Monday, July 25, 2011

Guide Posts

One of the cool things about fishing out of Three Rivers Lodge was the "Newfie" guides.  They ranged from mid-20s to early 50s in age.  Some had guided there 7 or 8 years, a couple only 3 or 4 weeks.  All were good natured and real outdoorsmen.  They had different personalities, but all enjoyed good conversation (mostly about hunting and fishing) and a good quip or joke.  All came from Newfoundland and all were professional guides - although most spent more time over the years guiding bear and moose hunts than ferrying brook trout sports.  Byron is a guide with minimal experience guiding for large brook trout, but is accomplished in the way of the woods and water.  He was pretty quiet until we got him talking about his family, especially his son who is taking up fly fishing.  One of my buddies Jerry was guided by Byron and he quipped that he had read that the guides in camp were accomplished outdoorsmen and were capable of carrying out a client on their back if necessary. He asked Byron if he thought he could carry him out.  Byron thought for a minute and slowly replied, "I believe I could, but I would have to quarter you first!"  A comedian is born.
These are the two fish I caught on consecutive casts at 2nd Rapids about an hour before I got "The Big One."




 I spend nearly a hundred days a year on the water and I had a hard time keeping up with our guides.   On our last day of fishing at the Fifth Rapids fly-out camp Jerry and Harry were guided by Quinton and Randy and I had Byron.  Quinton is a big strapping guy in his 20s - probably 6' 2" and over 200 pounds and he can wade those rivers like a walk on the beach.  He thought nothing of quickly wading across the river to help Byron net one of our fish and after weighing, measuring and tagging it, hustle back across to help Jerry or Harry land a fish. Here is Jerry with a nice fish at Fifth Rapids being helped by Quinton.
In addition to being all around great guys, some of the guides had other talents. One of the guides we enjoyed most was young Jordan Locke. He was probably the most accomplished fly fishing guide, hardest working (although all of them worked hard) and best singer. Best singer?!? After dinner on our last night we gathered in the lodge great room for some entertainment.
I guess I'll have to take guitar lessons to keep my clients entertained!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camp life

I know, I know - all you want is a little fish porn, but a lot more goes on between actually catching something. Here is a little scene as everybody gets their gear together, loads the boats and heads out for a day of fishing. Note the head-nets.  These became our best friend.  Don't even think of going to Labrador without one.  I wore my total coverage bug shirt, but the $1.97 head net we bought at WalMart was just as effective and easier to see through. video
I thought you might also be interested to see something of the cabins, lodge and camp life.  Everybody, clients, guides, and staff, ate together in the lodge dining room.  In the morning coffee (and the generator) was on at 6AM, breakfast at 7 and planes and boats leave the dock at 8.  Return to the lodge around 5 to 6PM, dinner at 7.  Sunset (and generator off) was around 10PM and it stayed light until around 11PM- in fact it never got totally pitch dark. We could have fished after dinner, but after a long day on the water, I don't think anybody did. The most impressive thing about the lodge (other than the 8 and 9 lb brook trout adorning the walls) was the fact that everything had to be brought in by plane or snowmobile.  The cooks were sisters and one of them matter-of-factly mentioned coming into the camp in winter on a three or four day snowmobile trip of 150 miles from Labrador City.  Hardier than most of the gals I hang with!

Well, if you have hung in there through the camp BS, here is a little fish porn.  In addition to the giant brook trout, there were white fish (sort of like a fallfish, but with a smaller mouth), lake trout, and northern pike.  We caught pike as by-catch a couple times while fishing for brook trout, but there were pike all over the lakes and we targeted them a couple times. 
 One afternoon Randy and I told our guide Byron that we would knock off the trout fishing a little early and get some pike on the way back to camp.  We tied on wire tippet and some big saltwater streamers and fished for pike for an hour or so.  We had fast action and caught about a dozen, some to almost 4 feet long.  Here is Byron with an average size pike.  The pike cull the brook trout and assure that they are not over run with small fish.  Many of even the larger trout had evidence of run-ins with predators, most likely pike. I didn't take any pictures of the white fish, but I caught 4 or 5 of them over the course of the week, and a couple weighed in at around 3 pounds. They take the same flies as the brook trout, and give you that same rush when they strike, but not too many folks would make the trek to Labrador for the promise of a strong bite from white fish. H-m-m-m, on second thought I can think of a couple people that would be happy to catch a nice white fish or two as a change from their normal catch of chubs!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

More Lab stuff





videoOur drive from southern NH to Labrador City took over 20 hours.  The first half was pretty uneventful.  Then when we headed north from Baie Comeau on the St, Lawrence River things got interesting.  We pretty much left civilization behind, other than a blighted landscape of high tension power lines, huge dams destroying entire watersheds and huge mines scraping off mountains and filling lakes with rust-red effluent.  All necessary(?), but unfortunate by-products of modern life. Anybody following events in NH has heard of the Northern Pass project that would run high tension towers/cables across northern NH to bring "green" power to the northeast urban corridor.  At least 40 additional miles of towers would be built around Pittsburg, NH and additional high towers would be built on existing right-of-ways.  This video is a sample of the swath of destruction that would be cut across northern NH. From our float plane you can also see some of the huge mines that have leveled mountains and filled lakes in northern Quebec and southwestern Labrador.


Enough depressing stuff - on to the the fun stuff:  In Labrador City we stayed in a nice motel and made our last visit to a WalMart where we wisely bought bug nets - the best $1.97 I ever spent! The 150-mile float plane trip to the lodge showed us that where we were going to fish was unlike any other place I have ever fished.  The landscape made Minnesota's Land-of-Lakes look like a desert! Water everywhere and probably fish everywhere, too. In addition to water, we saw patches of snow both on the July 8th flight in and the flight out on the 15th.
The trees were quite a bit smaller, due to lack of nutrients and shorter growing season.  And the ground cover was white lichens, or caribou moss.  It was soft and fluffy and blanketed the ground, covering boulders. In past years the caribou would migrate through here and we hiked along their trails to reach some of the areas we fished.
Each evening after dinner Kevin, camp manager and head guide, would discuss plans for the following day.  We were assigned an area to fish and our guide for the day.  Each area was like having your own private river.  Some days we would get in a boat with our guide and motor across to an inlet or outlet of the lake.  The inlets were rivers and we would fish a few hundred yards or a mile or more of river. Some areas required a hike around lower rapids and then another boat ride and another hike. 
  My best day of fishing with a lot of fish caught was one of those ride, hike, ride, hike trips.  That is where I caught the lake trout pictured in the previous blog and this 5+ pound brook trout. It is also where I stood on a flat boulder and caught 8 brooktrout - smallest 2 pounds and largest a little over 3 pounds.  What a rock! These fish were caught on woolybuggers and woodduck orange streamers, but the water was so clear and the pool so deep that I saw the take on almost every fish.  In addition to landing 8, a couple others got off the hook. That day I was fishing with Dave from another group of anglers from Maine and guide Anthony.  Here is a video of Dave with our guide Anthony landing a fish in the middle of the rapids on the next boulder down from "my rock."
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Unlike the rivers in NH and ME and other northeast states, these rivers were not dammed or channelized for log-drive purposes or to harness the water power for industry.  It really gave a flavor of what the rivers, lakes and fishing would have been like in New England before our European ancestors "tamed" it.  That's it for now.  Stay tuned for the next installment of "The BSC goes to Labrador."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Labrador Rocks!

Just got back Saturday night from a week at Three Rivers Lodge in the wilds of Labrador.  Five of us caravaned almost 1,000 miles north, then took a float plane another 150 miles to the lodge on the Wood River system.  Short synopsis: wild country, many black flies and mosquitoes and many LARGE brook trout.
Here is a video of my fishing buddy Randy landing a "small one" of about 2 pounds.
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A 2-pounder was what we called a "tagger" as a couple of the guides would weigh, measure and tag any untagged fish over about a pound-and-a-half.  Most fish over 3 pounds had already been tagged and they would record the tag number in their log.  We caught some fish that had been tagged three years ago (this was the third year of a three year tagging effort.)  We didn't catch many fish that were too small to tag.  Most were probably about three pounds.  My biggest brook trout was 25.5 inches long and about eight pounds, caught on a size 12 Royal Wulff.
Quite a few were in the 5 to 6 pound class.  About an hour before I landed the one pictured, I caught a five pounder and on the next cast got a six pounder.  That was pretty unusual, but very memorable.  My biggest fish was a 12-pound lake trout caught on a Woodduck Orange streamer.

I probably caught the most fish on large black woolly-buggers, but also quite a few on Royal Wulff, Royal Bomber, Prince nymph, red brassie, Alder Fly dry, and Woodduck Orange streamer.  I hooked and lost what was probably my biggest brook trout on a Wood Special streamer.  I had been trying to catch that fish all afternoon and when I finally hooked him he swam to the surface, turned and slowly swam away and when I put pressure on him he came unbuttoned. Drat!!  My last fish of the trip was caught on my Black Ghost Clouser fly, that is also deadly on LLS in ME and NH.  I'll be adding a few pictures and videos over the next few days.  Wow, what a trip!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hexamania



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Our trip up north wouldn't be complete without sampling the hex hatch on a wild trout pond.  This year we not only had a wild time with the Alder Flies, but the hex were popping like popcorn.  Nothing like gliding along a beautiful north country pond with the warblers warbling and the plaintive call of the white throated sparrow echoing through the pines interrupted only by the explosive rises of wild brook trout. 

videoIf you haven't fished the hexagenia hatch, you are missing a real treat.  Tie up some size 8 Stimulators with yellow body and white wing and white hackle. Then head to Echo Lake or Profile Lake in Franconia Notch.  Both are easily waded and have real good hatches of these big juicy may flies.  Just toss out your fly and give it the occasional twitch and hold on!  Better be quick though, since the trout want to get their high-value calories and head back down to cooler water real fast.  This time of year, the flies emerge just as the evening starts to cool - about a half hour before dark, so the action can be intense but short-lived.  What a way to relax and end the day.

Well. I am off for Labrador for a week.  Stay tuned for some (hopefully) giant brook trout.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alder Fly Bonanza

Our 14-day Androscoggin Adventure is complete and fishing AND catching was great.  We had some epic days at the beginning of the hatch from June 19 through 23 and very good fishing through the end of the trip.  In fact, the biggest fish of the trip were caught the last day, July 1.  The fish were leaping out of the water at the beginning of the hatch, but were getting a lot more selective as the hatch progressed, so we had to work for them.  The hatch came out down-river below Pontook dam on June 18 and got to our HQ on the FFO area in Errol on June 22.  Before the hatch got going the fishing was excellent, and at the beginning of the hatch ranged from phenomenal to unbelievable. I don't like hype and maybe some of the folks who were there can back me up on this.   FFNE fans, brothers Alan and David had an epic couple days at the beginning of the hatch.  Matt and his gang from upstate NY had a great time until some rain put a damper on things.  Overall, rain was not a factor, other than keeping the flies in the Alders until the sun peeked through.  As always, the big golden stone flies were out along with the caddis and many fish succumbed to the charms of a size 8 Stimulator.  We are already booking our September trip when the foliage is bright, the water is cold and the fish are hungry.  Next up a report on the hex hatch on the ponds.