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.
By Chris Chin, Bay Comeau, Quebec, Canada
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
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
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
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 in October 2002."
To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River,
Our Man In Canada Archives