Monday, August 7, 2017

Miramichi Salmon Camps - July, 2017

I headed up to New Brunswick on Thursday, July 6th to spend several days with my friends Paul and Stephanie Elson at their camp in Sunny Corner.  Easy ten-hour drive, except for the second time in two trips, I was pulled over at the border for an "identity check."  Same as back in June, I got to cool my heels while the powers-that-be figured out that I am who I (and my passport and enhanced drivers license) say I am.  Oh well, no harm, no foul; I just have that seedy character look, I guess.

Friday morning Stephanie, Paul and I headed to a pool on the Northwest.  Stephanie and I drew blanks, but Paul landed two very bright grilse:

We lounged Friday night but hit the same pool the next morning.  Paul and I both hooked and lost (mine almost immediately) fish...that was it for the day.  Our pal Howie Gould came to camp Friday night to fish for a few days (Steph, Howie and Paul would be heading out on a Crown Reserve trip to the Sevogle on Monday).  Sad to report that the four of us fished the Northwest Saturday morning, again to no good effect.

I always like to make a Low Country Boil for my friends in a small effort to repay their generous hospitality; Saturday lunch:

Saturday night was another "take it easy" kind of night (we were starting to worry about warm air and water temperatures).  Howie spent some time at the vise tying a few a Stephanie's idea for a new fall fly.  Definitely will be swinging it this autumn!

I thoroughly enjoy my time with this trio of friends, but Sunday it was time for me to head to Boiestown to begin my annual week with old campmates Bill Dreyer and Jamie and Pete Woods.

That evening, the water was at a lovely height for salmon fishing in the pools of Bullock's Lodge (the salmon just forgot to remember why we were there that night).  There is a long boulder called Hot Dog Rock that is just peeking out of the water in the lower right corner of the photo - remember that water height:

Monday morning dawned as yet another perfect New Brunswick summer day:

The water was at a great height to watch salmon coming out of Vin Swazey's Camp Pool, right about across from that birch tree in the right of the photo, and we did see a few moving upriver that morning.  Sadly, none of us touched a fish that day...rain moved in that evening, which, in smaller amounts, is never a bad thing at this time of year:

There was a great sky Tuesday morning; a rainbow even showed up:

I was downriver from Dan and Linda Warren, so didn't get any photos, but Dan landed two grilse about 10 minutes apart, in almost the same spot, on a Glenlivet his late dad had tied.  The Glenlivet:

We fished hard again Wednesday morning and evening, with nary a tug.  I spent the afternoon taking a few photos around camp.  Bill was changing out some tippets, and I noticed the fairly visual disparity between his bag o' monofilament and mine.  Mine is, uh, on the left:

This cooler has been with me for years.  Salmon camp just wouldn't be the same without it sitting on the front porch:

We try to keep it chock full of hydrating fluids:

A new addition to the camp group was Jamie's Lab, Boo.  She was great to have with us, and she seemed to slide right into Jamie's habit of a daily afternoon nap:

After their daily nap, they usually did a little retrieving practice:

I figure Boo had as good a time on this trip as anyone!  During the course of the week, Bill did have a grilse on for a bit, but neither Jamie, Pete nor I ever hooked up.  In twenty years, it remains only the third week that I've gone fishless.  It happens.  The water was dropping and the temperatures were climbing...not much you can do about that.

But wait, there's more!

My campmates all headed home either Saturday or Sunday; I was staying on for a few days to help with a couple projects my friend Vin had going.  But before we started on those projects, through the good offices of former MSA board member Jim McQuaid, we were invited for an evening and morning of fishing at Square Forks, a private camp situated where the north and south branches of the Sevogle River hit head-on to become the main Sevogle River.

Jim and Vin survey the north branch; the sand bar below them was a new feature deposited this year:

The main Sevogle, heading away from Square Forks:

The hydraulics of this pool are intriguing:  Places where you are sure your fly is going to head downriver, it comes right back at you, or spins around and goes ninety degrees to everywhere!
But it had a lot of fish!  Jim McQuaid, a young man named Tom Hart and I took turns casting from various spots around the pool.  Jim hooked a lovely salmon, with net work by Tom:

It was SO good to be taking a photo of a salmon!!

Tom landed both a salmon and a grilse:

Tom is an interesting fellow.  He teaches high school environmental studies, and when he's not doing that or salmon fishing, he likes to rebuild old canoes.  Here's his blog on one of his restorations:!/2012/07/avoiding-road-to-hell.html

I actually got into the act, too!  I had a salmon on but lost it...for once, not to a bad knot (no little tell-tale pigtails), but just, I guess, a nick in the tippet.  But I did manage to land a tagged grilse!  The fly was a little traditional Shady Lady:

I am dearly grateful to Jim McQuaid for inviting Vin and me to enjoy the Sevogle at Square Forks...what a treat!

Back at Vin's and Bullocks Lodge, the water continued to drop.  In my first photo of the river in this blog post, Hot Dog Rock was just showing at the surface.  A week later, it's about a foot out of the water:

It's always hard to leave the Miramichi, but by Friday, at the end of my second week in New Brunswick, it was time to go home.  But I'll be back!


Friday, June 30, 2017

Maine and the Miramichi - June, 2017

How often do you truly get a chance to step back in time?  A lad I tie streamers for, Ryan U. of  Washburn, Maine, did just that when he invited me to spend a couple days with him fishing at a camp he has been going to since he was a boy. As far as its location, this is all I'm going to say about's somewhere in here (click on the pics for the bigger photo):

The ride into the camp provided one spectacular view of Maine's forests after another.  We even got a glimpse of Mount Katahdin in the distance:

 After a good hour's drive, we came to the camp gate.  As a dyed-in-the-wool grouse hunter, I knew I was in a good place:

The camp is situated where a lake empties into a small river.  There is a good landlocked salmon pool right down in front:

The camp was built in 1932.  At that time there was no road into the camp; all of camp life's necessities had to be poled/portaged upriver, including the massive kitchen wood stove/oven.  If ever the phrase "that was when men were men" was appropriate, it had to be here.  I fell in love with the place the minute we drove up to it:

The kitchen was one cast iron pan and old stew pot after another.  Imagine the trout, salmon and venison cooked here!  I even figured out how to make coffee in the old percolator.  It was the best...I'm on the search for one myself now

And then there's the table.  For more than 80 years, sports have taken their meals and shared their drinks and stories around it.  Oh, the tales and fabrications that have been told there!

Even a nice little library!

And I bet a good number of whitetails came out of the woods on this sled:

This sign cracked me up - how could you not be happy in a place like this (black flies notwithstanding - they were awesome in the old-timey sense of the word)?

It has probably been five or six years since I've fished for trout.  I really had to rummage around the cave to find the gear I needed for the trip, but eventually I was able to put the old CFO III together with the not-quite-as-old 5-weight Trident TL  rod.  The CFO is as rough around the edges as I feel most days.  And the Trident actually felt heavy to me, for a trout rod.  Technology has raged ahead in terms of what rods are made of these days; don't think I'll bother catching up.  I did really wish I hadn't sold all of my cane rods, though.  Would've been perfect in this setting.
I did manage to scrounge up a few trout flies.
The fishing options were pretty cool: wade or troll the river, or troll the lake in Ryan's great 24-foot Scott square stern canoe.  So we did both!
Ryan hooked right up after we settled into camp and got down to business with a nice little landlocked in front of camp:

I did well with a little size 10 Stimulator, landing several nice brook trout a ways downriver from camp (right where Ryan said they would be!):

The lake itself is incredible - there is only one other set of camps on it.  Take a little cruise with us:

Something to be said for simply messing about in boats, eh?

We managed several smallish landlocks trolling.  I think, even though it was fairly early in June, that the bigger fish were already down below our sinktips.  Sunset there makes you forget your cares and whoas.

Even managed a moonshot between the trees!

I needed to head to New Brunswick Friday morning.  After a bit of fishing, a pair of loons showed up to see me off.

Ryan was a great and knowledgeable host.  I really appreciate that he took time off work to introduce me to the camp.  I can't thank him enough for this "step back in time."

On to New Brunswick!  I crossed the border at a new location for me, Centreville, NB.  Mostly an agricultural crossing, a very nice young woman was the agent.  She asked me the usual questions, then "why was I crossing here?"  I explained that I had been fishing in northern Maine, and that this crossing made the most sense, time-wise.  She asked a few more questions, the last being had I ever been arrested?  I think I said no, so she invited me to pull over while she "authenticated" my identity.  So after I cooled my jets for about ten minutes in the truck, she approached and asked me if I had gotten a DUI in 1979.  1979.  Almost 40 years ago. When I replied "no", she asked me my social security number.  I told her what it is, and she just shrugged, said "Must be a different Gary", handed me my passport, and said have a nice day.  Weirdest border crossing ever for me, and I do it six or seven times per year.

Now, if you ever cross there, and want to get to Boiestown, NB, do not EVER use route 107 to get there.  Hands down the worst paved road I have ever been on, and I used to drive 60,000 miles per year for the Turkey Federation, from Maine to Michigan to Virginia.  I was surprised I had any teeth left and my truck had any suspension left when I finally got to Boiestown!  Rant over.

The main purpose of my trip was to do the Central New Brunswick Woodmens Museum annual auction.  Crowd was great, and we raised almost $11,000 for the museum.  Everyone got into the spirit of things:

Courtesy of Dan Bullock, I got to stay in the Log Camp.  It belongs to Vin Swazey; the Bullock's lease it from June 1 to the end of the salmon season.  I very much appreciate the gesture...I could sit on the camp's little porch and watch the river go by all day.

Most Junes, Vin Swazey and I like to take a little trip to parts of NB that neither of us have seen (hard for him, easy for me).  We tried to find the Christmas Mountains a year or two ago, but didn't find them.  Renate Bullock came with us this year, and I had a map!

Occasionally, there's even a sort of road sign to help you on your way.  Good thing we didn't need gas.

I have to find out the history of how the Christmas Mountains got named.  I did figure we were on the right track when I saw this sign:

There was actually an even better roadside clue:

We are talking beautiful country here:

We saw this little sign pointing to a Crown Reserve section of the river (North Pole Stream) and decided to take the road (for those that don't know - Crown Reserve waters may only be fished by NB residents, and only then through a lottery system.  I think it's a great system):

What's not to like about the decision to make the turn?

On the way in, we saw this big doe feeding in a small clearcut.  Obviously, it hadn't been sprayed with herbicide yet to kill all the hardwoods (and her food).  Not a good system.

Eventually, we made our way to what is known as the Palisades Crown Reserve stretch of water.  Glorious.

Found the trail along the river to a couple of the pools:

Table Rock:

The Palisades
Renate was actually able to photograph the elusive forest gnome that is wishfully indigenous to the region.  Always be on the lookout for their type; they steal beer:

After our visit to the Palisades, we stopped roadside for a little lunch, courtesy Renate and Vin:

We had three moose sighting along the way (all 300 km of it!).  Here are two.  Renate and Vin were chatting (I was driving) and missed the big cow that was running along side us about 10 feet away!

That was one of our better trips, especially since we actually got where we intended to go!  I spent a couple more relaxing days in camp.  Got to watch a whole hatch of eagles soaring around over the river:

And fished a little.

Sadly, all I hooked over three lovely evenings was a miserable 15" striped bass that has no business being in this part of the river.  Hope it recovered after I tripped and fell and it hit its head on a rock before getting back into the river!

Please remember to take time and smell the flowers this summer.