THINK LIKE A SALMON!
So we FINALLY got in an opening weekend of fishing! Yes, I know, for many of you, the season never really ends and the only real change you do is buy a new fishing permit!
Well up here, we do shut down for the winter. Since the salmon only start arriving in the Ste-Marguerite River (Saguenay) in mid-June, we really only seriously start looking at the critters in the 3rd week of June. Job obligations and spring cleaning at the Cat House means we only got to schedule time off on the July long weekend!
Liliane and I drove over to the river on Wednesday and set up camp. We fished the next day in a middle zone and explored some around the old Bardsville Site.
The restaurant at Bardsville – Unfortunately, it’s been closed for several years now.
As we explored a couple runs around the site we found a few salmon and one monster trout hiding out along the slick. A small group of anglers had also found these same salmon. Then I saw them do a mistake I see done hundreds of times each year over here.
The salmon were holding hard into the bank amongst some big boulders. They always do. Tight in the shadows, they are in the deepest and coolest water of the slick. They probably “feel” a bit safer there. As the salmon are only about 3 feet from the boulders, the anglers all set up on the very same boulders and try to drop dries onto them from 4 feet away.
News flash: At such a close distance, if You can see the salmon, she most surely CAN SEE You too! I think that many anglers do this because the salmon won’t bolt; instead relying on its camouflage, she’ll hunch up her shoulders, nose down a few degrees and FREEZE!
Instead of fishing to these poor stationary bombing targets, Lili and I drifted down a bit to explore another run. Even on the July long weekend, it was easy to find a beach to ourselves!
Strategy – A nap or a drop with a dry fly?
We settled in out behind the old restaurant and did a few runs on wets and dries. With no real takers to be found we headed back to camp for a rest and a late lunch.
A good rest, a late lunch and we’re ready for an evening on the river.
Ever wonder why salmon Guides sort of “insist” that clients take a good long rest at mid day?
In reality, it is NOT because they want to get away from their clients for a few hours. The idea is to have ‘em rest up properly, eat a real meal so that they will be able to fish right up to and past sun set!
We rested a spell, did up a real lunch around 3 o’clock and head out again well after 6 o’clock. When we go back to the slick, the anglers were still there bombing away at the 3 salmon that they could see. They had not moved an inch (the angles nor the salmon)!!
Just a bit of reflection here, but if you were a salmon, would you spontaneously move to and take a fly that you had seen 500 times in the past 7 hours; a fly that is that is attached to a bright yellow line, which is attached to a waving stick attached to some sort of monster perched on a rock 4 feet from you!!??
Seeing as the salmon were utterly harassed there, we spent a lazy evening exploring for trout.
The next morning I was up around 4 o’clock and Liliane wanted to laze around camp for a few hours. A cup of real coffee and a bagel; then I headed back to the slick to take a look around.
Sure enough, the salmon were still here, but now they were relaxed, drifting up and down in the column, lazing in the growing light. They were also 10-12 feet from the bank having wandered around the slick in the safety of darkness.
I walked 200 yards downstream and forded the river. Back up the beach, I setup 60 feet upstream from the most likely prospect. Since the light was still dim, I kept the same fly on that was rigged for the past evening’s session ... a royal blue variant of a Cossaboom.
One swing and I knew she would not take the fly. A few seconds after the fly swung past her lay there was a boil and a flash. The fly is too big and too dark. The rays of sunlight are rapidly filling the Eastern sky so I change to a modified Green Highlander #12.
A first cast is short by a couple yards. The second cast lays down nicely. As the fly drifts back through the current and past the nose of the salmon (where I know her nose is) the leader mover slightly UPSTREAM then the line pulls tight. I only have a 6 lb tippet so I lift the rod smoothly and strike with my left hand only a tad.
The small hen pulls hard left and moves with the current to my left. I know she is hooked in the right side of her mouth so I really can’t pull hard, else the hook will pivot out!
After losing about 30 feet of backing to the small salmon she turns back against the current to try to setup in line with the force of the river. I can now pull hard. Seeing as she will be released, I pull hard horizontally on the rod. Either she’ll come to me or break off. The water is already 15 degrees, so this will not be a drawn out battle.
Since the current is light, after a short 10 minutes and not a single leap, the small 11-12 lb hen is released. (A quick move with a single barbless hook)
This same salmon had seen dozens of flies presented hundreds of times the day before. IMHO, she just wouldn’t take because she was so darn afraid of the shadow looming over her that she wouldn’t move to a presentation!
So think like a salmon ... It may just help you to get them to come out and play!
Christopher Chin, Proulxville, Quebec