Our Man In Canada
November 10th, 2008

From the Tying Bench
By Chris Chin

The Salmon season in Quebec is relatively short. When I exchange with friends from all over the world, they are just flabbergasted that we don't have any fishing throughout the winter. Well, it does give me some time to tie up some flies!

I'm not a commercial Tyer. I don't follow a lot of the good habit rules for effective fly tying. Instead of laying out the materials for one or two flies and running off a batch, I'll often tie 5-6 different flies in the same sitting. Within a matter of minutes, there are dozens of various materials, capes, bobbins etc strewn about the table.

Then again, I prefer to daydream while I'm tying. I usually tie a specific fly for a specific situation and very often for a specific pool.

I pull a model out of the vest. An old stand by for hot and sunny August days on my home waters. As I rummage around in my (meagre) tying kit, I get whisked back to the river a decade ago.

My clients very taking a nap at mid day, resting up for what would turn out to be a dream-come-true evening on another run. I decided to scout out a pool for a group that would be coming over the next day.

The sun was high in the sky and warm showers had been coming and going all morning long. The water level has been stable. It takes about 8 hours for the first influx of water to run out of the Valin Mountains and into the main branch of the river. I set up on Glass pool to see if I can get one of the monsters to rise to a dry fly.

Glass Pool is a "Famous" pool here in Quebec. A long series of rapids and runs come up through the valley. Suddenly, the river bed spreads out to form a large, deep back eddy. At the same time, cooler water flows in from the Murailles Arm of the river. A perfect holding and resting pool for migrating salmon. Further, there is a spawning bed not "too" far upstream (in a not to be undisclosed location), so many salmon come up and hold here for the rest of the season.

A look out onto Glass Pool from the observation deck

Looking downstream from Glass Pool. The run continues downstream of over 3 miles (Oh, and Andre Marceau in the foreground — connected to the Salmon of his life!)

Casting from the Warden's side of the pool is an up and across affair. (That is, from the downstream side of the pool where the Head Warden spends the season). Dry fly territory!

With the sun overhead, I usually opt for a smaller profile fly in light or pale colors.

A smaller dry fly for here. The red floss is just so that I know it's one of mine

There had been some anglers here very early in the morning. However, with the low overcast sky that morning, the salmon were well and solidly bottom hugging. Now, with the sky open and the sun streaming down, the big adults were starting to look up.

I only wanted to try for one particular salmon, so I set up out in the current and striped out a short length fly line. Holding two feet upstream from the "big rock," a monster had been angled slightly nose down there for the past four days. Now, with the impending water level rise, she was hovering four feet deep, four feet off of the bottom!

I cast up and out. The fly lands nicely with a slight "poof" just a few feet up from the big Hen. Nothing. I let the fly drift out, but recover it before it drifts over the males and Grisles holding ten feet downstream (I'm saving them for tomorrow's Clients). From where I'm standing, the fly "appears" to be long. One has to remember though, that the fish is holding down a certain distance from the surface. The parallax will make it "look" like it is drifting over the fish, when in reality, it is short.

Another cast, two feet upstream. Nothing still. I decide to quarter the salmon.

I drop successive presentations two feet upstream, two feet on either side and also one foot behind the salmon. Each cast is presented for 1-2 seconds, then lifted off of the surface. It helps to use some sort of wiggle, coil or rolled pickup to slightly lessen the surface disturbance, but that too is part of the technique.

Apparently, this is called running the clock. I keep this up for a dozen casts and then cast one final time three feet upstream of her. I let the fly sit there. The Hen, properly distraught by all the disturbance on and around her seems to decide that this is enough. In a heartbeat she slices up through the water column, breaches the surface in a nose, dorsal then tail combination and dives away. The fly is gone!

Classic technique for Atlantic salmon says to count to three or say in your head "God save the Queen" before setting the hook. In my case, in the time I say in my head "Holy CRAP, … she took the fly!" I start to lift the rod and strike with my stripping hand.

From this casting position, things get real complicated really fast. The salmon, once hooked will do 1 of two things. If she runs left (upstream) into the pool, there's no problem, as she'll pull out line all the way (and this rarely happens). Conversely, if they run downstream, they go PAST the angler on their way towards another postal code. I furiously reel in line as she sails past in an attempt to return to the Atlantic Ocean!

Once past me, line starts un-reeling as she gets down into the current. Hopefully she will stop before she gets to the rapids (600 feet away!) Luckily, she DOES stop just over the lip of a small drop and she holds head down in the pot.

The water is fairly warm (over 55 degrees) so I don't want to prolong this too much. I lean back deeply against the rod and slowly walk my way back towards the rocky shore. Slowly, she comes up over the lip. Once back on the run, she decides to move back to her holding lie. I keep back peddling to the shore and recuperate line before she gets to right angles with me. I want to get rod pressure back on her when she is across from me. That way, I won't pull out. Also, if I pull on her once she's "upstream" from me, I'll make her want turn and she'll return to the pot.

Pulling straight across from her, she slowly meanders across the current. No leaps or spectacular splashes, she is too smart to waste her energy reserves. Fifteen minutes after the take and she is close to hand. A few cat and mouse ten yard sprints and she is at my feet.

I get a five second good look when I tail her and pop out the barbless hook.

I love this Sport! ~ Christopher Chin, Three Rivers 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 44 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica.

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website. You can email Chis at: Flyfishing.christopher@gmail.com.

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