Walleye fishing. We arranged to go
in (what was back then) prime time. June 24th
We drive down Saturday afternoon and sign in.
I don't even ask questions at the office,
we're after the monster fresh from the salt
specimens of Salmo salar. We
get rod slots in the #2 Zone and head down
set up camp on the #23 pool. (Strange, there
are no other anglers on the river, nor signed
up for tomorrow).
As the sun is setting we can't really see into
the pools to see where the salmon are holding,
we just assume that they are there (as they
have been for the previous decades).
Talk around the camp fire is of strategy,
flies to try, holes to explore. Sleep comes
slowly as the wild anticipation of the "hunt"
whirl in our head.
The view into the #23 from the Warden's Camp.
Awake and suited up bright 'n early, we scoot
over to the pool and start drifting wets over
the pool. Nothing. The sun is still too low
to see into the pool, but they should be there.
Up to the # 24. Downstream swings, upstream bombers, nothing.
Up to the #28. Same thing. Nothing.
Back down to 21, 22, same thing, nothing.
Hmmm, I know the atlantics can be tough,
but "last year" at the same period, we were
releasing salmon all morning long.
We head back to the camp for food and new
strategy. Pulling up to the camp, one of
the Wardens is sweeping out the Gazebo.
We pull up and chat.
"So what do you two think you're going to
"Why 'ya say that?"
The Warden replies with a sad face, "There
are no salmon in the river yet. The biologists
are thinking of closing the adults" (meaning
we'd go to C&R on all salmon over 24 inches).
They'll decide in a few days.
Frank looks at me, "There are NO salmon in the
river!" Well, that's atlantics, you can be
1 week too early or 1 week too late. My fishing
buddy decides to have a nap on the gallery
overlooking the #23, I grab a bite of an apple
pie and return to the #24 to "practice roll
As I'm settled into the 24, I look down stream
to the #23, I can see the toes of Frank's boots
up on the gallery (he's most certainly snoring
already). I see also some movement in the slick
downstream from the gallery.
SALMO SALAR porpoiseing their way upstream! 3 or
4 of them!
I quickly spool up and literally RUN back
to the #23. I come stomping up the gangway
to the gallery and kick Frank awake. "Time
to rock, the salmon are arriving!"
I slide down to the edge of the pool and
lay out 40 ft of line.
Frank yells down from the gallery "Too far,
they're closing on you!" I reel in 15 ft
of line and swing again. Short and too far
to the left, I go to pick up "STOP!" yells
Frank. Just as I stop the movement I had
initiated to pickup, I feel that old familiar
weight on the rod, then all hell breaks loose.
Frank literally screams "Hey! You got the
small one!" (Like as if We decide anything
against a salmon)
Atlantics are funny beasts. They jump or they
run, not at light speed like Bonz, just a steady
long long long pull. I guess it's the same power
and endurance they use to migrate thousands of
miles in the Atlantic and up into the river and
On a 6 lb tippet, the only thing to do is
watch patiently (and in horror) as the reel
unwinds it's reserve. This fellow was
definitely going for a new Zip Code. Just
before the backing ran out I bang on the
reel with the palm of my hand and (miraculously)
the salmon turns around.
Turn's around and dives under the snag on
the far side of the pool! 5 heart pumping
minutes later, he's still sitting under the
snag. I can see the branches bobbing when
I pull on the line. What to do?
Quietly, on his own, the salmon slides out
from under the snag AND THE LINE PULLS FREE
FROM THE BRANCHES BY ITSELF!
Another 20 minutes and 5-6 spectacular
leaps later and the salmon (not even close
to exhausted) and I am starting to get close.
Frank is beside himself, "I'll get the net!"
"Forget the net Frank, that big Bull will
take a fly too! FISH!"
I've gotten my salmon close enough to not
disturb the pool. Frank sets up and starts
casting to one of the BIGGEST salmon we've
ever seen in this river. A full 45 minutes
after hooking up I have my salmon on the
beach. I climb up to the gallery to "guide"
At the same moment, visitors arrive. Now
it can be a tiny bit intimidating casting
under a gallery full of anglers, further so
as the gang that stopped by were Boris (another
Guide) and his girlfriend, Boris' dad (the
president of the river association) and his
wife, as well as two other friends.
With the 7 of us up on the gallery, Frank
was giving us the show of the season. A
newcomer to Atlantic salmon fishing, he just
didn't quite have his line control down and
the salmon literally WANTED to take a fly.
On each cast this Moby Dick of a salmon would
lean over to the fly as it swung by. Mouth
gaping wide open with an arched back, he'd
refuse at the very last instant.
Arms in the air, laughing, screaming and
cheering we tried to get help Frank to
connect with the beast. EVERY fly he tried
got a rise out of the big male. Each refusal
is accompanied by the stand up, foot stomping
cheers one can feel at a hockey game or
college football match.
After 30-40 minutes of this the 3 remaining
salmon sank into the depth of the pool and
out of sight. 5 minutes later they were again
on their way and we saw them heading up towards
As Frank spools up, the gallery erupts into
applause (whether for his effort, the show,
or for the salmon, we each had our reasons
Sinking into a corner of the gallery, almost
exhausted from the emotion of the moment, Frank
sighs, "Well, that has got to be the most fun
I have ever had NOT catching a fish!"
Below, one of the few in 2002 (the "small one").
Ste-Marguerite River June 24th 2002 - Photo François Levesque
Side bar: Since the 2002 when returns
were so late and low, the Ste-Marguerite River
has gone to C&R only for all salmon over 24 inches,
a regulation that is still in force today.
~ Christopher Chin – Jonquiere Quebec
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 10 years now and started guiding
about 5 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
Chris is 42 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 2002."
To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River,
~ Christopher Chin
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