One of the toughest questions that I get up here is when friends and clients ask: When is the best time to come to the Ste-Marguerite River?
Back in the “Good ‘ole Days”, any time starting from the middle of June out until the end of July would have been the simple (and correct) answer, but that all changed in 2002 though when returns dropped dramatically and the river also went to mandatory C&R for adult salmon.
Since there are fewer salmon in the river, the timing starts to get a bit tricky. Timing in the sense of when in the day and also at what time of the season. Flow rates, the tides and water temperature start playing an even more important role compared to years ago when simply having salmon in the river was enough!
In my humble opinion, several factors help quite a bit when gunning for Atlantics on my home waters:
First, fresh from the salt salmon seem to be more prone to take fly than seasoned salmon that have been in the river for several weeks. This means we like to try to hit the river very shortly after the monthly high tides (as it can give an influx of new salmon)
Second: Water temperature. Hot and sunny weather often makes salmon hunker down in the daylight hours. This leads to those famous long days. Up before dawn, hit a pool or run 30 minutes before sunrise. Change to dries in the mid morning, midday break and a nap, then return to the river very late in the day and fish until after sunset. Timing here is very important as many anglers start TOO early at the end of the day. You also have to time your meals to have plenty of energy at dusk.
Thirdly: Flow rates and water levels. Over the summer, one of the big factors I like to watch is the water level on my home waters. When things are stable (and low), fishing will be steady or drop off. When the river is rising, often fishing isn’t so good, but once levels stabilize and start dropping fishing can get pretty spectacular!
Last week I was up on the river for a few days. On the first day, it was hot, sunny and humid, and then a trough rolled in during the afternoon. A steady rain pelted us for the remainder of the day and the river rose 25 inches over night. A cold driving rain all day, then the river started dropping. It came down about 3 inches between 15h00 and 17h00.
Working the #49 under an overhead trough. Windy and cool, the water conditions were perfect.
Needless to say we quickly set up on a favorite run for the evening session!
In a matter of minutes a friend hooked and released a very nice salmon. A few short minutes later his girlfriend landed her very first Atlantic, a nice hen about 12-14 pounds. We proceeded to catch and release several salmon, missing a few and doing long line releases on 5-6. The last one separating me from my last Colburn when the take popped a 12lb tippet!
Boris working a nice Buck hard to get him out of the pool quickly!
Boris saw the river was going to rise and top off. He left work early to hit the evening session after weeks of drought.
The next morning, conditions were slowing down, but some trout were still trying to set up in the runs.
The Grisles were at it too, setting up in runs as the water levels stabilized.
This week we got another series of showers and thunderstorms in the mountains. The river came up a tad and is dropping rapidly. I may just have to find some time to run up as the timing just might be right again!
This week’s flow rates on my home waters. It spikes to 14.5 m³/sec and will stabilize around 10.5
Of course we can’t all just pack up and head out when the conditions are just right. We often plan and reserve time months (even years) in advance. How to time it then?
If you can, stay flexible. Be ready to change sections, zones or even rivers. If sea trout haven’t come in yet because of low flows, look into hitting the estuary.
Time your fishing sessions. Early morning and very late in the evening may be your best bet if it is sunny and warm. This means timing your meals and naps to be up early and ready to stay out (very) late.
Lastly, try to get good river reports. The Internet is pretty good for this, but not always. Hire a reputable Guide if you want really good information. Drop by the local fly shop, pickup a few local flies and you will probably get some local info too.