Our Man In Canada
March 27th, 2006

The Long Dead Drift
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec

Depending on the pool and the conditions I'm fishing, I might like to stir things up a bit. A ripping retrieve on a big surface fly can be loads of fun at dusk. However, on certain pools, I also like to go with a completely different presentation. I could describe this as a long 'n lazy dead drift. This is my favourite method of fishing the 5A up here.

Better known as Big Pool here on the Ste-Marguerite River, it is a holding pool where Salmon and trout will lager all summer long. The big bucks and hens set up there in the clockwise eddy, waiting for the nights to get longer and the water temperature to cool down. In a good season, a few dozen salmon and even more trout can be seen milling around in the lazy current.

A gallery is built there to give visitors a good view of the pool and the Wardens who live there from spring until early winter are always ready to point out the differences between the trout and salmon to the uninitiated. (the trout have the white leading edges on the fins) Sounds dumb, but a 9 lb trout can look like a small salmon. That is, until you notice a 35 lb salmon and compare sizes.

Big Pool is nestled in the hills of the upper reaches of the river, cooled by 3-4 cold water springs and well oxygenated by the gentle rapids which are found about 500 feet upstream. The river there is not really very wide, but the pool itself is easily over 100 feet wide. Most anglers will present from the upstream end of things, either casting out and across into the current, or downstream straight into the pool.

Over sized Woolies, Muddlers, and Black Ghost's are some of the traditional favourites here. A down and across swing in the current or a stripped retrieve straight through the pool will sometimes get good results. Being who I am, I'll usually do things differently. The first time the Zone Warden saw me doing this, he was thoroughly intrigued.

I climbed down the stair case on the right side of the gallery and waded out waist deep into the pool. From there, I could get away from the spruces lining the shore and try to cast as best as I could.

Aiming about 45 degrees upstream into the pool, I lay out 30 feet of line and 18 feet of leader. The Warden called down from the gallery, "Now what do you think you're gonna do with such a short cast, you're not even over the trout."

I gave him a tip of my hat and replied, "Just trying something different."

As the gentle current was set up in the back eddy, it was slowly turning clockwise and slowly bowing my leader INTO the pool, drifting the #14 Red Tag "upstream" towards the trout. As my meager offering continued to slowly edge it's way towards where I had seen a half dozen trout holding, I mended a sweeping belly left into the line. This was taking so long, the ash hanging off my cigarette was almost an inch long, smoke drifting up into my eyes.

I suppose that this is one of my very favourite "moments" in fly fishing. The long dead drift. The anticipation. The fly is almost imperceptible. I can more imagine where the fly is than actually see it. Shoulders hunched forward, the rod straight out, level to the water - the tip almost touching the surface. Waiting.

From water level, I couldn't see the reaction of the trout, but from the grunts and exclamations coming the gallery, I could imagine that a trout was digging in its heels and charging up towards my fly.

When the trout broke the surface, the hoots from the gallery startled me so much I almost missed the take. He barely made a ripple, sipping the fly from the surface then diving towards the security of the depths in one smooth movement.

With so little line out and in the almost non-existent current, the trout was on the reel in a flash, zigging and zagging about the pool. A chain reaction of activity was set off as other trout and a few dozen salmon (including a few Grisles) scattered out of the way.

I back peddled (not usually a smart thing to do) towards the foot of the stairs. For ten minutes I would let the big Bull Run to the far side of the pool, then frantically reel in slack as he charged (seemingly) towards me again.

With a 9-foot rod in waist deep water and nearly 20 feet of leader, I had to hold the cork handle in my teeth and hand line the trout in. The Warden was on the stairs, net in hand.

He was pretty surprised when I declined the net and released the big trout. Then again, as I had once read somewhere:

"A trophy trout is just too magnificent to be caught only once"
(or something like that anyway).

Tight Lines, ~ Chris

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 in 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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