Our Man In Canada
May 8th, 2006

The Great Equalizer
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec

The ice on the river has finally broken up. Only a few of the lakes in the mountains still have their winter coat of ice on them. Tidal waters don't open for another week and the fly boxes are starting to overflow with newly tied flies.

We spend quite a bit of time over the winter lining up friends and clients for the coming season. The season is relatively short here (mid June - October 15th), so juggling the office (real job), clinics, a Fish-In, repeat clients as well as newcomers, takes a bit of time management skill and forethought.

As we start getting inquiries from folks who are interested in visiting our home waters, some of the questions we get are almost alarming. It seems that many anglers have this perception that going after Salmo salar is pretty well reserved for very experienced fly fishers and/or the very wealthy.

I suppose in some ways, a few anglers actually go out of their way to perpetuate this myth. Luckily, these types are now few and far between. Not that it would really make a real difference anyway.

You see,...anadromous fish here like the Atlantic salmon and sea run brook trout don't eat while coming up river to spawn. Over the summer, they will hole up in runs and pools, waiting for the fall spawn. This makes for an interesting quarry. They also make for interesting sport.

IMHO, no one knows why these fish take a fly. If someone really did, they'd be rich.

Anglers can sight cast to salmon all day long. For literally HOURS, one can set up and rotate in and out of a pool, casting to the same salmon(s). Of course, the idea is to change flies, drift, speed, retrieve...anything. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.

Eventually, someone will connect. Why?

Maybe the sun has moved over a bit. Maybe the barometric pressure is dropping, (or rising, or levelling off). Maybe the angler did something different.

A few years ago I was on the road meeting with some foresters out East. On the way home, I stopped on a river to have a snack and watch a group of fly fishers lining some salmon.

There are worse places to have a snack - Riviere Ouelle - Kamouraska Quebec
Photo - Association des Plus Beaux Villages du Quebec

In the group, shouldered out the back was one of the "girls." Overhearing the comments that the "boys" were sending to her, it was pretty obvious that she was one of the girlfriends and had been dragged along. Looking a bit dejected, she was flipping her line out into the pool over dead water (water that is not holding any salmon).

I walked back to the truck, dumped the jacket and tie and dug out one of my boxes of flies. Back at the pool, I asked her if she would like to try casting to some salmon up above the falls where no one was fishing. She gladly accepted and told her boyfriend (who mumbled something back...happy to get her out of his hair).

Up above the falls, there were a half a dozen salmon lazing in the flow about 20 feet out. I lengthened her leader by 3 feet, tied on a Muddler Minnow, telling her it would be much easier to cast than the big shrimp pattern she had.

As few minutes of instruction up over some dead water and she moved down into the pool. After 2-3 casts she was getting her fly drifting nicely by the salmon.

Maybe it was the weird drift she was getting. Maybe it was the longer leader. Maybe the salmon simply took pity on her. Who knows. Who Cares!

As her fly drifted by the pod of 6, I could see one of them peel out, heel over and follow her fly down stream. Just as her fly was swinging out, the young lady goes to lift her line out, I yell "Freeze!" The fly swung under her, stopping in the current...and the salmon inhaled it.

She automatically lifted her rod and the salmon set the hook. On a trout rod and 10 lb tippet, it took her over 20 minutes to bring the 12 lb salmon to the beach. I tagged the salmon and shook her hand.

Coming out of the trail head, I'm not sure what would have been a better picture. The young lady's face holding her very first Salmon, or her boyfriend's face when he saw her coming out of the trail, salmon in hand.

Atlantics and sea run brookies are the great equaliser because the fish doesn't care if your rich or poor, been fishing for 5 years or 5 minutes. In the long run, it's up to them. ~ Christopher Chin, Jonquiere Quebec

Side Bar: (source - Salmon Quebec)
The Ouelle River (pronounced Well) is among the most accessible of all salmon rivers on the Lower St Lawrence and Gaspé Peninsula. It is possible to make a day trip to the river from Québec City and return home before nightfall.

Situated several kilometres east of La Pocatière, the Ouelle River flows over a distance of 66 km, draining an area of 890 km2. One of the river's most outstanding characteristics is without doubt the number of waterfalls along its length. Between its headwaters in the Notre-Dame Mountains, and its mouth in the St Lawrence River, there is a drop in elevation of over 400 m, providing for some spectacular waterfalls.

The Ouelle River is located in the County of Kamouraska, about 137 km East of Québec and 69 km West of Rivière-du-Loup. Access to the Ouelle River Visitors' Centre is via Autoroute 20, Exit 450, to Saint-Pacôme.

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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