Our Man In Canada
April 9th, 2007

By Chris Chin, Bay Comeau, Quebec, Canada

We're perched over Glass Pool, scoping out salmon,...waiting for 14h00. It's early July in the 2006 season. We had been in the #3 zone that morning, but looking for better prospects, we signed in for a half day in the #4.

André looks at me and asks, "Do you think we really made the right decision to change zones?"

We make decisions every day. Some are easy to make; some are difficult. Other decisions are pleasant, some are not. The executive counsel at out company had to make some hard decisions over the past few weeks. Not an easy task and I can assure you, they did not take it lightly.

Fortunately, other decisions are a lot more fun to make. I think this is why I enjoy fly fishing so much. Wets or dries? Steaks or chops for the grill? Mend or don't mend? Single malt or blended? Of course, decisions are all a part of the game too.

Whenever I'm heading to the river, whether it is with the family or to meet up with guests, the thrill is always the same.

Decision time.

Sure I've monitored the river flows over the past few days on the internet (we have real time flow data at: www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/suivihydro/graphique.asp?NoStation=062803). It just isn't the same as actually seeing the river. Has the water cleared up after the past few days of showers? Has any debris come down the river and lodged itself in a run?

Of course, the primary decision to make is to guess where the salmon are holding. In clear water conditions, this is pretty easy. We'll simply stop off at several pools and try to spot them. When the water is high or cloudy, we have to go on experience.

Next comes the river reports. Have any sections of the river been particularly crowded over the past few days? (a rare occurrence here). Where have the recent captures been taken from? This information I can get from the wardens or at the office. The river association also posts it on the internet.

All this input helps us decide what we'd like to do. Of course, what we really want to do is to relax a bit. Getting into some really over anxious salmon is actually just a bonus.

The half day pass that André has signed in on starts at 14h00. Stringing up and ready to rock, he wades out into the run at the foot of the pool at 14h05. We had spotted several likely prospects while snacking on the observatory.

Show time.

The salmon in the run had not seen a fly for several days and a few of them had newly arrived overnight. We have decided to start with dead drifting presentations and that we would move to swings if we got no takers.

Close in, there were several salmon hugging the bottom. As they are sitting on the bottom, nose down 10 degrees, we decided to bypass these individuals. I knew that these 6-10 salmon had seen many a fly over the past 2 weeks. To drop an upstream presentation to another more likely pod of salmon, we'd have to line the ones at our feet. I also didn't want to spook the salmon holding farther out with a bunch of fruitless casts close in. Another decision has been made.

André Marceau reaching out and across to some likely prospects. Curiously, there nearly a dozen salmon 10 feet to his left.

André casts 3-4 times up into the current and dead drifts his fly along the far side drop off. From my perch, I can see some head shakes and flashes amongst the salmon holding 15 feet down stream from his casts. Instead of having André change positions, I start explaining to him how we're going to do a short reach cast. I clamber down the stair case and wade out to him. I know we're going to get busy in a moment.

I wade up to André's left shoulder and point to a reference point on the far bank, instructing him to cast straight out with a quick reach in his presentation. One cast and we get a terrific boil under his fly. André has excellent reflexes and he doesn't strike. The fly drifts on down stream. We immediately execute exactly the same cast. The fly disappears in a swirling boil, but we don't see the salmon.

André asks "Is that a trout?" ...as his line starts going tight. When he raises the rod tip, 17 plus lbs of magnificent Salmo salar answers his question.

The next few decisions were easy to take.

    - Get out of the current and onto stable footing.

    - We know the salmon isn't a Grisle, so a release will be in order.

    - We will be releasing, so no net will be used.

    - We WOULD like to get a picture if possible, but this will all depend on the salmon.

After a brief 30 minutes and several heart stopping leaps, the salmon "seems" to be tiring and I move in to hand tail him. Unfortunately, the salmon decides something else. Upon seeing my hand (my error), he bolts DOWNSTREAM into the run, sails out in the current and promptly pulls out over 400 feet of backing, making it into the rapids.

Once the salmon got into the rapids, all André could do was try to recouver backing at every opportunity.

The water was pretty chilly still and the salmon was newly arrived from the salt. A long 60 minute plus battle of cat'n mouse ensued. We could only lean into the rod and hope that neither the leader nor the fly shank would give in before the salmon did. We had decided that maximum pressure on the rod would either bring in the salmon, of break him off cleanly.

Fortunately for us, nothing did break. André did bust a knuckle pretty good when he went to palm the reel a bit too quickly on one spectacular run.

André with his replica pin

For his efforts, André got a bruised knuckle, a very sore arm, a replica brooch pin of the fly he used to catch his very first salmon and the memory of (I hope) a life time for a magnificent salmon.

André Marceau – July 2006

Our decisions are often unconscious acts and we realize we have made them only in retrospective. May your decisions be made in enlightened circumstances and their consequences be pleasant. ~ 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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