Sunday, 26 August 2007

Angelina's Fish

Nice trout Angelina!

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A good old fashioned fishing trip

"stealthy for trout"
 My fishing buddy Brad and his daughter Angelina had a great trip recently. I hope she didn't out-fish Dad too badly. I can't think of anything more fun than a good old fashioned trouting trip with the kid's. I know Brad releases most of the fish he catches but I think it is good to keep a few for supper once in while. It keeps us grounded.

There is a very interesting discussion on the Fly Fishing Rabbi's blog about the ethics of catch and release.

 I think ethics evolve in a civilization just as art or technology do. I'm not sure there is an instinctive ethical core borne within us that guides us toward what is right and repels us from what is wrong.

 I started to practise catch and release because I despise waste but love to fish. As I got better at fishing I brought more fish to hand than I could reasonably use. It made sense to release them and as time progressed other larger thoughts seemed to confirm that it was simply the right thing to do.

Don't get me wrong. I still kill the odd fish when I want a salmon to plank or a neighbour asks for some trout but I do it with intent and forethought not capriciously.

Am I an ethical fly fisherman? I'm not sure. I try to do the least amount of damage I can to both the environment where I am fishing and to the fish I am trying for. That's what makes me feel good.

Others may be more extreme in one way or another and that makes them feel good. I guess the big evolution in my thinking about fishing is that I do think about the implications of my actions and try to leave the lightest disturbance in my passing.

Check out the Fly Fishing Rabbi at :

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Silver's Pool, on the St. Mary's River

I got an interesting email today from Mitchell, a guy I've been corresponding with recently.

 He met my father by chance and dropped me an email about this blog. Turns out we know a lot of people and places in common. He caught a wonderful fish this year on the LaHave.

A big, buck salmon around eighteen pounds. I asked if had any pictures thinking it would be great to post them here and tell the story.

Well, no luck on the pictures. He was fishing alone. It did make me think about my big fish, also caught when I was alone and so big that I underplay it when telling the story. It's the story that is really the interesting part of "fish stories" anyway, the fish- not so much.
The first salmon I ever caught in Nova Scotia was in Silver's Pool, on the St. Mary's River. After returning from my introduction to Salmon fishing in Newfoundland I still had some vacation left.

 I spent a few days trying for Salmon on the Medway River with mixed results. I saw a couple. One came for my Orange Bomber as I accidentally dragged it like a miniature speedboat across the pool after a wind-collapsed cast. I didn't have a clue what to do, the fish literally charged across the pool and slashed at my fly.

 If I hadn't pulled it away from him he'd have been hooked for sure. I ended up dragging that bug across the pool until I just couldn't stand the sloppiness of it any longer. Never saw that fish again but I'd like to get a crack at him now that I've had a bit of seasoning.

Would likely be the same result but at least I'd bugger it up confidently this time.
Anyway, I decided to go to the St. Mary's River the next day, as much to have a look at it as to do some fishing.

 It was late in the season, water levels were low and warm, not salmon fishing weather at all. In fact, I was the only one fishing the Medway that I'd seen. When I got to the St. Mary's it was the same thing- no one on the river.

 I drove across a small, white bridge spanning the river. There was a Fisheries Officer on the bridge, casually leaning on the rail. I parked at the far end and walked back to speak with him.

What an amazing spot. The river is fairly narrow above the bridge, below it widens out into a slow, deep stream overlooked by a picture perfect cottage.

 My fear was that the Department of Fisheries had closed the river to salmon fishing because of the water temperature. I had a chat with the Game Warden.

The river was still open but anybody who knew anything about salmon fishing knew better than to waste their time fishing on a bluebird day like this.

I explained that I was new to the game and wondered if he had any tips, like where I should try. Turns out the bridge we were standing on over looks a pool called Silver's Pool.

 I showed him my fly box and he picked out a fly for me to try. It was a tiny black fly of no particular name. I tie it for trout fishing. It just happened to be the smallest thing in my fly box.

This time of year there is a lot of grassy weed growth in the St. Mary's. To the uninitiated not only is it difficult to pick out where the fish might lay. It is difficult to imagine that there could be a fish there at all.

The Game Warden pointed out to me a spot where there was a small gap in the weeds about the size of a shoebox. "If there was a fish in the pool", he said, "That's where he'd be".

I was using a Canadian Tire, all-in-one Fly-Fishing kit and looked the part of a tender foot from ball cap to boot tips.

The Game Warden leaned on the bridge railing and watched me begin my fishing. I admire him still for his unfailing courtesy when I know how hard it must have been not laugh out loud as I took a position above the pool and made my cast.

I think back now and realize I wasn't even in the right place to fish the pool properly. I don't know how many casts I made - not many - before a silver flash deep in the pool heralded the strike and a wrenching pull arced my rod.

 "Jeezuz boy, let'r run" hollered the Game Warden from up on the bridge.

The first jump is still as clear in my memory as if it were a photograph. The rest is a bit of blur. I got the fish in, a lovely dime-bright grilse. As I tagged it, the impact of the moment hit. I'd done it.
Oh yeah, I still tie that little black fly but now it's got a name.
The picture of salmon in Silver's Pool comes from :

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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Playing a salmon

 I was thinking recently about some of my early salmon fishing escapades.

I caught my first salmon at Grandy's Brook near Burgeo in Newfoundland and was well and truly hooked from then on.

The guides on that first trip were the Hare brothers and it was Clayton that put me onto the first grilse I ever hooked.

The big lesson for me was that hooking a salmon is only the beginning. Playing one is something else entirely.

Before leaving on this trip I'd discussed my upcoming adventure with the great fly-tier and raconteur, Jim Harding.

Jim's advice about playing a salmon was pithy and to the point. "When he pulls, you don't. When he don't, you do".

Well, it turns out to be pretty good advice and I have offered it many times myself to new adventurers.

When I got back from that trip I couldn't wait to try for salmon on the rivers in my home province. There are some good ones too, the St. Mary's, the Margaree and the Medway to name but a few.

There is a spot on the Medway River called High Rock Pool. Before the run was depleted and the river closed to salmon fishing it was one of the spots that could sometimes be fished without a boat.

Shortly after my return from the Newfoundland trip I headed out to High Rock Pool to try my luck. Trust me, skill was not going to be a factor in that day's activities.

The Medway is a lovely river. A gravel road runs down one side of it's length. The other side is well treed and wild with a few campsites and cabins.

The River Road makes a slow turn and the view opens up at High Rock Pool. It is pleasant to pull over for a few minutes and watch the angler lucky enough to be fishing while you are headed to work or on some other errand that keeps you off the river.

That's how it was this day. I was standing at the top of the run, casting a Blue Charm, quartering down stream and concentrating with all of my might on every bit of fishing lore I'd heard in Newfoundland.

There was a truck pulled over on the road across the river. Watching I supposed with envy as I fished. Just then I noticed something odd in the water. It was a blue shape, bobbing downstream in the current and slowly sinking. It was almost lost to sight when it struck me. That is my jacket.

It must have blown off the rock behind me into the river. I mentally wrote it off as lost when another thought hit me: My car keys are in the pocket!

As fast as I could I stripped in my line and made a desperate cast at what I now could see was an air bubble trapped in the material of the jacket, barely keeping it afloat as the current rushed it away from me.

What a miraculous sense of relief when the line came tight and my hook set firmly into the sodden mass. The rod arced with the weight and I struggled with the rushing current to reclaim my keys.

No easy thing, I had to skip across the rocks, gradually working the closest thing to an anchor I've ever had on a fishing rod, into the slacker water below me.

At some point I looked across the river towards the road. Imagine my embarrassment as I saw not just a couple of vehicles pausing momentarily in their journey but several cars parked and people standing on the bank watching what to them must have seemed like a lucky fisherman battling a huge salmon.

The whole thing became much more complicated as I tried to retrieve the damn jacket all the while keeping my face averted in the hope that no one would recognize me.

I finally had to reach down into the water below the rock I was standing on, grab the soaking wet jacket and hoist it up.

Acutely conscious of the crowd on the opposite shore I pantomimed my disgust with hooking this strange thing, snapped my leader, leaving the hook in my jacket and flung the whole sloppy mess into the bushes.

Burning with self-consciousness I opened my fly box and tried to portray calm as I tied on a new fly. When I slid my gaze back across the river, the road was mercifully empty.

I leaped like a deer into the bushes and grabbed my dripping coat, feeling frantically for the reassurance of car keys in the pocket, then I got the Hell out of there.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Antique Fishing Equipment

Over the years I've become more interested in fly-fishing than fish catching, not that the two are mutually exclusive.

 I've spent a lot of time reading about the traditions of the sport and collecting old equipment as opportunity presented.

There is something about handling an old bamboo fly rod that is not only evocative of distant times and places but the whole aesthetic of form meeting function somehow resonates with me.

 Occasionally I'll go fishing with an old rod and reel set-up.

I'll use traditional flies like the Parmachene Belle or Leadwing Coachman and head out to a favourite spot to fish the evening rise.

The old rods have a slow action that requires a certain discipline to make a good presentation. There was a time when novices were taught to cast by placing a book between their elbow and body. The trick was to learn to cast without dropping the book.

Modern fly rods are much more forgiving of casting form and actually require a looser, more extended elbow and wrist action to achieve their potential.

Focusing on the proper casting posture, arm action and timing required to use an old-fashioned bamboo rod keeps you very much in the moment. I think it might even improve your fishing.

I tend to get sloppy with my regular gear knowing that I can use power to overcome a poor pick-up or bad timing.

 Antique equipment requires a whole different level of attention and care, not just to make it work but to preserve it from damage, concerns today's equipment allows us to be mostly oblivious to.

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't easily abandon my new Sage 5 weight, but using the old methods and equipment has a wonderful way of putting things in context.

 When you read about Roderick Haig-Brown fishing the Campbell River for steelhead or Lee Wulff's early salmon fishing adventures in Newfoundland this is the sort of equipment they were using.

 I'll admit, a few pan-sized brookies is a far cry from a fresh Steelhead but still, it does fire the imagination.

This post's picture is from

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Wednesday, 8 August 2007

How to remove a leech

 Well, we had some fun at the cottage this weekend. Some friends and family stopped by for a planked salmon and potluck supper.
Planked salmon is my favourite way to prepare salmon. It’s a very simple, traditional way to cook a whole fish when feeding a large crowd. It is also delicious.

There were some kids there and it was hilarious fun catching or I should say trying to catch frogs, ambushing the unsuspecting with blowguns made from Touch-me-not stems and generally enjoying a day on the river bank.
The kids spotted a salmon jumping in the pool in front of the dock, an osprey, a tree frog or peeper, a leopard frog, numerous bullfrogs, salmon Parr, bullheads, minnows and unfortunately… some leeches.

For someone unfamiliar with leeches it is a disgusting experience to have one attached to you. For a child it can be horrifying.
Leeches don’t like bright light or fast moving water so it is unusual to have to deal with them at the river cottage.
They prefer still or very slow moving water and the semi-darkness under docks or rocks where they attach themselves to stationary objects and wait for their prey. We got into them while hunting frogs in the calm water under bushes along the bank.

When a child has a leech on them or three as in this weekend’s events it is pretty scary so the first thing to do is react calmly and start to work removing the leeches immediately.
You should use one of your hands to hide the leech from the child’s sight and have anyone who is contributing to the child’s unease run and get things for you.
The folk remedies for removing leeches are salt, alcohol, a burning cigarette or smoldering broom straw.
The best way to remove one is to slide your fingernail around the place where the sucker is attached and try and get the seal broken.
Grab the fat end to detach the rear sucker, grasp the leech and pull gently which will raise the skin around the attachment point.
Keep sliding your nail around where the mouth meets the skin until you can pry it off.
This can take a few minutes which can be pretty anxious for a child so by all means sprinkle some salt, wave around the burning embers and mutter instructions to your assistants to keep the child distracted and calm.
Remember to place your hands so that the child can’t really see what’s going on - not just to calm them but because leeches secrete an anticoagulant, the wounds though tiny will bleed profusely.

I think most of the mumbo-jumbo about salt and cigarettes is to distract the squeamish while you rid them of the nasty critters.

In my experience on oneself, just grab the leech and pull it off.
They are not like a wood tick and don’t leave any bits behind.
Clean the wound with an anti-septic though and cover it up with a band-aid, as much to stop the bleeding as to keep it clean.
I’ve never heard of any complications from a leech attack here in the temperate north but at the first sign of streaking, fever or other symptoms of infection consult a doctor immediately.

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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

The search for a good fishing hat- before and after the rain.

Day one
 If you read the post about my search for a good fishing hat, here is a picture of the hat on the first day of the trip.

Day four

And here is the same hat after a couple of days of rain!

As you can see any suggestions or ideas are welcomed.

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