Our Man In Canada
January 7th, 2008

Happy New Year

By Chris Chin

For many of us, the passing into 2008 has been anticipated for many months now. 2007 was a tough year. Ask anyone in the forest industry and you'll know why. For others, a series of family crisis, a Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, shoulder operations, mill closings and crashed servers has added quite a few white hairs to the old scalp. Of course much more serious things are happening all over the world too.

With all that went haywire over the past 12 months, it can be all too easy to get cynical and look back on 2007 with a scorn. Happily, some of the high lights from 2007 are also helping me to get primed for 2008. After over 15 years of fishing for these darn things, I think I'm finally getting the hang of dry fly fishing to Atlantics!

Quick resolution for 2008 then is to get Renée to connect to a nice salmon on a dry. I can see it in my mind's eye. Just like in early August this past year.

It's the same run where Jim and Deanna had the opportunity to meet Serge Vincent in 2006. Over the past few years, starting after the 1996 flood, a hole has opened up on the far side of the #48 (just up and out from the third spruce). Salmon have started to hold there! (Jim, there weren't any there that day in August 2006).

It's a nice hole. There's plenty of current bringing in cool water from a secondary arm of the river a half a mile upstream. It's dark and secluded and deep. And very few anglers fish to it!

Firstly, there are sea run trout holed up just 15 feet downstream of it. Secondly, it's an up and across dry fly presentation...and very few anglers seem to be fishing dries these days. Finally, this run is reputed to hold lots of salmon, none of which take flies!

I know exactly how I want Renée to set up to fish this hole.

Back in August, my clients for the day were just too pooped. They had fished for 3 days straight and were heading back towards home that fourth day. After a few hours of recapping the casting and fishing pointers that they had learned over the past few days, they bid me farewell in time to catch the ferry.

With a few hours to kill before meeting up with the next day's group, I decided to try out this "new" hole that we'd scouted out a few days previously.

The sun was beginning to set upstream of me and the NoSeeUms weren't coming out (there were too many Black Flies). With the bright sun in the salmons' eyes, I opted for a big #4 Bomber. I also changed back to my 10 ft 8wt rod (I used mostly a 6 wt 8½ ft rod this past year to let my shoulder recover a bit). The water was cold enough that I got a shiver as soon as I started to wade out about 30 feet from the beach.

Setting up in the gentle current, I look over to the trees on the far side to keep my bearings straight. I had climbed up the big yellow birch early the previous morning to get a better idea as to the angles and distances. Not wanting to false cast this big fly over the run, I strip out the necessary 45 feet of line from the reel and hold it in loose coils in my left hand. (you see, salmon fishing doesn't mean one need's to be able to cast 110 feet).

These salmon had seen flies in the early morning, but none since then and none this week with the sun setting. My heart was moving into fourth gear. Funny, the water didn't seem as cold anymore.

Two false casts and I laid out the line almost straight across. I knew that there were no salmon there, but wanted to get the line straight. One nifty "spiralling pickup" (just like JC taught me) and the fly gets presented 2 feet upstream from the hole....Nothing!

I let it drift out, mending twice.

Strategy time. I know that the salmon have seen the fly. How to make 'em react?

I pick up, false cast once then land the fly one foot closer to the hole. Nothing!

I strip in one foot of line and cast towards the same spot. This time the fly lands at the same distance, but eight inches this side of the start of the hole. (and I realise that I'm holding my breath).

It will always amaze me how gently a salmon can move to a dry fly. Not always the explosive take that we are accustomed to with the sea run brookies. I saw the nose, then dorsal fin, then tail. A few bubbles on the surface AND NO MORE FLY!

The books will all say, "Wait 3 seconds before setting the hook." I prefer to wait until the tip of the fly line moves subtly. A very long time indeed. In reality, in the time it takes for me to say to myself "Holy Crap, he took the fly," it's time to set the hook.

I love dry fly fishing to salmon. When one goes to set, you still don't know if the fish will be hooked. Left hand going left and rod going right, the line goes tight and starts lifting out of the water. One second later I see the end of the leader come out of the water too,... attached to +15 lbs of Salmo salar!
On an 8 lb tippet, the drag is set pretty lightly and the salmon has no trouble pulling me pretty deeply into the backing as he sails with the current down to the tail of the run. I can't let him get to the rapids or he'll take me all the way to Glass Pool. I turn and run with him.

Well, run is relative. In water over my knees, I lope my way after the salmon trying to recuperate line. The reel is still slowly unspooling!

Miraculously, 10 feet from the drop into the rapids, the salmon turns and holds straight out from me. He is using the hydraulics of the lip of the rapids to hold and the speed of the flow to stand off. Thankfully, I can see the fly this side of the fish, so I know that I can pull pretty well as hard as I dare.

It's a stand off. I can wade out 15 feet, all the while recuperating line, but as soon as I try to walk him back towards me, the line just spools out again. I try this 3-4 times with the same result each time.

I'm getting desperate. With the fighting butt solidly prying into my stomach and my left hand 12 inches up from the cork, I gingerly reach down into the water and feel around for a baseball sized rock. A moment later the rock lands nicely 2 feet behind the salmon. It works.

The poor thing is so startled that it leaps once and runs upstream the 200 feet back to his hidey hole. (and I try to run back, against the current with him). The run tuckers him out quite a bit and after 5 or 6 circling runs through the pool and a few spectacular leaps, I start gaining line (and finally catch my breath).

Forty-five minutes after hooking him, I finally get the salmon to hand. An adult, it's not a keeper(1). The fly was barbed, but I pinch the barbs down so it easily slides out. I don't fight fish very hard and in a flash he is gone.

Then and there, I promise myself that I'll set up Renée in this same spot. That'll be in 2008.

To all of you from all of us, we wish you a very Happy New Year 2008.

(1) Regulations on the Ste-Marguerite River: All salmon 63 cm or longer are C and R. "Grisles" or juvenile salmon, can be kept. ~ Christopher Chin, St–Séverin de Proulxville – Quebec.

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