Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Three for the Miramichi

The Miramichi Salmon Association's (U.S.) annual Boston fundraising dinner is Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018.  I like to contribute what I can (which is surely not cash!) to the evening's profits.  In the past, my contributions have mostly been limited edition prints that I've collected over the years. Last year it was the framed flies I did for Mike Valla's latest book.  That project (the framing - not the flies) really got me interested in framing and matting and shadowbox construction.

The genesis for my contributions to the dinner this year starts with my new interest in tying featherwing flies.  Took awhile to get the hang of that, but once I did (well, at least as far as I'm concerned), I really developed an appreciation for their beauty.  So pretty that I decided I'd try my hand again at constructing a shadow box for them (see my blog post here to get an appreciation for the process:  http://theriverscourse.blogspot.com/2017/01/shadow-box-framing-start-to-finish.html).

The master of shadowbox art and fly framing was William Cushner. His work is really inspiring; I thought I'd try my hand at combining art with my featherwings.  The only salmon art I had was a piece of clip art that came in a book I bought once upon a time.  The framing, in its first form, came out pretty well...good enough so that I posted a photo of it on one of my favorite forums, Speypages.  In the text I added to the post, I mentioned that I was donating the framing to MSA, but I bemoaned the fact that I had to use clip art.  Later that day, I got a private message on that forum from a fellow Speypager, Nate Carter of Mount Shasta, CA.  He said he liked what I was doing and volunteered to do a watercolor for the framing!  We only had a few days in which to arrange all this, but Nate jumped on it, and within a couple days, the painting was at my door.

This story gets even cooler:  The mats that I had originally used with the clip art looked awful with Nate's watercolor; I had to change them...and time was really getting short.  A few months ago, I visited the only framing shop here in Bennington, VT to see about buying a couple 11X14 inch mat boards.  They wanted 54 bucks for the two pieces!  Not happening.  So I decided to try another frame shop, up in Manchester, VT, Jenner Custom Framing.  I've been getting my hair cut up in Manchester at the same place for 22 years and needed a cut pretty badly (Side note - the World's Most Interesting Man - from the beer commercials - gets his hair cut here, too!)  so I figured I kill two birds with one stone: hair cut and frame shop.  I found the frame shop on a side street in Manchester.  When I walked in the door I was greeted by a friendly little boxer dog...a good sign.  A nice red-headed woman came out from the back of the shop to see what I needed.  After a bit of explaining and a show and tell of Nate's art, she went back into the back of the shop and came out with a sheet of the perfect match for the art.  How much did I need?  Two 11X14 sheets, please.  She tossed the big sheet up into her cutter, did the deed, and handed me the mats.  How much?  No charge, sounds like you're doing a nice thing.  Perfect.  WAY better than 54 dollars.

We chatted a little more.  Since I worked in Manchester for 6 or so years while executive director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, I knew some people she knew.  I can get kind of excited when I talk about things I'm passionate about, especially Atlantic salmon.  I guess she got kind of caught up in it.  She said she had something that had been kicking around in her shop for years, a Churchill Ettinger  limited edition watercolor litho, and would I like it?  I am familiar with Ettinger's drypoints, but had never seen one of his watercolors.  Turned out to be a nifty fishing seen on the Restigouche, and into my truck it went to be used at an MSA fundraiser one of these days. How cool was that?

Well, that's a lot of words to describe how this shadowbox came about.  I guess it's time to show it (you can click on the pics to see a larger image):



I cannot tell a lie:  I cut down the cherry tree that the frame is made up and ripped a few boards out of it before the rest of it became firewood.  Good thing no one's is tracking the time invested in that frame from felling to milling the actual frame!

But wait! There's more.  Remember, the title of this blog post is Three for the Miramichi.  So far, we've only seen one.

I started tooling around ebay looking for cool salmon art; I wanted to do a couple more framings for the dinner.  Can't really do anything heavy duty for awhile due to a surgery in early January, so this is a good way to wile away the time.

I found a neat reproduction of a William Schaldach drypoint depicting a leaping salmon.  Perfect.  And only $9.99.    I love Hunter Green, had some matboard in that color, and it worked great with the aging reproduction.  I added a set of Rats:



Still cruising ebay, I found another pretty neat salmon.  $14.99 delivered.  Fit my wallet to a T.  And already had mats that complimented the image very nicely.  And back to the cherry frame:





And there you have it: three for the Miramichi.  The framing with Nate's original will be in the live auction, the other two will be in the silent auction.  Hope they raise some good bucks for salmon conservation!

Brodie looked me in the eye when this was all done...


and said he thought that wasn't quite enough...remember, there's a silent auction just of flies.  OK, OK, so one more last little donation to get Brodie off my back:



Now I have to go clean this up:



Cheers,
Gary

Friday, January 26, 2018

The latest from Charlie Krom

At the very top of the pile of modern and innovative Atlantic salmon fly tyers reside a very select (and sadly, getting fewer) group of folks.  My old salmon camp-mate, Charlie Krom, certainly is a charter member of that group.  Charlie turned 88 just the other day, and mentioned to me in an email that day that he was sending me some flies to try out this coming year.

To say that I've been eagerly checking our roadside mailbox every day since is an understatement.  Well, today's trip out into the mid-teens temperature was well-rewarded...a letter from Charlie!  And, since pictures are worth a thousand words, I'll let his letter do the talking:






To say that it's going to be next to impossible for me to break open these envelopes and fish these flies is an understatement...but I'm going to do it...and I'm going to dig my boots into the Miramichi's stony bottom and hold on when the salmon strikes start coming!

Charlie, many thanks for these treasures!

Cheers,
Gary
P.S.  Some may not have seen an earlier blog post about Charlie, and his colleagues and peers at the vise, the late Keith Fulsher and the late Bob Warren : http://theriverscourse.blogspot.com/2014/03/fulsher-krom-and-warren.html


Monday, January 1, 2018

Three Great Reasons to be on the Miramichi, late June, 2018

If you've ever thought about making a trip to New Brunswick, Canada...and more specifically, to the Province's Miramichi River, there are several reasons to step up to the plate and make that trek in late June, 2018.  These reasons are especially compelling if you and yours enjoy the art and history of fly tying, as well as swinging said flies for fresh from the sea Atlantic salmon.  The reasons (in no particular order):

1. The Atlantic Salmon Fly International (ASFI) - from the ASFI's website (http://www.asfi-expo.com/canada/index.php):

In June 2018, Fly fishermen and Atlantic salmon fly tiers from all over the world will experience the third edition of the Atlantic Salmon Fly International (“ASFI”), a gathering that is like no other. The first two ASFI events were held in Seattle, Washington, USA in 2014 and 2016. ASFI 2018 will be held in the beautiful capital of Atlantic salmon country, the City of Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada. Hosted by the Dieppe Fly Tying Club in partnership with Economic Development & Tourism Miramichi, the 2018 event will continue the celebration of the passion and art of the Atlantic salmon fly. ASFI 2018 will be exciting on multiple levels, not the least of which, given the popularity of ASFI I and II, it will be a three days event, to be held on June 22-24, 2018.

There will be at least 80 of the world's best Atlantic salmon fly tyers participating in the event, which is, of course, open to the public.  The organizers obviously loosened up on that "world's best" qualification, since they invited me to tie a few hairwings at the event.  I'm also pleased to have been asked to be the Master of Ceremony and auctioneer for the Saturday night banquet.  I'm even giving a presentation centered upon my experiences on the river over the last 20 years on Sunday at noon.

It will be a wonderful opportunity to put faces to the many names I've gotten to know via Facebook and a few different forums, for sure!

2.  The Atlantic Salmon Museum, Doaktown, NB (http://www.atlanticsalmonmuseum.com/) received an incredible collection of salmon fishing art and artifacts from the estate of a gentleman from British Columbia in 2017.  The collection, which features dozens of William Cushner fly framings, is valued at $500,000.  I took a few photos of some of the Cushner framings during a visit to the Museum (I'm proud to say I've been elected to the Museum's board of directors) last July.  Forgive the glares and reflections in the photos, please. Remember to click on the pics for larger images!


Art Flick and Ogden Pleissner:



Some of Bob Veverka's amazing work:



Simpson, DeFeo, Schwiebert and Fulsher are together in this framing:



Jim Pray's steelhead flies:



Charles DeFeo and Belarmino Martinez together:



DeFeo and Pleissner:



Walt Dette Dry Flies:



A few Lee Wulff flies:



A lot of Polly Rosborough's flies:



DeFeo, Atherton, Jennings and Wulff:



A wall full of my pal, Charlie Krom:


One of the coolest things about the Atlantic Salmon Museum is their Hall of Fame:


I am very proud to count as good friends two of the Hall of Fame inductees!





I've given you just the tip of the Museum's iceberg of goodies.  Serious fly people will want to spend the day!


3. Reason number three?  The opportunity to fish for fresh-from-the-sea Atlantic salmon!  Many experienced salmon anglers say that if they only one time to fish for Atlantics, it would be late June.  Dime bright and full of fight, June fish should be on everyone's bucket list!  The ASFI website (listed above in reason #1) has a list of outfitters that will be happy to help you find your way around the river and the fish.  And it's just a darn beautiful time to be on the river!


Hope to see you there!
Gary
























Friday, November 10, 2017

Miramichi Salmon Camps - Fall, 2017

Bridget, Brodie and I headed for the Miramichi bright and early on Sunday, September 17, 2017.  Oh wait, that's right, I left bright and early; Bridget and Brodie followed a few hours later, being the late-risers they both are.  I keep a pretty close watch on the real-time river cam at the Bullock's Home Pool in Boiestown (https://www.ipcamlive.com/5616a40cabd65 ) where we'd be doing some of our fishing so I knew the river was pretty low going into the trip...I didn't realize just how low it would prove to be!

That night, after we got the camp organized, Bridget mentioned that she wasn't feeling all that well.  We often fish that first evening, but didn't this year; just took it easy.

I will tell you straight up that you aren't going to see any fish photos for this entire first week of the trip.  Bridget continued feeling poorly, never leaving the camp, and I fished an hour or so most mornings and evenings.  The only thing that I'm an optimist about is Atlantic salmon fishing; that attitude got me through the week.  And I can always use the casting practice.

Monday, September 18th, our good friend from Fredricton, Brian Cuming stopped by bearing tasty gifts.  I always enjoy trading stories with him...and a couple of Moose Lites!  (You can click on the photos for a larger image)


At least the weather was enjoyable!

Tuesday dawned as a pretty dark day.  I forced myself to take a couple photos of the water level in front of camp:



At least Brodie was enjoying the river at this level!


Wednesday was a brighter day, weather-wise:


My spey rods spent more time on the side of the camp than they did on the river all week, and with this water level, of course that's a Sneaky on the tippet of one of the rods.


Thursday, nobody but Brodie was enjoying the river!


Friday rolled around, and Bridget was finally feeling good enough....to go home.  It certainly wasn't much of a week for her, and I didn't blame her for heading back a couple days early.  I was staying up for two more weeks, and as much as I would have liked to keep Brodie with me, that just wouldn't have worked out, accomodations and situations-wise.  He's all hooked up in the back of Bridget's SUV for the ride home; handsome boy!



It was hard to believe, but the river continued to drop.  Vin's boat, the infamous FTG, was essentially landlocked; there was no way to get it out of its mooring.


My treat for the day was having half a dozen or so Black ducks land across from my usual sitting spot that afternoon.  I have rarely seen them in Boiestown!


Saturday seems to have been a blank; got nothing, not even a pic!  That evening, Vin and I attended the Atlantic Salmon Museum's annual fundraiser in Doaktown; I was doing the auction for them.  Tragically, the power went out during the Hall of Fame presentations, and wasn't back on by auction time, so that was that.  An all-around zero day.

Sunday, September 24th, came on as a cloudy day (It's an old, comforting habit of mine when I'm in camp, heading down to the river around 7a.m. with a cup of coffee in hand to think about what the day - and sometimes life - will bring):


The intervale is a mystical-looking place on mornings like this:


Vin Swazey's "Log Camp" is our favorite; it's one of the coziest places I've ever had the privilege in which to stay:


Still no rain!  Forced myself to document the ever-falling river:


Sunday is typically move-out day at Bullock's, so I headed downriver about 200 yards to Vin's family homestead, which the Swazey's graciously allowed me to stay in for the coming week.  I would no longer be officially "fishing", but rather, helping Vin with some projects around the place and just generally goofing off.

Monday was a good day for eagle watching:


And Wednesday was good for Canada geese:


Thursday was the best yet - it was Stella watching day!  Stella is Kyle and Liz Price's (local friends) new English setter pup...what a doll!


Kyle and Stella:



MOST importantly, that night we got rain!!  Basically the first good rain since June.

Friday, September 29th, the river was up and looking good.

 

Just two days before, it looked like this:


All along through this drought, cold temperatures have been all that have helped keep the river viable for salmon, even if they couldn't move around.  The intervale was frosty that morning:


A visit down to the Bullock's Home Pool showed that it, too, was once again looking like fishable water!


That afternoon, Vin suggested that maybe we ought to swing a fly through his Camp Pool after supper.  I did not disagree, and rigged up my favorite rod, the Loomis 13 foot, 8 weight, with, of course, a number eight Celtic Beauty tied on for good measure.  And a good measure it was: right in the heart of the pool, mid-way through a swing, I finally, FINALLY had a fish on.  I did not fish in the Spring, just a little in June, ten days in July, the previous week in September, and nary a tug through all those hours on the water.  She was a blast to play, land, and quickly and safely release...all fifteen pounds of her (who am I to argue with the guide's estimate, lol!).  Life was once again good.


We had a great celebration that evening at Vin and Hazel's home.  Linda Warren was in camp, and she joined in the fun (Renate Bullock stopped in to congratulate us, and took the photo).

 

I have no idea at all upon what I was pontificating, but my eyes look like I had been doing serious damage to that bottle of Famous Grouse for some time!


Linda and I reiterating the fact of fifteen pounds!


And even at 84, Vin is a man in perpetual motion!


There's nothing quite like salmon camp, friends, fish, and liquor, is there??

The last day of September, the 30th, broke cold and a little gray, but with a Miramichi River in good shape.  Even got a shore fire going.  Linda was fishing...talk about being over-guided, she had Renate and Dan Bullock plus Vin all on shore:


And in no time at all, it was fish on for Linda - another big hen!


I videotaped Linda fighting her fish.  (I really need to learn how to video edit, or at least combine videos, etc, - anyway, here's the fight):



That was a 10 to 12 pound fish that she landed in about 7 minutes.  Very nicely done!  And pretty much climaxed my two weeks in Boiestown.  Things were looking up!

Sunday, the first day of October, 2017 was the coldest morning of the season for me, as recorded in the frost on the window of my brand new Ford F-150.


Even the geese were well hunkered down in the intervale meadow!


Maybe a bit chilly, but a beautiful morning to be alive nonetheless (even though the river was already starting to drop!)


Time to head downriver to Sunny Corner, New Brunswick for a week with my friends Stephanie and Paul Elson and Howie Gould.  We've been getting together for the first week of October for several years now...it's always one of the highlights of my year!   Also got a chance to meet a young man whose exploits on Maritime waters I've been following for some time, Chris Sinclair.  I am merely three times as old as he is.  He had been in camp for a couple days, and on his way back to school at the University in Fredricton, but we got to chat for a bit.  That was good.  He (with beer) and Howie (with food) getting supper ready Sunday afternoon:


Our hosts for the week, Steph and Paul:


An old pal of Paul's, Brandon Good, was also in camp for a few days.  Made for a full parking lot!


We had a raucous good time that first evening, working hard to rid the province of every last drop of demon alcohol on an individual basis.  Things were a little slow to develop Monday morning, but we eventually got ourselves together and headed for the Northwest Miramichi River to see what the salmon were up to.  Notably, this area did not get quite the raise of water that we experienced back up in Boiestown.  Howie had checked on the Cains, which we all love to fish, but said that there was just no water and that we might as well steer clear of it.  Somewhat disheartening news, but we cope.

Howie was the first (and if memory serves, the last) to hook up that morning:


Landing a nice grilse:

 
Sadly, ever the iconoclast, he hooked  it on this woolly bugger.
 




Everyone seems to enjoy the Low Country Boil I make, so we had that for supper that night:


Tuesday morning, we headed back to the Northwest.  It was chilly; Brandon was ready for it:


It's a good thing he was ready...he fell in.  Looked a might cold, but he weathered it.  We didn't find any fish that morning on the Northwest, so we decided the afternoon would be spent on the Little Southwest Miramichi, where Paul did well:


 

Incidentally, should someone ever hold a gun to my head and say that I must choose the person that will absolutely hook a fish or I'll shoot you, without hesitation, I'd name Paul.  That guy could find a salmon on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Wednesday, based on Paul's good luck the night before, we headed back to the Little Southwest, where Howie promptly got into a fish:


Sadly, I don't seem to have a photo of the fish!  One thing for sure, this particular pool (all the pools we fish during the week are Crown (or public) water) had room for us all!


It also has an intriguing run along that bluff:


Howie was behind me as the sun was topping the trees and caught a shot of an uncharacteristically good cast by yours truly:


All told, a beautiful day to be in New Brunswick, low water or not!


Every year, Howie and Paul seem to figure out how to put me into another bucket list-worthy situation.  A year or so ago it was that canoe trip on the Northwest...this year it was to be a trip to a river and region I'd never seen before:  The Nepisiguit River and northern New Brunswick. 

There is quite a story behind salmon and the Nepisiguit.  By the 1970's due to acid rain and mine waste, the river was barely habitable for salmon.  Along comes a man named Bob Baker and a group he was instrumental in forming, the Nepisiguit Salmon Association, and things change.  Rather than re-write a history book, you can read a good account of what transpired here:  http://www.saltscapes.com/roots-folks/2505-conserving-endangered-wild-salmon.html

This river is so different from the other New Brunswick rivers I've fished, with it's huge boulders and occasionally steep gradient:




For this trip, Howie's dad, Joe, met up with us to fish.  I'm, uh, two years older than he is, which, sadly, only serves to confirm what I've always figured:  I'm old enough to be Howie and Paul's father.  Ugh.



It was nice to get a photo of Stephanie and Paul enjoying the scenery:

 
Another thing that there is no absence of (beyond the beauty of the river and its banks) is signage.  I feel this is a good thing.  I have essentially never seen any signage, other than perhaps a "pool name" sign, anywhere else in new Brunswick.  They range from sponsor recognition to ethics and safety signs.  A few:
 





I should just carry this photo around in my wallet so that when people ask me what I like about New Brunswick, I could just take it out, show them and smile.


I hooked a nice little grilse mid-morning on a small Golden Pheasant Spey - one of the late Bob Warren's lovelier creations - with Steph ready with the net.

 



Paul is the master at getting release videos!


After all that exciting action, it was time for this old boy to relax on a rock and enjoy watching my friends getting it done.  The view:


LOL, Howie took a pic, too:


I did hook a salmon that day too, but conservationist that I am, I let it off the hook after a few moments.  What a guy.

As we were leaving for the day, Paul also hooked (and landed) a last Nepisiguit river salmon:


There aren't many better things in this life than spending the day on a salmon river with good friends.


And that was my autumn.  I leave you with Stephanie's lovely photo of quaking aspen leaves, a true symbol of the time of year:


Oh, one more cool thing:  I gave Chris Sinclair a small piece of the PB I dye dark green for Celtic Beauties when I met him the first evening at Steph and Paul's.  Upon my return home, he sent a couple photos...one of the Celtic Beauty he tied, and a fuzzy one of him fighting the salmon that took the fly!  Great stuff!




Cheers,
Gary