Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rainbow's End

H: Home pool is home to some of the biggest and prettiest rainbows in the Upper Delaware river (honestly, I'm not at all biased :). These past two months I've been very fortunate to catch some real beauties.

Usually I can get them on dries through the end of October. But this fall, the releases from the Cannonsville reservoir have been so erratic that the dry fly fishing has been hit or miss, mostly miss over the weekends. I've seen the river jump from a bare bones 300 cfs to 2300 cfs in a matter of days. It's been a crazy yo-yo rollercoaster ride for these poor trout and all the other creatures that call the Upper Delaware home.

So I've gotten into the habit of taking my spey rod down to the river, along with my dry fly rod, to swing streamers. It's turned out to be a successful tactic. I can cover large amounts of water (my home water is pretty big) and when the releases are especially large, I've been using sinking polyleaders and big flies. Plus, it's gotten me ready for steelhead fishing.

Here are some rainbow highlights from the last couple of months.

Caught my biggest rainbow trout to date on the Delaware. She barely fit in the net!
Caught my biggest rainbow to date on the Delaware. She didn't fit in the net. Of course my phone battery dies after a quick photo LOL.

Another rainbow trout that just fit in the net.
A gorgeous rainbow that just fits in the net. Photo: M. Chapple

The beauty of these Delaware rainbow trout just blows me away. Another stunner!
A real stunner. The beauty of these Delaware rainbows never fails to blow me away. Photo: M. Chapple

A gorgeous double rainbow on the Delaware river
A double rainbow afternoon on the Delaware. Just being on the river to see this would have made my day.

Another beautiful rosy cheeked rainbow trout from home pool on the Delaware
Another rosy cheeked beauty from home pool.

Releasing a beautiful rainbow trout on the Delaware. See you later Ms. rainbow!
See ya later Ms. Rainbow!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A welcome home present

H: It's pretty hard coming back from atlantic salmon fishing in the Gaspésie. I've truly fallen in love with her beautiful landscapes, pristine rivers, and wonderful people.

But returning to the flygirl shack always feels like coming home, especially when the Delaware gives me such a gorgeous welcome home gift :).

Thanks Big D!

A gorgeous brown trout from the Delaware river.
A gorgeous brown trout from home pool on the Delaware river.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Labor Day Weekend Salmon Adventure

H: Wow, it's been a few months since I've posted anything. My apologies! I'll try to catch up in the next few weeks, at least post some pictures if nothing else.

To start, here's a trip report from my last atlantic salmon fishing adventure for 2016.

I went back to the Gaspésie for a long Labor Day holiday weekend. I hadn't planned on going alone but it worked out that way. I texted a couple of fishing friends up there to see if anyone could fish with me. I've salmon fished by myself before but I didn't relish the thought of trying to land a huge salmon by myself (always the optimist :). I entered the 72- and 48-hour draws and waited. As luck would have it, I got drawn for both the Grande Cascapedia and the Bonaventure.

According to Claude, it has been one of the worst fishing years on record for the Boni with salmon returns the lowest in 30 years. Like most places in northeastern North America, they desperately needed rain. I religiously read weather forecasts for over a week before the trip but it changed daily. One day there'd be some rain in the forecast, then the next day, none. I realized whatever happened way up in the stratosphere or out over the oceans, would happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I stopped checking until the day before to pack accordingly. I was going, rain or no rain.

I was especially excited to fish the Grande for the first time! I'd seen so many pictures of monster salmon being caught there all summer long on social media. It was actually one of these pictures that I commented on in Facebook a couple of days before the trip that would change the course of my trip.

David Bishop, who I met at the Sherbrooke spey forum earlier this year, posted a picture of a huge buck he landed on the Grande. When I commented and mentioned that I'd be fishing Pools XYZ in the Lake branch (which I'd won in the draw), David replied that he might be able to get me on the main river and to call him. Within minutes after reading this, I got in touch! :)

Super excited about my trip, I could barely sleep a wink the night before. I drove into the city at 6 am so I could leave directly from work at 2 pm Thursday afternoon. Without traffic, it would take 12.5 hours. Well, there was plenty of rush hour traffic in Massachusetts and I ended up driving 14+ hours, not including stops for food, gas, and oh, yeah, being searched at the border.

I arrived at the border crossing a little after midnight the following day. I guess the female officer in the booth thought my story about driving 14 hours from NYC to the Gaspésie by myself to go salmon fishing for a long weekend sounded a bit fishy LOL. I was asked to pull over while she and another officer conducted a fairly thorough search of my Subaru. But once the male officer opened one of my gear bags, found 4 fly boxes, and exclaimed in surprise that there were lots of fishing flies inside, the search went a lot faster.

I certainly didn't need the extra 20 minute delay at the border, but I took it in stride. Heck, what's 20 mins out of 14 hours? The general theme for the weekend would be "just go with the flow...." I only had 2 days fishing planned (the Grande on Friday and Saturday). I wasn't sure where I would fish Sunday and I had yet to decide if I was fishing or driving back on Monday. For those who know me, this is rather unusual. I'm normally the type of gal who likes to plan things out.

Somehow I drove into the early morning hours and didn't pull over till after 3 am. It was slow going in the middle of moose country and I needed to be alert. I hoped to get an hour of sleep in the car. I reclined the seat and shut my eyes for maybe 30 minutes before realizing it was futile. Despite being completely exhausted, I just couldn't fall asleep. I picked up a grande cafe at a 24-hr Tim Hortons and drove into Quebec. Shortly after 6 am, I arrived in the Baie des Chaleurs, just as the sun was rising.

A beautiful sunrise on the Baie des Chaleurs, Quebec
Not being a morning person (except when fishing), I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the Baie des Chaleurs, Quebec.

I pulled over to admire the beautiful sunrise, took in the fresh sea air, and snapped a few pics before driving the last leg to the Cascapedia River Society where I was meeting David and his son Dylan at 7:30 am.

Dylan arrived as I was brushing my teeth in the parking lot and David followed shortly afterwards offering me a cup of coffee which I gratefully accepted. We picked up our passes and drove up to Middle Camp to meet up with Daryl, my guide for the day. All I knew about Daryl was that he was a little bit rough around the edges but an excellent guide.


Salmon outside the Cascapedia River Society, Quebec
Outside the Cascapedia River Society, Quebec

We started our day fishing right at Middle Camp. David and Dylan took a canoe to a nearby spot where Dylan ends up catching a small salmon. I fished right out front at home pool. I could tell Daryl wasn't sure what to make of me. He asked for my spey rod, tied on a fly, pointed to a spot and said I should start fishing from there. "Cast as far as you can," he said. He watched me cast, suggested I quarter further upstream, and that was it. He was the strong, silent type and I appreciated that. I was too tired to make lots of small talk. It's been years since I've fished with a guide. It's mandatory to use one on the main river. I must confess, I enjoyed having him tie on my flies and occasionally carry my fly rod :).

Daryl, Dylan and David Bishop, on the beautiful grounds of Middle Camp on the Grand Cascapedia, Quebec
Daryl, Dylan and David (left to right) on the beautiful grounds of Middle Camp on the Grand Cascapedia, Quebec

Honestly, I'm not sure how I made it through the day, let alone that morning. I was literally a walking and fly fishing zombie. At the next pool, I hooked a nice salmon. It started to slowly register in my foggy brain that I had a salmon at the end of my line when it leapt out of the water and came unbuttoned. David and Daryl both looked at me like a complete newbie, saying ever so politely, "you need to lower your rod when a salmon jumps." I didn't bother replying that I was operating below 50% mental and physical capacity. The mid day break couldn't come soon enough.

During the break, I stopped at the IGA to get some groceries and went to check into my cabin on the Petite Cascapedia. Unfortunately, housekeeping was in the process of cleaning and my cabin had yet to be cleaned from the previous tenant. I looked longingly at the bed and thought ever so briefly of napping on used sheets.... Instead I made myself a light lunch, opened a bottle of wine, sat on the porch and just chilled.

I thought about the salmon I had hooked earlier and how lame it had all been. What happened to the girl who was so excited to fish the Grande? I swore that if I was lucky enough to get a second chance, I would NOT f**k it up. I got back in my car and drove to the Camp. I was 20 minutes early so I waited in the car and tried to nap.

Dylan Bishop hanging out with sweet lovable Forrest on the Grande Cascapedia.
Dylan Bishop hanging out with sweet lovable Forrest on the Grande Cascapedia.

By now, Daryl and I had gotten to know one another and built a rapport. I was casting terribly and talking to myself all day about it. But he was always encouraging and patient with me. I guess exactly what a great guide should be. We fished a couple of really tough spots that day. It took every ounce of concentration (the little I had) to maneuver from rock to rock to cast without stumbling and cracking my skull. Daryl warned me to be careful and mentioned a girl he had guided who had done just that. Oh yeah, and there was maybe 3 ft of casting space behind me to form a D loop. I was running on fumes.

We ended our day at a beautiful spot. David and Dylan went upstream while Daryl and I fished a long nice looking run. I went through it twice with different flies without seeing a single fish or having a single grab. Daryl suggests we go up to where David and Dylan are fishing. Then we hear a loud excited yell and realize they must have hooked or landed a fish. We hiked up to join them just as they are releasing the biggest salmon I've ever seen in the flesh. It was a monster!

With Dylan done for the day, I'm up. As I'm getting ready to fish, a salmon jumps out of the water towards the tail of the pool. The adrenaline starts to kick in. I'd swung my fly maybe a dozen times when a salmon comes up from the depths to take a look and swirls by it. Dylan mentions that it had done that to him as well. Daryl comes over and says he wants to change my fly. He puts on the secret fly and says I should cast and swing it exactly like the last time. Somehow I was able to execute my guide's command, and sure enough, fish on! This time, I made sure the hook was firmly set and I was ready to do battle and bow to my salmon if it decided to go airborne.

Me fighting my salmon on the Grande Cascapedia with Daryl, Forrest, David and Dylan as my cheering squad :)

It was a strong fish and a great fight. I'm not sure where the energy, and more importantly, the focus came from—adrenaline I guess. After 5? minutes, my salmon was brought to net. Thanks David for netting my salmon! To everyone's surprise, it was a bright, fresh run fish, a September blue back. It even had sea lice on it! A handsome buck.


David Bishop and Hyun with a salmon in the net, Grand Cascapedia, Quebec
Daryl was all ready to tail my salmon but David had a net. Grande Cascapedia, Quebec
Portrait of a unicorn (atlantic salmon :) complete with sea lice. Photo taken by Dylan Bishop. Grande Cascapedia, Quebec
Portrait of a unicorn :) with sea lice. Great photo taken by Dylan Bishop. Grande Cascapedia, Quebec
Hyun with a handsome September buck salmon and great guide, Daryl, from Middle Camp. Grande Cascapedia, Quebec
Me with my handsome September buck and great guide, Daryl, from Middle Camp. Grande Cascapedia, Quebec

There was plenty of daylight left but I was happy to end it early. I wanted to settle into my cabin, eat a big hearty dinner, and more importantly, get a good night's sleep. I said goodbye to Dylan who was leaving for Montreal to start University and thanked David and Daryl for an unforgettable day. I was fishing the Grande again the following day, but with Neil Houlding as my fishing partner. Turns out adrenaline takes a while to get out of your system. Despite complete exhaustion, I didn't fall asleep till around 11 pm. But 7 hours of sleep was a luxury!

Early next morning, we picked up Neil's pass and drove up to met our guides at Middle Camp. Daryl would be my guide again! Even though you and your partner don't fish side by side, you must both fish the same pool. Usually one starts up top and the other further down. Having never fished with Neil before, I didn't know what to expect. I knew he was a great spey caster as well as a super nice guy. He also calls me madam :).

Well, it turned out Neil and I have different fishing styles. Being younger and having fly fished for only 6 years (2nd year salmon fishing), I'd gladly hike 10 miles to a pristine pool to catch a unicorn. Neil being a little bit older, wiser, and having fished for many more years, believes in conserving his energy and fishing opportunistically ;).

I wanted to return to the pool where Dylan and I had landed our salmon the day before but Neil had no desire to go. Too much of a hike he said. Oh, well! We still had a great day on the water and saw a few fish, but unfortunately neither of us hooked into anything except a few pretty sea trout. Mid day break was spent on the Grande. Neil had packed us a picnic lunch which we enjoyed riverside followed by a nap next to a warm fire. Thanks for fishing with me Neil! And thanks again Daryl for guiding me! Hope to see both of you again next time I'm up there.

Neil Houlding taking a mid day nap by a nice warm fire on the Grande Cascapedia.
Neil taking a mid day nap by a nice warm fire on the Grande Cascapedia.

Later that evening, back in town, I listened to a message from the Bonaventure ZEC saying I had won Sector E for Monday. I've heard stories about the beauty of Sector E and there were bound to be fish up there. But it requires an ATV to access the upper pools plus it's pretty isolated—not exactly a place you want to fish alone for the first time. I'm not sure what to do.... I could fish the Nouvelle? Boni open water? Petite open? I decide to sleep on it and make a decision in the morning. I had till 9 am to pay for my water.

After a big early breakfast I decide I'm going to stay and fish Monday on Sector E of the Boni. I get in touch with J. P. Tessier, a local guide who I've met a couple of times. He has an ATV plus a canoe and is well equipped to take you fishing just about anywhere :). Turns out he's free so we make plans to meet early the following morning.

So, now I had plans for Monday, but still didn't know what I was doing today. After washing up, I decide to take a short nap. 3 hours later, I wake up. Yikes! I drove 14 hours for a long weekend of fishing. Damned if I was going to take it easy today. There were salmon out there just waiting to take my fly :). Since Boni open water was close by, I decided to get a half day fishing pass.

I get to the Boni shortly after 3 pm and head to a pool I had fished by myself last fall. There's a car parked in the lot and a tent set up on far bank but I don't see anyone fishing. As I'm gearing up, two anglers come out of the tent and cross the river. As they get closer, I realize it's two women. I wave and say bonjour. It's great to see other women salmon fishing! They wave back before heading to the car and driving off.

As much as I enjoy the comaraderie of fishing with friends, I relish the times when I fish alone. It's hard to describe the zen and intangible connection you feel with your surroundings. Not long after I start swinging, a salmon announced its presence in the middle of the run with an acrobatic leap. I took my time fishing down to it, covering every inch of water methodically. I was finally casting well and reaching the far bank with my fly and leader turning over perfectly. If the salmon was a taker, it was definitely going to take my fly.... :)

Well, it didn't—at least not on the first pass. I fished out the run, went back to the top, changed flies, and swung through one more time. Second time and second fly was a charm. She took it! She was a leaper, a graceful ballerina. I swear she jumped and pirouetted at least 6 times if not more! As I'm fighting her, I'm also playing out in my head, how to land her by myself.

But not long after I hooked her, a car door slams. The two female anglers I'd seen earlier had returned. I asked if they could tail my salmon for me and they gladly agreed. As I tired her out and brought her closer one of the anglers went into position to tail it. Just before she attempted to grab the leader, I yelled out, "please don't grab the leader. I will drop the fish towards you. Just grab hold of the tail." She understood and with her help, I landed my second salmon of the trip. It was a lovely hen, just starting to change into her fall colors. Thanks again Marie of Bonaventure for tailing my salmon and for the photo!

Hyun with a beautiful salmon (hen) from the Bonaventure. She was a jumper!
My Boni saumon. She was a jumper! Bonaventure river

Needless to say, I was on cloud nine. I could have stayed and fished the run again but I left it for Marie and her friend and wished them both luck. It was only 4:30 pm so I did a little reconnaissance for my next trip and checked out a pool I've never fished before. There was one other angler there. I made one pass and called it a day.

Sector E

Sector E turned out to be just as beautiful as I've heard. The Boni becomes more intimate the further up you go. Riding the ATV to the top pools was an adventure with the warm breeze in your face, the sweet intoxicating smell of pines.... Riding while holding 2 fully assembled rods, including a 13 ft. spey rod through the very narrow trails was a bit challenging. They should consider making rod mounts for ATVs ;).


The beauty, color, and clarity of the Bonaventure river will never cease to amaze me. A gorgeous pool in Sector E.
The beauty, color, and clarity of the Bonaventure river will never cease to amaze me. A gorgeous pool in Sector E.
J.P. Tessier on the ATV. Riding on it to the upper pools in Sector E was an adventure! Bonaventure River
J.P. on his ATV. Riding on it to the upper pools in Sector E was an adventure! Bonaventure River

The previous 3 days had been on the cooler side. Unfortunately, my last day had bluebird skies and super warm temps (over 80 degrees). It would have been great to wet wade except for the bugs. They were relentless and they always love me, even with repellent on. I had to cover up from head to toe using the hood of my hoody and my buff as a face mask.

We only fished 3 pools in Sector E but we fished them hard—both swinging flies and drifting dries. I had one salmon chase and grab my stripped fly at one pool in the morning but couldn't get a hook set. That was pretty much it till later that evening when a feisty grilse took one of the salmon flies that I had tied, which was definitely satisfying.


Several atlantic salmon hanging out in the clear waters of the Bonaventure River.
How many salmon can you spot? Unfortunately, none were takers. Bonaventure River.

J.P. Tessier by the fire. Bonaventure River
J.P. built a lovely fire to help keep the bugs away once it got cooler. Bonaventure River

I've never caught a grilse before or seen one close up in person. They are super cute and funny looking with their pointy faces. I tried tickling its belly to get it to relax so I could scoop it up with one hand, but I'm going to need some more practice with that maneuver :).


A cute Bonaventure salmon grilse. I love their pointy faces.
A cute Bonaventure grilse. I love their pointy faces.
Hyun releasing a Bonaventure salmon grilse.
Hope to see you again when you're all grown up :). Bonaventure River.

There was still an hour+ of daylight left but I was content. I'd had an unbelievable weekend—a sweet grilse to top off 3 and a half days of amazing fishing. Plus, I had a long drive ahead.

I thanked J.P. for a great day and hit the road a little after 8 pm. I hoped to cross the border before taking a nap in the car but that didn't work out as planned. Less than two hours later, I was struggling to keep my eyes open and on the road. I was once again in moose country and that was dangerous. I pulled over in a semi rural/suburban area and parked by a big field. There were a few houses nearby, one just down the road. It seemed safe, quiet, and secluded. This time around, despite being pretty cold, I had no trouble falling asleep.

About an hour later, I awoke to the sound of knocking on my window and a bright light shining into my eyes. There was a policeman standing outside the driver's side window with a flashlight in his hand. As I became more awake, I noticed his sirens were on and there was a pretty light show outside. I uprighted the seat, fumbled for the car key, and turned it so I could roll down the window.

He asked for license and registration. Still half asleep, I fumbled around looking for both before handing them over. I thought, oh great! I'll be asked to get out of the car and it will be searched again LOL. I asked him if I'd done anything wrong? He replied he had been dispatched to check out a possible stolen car. I explained that I was driving back to NYC from the Gaspesie after several days of salmon fishing. That after a long day of fishing I was too tired to keep my eyes open so I pulled over to take a short nap.

He peered into the back of the car with his flashlight—wet waders draped over the back head rest to dry, muddy fishing boots on the floor, half disassembled fly rods.... He asked if I had had any luck. I replied rather excitedly, "yes! I landed 2 salmon and a grilse!" He smiled, returned my license and registration, and suggested I take more than a short nap before driving back since there had been several moose sightings recently. I thanked him, went back to sleep, and woke up 3 hours later. Feeling refreshed, I resumed my 11-hour journey back home.

When I think about the weekend, logically, it all sounds so crazy!

But, it was soooooooo worth it! :)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

No Never or Always

H: I started writing this blog post several days ago, and as usual, I wrote a novel. As I got ready to publish it, my fishing buddy Jessie, asked me not to post any pictures of her. That sort of put a damper on things since the majority of my photos have her in them. After some back and forth, she reluctantly gave permission to post two of them. So, I've replaced photos and edited things down as best I can....

Beautiful swallowtail butterfly, York River, Gaspé

Gaspé

Last year, I fell hard for the beauty of the Gaspésie rivers and I landed some amazing salmon. I couldn’t imagine this year being any better…. Well, it turned out to be a great trip but there were plenty of bumps along the way and lessons learned.

We arrived in the middle of a major storm that dumped a lot of rain in a very short period—3 inches in Gaspé. After the deluge, this stubborn nor'easter stuck around like an unwanted guest, circling and hovering, keeping everything damp and gray. It made the rivers pretty much unfishable for days.

As bad luck would have it, I won the Falls in the 48-hour draw. I've yet to fish the Falls—the most coveted water in Gaspé. You're almost guaranteed a fish there. But the Dartmouth would not be fishable for a week after our arrival. Jessie needed to return those rocks to the St. Jean ASAP ;). Lesson learned: selecting preseason water (especially early in the season) is a definite gamble. Then again, fly fishing for atlantic salmon is a huge gamble!

The crystal clear St. Jean River was a muddy torrent. Gaspe
The St. Jean river was unrecognizable. It's crystal clear waters were a muddy torrent.

To top it all off, Jess started feeling sick. Her throat was sore and she started coughing. We raided the local pharmacy for anything that might help her. Since our first day of fishing was a complete wash, Jess slept in while I took a long walk along the estuary, anything to get my mind off fishing. A visit later that afternoon from our friend Jack and his friend Dany Smith (a local guide) cheered us up. Dany invited us to lunch at his camp the following day.

The Gaspé estuary was a gloomy sight. At least it wasn't snowing! ;)

Neither of us were optimistic the following day. We probably should have sat it out. Instead, we bought passes for the York Open and drove way up to Sector 10 to see if there were any fish there—a fool's errand. The York was fairly clear but still very high. We were able to fish only one small pool, casting in waist deep water, 2 feet off the bank. Still, it felt good being on the water.

After a delicious seafood lunch at Dany's camp, Jessie went back to the motel to rest. I fished the rest of the afternoon with Jack and Dany on the York. We couldn't cross the small stream by Wayne Taylor to walk up to Huit Bouleaux. It was way too fast. Butler was unrecognizable. I remembered wading out to the middle and casting to the far bank. This time, you could barely walk out 3 feet. We fished hard into the evening with no luck. I returned to the motel to find Jessie sleeping. The rest had done her good and she was starting to feel better.

The following day we fished Sector 1 on the St. Jean river for the very first time. It turned out to be purely a scouting trip. Jess finally returned those rocks to Home Pool. Surely our luck would now change....

As the rivers slowly started to drop, things began to turn around. On our second day on the St. Jean (a bonus day won in the 48-hour draw), I hooked my first salmon at Wild Rose. As I fished the run, I kept thinking, there has to be a fish in the tailout near the bank. But fishing that far down was going to be tricky since the grassy bank was submerged. It looked like one step off the bank and you'd fall into oblivion. I fished from the submerged bank, as far down as I dared, and was rewarded with an aggressive take and a salmon at the end of my line. I fought it for at least 5 minutes before it came unbuttoned. It jumped once, took a few runs, rolled on the surface shaking its head in protest, before diving down. That was the last I saw of it.

Jessie fishing the beautiful run at Burnett, Sector 1 on the St. Jean River, Gaspé
Jessie fishing Burnett, Sector 1 on the St. Jean river.
Hyun Kounne fighting her first salmon of the trip at Wild Rose, St. Jean River, Gaspé
Me, fighing my first salmon of the trip at Wild Rose, St. Jean river. Photo courtesy of J. Lettich.

Later that evening at Burnett, I hooked, fought, and just about landed another St. Jean salmon. Jess and I shared the pool with Jack, Jere, and their guide. The four of us fished that run surgically. Jere was in rotation ahead of me. He’s an excellent salmon angler and a great caster (far better than me). After I hooked my fish, he joked about me picking his pocket. He had swung his fly in front of that fish just a few minutes before I did. It was a taker but why did it take my fly? Granted I had a very handsome salmon fly on (Daniel Bolduc’s Lord Spey ;). But was it the fly itself? Did mine swim a little bit faster, slower, deeper, higher? Whatever the reason(s), the planets momentarily aligned—my fly swung near the right fish at the right speed at the right time :).

When I hooked my fish, their guide naturally went into guide-mode. He started coaching me, yelling out that I should fight my fish with my rod tip straight up high. I usually fight fish by applying sideways pressure but I decided to give it a try out of courtesy (what was I thinking!). He then dropped into position to tail my fish.

It was a great battle with a super strong fish, stronger than the 20+ pounder I landed in the York last year. I couldn’t wait to see her/him! After several good runs, I finally tired it out enough to bring it to the bank by the guide. What he did next surprised me. He grabbed the leader with one hand while attempting to grab the tail with his other. My salmon wanted none of it. With one strong slap of its tail, it escaped his grasp and broke my tippet. Needless to say, I was super disappointed. In hindsight, I should never have allowed this person to step in. Jess should have been the one to tail my fish. Later, I learned that he was a guide in training, lol.

The next 2 days were spent on the York. With high water, we were limited to fishing Gros Saumon and Still in Sector 4. I caught my first ever salmon at Gros Saumon last year. This time around, it was Jess who hooked up there. The look on her face when she hooked that fish was priceless :). She fought it for a few minutes and it jumped for her before it came off.

Jessie hooks a salmon at Gros Saumon, York River. It was great to see her smiling!
Jessie hooks up at Gros Saumon, York river. It was great to see her smiling!
Hyun fishing under the watchful eyes of the salmon gods on the York river
Fishing under the watchful eyes of the salmon gods, York river. Photo courtesy of J. Lettich.
The afternoon and evening was spent fishing Still with the Mancini brothers, Justin and Nicolas. I had seen their names numerous times as winners in the 48-hour draw. They come up with their family to fish the Gaspésie for weeks at a time every year. They were nice boys, very opinionated about salmon fishing, and highly secretive with their fly boxes ;).

The next day we were fortunate to have York Sector 6. Murdoch pool was known to be holding lots of fish. Every angler lucky enough to have this sector pretty much parked themselves there all day, taking turns in a 6 angler rotation. Luckily, we knew 4 of the other anglers—Jack, Jere (plus guide Wayne Jean), Pascal, and Pierre (with sweet Maggie :). Jess and I each took a pass at Murdoch before heading off to fish Fairbanks and Dexter. Jessie still wasn't 100 percent and needed a break, so I went to Cuve by myself. There were salmon there but none were interested in my flies.

A view of Cuve pool looking down to Murdoch, York River. Gaspé
A view of Cuve pool looking down to Murdoch, York River.

Walking back to the car to meet Jess, I run into Dany and Jim Vincent. They had been fishing in Sector 9 but apparently there was f**k all there. All of us are in attendance at Murdoch when Jere hooks and lands his second salmon of the day. He had landed his first while we were away. I hook a fish later that morning but the hook isn't set well and it comes off after a couple of minutes. I realize now that I didn't wait long enough before I raised my rod tip. That was a shame since Wayne Jean was there patiently waiting to net my fish for me.

I love it when they jump! Jere playing his second salmon of the morning at Murdoch, York river
Wayne Jean nets Jere's salmon while Maggie looks on. York river
This being the second fish lost in 3 days, I get into a discussion about hooking salmon with Jere and Wayne. From my steelhead days, I hold a small loop in my line hand which I let go of when a fish takes off with my fly. On a few occasions, I'd strip set, pulling on this loop when a steelhead tugs on my fly. Jere and Wayne, both very experienced salmon anglers, told me I needed to lose the loop. In fact, I shouldn't be holding or touching my line at all. The reel's drag should be set so that when a salmon took my fly, the drag should allow some line to be taken by the salmon as it turned. The hook should set itself. Throughout the rest of my trip, I made a conscious effort to lose the loop.

Pascal Perreault cradling a tired Maggie on the York river.
Pascal cradling a tired Maggie :).

We returned to Murdoch later that afternoon, just missing Pascal and Pierre. I learned later that Pascal caught a fish there right before they left. Jack joined us not long afterwards. Jack had yet to hook a fish and I could tell it was starting to wear on him. Not to mention he was worried about his spouse back home who had broken her leg. I hoped his luck would change soon. Jessie and I were thinking of fishing the Dartmouth Open the following day. The Dartmouth was finally fishable! We asked him to join us but he decided to take a day off from fishing.

The Dartmouth was good to us the following morning. We wound up at Snake, Jessie's favorite run in the Dartmouth Open. We hooked 3 and landed 2 salmon in our first 3 passes of the run before word spread among the salmo salar that 2 salmon slayers were there ;). I lost another fish there when it bulldogged me by some rocks. But that was soon forgotten when I finally got an opportunity to tail a salmon for Jessie, and I didn't screw it up.

Jessie and her lovely salmon from the Dartmouth river.
I've tailed only one other salmon before, for Alain on the Bonaventure last fall. Tailing a salmon is common sense really: Stay behind/below the fish and between the fish and the bank; Keep alert and be ready to move when the fish moves; Whatever you do, don't grab the leader; When the right moment presents itself, grab hold of the tail like your life depends on it :); Keep the salmon in the water.

But it's easier said than done in the heat of the moment! I was tempted at one point to grab the leader but resisted. The fish decided to take another run when I got close and I had to get out of its way in a big hurry. Tailing a salmon, especially in challenging conditions (high water, murky water, or difficult to wade runs), is tricky and coordination with your partner is critical. Lesson learned: next time just bring a big net :).

Hyun tailing salmon on the Dartmouth river. Gaspe
We hooked 3 and landed 2 salmon in our first 3 passes! And I finally got to tail a salmon for Jess!

Our last fishing day in Gaspé was rather anticlimactic. We fished York Sector 9 for the first time. It's a stunningly beautiful sector and we had it to ourselves. But that was the problem—we had it ALL to ourselves. Didn't spot a single fish.

A beautiful pool in Sector 9 on the York river, Gaspe
The pools of Sector 9 on the York were absolutely stunning. Too bad there were no fish there.
L'Orignal, Pool 56 in Sector 9 on the York River, Gaspé
The ZEC river patrol guy said we should go to L'Orignal, so we did.
Beautiful Keg pool. York river, Sector 9
It was hard leaving Gaspé, especially with the fishing just picking up. But spending time with Jack and Jere and observing their rapport with each other (like a happy old fishing couple) made me realize once again that the most important part of any good fishing trip is the company you keep. The rivers might be super high and unfishable; it might be pouring and the wind howling; and the fish might be MIA or just not biting; But if you're in the company of good friends, it's all good :). I truly enjoyed fishing with them, appreciated their advice, and hope to do it again.

It was a pleasure meeting and and spending some time with: Dany Smith and Wayne Jean (two great guys and local guides), Jim and Kitty Vincent, Justin and Nicolas Mancini, Geneviève, Lise, Pascal.... And thanks again to Murray and Joanne for their generous hospitality and delicious seafood pizza!

Bonaventure

The Bonnie was as blue-green, clear, and beautiful as I remembered her. It had dropped considerably since reaching a record high level the week before. We fished open water our first day, which pretty much meant Malin or Green in Sector A. We spent the morning at Malin, in rotation with several other anglers. I'm constantly amazed at just how small the fly fishing world is! A facebook friend of mine, Marc, who I've never met before recognized me at Malin. He introduced himself, gave me a few tips, and wished me luck. Shortly after he left, I hooked a salmon. I fought it for a couple of minutes before it came unbuttoned. By now, losing salmon was losing its novelty.

Our plan was to check out Green in the afternoon but when we arrive, there are even more anglers waiting to get into rotation than at Malin. Jess suggests we go to Sector C. It would be a long drive, but I agree. Looking at the Bonaventure river map, there is a way to get there from the west side. Jessie navigates while I drive. Somehow we end up in the middle of nowhere on the Route de Penetration surrounded by towering wind turbines (I strongly recommend you never take this route ;). With our gas tank near empty (my bad), we turn around and finally get to Horse Landing around 7 pm. It's a gorgeous run and it looks like we'll have it to ourselves until a canoe shows up and 2 anglers get out. Oh well! It was late, so we rushed through the run before taking the very long and rocky road back to our chalet. We spent over 3 hours in the car that afternoon. Still, it was an adventure!

Mural at La Pétrie cafe, Bonaventure, Gaspé
A magnificent sunset by the Baie de Chaleurs on our first evening in Bonaventure.
A gorgeous sunset over the Baie de Chaleurs on our first evening in Bonaventure.
The next 2 days, we were on Sector B. I have mixed feelings about B. There is good, old, easy to fish Grassy on the east side which usually holds fish. Then there's the beautiful wild west side with Docteur, Upper Rock, Salmon, Snake.... I love the west side but it's not easy to fish, especially in high water. Jess hates the west side (Snake) and doesn't want to fish any of it except Salmon. But we go over to check out some of the other pools.

Docteur turns out to be the prettiest pool in Sector B and one of the hardest to fish (along with Snake). Of course I wanted to fish it! I carefully climbed over rocks and log jams to get upstream. I didn't think it could get much tougher till the wind started blowing and changing directions. Oh, that's another interesting fact about fishing the west side—the wind has a mind of its own.

Me, casting at Docteur, the prettiest and one of the hardest pools to fish in Sector B. Photo courtesy of J. Lettich.
Close up of the rocks at Docteur. One wrong step and you just might need to call one.
We finished up both days at good old Grassy. On the first day we were joined by Neil and Nick. They saw us driving past on the road and followed us back. It was great seeing them. Jess and I had planned to visit Neil some time during the trip. Nick, I met last September with Alain. Turns out he's now guiding on the Bonnie and they had just taken his canoe out on its maiden voyage. They stayed and watched us fish (eek!). Just before dusk, a salmon takes my fly while I'm stripping in line towards the end of my swing. I waited for it to turn and set the hook, instead, it spat out my fly.

On our last day, we fished Grassy with Jeff and Rob. We arrived in the morning to find that Jeff had already landed a salmon there. It was fun fishing with them and I made sure to smile a lot :). The four of us closed out Grassy later that evening. Jeff had one grab but that was it.

Canoes at good old Grassy, Sector B, Bonaventure River
We finished our days at good old Grassy. Bonaventure River.

A trip to the Bonaventure would not be complete without paying respects to Claude Bernard. On our first day in town, we spent an enjoyable hour talking salmon fishing and sipping scotch at his riverside camp. As usual, I left Claude's with some words of wisdom: There is no Never or Always in salmon fishing....

It's so true! Fishing for wild atlantic salmon defies rules and formulas. I hooked a lot of salmon on this on trip and unfortunately lost several of them. After every lost fish, I tried to think of what I did wrong and what I should try differently. I definitely learned something from every battle, won and lost. But just when you think you might have something figured out, a salmon comes along and proves your theory wrong.

I guess I need to conduct more research—hook, fight, and land a lot more salmon :). I'm already making preliminary plans to go back to Gaspé....

Friday, June 10, 2016

Return to Gaspé

H: June 10, 2016: Well, I return to the Gaspésie in 2 days. For the past couple of weeks, it's been all I can think about—big, beautiful, bright, fresh from the ocean, salmo salar :).

Last year's trip inspired me to start tying flies. 2 weekends before the trip, I tied perhaps 12? flies: a few picasse, magogs, and black bear green butts. They certainly weren't pretty but most of them did take a swim in the Dartmouth, York, St. Jean, and Bonnie.

This year, I'm taking 3 boxes of flies and upon closer inspection, it looks like I tied about 40 percent of them (bombers not included). Note: the pretty ones below were purchased or given to me by friends ;).

Wet flies for atlantic salmon: Same thing murray, john olin, magog smelt, picasse, black bear green butt, blue charm, green spey, green highlander, pompier, silver rat, out of lunch
My salmon wet fly box.
Bomber box by Adelcio Chaves: bombers for atlantic salmon, green machine, stone fly, smurf
Bomber and bug box. Gorgeous handmade leather box by Adelcio Chavez.

I had such an incredible trip last year, it's hard to imagine this year could possibly top it. I'm prepared for a let down, a sophomore slump. I just hope my fishing partner, Jessie, lands her dream salmon this trip so I can tail it and take a sweet photo for her :). That would make this year even better!

Sunday's forecast calls for 1.5 inches of rain. Yikes! Wish us luck!