Our Man In Canada
December 25th, 2006

The Strike
By Chris Chin, Bay Comeau, Quebec, Canada

Lounging around camp with fellow anglers or while trying explain to newcomers the thrill of fly fishing, I have to look back in my mind to events.

For each angler, the most thrilling moment in fly fishing can be different. For me...it's those micro-seconds of trepidation between the boil or take, and the realization that the hook is truly well set.

Sure, the anticipation of the take while sight casting to a fish is enough to test your sanity. The arm breaking strength to lever a salmon out of the current on a heavy tippet and high water, the music of a screaming click 'n pawl salmon reel unspooling; they are all part of the game.

When I explained this to my colleagues at the new office, they all had a quizzical look on their faces. "You mean you don't WANT to keep the salmon?"

Back in 2002, we went to C&R on all salmon twenty-five inches or more (adults). Since then, tactics have actually changed on the river here. Since we put back over 50% of catches, the objective is to 1) Connect, then 2) Get your fly back...not exhaust the fish. Over the past several season, I've seen tippets getting lighter and lighter. We've also been breaking off more and more often. It's just part of the game.

I was to meet with clients a few months ago for an evening of lessons. What else was there to do but drive down early and test out 'that slick that Boris showed to me?'

The river in '06 was low and clear all summer long. I ADDED a 4 lb length of tippet and waded out far up stream from the slick. There are no good positions on this section of the river to get a dry fly to drift properly, so we'll do this the old fashioned way.

Actually, I need the finer tippet to be able to get the mono through the eye of the #16 wingless wet.

From my position, I can just barely make out the silvery shadows of 5-6 adults which are laagered on the bottom of the shallow slick. Perfect. I'm far enough out to be able to get a proper presentation, the rising sun is at their back and the left to right current is slow and even.

Keeping my rod low and not waving stuff around, I strip out 40 feet of line and hold it in loose coils in my left hand. (I just KNOW that this is going to work!). This will be the first fly these salmon will have seen in weeks.

One slow false cast, then back and the line shoots and lays out 45 degrees out from me. I'm pretty sure that the cast is short, but I like to start slow. I can easily follow the glittering modified spider as it swings along, a mere two inches under the surface.

The first cast gets no movement. Not wanting to stir up the sandy bottom, I strip out EIGHT INCHES of line and repeat the process. Still no movement. The fly is still drifting in on an angle, but six feet upstream from the pod.

Four more casts and I'm getting antsy. The last cast got a head shake from a big buck. I strip out six more inches and mend DOWNSTREAM on the next cast. I have that old tune from the Ketchup commercial doing endless loops in my head (Anticipation).

It seems as if the fly is swinging in slow motion. THREE salmon lift off of the bottom and they ALL charge towards the fly, the smallest of the litter is one foot in front of the others. In the bow wave of their movement, I lose sight of my fly. The first turns, but my leader doesn't seem to move.

An instant later, the second male keeps charging upstream PAST where my fly should be. My leader seems to stall in its tracks. I wait. I feel a slight pressure on the line in my left hand. I know that he has taken the fly! He slowly turns, drifting slowly back to his holding station.

Two feet of line slides through the fingers of my left hand. I clamp down on the line with my thumb. The rod tip goes up at the same time that my stripping hand goes left. This is not a violent move. The salmon instantly feels that something is amiss and turns again, charging UPSTREAM.

Now is THE moment. The fly line comes lifting tight out of the water. There is a rainbow of mist sprinkling down in the morning sun.

The salmon has darted upstream for five yards and is now turning back down stream. His broad body sailing in the current out and away from me. I drop the last three feet of loose line out of my left hand and he is onto the reel.

In the gentle current I can barely hold him on the light tippet and I can't gain any ground. He's getting well into the backing and slowly but surely diving towards the rapids at the foot of the slick.

Decision time. I can let him run or risk breaking off. Seeing as the water is already over 58 degrees, I palm hard on the reel. The rod loads deeply,...the Poof,...Nothing.

If the salmon had gotten into the rapids, he would have turned the corner and the line would have surely snagged on the tree lined shore. To break off was a good decision.

Spooling up, I inspect the leader. Good, at least the tippet broke, it wasn't one of my knots which gave way.

I wade out to set up a snack for our guest who will be arriving shortly. ~ Christopher Chin - Bay Comeau, 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 in October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/.

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