Our Man In Canada
March 30th, 2009

It's a Rat Race!
By Chris Chin

"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning." Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled

Y'all (mostly) know that I work in the forest products industry. In these tough times, this sector of the economy has been hit as hard as many others. Weird, even though we have mills closed all across the Province, there seems to be even more work than ever! There is however a silver lining or sanctuary somewhere to be found amidst the every day doom and gloom: A daily or weekly reality check back to the river.

Currently, the fishing season here isn't open. There is some fishing on a few select rivers as well as in the St-Laurence, but that's a bit too Rock' n roll for my tastes. Waiting for the season to open, there is time to reflect back on past days and to prepare for the future. Flipping through the fishing journals is a nice way to spend an evening. I'm boxing up all me gear as I'm moving into a new house this week. As I go to pile the journals into a box I plop myself down onto the floor to look over one of the older entries.

Years and years ago, I lived in St-David-de-Falardeau, North of Chicoutimi, Quebec. Just down the road from the cottage is the Shipshaw River. Now, not many people fish there because of the relatively low trout population. It didn't take me long to discover that there were some very nice 1-2 lb brook trout hiding there!

A bonus – A local group of young entrepreneurs opened a company there to do white water rafting tours. The boat ramp they built turned out to be an excellent spot to fish from.

Early one Saturday morning I pulled down to the ramp and started to string up. At the same time, the outfitter arrived to prepare a group of adventurers for their activity. I know these folks well as we were all members of the local ski patrol. Morning salutations and a few jokes turned to discussions on the water level and temperatures. With a frown, one of them sheepishly "announces" that they'll be putting in in a matter of minutes. "Won't that ruin the fishing?"

Well, I really don't think so. Firstly, we're all there to share the river, so I'm not about to go ranting and raving that they can't put the rafts in from the ramp that THEY built! Secondly, I have noticed a weird phenomenon when I fished there.

After the rafts pass, I'll wait a few minutes; maybe have a coffee and a smoke, then go at it. There are very few holding lies in that stretch of the river, so the biggest trout take up station on the prime lies. As the rafts pass, the trout seem to abandon the lies or dive deep and hunker down. Then… several minutes later, they seem to come back, wanting to take up station again.

I found that if I swing a fair sized Muddler or streamer through the lie, the big trout there is ticked off enough at being disturbed that he will strike!

The water in this stretch of the river is crystal clear. It flows out of the Jim Grey hydro-electric station which is situated about one mile upstream. I can see the trout holding two feet deep in a seam. With a 5wt rod, it is child's play to cast 45 feet out and down. The long leader plays he rabbit strip Muddler from mid current towards the seam.

Just as the fly enters the seam, I see a flash, then a refusal about a foot down from the fly. Because I have cast "too squarely" (too far "out" and not enough "down"), the fly is running too fast through the seam with a large belly in the fly line.

I shorten the line by two feet and cast again. As the fly starts to drift, I throw an upstream mend into the line and the swing slows down a tad. The change in speed is just enough for the fly to lazily meander its way through the seam and the big hen there doesn't like it! In a flash she takes the fly and turns back. The hook is set and the little 7 ft 5 wt is bending over nicely.

The trout is bigger than I expected to find here and she is doing a fine job of standing off in the current. Each time I pull her back. When she comes out of deep water onto a flat rock shelf, she pulls back out into the current and the sanctuary of darker water.

Eventually she tires enough for me to pull her to within ten feet. I guestimate that it's a female. Lucky for her. If it was a male, he could have become breakfast. In another 2 minutes she's hiding around my ankles. I see that the hook is cleanly set. There is no "flesh damage" nor blood. I slide my hand down the leader and grab the hook firmly. In a flash she's gone.

Later in the day, the rafters come back for a BBQ. One of the Guides comes up and asks if the fishing had been good that morning. I nodded yes with a big grin. Looking at the cheers and smiles of his clients, I guessed that a fine day was had by all on the river, no matter what their activity.

We all find ways to escape monetarily from the Rat Race. With some clear and honest communication, even potentially "conflicting" activities or groups can (usually) work together.

~ Chris Chin, St-Severin de Proulxville, Quebec.

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 44 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica.

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website. You can email Chis at: Flyfishing.christopher@gmail.com.

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