Our Man In Canada
August 15th, 2005

A (Salmon) Fishing Story or Quality not Quanity
By Chris Chin

My friend and (then) office mate wanted to try for Atlantics over on my home waters.

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 2002.

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 catch today?"

"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 casting."

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 streams.

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" Frank.

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 the #24.

As Frank spools up, the gallery erupts into applause (whether for his effort, the show, or for the salmon, we each had our reasons for applauding).

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

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 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 Daniel's."

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, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/. ~ Christopher Chin

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